“When Cynthia smiles,” said young Bingo, “the skies are blue; the world takes on a roseate hue; birds in the garden trill and sing, and Joy is king of everything, when Cynthia smiles.” He coughed, changing gears. “When Cynthia frowns – ”
“What the devil are you talking about?”
“I’m reading you my poem. The one I wrote to Cynthia last night. I’ll go on, shall I?”
“No. I haven’t had my tea.”
I didn’t know there was enough money in poetry to support a chappie, even in the way in which Rocky lived; but it seems that, if you stick to exhortations to young men to lead the strenuous life and don’t shove in any rhymes, American editors fight for the stuff. Rocky showed me one of his things once. It began:
The past is dead.
To-morrow is not born.
Be with every nerve,
With every muscle,
With every drop of your red blood!
It was printed opposite the frontispiece of a magazine with a sort of scroll round it, and a picture in the middle of a fairly-nude chappie, with bulging muscles, giving the rising sun the glad eye. Rocky said they gave him a hundred dollars for it, and he stayed in bed till four in the afternoon for over a month.
“Across the pale parabola of joy…”
When cares attack and life seems black,
How sweet it is to pot a yak,
Or puncture hares and grizzly bears,
And others I could mention;
But in my Animals “Who’s Who”
No name stands higher than the Gnu;
And each new gnu that comes in view
Receives my prompt attention.
When Afric’s sun is sinking low,
And shadows wander to and fro,
And everywhere there’s in the air
A hush that’s deep and solemn;
Then is the time good men and true
With View Halloo pursue the gnu;
(The safest spot to put your shot
is through the spinal column).
To take the creature by surprise
We must adopt some rude disguise,
Although deceit is never sweet,
And falsehoods don’t attract us;
So, as with gun in hand you wait,
Remember to impersonate
A tuft of grass, a mountain-pass,
A kopje or a cactus.
A brief suspense, and then at last
The waiting’s o’er, the vigil past;
A careful aim. A spurt of flame.
It’s done. You’ve pulled the trigger,
And one more gnu, so fair and frail,
Has handed in its dinner-pail;
(The females all are rather small,
The males are somewhat bigger).
In life I was the village smith,
I worked all day
I retained the delicacy of my complexion
I worked in the shade of the chestnut tree
Instead of in the sun
Like Nicholas Blodgett, the expressman.
I was large and strong
I went in for physical culture
And deep breathing
And all those stunts.
I had the biggest biceps in Spoon River.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say she actually writes poetry, but when a girl suddenly asks you out of a clear blue sky if you don’t think that the stars are “God’s daisy chain,” well, I mean, you do begin to wonder.”
“Well, I hadn’t expected to be. Nevertheless, I was conscious of a pang.
‘We part, then, for the nonce, do we?’
‘I fear so, sir.’
‘You take the high road, and self taking the low road, as it were?’
‘I shall miss you, Jeeves.’
‘Thank you, sir.’
‘Who was that chap who was always beefing about gazelles?’
‘The poet Moore, sir. He complained that he had never nursed a dear gazelle, to glad him with its soft black eye, but when it came to know him well, it was sure to die.’
‘It’s the same with me. I am a gazelle short. You don’t mind me alluding to you as a gazelle, Jeeves?’
‘Not at all, sir.'”
Grim, relentless, sordid streets!
Miles of poignant streets,
East, West, North,
And stretching starkly South;
Sad, hopeless, dismal, cheerless, chilling
“To the thinking man there are few things more disturbing than the realization that we are becoming a nation of minor poets. In the good old days poets were for the most part confined to garrets, which they left only for the purpose of being ejected from the offices of magazines and papers to which they attempted to sell their wares. Nobody ever thought of reading a book of poems unless accompanied by a guarantee from the publisher that the author had been dead at least a hundred years. Poetry, like wine, certain brands of cheese, and public buildings, was rightly considered to improve with age; and no connoisseur could have dreamed of filling himself with raw, indigestible verse, warm from the maker.”
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.