Mark Sanford Has the Soul of a Poet

By
Photo: Getty Images

University of Pennsylvania phonetics professor Mark Liberman has been parsing the statements Mark Sanford has made about his affair, and his findings make us think that, contrary to public opinion, the South Carolina governor may be a lot smarter than we all thought. For instance, Liberman suggests that when Sanford talked about "doing stupid," he may have been channeling the New International Version of the Bible — which refers to "doing good" and "doing wrong" — when he nominalized the adjective. And that line from his first press conference, the wonderfully koanlike "The biggest self of self is self"? There's a chance it could be an allusion to Gerard Manley Hopkins's elegiac fragment, "On the Portrait of Two Beautiful Young People":


There's none but good can be good, both for you
And what sways with you, maybe this sweet maid;
None good but God — a warning waved to
One once that was found wanting when Good weighed.

Man lives that list, that leaning in the will
No wisdom can forecast by gauge or guess,
The selfless self of self, most strange, most still,
Fast furled and all foredrawn to No or Yes.

Emphasis ours. Liberman says he doubts that the governor is familiar with Hopkins, but we're not so sure. Doesn't that sound just like the sort of thing an Argentine seductress might read to her lover in advance of a little line-crossing?

Language Log [UPenn]