Thrilling, frightening, fantastic (ridiculous, too) - the next few days would change me forever. All the symptoms were there: hyper-manic energy, megalomania, paranoia... - and something else, like a thread through the maze.
For my senior year, I had a dorm room of my own. On the first day there, right after unpacking, I flopped down on the bed and thought, "why not?" I picked up my copy of the Sonnets. It was as if, with my self-confidence and equilibrium somewhat restored, I was challenging the Bard to a duel - daring him to throw me again.
Will won; I lost. Slowly, gradually, as I read the melodious lines, it began happening once again, this time even more powerfully. It was as though the ghost of Shakespeare were hovering there as I read those sonnet-epistles addressed directly to me. Suddenly I was filled with a sense of manic power, poetic "fury", "divine afflatus". This was an hour of destiny. Will was the Bard of England; I would be his counterpart, the Genius of America!
Over the next few (sleepless) days and nights, I tried to prove my hunch in verse. I wrote long rhymed & metered (never having bothered with that before!) historical narratives; I began a series of 50 poems on the 50 states... and as soon as I had typed them up, I fired them off in the mail, or delivered them to friends and teachers (Prof. Edwin Honig, in particular). I was in a manic state: every thought was crystalline, clear, yet each one hit me like a sledgehammer.
Suddenly, in the midst of this, a sort of pendulum swung. I began to remember lines from the Bible. Ecclesiastes, in particular. And I saw that youth, the second one, and he was lord over all the people. And this, too, is a striving after wind.
I stopped in my tracks. A kind of Manichean duality took hold. Suddenly I saw myself in a Faustian light. What was poetry, but worldly vainglory? What was this Bardic "spirit", but demonic delusion? It was as though the high ground, the pinnacle I had ascended, was instantly swept away beneath my feet. The fright of hell & Satan took hold, gripped me.
I began racing about, trying to retrieve my poems, as a new wave of panic arrived.