The Project Gutenberg eBook of Lauds and libels

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Title: Lauds and libels

Author: Charles L. Graves

Release date: July 8, 2018 [eBook #57467]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by JoAnn Greenwood, Bryan Ness and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)




Logo of Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd.










Piccadilly 9
To “Martin Ross” 11
To Stephen Leacock 14
To “Bartimeus” 16
On Re-reading “Barchester Towers” 18
Bleak House 20
Lines on a New History 22
To my Godson 24
The House-Master 27
The Old Matron 29
Constable Jinks 31
’Twas Fifty Years Ago 33
New Men and Old Studies 36
Remunerative Rhymes 39
To Mr. Balfour on his Return 43
The Submerged Leader 45
A Ministerial Wail 47
The Flapper 49
The Feminine Factotum 52
To a New Knight 54
The Tenth Muse 56
Sugar 59
Tea Shortage 62
Margarine 65
A Ballad of Eels 67
A Song of Food-Saving 70
A Queue Song 73
The Imperfect Economist 74
The War Pig: a Palinode 75
Bath 79
In Wild Wales 82
The Little River 84
Six Vile Verbs 86
Some More Bad Words 88
To a Modern Muse 90
Ballade of Free Verse 92
The Strife of Tongues 93
“Jong” 95


Acknowledgment is due to the Proprietors and Editor of “Punch”
for their courtesy in allowing me to reprint these pieces.

C. L. G.






Gay shops, stately palaces, bustle and breeze,
The whirring of wheels and the murmur of trees;
By night or by day, whether noisy or stilly,
Whatever my mood is—I love Piccadilly.
Thus carolled Fred Locker, just sixty years back,
In a year (’57) when the outlook was black,
And even to-day the war-weariest Willie
Recovers his spirits in dear Piccadilly.
We haven’t the belles with their Gainsborough hats,
Or the Regency bucks with their wondrous cravats,
But now that the weather no longer is chilly
There’s much to enchant us in New Piccadilly.
As I sit in my club and partake of my “ration,”
No longer I’m vexed by the follies of fashion;
The dandified Johnnies so precious and silly—
You seek them in vain in the New Piccadilly.
The men are alert and upstanding and fit,
They’ve most of them done or they’re doing their bit;
With the eye of a hawk and the stride of a gillie
They add a new lustre to Old Piccadilly.
And the crippled but gay-hearted heroes in blue
Are a far finer product than wicked “old Q,”
Who ought to have lived in a prison on skilly
Instead of a palace in mid Piccadilly.
The women are splendid, so quiet and strong,
As with resolute purpose they hurry along—
Excepting the flappers, who chatter as shrilly
As parrots let loose to distract Piccadilly.
Thus I muse as I watch with a reverent eye
The New Generation sweep steadily by,
And judge him an ass or a born Silly Billy
Who’d barter the New for the Old Piccadilly.



(After reading “Irish Memories.”)

Two Irish cousins greet us here
From Bushe “the silver-tongued” descended,
Whose lives for close on thirty year
Were indistinguishably blended;
Scorning the rule that holds for cooks,
They pooled their brains and joined their forces,
And wrote a dozen gorgeous books
On men and women, hounds and horses.
They superseded Handley Cross;
They glorified the “hunting fever”;
They purged their pages of the dross,
While bettering the fun, of Lever;
With many a priceless turn of phrase
They stirred us to Homeric laughter,
When painting Ireland in the days
Before Sinn Fein bewitched and “strafed” her.
With them we watched good Major Yeates
Contending with litigious peasants,
With “hidden hands” within his gates,
With claims for foxes and for pheasants;
We saw Leigh Kelway drop his chin—
That precious English super-tripper—
In shocked amazement drinking in
The lurid narrative of Slipper.
Philippa’s piercing peacock squeals,
Uttered in moments of expansion;
The grime and splendour of the meals
Of Mrs. Knox and of her mansion;
The secrets of horse-coping lore,
The loves of Sally and of Flurry
All these delights and hundreds more
Are not forgotten in a hurry.
Yet the same genial pens that freight
Our memories with joyous magic
Gave us the tale of Francie’s fate—
So vulgar, lovable and tragic;
Just to the land that gave them birth
They showed her smiling, sad and sullen,
And turning from the paths of mirth
Probed the dark soul of Charlotte Mullen.
Alas! the tie, so close, so dear,
Two years ago death rent asunder;
Hushed is the voice so gay and clear
Which moved us once to joy and wonder;
Yet, though they chronicle a loss
Whose pang no lapse of time assuages,
The spirit of brave “Martin Ross
Shines like a star throughout these pages.
Here in her letters may one trace
The generous scorn, the gentle pity,
The easy unaffected grace,
The wisdom that was always witty;
Here, mirrored in a sister soul,
One sees the comrade, strong yet tender,
Who marched unfaltering to her goal
Through sacrifice and self-surrender.



