"There Was A man of Double Deed" isn't great poetry, but it is worth remarking upon for how effectively it creates the mindset of someone for whom the world is great chain of secret connections that are mysterious, foreboding and headed, inevitably , toward a terrible end. The rhyme scheme, tick-tock, back and forth, a child's jump rope tempo, suggests a mind setting everything in sets in a convoluted task to understand a heartless exterior life through some ordering protocols, but this is in vain since the view here attempts to be global , beyond the limits of what this narrator sees and encounters daily. The banal things that get mentioned are paired with things that they have no functional relation to; seeds give way to snow banks, ships are without belts (meaning rudders, I suppose) and are likened to tailless birds who in turn fly in a roaring sky that brings a sounding lion to the narrator's front door.
There was a man of double deed,
Who sowed his garden full of seed;
When the seed began to grow,
'Twas like a garden full of snow;
Something crucial is missing in the descriptions , and the lack of a logical, connecting tissue results in violence on the imagination that might otherwise conceive a simple day as orderly and diverse in the purpose others besides oneself have in their daily routines. Save for the man of double deed (a shadowy figure we might think, a figure of divided agendas) there are no others in this poem, just he and the suffering narrator reeling as matters unfold, reeling as it all comes in, cause and effect seemingly obvious , but all without reason.
When the snow began to melt, 'Twas like a ship without a belt; When the ship began to sail, 'Twas like a bird without a tail; When the bird began to fly, 'Twas like an eagle in the sky;
It's a pile up of circumstances, and the speech is just this side of hebephrenia, the behavior and language habits of the paranoid, the schiznophrenic who lacks the psychological infrastructure to sort through incoming stimuli and create categories, context and relationship to the passage of time; everything happens simultaneously, at once, and everything that does happen does not end, but rather keeps occurring, repetitive, violent, without reason to the suffering. Items are conflated, images become strange, unfamiliar, and the mind that must deal with this chaos feels permanently tormented, put upon.
When the bird began to fly,
'Twas like an eagle in the sky;
When the sky began to roar,
'Twas like a lion at my door;
When my door began to crack,
'Twas like a stick across my back;
When my back began to smart,
'Twas like a penknife in my heart;
And when my heart began to bleed,
'Twas death, and death, and death indeed
The conclusion of all these connections, which the mind attempts to bring meaning to by relentless speculation as to how unlike things actually purposeful and conspiratorial relationships, is that all things , all deeds lead to death. In such a state, death is the only thing that makes sense, since even to the most marginalized of personalities death is seen as an end from which there is both no recovery and no more torment. The poem's rhyme scheme, 'though too slack and lacking muscle for my tastes, still gives you the chills for the unvarnished and clear mindset it gives you. I cannot shake the feeling of these odd enounters I've had over the years, listening to someone speak slowly, deliberately, with purpose as they told me about their poor circumstances, only to pick up the pace, quicken the rhythm as more detail came forth, until finally sentence structure had collapsed and the speaker was overwhelmed by attempting to talk about everything that came to their mind at the same time.
"The man of double deed" seems to be one who is not what he seems, someone superficially in our presence who seems friendly enough but who has an undisclosed purpose and reasoning in his dealings. Because the man is viewed suspiciously, the tint of treachery seeps into all he does. He is the proverbial tipping point from which the poisin spreads; perhaps in a perfect world each person and place and thing contribute only to greater happiness and prosperity, but there is something wrong with the world of our narrator, who describes events where activities end in some manner of demise; this is a cruel world of distraction and summary dismissal. The man of double deed, whatever name a listener might give him, appears to be doing nothing less than sowing the seeds of our destruction.