This is how a story begins…

This afternoon, I received an odd and entirely unexpected email at my work address. The sender’s address was [mysurname] — no one I knew, no address of mine. The content of the message consisted of nothing but a poem called “A Boy’s Song,” written by “The Ettrick Shepherd” himself, James Hogg. If you’d like to listen to a reading of the poem, check out it out at LibriVox; you can also read it (see p. 50) via the Project Gutenberg version of Poems Every Child Should Know.

I have no idea what this message was supposed to be about, but it carries with it such potential, so many options for what it might be, that each one is the start of a story. Some of those stories are probably more exciting than others. Consider the following possibilities:

Relatively Dull

  1. It’s from one of my relatives (I am blessed with more than one literary relation), who simply forgot to self-identify. Perhaps the sender of the message meant to use a more familiar email address, but mistakenly used one I hadn’t seen before. I find out later in the day. Mystery solved. The End.
  2. It’s some slightly more ambitious phishing or address-collecting using a spoofed sender address — send a bunch of people a poem, whoever responds in some way has an active address worth pursuing, keep sending those folks spam about genital enlargement and yachts. I do not respond, so my address is a dud for them.
  3. The sender was actually trying to reach a relative of mine who has almost exactly the same name I do. Wrong number! Sorry!

Slightly More Clever

  1. It’s a very strange sort of advertisement for udemy (the domain resolves to when searched for via the good ol’ Googleage), part of a campaign to get instructors or users to that site by engaging their investigative curiosity. Imagining the pitch meeting for that ad campaign alone is a source of considerable hilarity.
  2. The address is spoofed because the sender — who is engaged in an attempt to spread sweetness, light, and poetry across the internet today — wants to remain anonymous.
  3. Related to 2: sender is doing an art piece, and will be collecting, anonymizing, and sharing whatever responses the poetry email prompts in an installation piece called “Boss Hogg: Engaging the Paranoid Style of American Email Security.”

Utterly Fantastic

  1. The poem is actually a code, sent to me as a challenge, and if I solve the puzzle then [amazing/scary/interesting stuff] follows. Poetry leads to adventure!
  2. The ghost of the late Mr. Hogg is trying to communicate!
  3. James Hogg, as it happens, wrote one of the earliest serial killer novels, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Uh-oh…

While I strongly suspect that the answer to “why did someone send me this poem?” is something Relatively Dull, it’s kind of fun to think about where the other possibilities could lead. I’m really going to kick myself if this message turns out to have been a test from a potential employer who was checking out my mad research and critical thinking skillz, and they found me wanting because I couldn’t crack the code…



About L. M. Bernhardt

For a good long while (15 years or so), I taught philosophy at a little private university in northwest IA, and occasionally branched out into playing music, dabbling in photography, experimenting with food, and writing nonsense on my blog. The philosophy teaching part ended in 2017 (program elimination via prioritization), but never fear! I've just finished my MLIS at San Jose State University, and I'm currently on the market looking for new adventures in either philosophy or LIS. For now, I labor at a fairly interesting administrative job in order to support my dogs in the lavish manner to which they've become accustomed.
This entry was posted in random stuff, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.