I have gathered a posie of other men’s flowers, and nothing but the thread that binds them is mine own.

That’s John Bartlett, talking about his Familiar Quotations. My parents had a very old copy, and in my thrilling youth I would spend hours poring over the “concordance index,” which sorted quotations by keyword.

Take the entry for “Beauty.” Here’s what it looks like, minus page numbers, only pulling the quotations about beauty that start with “is.”

is a joy forever, thing,
is a silent deceit,
is a sovereignty in need of no guards,
is an ivory mischief,
is easy enough to win,
is its own excuse for being,
is the best introduction,
is the gift of God,
is truth, truth beauty,
is vain,

Holy shit, right?

I thought it would be a fun project trying to convert the concordance index into a data model. I used Kimono, a wonderful tool that makes it easy* to “API-ize” anything.

You can find and play with the first cut on GitHub here.

The data model makes it trivial to generate new work, such as this acrostic (observe the first word of every line) take on William Carlos Williams’ famous poem:

So and so and ever so,
Much an expedient as lighting,
Depends, great interests of the State,
Upon the platform,
A
Red as a rose is she,
Wheel, as she turns the giddy,
Barrow
Glazed and the mark of china,
With all the peoples great and,
Rain a deluge showers,
Water and a crust,
Beside a human door,
The
White, a moment, then melts,
Chickens, all my pretty,

For now I’ve just modeled the index — once I model the quotations themselves, I figure there will be interesting areas to explore, poetic and otherwise.

Bartlett gathered the flowers, and now I’ve made a little machine for binding them in new ways. Not even the threads are my own ☺