What is the meaning/origins of a word "height" in this line of poetry (Written by Jack Parsons in 1943):

I height Don Quixote, I live on Peyote,
marihuana, morphine and cocaine.
I never knew sadness but only a madness
that burns at the heart and the brain

I am not an English native speaker, and I know only one meaning of "height" (looked also in Oxford dictionary and lingvolive.com). It looks like some sort of a verb, an errative or an idiom, but I cannot get the meaning of the first phrase.

Maybe it is a borrowing from German "Ich heiße" (My name is). Or it is "hate"? Or is he comparing his height with the Don Quixote?

P.S. Looks like "height" instead of "hight" was intentional. I haven't found an original edition or a manuscript, but almost all paper citations include "height", for example, and often include "height [sic.]", like here or here

  • 2
    It’s probably a typo / mistake in transcription.
    – Lawrence
    Jun 20, 2020 at 12:14
  • 19
    My first thought was that it was a mistake for hight , an archaic English word which is indeed cognate with the German heisse. Jun 20, 2020 at 12:20
  • 2
    @KateBunting: That's my second and final thought: hight - From Middle English hight (“to be named, be called”) (alternative past participle of hoten), from Old English hēht (“to be named, be called”, preterite of hātan), from *hehait-, reduplicate preterite base of Proto-Germanic *haitaną (“to call, command, summon”), from Proto-Indo-European *key(w)-, *kyew- (“to set in motion”). Cognate with West Frisian hjitte, Dutch heten, Low German heten, German heißen, Danish hedde, Norwegian Nynorsk heita, Swedish heta, Latin cieō (“I call, I set in motion”). Jun 20, 2020 at 13:39
  • 2
    Note that it's cognate with ich heiße, not borrowed from it.
    – phoog
    Jun 20, 2020 at 18:28

6 Answers 6


This is clearly an error for hight, as Kate Bunting suggested it might be. We can be the more sure of this since both the title/headline and the URL of the linked source have it as hight.

hight (haɪt)
(Poetry) (tr; used only as a past tense in the passive or as a past participle) archaic poetic to name; call: a maid hight Mary. (Collins English Dictionary)

(In 1943 the poet’s choice of such a poetic archaism is almost inevitably going to be ironic.)

The possible pun, however, on height, with reference to being “high” on such drugs as are then listed, could well be intentional despite the spelling difference.

  • 2
    The refernce to a 17th century character could also at least partly explain the use of an archaic form.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 20, 2020 at 13:34
  • 1
    And that literary character inhabits a work of often highly ironic fiction by the same name, wherein such affected archaisms are among the many satiric targets; so our hypotheses, @ColinFine, converge. Jun 20, 2020 at 22:28
  • That doesn't work. "...used only as a past tense in the passive or as a past participle"... a maid [called] Mary. Not I [called] Don Quixote. Jun 21, 2020 at 14:08
  • 2
    Since the original source seems to use height, and height is a verb (albeit archaic) whose meaning (exalt) works quite well here, it is not safe to assume that the author meant and misspelled hight. I am researching. Jun 21, 2020 at 18:43
  • Could "height" have been a spelling used in the 17th century? Perhaps from some well-known verses...
    – PatrickT
    Jun 22, 2020 at 4:08

Here is a website where it is spelled "hight".

I hight don Quixote, I live on peyote, marijuana, morphine and cocaine. https://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/sadness.html?p=12

This strengthens for me the conjecture of others that it means.

"My name's Don Quixote..."


"I'm called Don Quixote..."

enter image description here


The English word "height" has the same sound as the Dutch word "heet". Singular form of "heten": "be called". So it is indeed very logical that "I height Don Quixote" must be read as "I'm called Don Quixote." The German word "heisse" means also in Dutch "heet". I think there's no other option than "I am called ..."

  • 3
    More importantly than all of that, the English word "height" has the same sound as the archaic English word "hight", meaning "[be] called".
    – Mark
    Jun 20, 2020 at 23:40
  • 1
    I would take issue with the first sentence of your answer: Dutch heet sounds more like the English hate than height. How foreign words sound is not really a good indicator of cognateness (in whichever direction you determine "foreign").
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 21, 2020 at 7:11
  • @Machiel I agree with your answer and it is supported by the OED. See my answer below.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 21, 2020 at 8:41
  • Andrew. You are right. My reading knowledge of the English language is better than my hearing / speaking knowledge of it. I looked it up and it sounds indeed as "hait". Allways thought it would sound as the English "hate" or Dutch "heet". Thanks for the correction.
    – Machiel
    Jun 22, 2020 at 8:55
  • "I height" = "My name is"
    – Kjetil S.
    Jun 22, 2020 at 15:46

I hight Don Quixote = I am called Don Quixote:

From OED:

hight, v.1 Brit. /hʌɪt/, U.S. /haɪt/

Origin: A word inherited from Germanic.

Etymology: Cognate with Old Frisian hēta (West Frisian hijtte ), Old Saxon hētan (Middle Low German hēten , heiten ), Old Dutch hētan (Middle Dutch heeten , Dutch heten ), Old High German heizan (Middle High German heizen , German heißen ),

Compare hote n., hest n., and slightly later hight n.3

Now archaic.

I. To name, to command, to promise, and related senses.

1. transitive. To call, name; to designate as. Formerly also in †his (or her) name is hight —— (obsolete). Now chiefly in past participle.

