Amid the usual trash and guff, this headline caught my eye today:
Slain father kind, brave.
The journalist's truncation here becomes poetry. An epic note is sounded and an almost Sophoclean cadence falls. These four words are each rich; together they hold volumes. All the vowels are long, and the comma slows the pace still further to make the last word toll in a little silence. There is quasi-rhyme between the second and fourth words, and still stronger rhyme between the first and the fourth, giving the phrase a circular quality, a solemn echo, the sacredness of verse. The beginning and the end share a cognitive rhyme too: his bravery connects to his slaying in a way his kindness doesn't. His kindness is an aspect of his fatherhood, as much in its suggestion of gentleness, as in its link to “kin,” and both are encircled by the more dramatic assertions of his courage and death. The absence of verbs makes the phrase more like direct speech, an address to a “bleeding piece of earth...ruins of the noblest man that ever lived in the tide of times.” Yet there is a narrative here. That he was kind makes his slaying the more tragic, makes him the weaker victim. That he was brave gives nobility, dignity to his death, redeems it from the anguish of simple loss and makes us think “here cracks a noble heart.” It's a headline, not an epitaph, but it has an unintended beauty. It both demands and creates a moment. It's a window in the quotidian through which light breaks.