Back in March 2014 (do you remember 2014? It all seems a bit of a blur), long-time Somerton Man researcher Barry Traish posted the results of his search for word sequences in Project Gutenberg that matched the (very probably) acrostic contents of the Somerton Man’s Rubaiyat note.

He looked for sequences whose word length was in the range eight to ten: and found 41 matches in the corpus’s 45,000 out-of-copyright texts. And here they are:

OABABDWT of a brighter and better day, when the
DWTBIMPA dynasty. When these became inevitable, M. Perier attached
TPMLIABO that point. My life is a bad one
LIABOAIA lad is a brave one, and I am
LIABOAIA literal inflicting a blow on an individual, and
LIABOAIA looked into a book of any importance, as
IABOAIAQ is a beautiful one, and I am quite
IABOAIAQ is as badly off as I am,” quivered
CITTMTSA care I took to make their stay at
CITTMTSA care is taken to make the strokes as
CITTMTSA castes. In the Tanjore Manual, the Shanans are
CITTMTSA Church in this town, Mr. Thomas Smallwood, an
CITTMTSA contemplating in turn the marshes, the sea, and
CITTMTSA conveying it to their master. The Sultan asked
ITTMTSAM I thought to myself that such a man
ITTMTSAM In talking to men–to such a man
ITTMTSAM in the textile, metal, transport, shipping, and machine
ITTMTSAM is that the men that stand around Me
ITTMTSAM it together, that Miss Thorpe should accompany Miss
ITTMTSAM itching to take me to see a man
TTMTSAMS tend to make them soft and mushy. Strawberries
TTMTSAMS than twenty miles…. There soon after midnight…. Steal
TTMTSAMS that transported me: To see a mind so
TTMTSAMS to the metropolis, to seize, at Maunsell’s shop
TTMTSAMS treat the matter too seriously, and merely said
TTMTSAMS Tshaka the Mighty, the swift and merciful stroke
TTMTSAMST* the tetragonal minerals tapiolite (= skogbolite) and mossite, so that
TMTSAMST that makes the sun and moon seem to
TMTSAMST to make their saloon a market, so that
MTSAMSTCA* me to stay; and, merely stopping to cast a
MTSAMSTG motioned the stenographer and Miss Snow to go
TSAMSTCA the sideboard; ask my sister to come and
TSAMSTCA the soldiers any more.” So the child and
TSAMSTCA the stronger, and more slimy) the Cores and
TSAMSTCA their ‘speech,’and ‘made strange their counsel.’ All
TSAMSTCA to seeke a more safe, then commodious abode
TSAMSTCAB* the scene. After mutual salutations the commissioners asked: “By
TSAMSTGA the same. All men seek to get as
TSAMSTGA the sincere among My servants to gain admittance
TSAMSTGA then summoned all my strength to gaze and
SAMSTGAB Street and Main Street, the grassy area between

Curiously, though, “66% are entirely on the last line”, which in fact highlights the difficulty you get when you try to find words that fit the other lines, particularly the first two lines. Moreover, none of the matches he found were to poems.

Why might this be? Even though Barry tried repeating the process with different letters in those cases where the letter shapes were ambiguous (e.g. M/W, etc), the results were essentially the same. Personally, I wonder whether this indicates something different: that perhaps a number of the guesses the unnamed policeman in SAPOL made for the first line were wrong… and hence that we don’t stand a chance. We really, *really* need a better scan of this page. *sigh* 🙁

But Barry’s pièce de resistance was the bacronymic poem that he composed back from the Rubaiyat initials. I think this is arguably the best attempt yet (I particularly like “and by and by” for ABAB 🙂 ), see what you think:

“My road goes on, and by and by divides,
Now two branches, into morning, past a new evening that provides,
My love is a barren oblivion, and itself alone quite certain,
It’s time to move the soul among magic stars, then gently asleep besides.”

Splendid, well done Barry! 🙂

3 thoughts on “Barry Traish’s backronymic poem…

  1. Splendid, indeed, Barry!

  2. Barry Traish on September 12, 2017 at 3:51 pm said:

    Thanks Nick and bd. Two years to the day, I’ve just discovered this page with my name in the title. I obviously don’t google myself often enough. Incidentally, my backronymic poem is composed of only words used in the Rubaiyat.

    I think a couple of takeaway points from this are that so far we haven’t even matched 10 characters of the code to existing text, and that the first two lines are extremely hard to match.

  3. Barry: thanks very much for dropping by, I hope you’re well. My own interpretation is that SAPOL made a series of largely good guesses but with a number of key errors. One day I’ll get a stupendously hi-res scan of the image and perhaps we’ll be able to discern not microwriting but the original lines beneath.

    The photograph beneath might also still exist: I’ve tried to track Jimmy Durham’s family a few times (for his historical photo album) but without luck so far. Have you tried this angle? You seem to have pursued every other Somerton Man avenue (normally two years ahead of me 🙂 ) ?

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