OE Acct. Voy. Ohthere & Wulfstan in tr. Orosius Hist. (Tiber.) (1980) i. i. 15 Þa deor hi hatað hranas.

1911 E. Pound Canzoni 9 That azure feldspar hight the microcline.

1926 E. R. Eddison Styrbiorn the Strong ix. 168 All they hight me in Hlymdale of old Hild the Helm'd, whoso knew me.

1999 P. Anderson War of Gods (new ed.) xxvii. 232 A man hight Tosti. He it was who broke the long peace.

Added 16:00 GMT in response to Tinfoil Hat's question:

Form history: (ii) passive forms.

This is the only verb in Old English to continue forms inherited from the inflected Germanic passive. Old English hātte formally corresponds to the Gothic 3rd singular present indicative passive haitada (one of a number of attested passive forms in that language). In Old English, the form superficially resembles a weak past tense; it functions as 1st and 3rd singular and has a plural form hātton . These forms are attested only in the sense ‘to be called’ (i.e. sense 4, corresponding to active sense 1). Probably partly because of the formal resemblance to the preterite, the forms hātte and hātton are used in Old English with reference to past tense as well as present tense. This is a factor that may have contributed (conversely) to the subsequent spread of forms of the active past stem (especially Middle English heght- , hight- , etc., but also hēt- ) to the present tense; however, this development occurs in senses which continue use of active forms (see Forms 1β. , 1γ. ) as well as in sense 4, which reflects the original passive (see Forms 4aγ. , 4aδ. ). The formal (as opposed to semantic) distinction between active and passive is lost during the Middle English period, as forms

II. intransitive. To call oneself, be called. (In Old English realized by the historically passive forms (singular) hātte, (plural) hātton).) Categories »

  1. With a name, title, or appellation as complement. To call oneself, be called, be known as; to have as a name or designation. Now archaic and only in the invariable form hight.with passive sense are overwhelmingly supplied from the active system.

1897 M. Armour tr. Fall of Nibelungs 47 Once we hight warriors, and shall we perish in this country by the hand of a woman?

1960 P. Anderson High Crusade ii. xv, in Astounding Sci. Fact & Fiction Aug. 163/2 ‘Are you another star-traveling race?’ ‘We hight Englishmen,’ Sir Roger evaded.

2001 E. Kirner Lesser Kindred (new ed.) viii. 159 I hight Hadretikantishilrrar, of the line of Issdra. I beseech thee in the name of our people, speak.

  • Where did you get the am in I am called Don Quixote? By your definition, it should be I called Don Quixote, which is clearly incorrect. Jun 21, 2020 at 14:30
  • @TinfoilHat I have added more from OED
    – Greybeard
    Jun 21, 2020 at 14:51
  • Thanks, that works for hight usage. However, since the original source seems to use height, and height is a verb (albeit archaic) whose meaning (exalt) works quite well here, it is not safe to assume that the author meant and misspelled hight. I am researching. Jun 21, 2020 at 18:40
  • @TinfoilHat Have a listen to archive.org/details/IHeightDonQuixote And see what makes sense...
    – Greybeard
    Jun 21, 2020 at 19:03
  • I am called Don Quixote and I exalt (glorify, praise, or honor) Don Quixote both make sense in the context of this poem. So I question the labeling of height as a typo and the assumption that hight was intended. Jun 21, 2020 at 19:29

It is poetry, and, in general, the interpretation of metaphoric poetry is off-topic here.

But I would point out that the mythical Don Quixote suffered from delusions which made him believe he was a knight, as he wandered around performing what he believed were acts of chivalry.

Saying "I height Don Quixote" implies that the writer is even "higher" (on "Peyote, marihuana, morphine and cocaine") than the delusional don.

(I'll point out that, if you Google "don quixote I live on peyote marihuana morphine and cocaine" (with quotes) you get 25 hits. 23 of those use "height", while only 2 (both hazlitt sites) use "hight".)

Aha!! The difference is associated with the spelling of the weed. "Marihuana" is mostly associated with "height", while "marijuana" mostly with "hight". Hard to say which is the "real" version

  • 1
    But the poem is written in the voice of the delusional don himself. It may well just be a spelling error. Without seeing the original edition and the author's manuscript, it's not possible to say for sure.
    – phoog
    Jun 20, 2020 at 18:36
  • This is closer to correct. The other answers about hight meaning called are incorrect. Jun 21, 2020 at 14:27
  • 1
    <Marihuana" is mostly associated with "height", while "marijuana" mostly with "hight".> This points to a redactor fixing the spelling in these versions. Thus it is inconclusive evidence weighing on the side of "height" being the original.
    – Eponymous
    Jun 22, 2020 at 1:26

I'm aware Jack Parsons was an American, but I've always read this in a thick British accent, like reading James Joyce's Ulysses.

I've never read this word as height or hight at all, but a thick accented 'Hate'. The poet in me believes he hates Don Quixote. Don Quixote is famously naive, cartoonishly chivalrous, and generally just boring. This poet, however, loved to get high, do rocket science, practice witchcraft, throw regular orgies, and occasionally he even wrote a little poetry.

I absolutely love this poem. One of the few I've memorized, I recite it when it fits the mood even barely.

  • 1
    It's only Dick van Dyke's famously and murderously fake Cockney/Australian accent that makes height and hate the same. They're really not. James Joyce had a really odd accent for a Dubliner.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 21, 2020 at 7:17

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