(Professor of Political Economy at McGill University, Montreal, and author of “Further Foolishness” and other notable works of humour.)

The life that is flagrantly double,
Conflicting in conduct and aim,
Is seldom untainted by trouble
And commonly closes in shame;
But no such anxieties pester
Your dual existence, which links
The functions of don and of jester—
High thoughts and high jinks.
Your earliest venture perhaps is
Unique in the rapture intense
Displayed in these riotous Lapses
From all that could savour of sense,
Recalling the “goaks” and the gladness
Of one whom we elders adored—
The methodical midsummer madness
Of Artemus Ward.
With you, O enchanting Canadian,
We laughed till you gave us a stitch
In our sides at the wondrous Arcadian
Exploits of the indolent rich;
We loved your satirical sniping,
And followed, far over “the pond,”
The lure of your whimsical piping
Behind the Beyond.
In place of the squalor that stretches
Unchanged o’er the realist’s page,
The sunshine that glows in your Sketches
Is potent our griefs to assuage;
And when, on your mettlesome charger,
Full tilt against reason you go,
Your Lunacy’s finer and Larger
Than any I know.
The faults of ephemeral fiction,
Exotic, erotic or smart,
The vice of delirious diction,
The latest excesses of Art—
You flay in felicitous fashion,
With dexterous choice of your tools,
A scourge for unsavoury passion,
A hammer for fools.
And yet, though so freakish and dashing,
You are not the slave of your fun,
For there’s nobody better at lashing
The crimes and the cant of the Hun;
Anyhow, I’d be proud as a peacock
To have it inscribed on my tomb:
“He followed the footsteps of Leacock
In banishing gloom.”



(From a grateful Landsman.)

Although the movements of the sea
Have always been a grief to me
And still at times disastrously
Affect my corpus vile,
Sailors of high and low degree
I long have honoured highly.
But now we honour them far more
Than ever in the days of yore
For all they’re doing in the War
To guard and shield and free us;
And this is where the man on shore
Can learn from “Bartimeus.”
For lately, when I couldn’t stick
A “fearless” book which made me sick
And positively long to kick
The author to the ceiling,
By luck I chanced on your Long Trick
And found immediate healing.
Relentless realists protest
You only have one type—the best,
Drawn from the Islands of the Blest—
Of comrades, sons and mothers;
They’d rather see you foul your nest
Than praise the “band of brothers.”
No matter; leave their ink to flow;
It cannot work you weal or woe;
The verdict of the men who know
The truth in its essentials
Should make the armchair critic slow
To challenge your credentials.
The naval officer you paint
Is not at all a plaster saint;
He doesn’t always brook restraint;
He isn’t prim or stolid;
But still he’s void of any taint
That’s mean or low or squalid.
And then you write of wondrous things
That pluck our hearts’ most secret strings—
The tender grace that childhood flings
On scenes of stern endeavour;
The news that joy and comfort brings
Or chills the heart for ever.
So when young writers, void of ruth,
Portray the flower of England’s youth
As ill-conditioned and uncouth—
In short as Huns might see us—
I turn for solace and for truth
To you, good “Bartimeus.”



In days when Bellona less madly
The wheels of her chariot drave,
To you, Father Anthony, gladly
My doggerel homage I gave;
And again uncontrollably yearning
For solace in desolate hours
I find a brief respite in turning
To Barchester Towers.
How good are the women, how various,
As slowly their natures unfold!—
The feudal Miss Thorne; the gregarious
And amiable Eleanor Bold;
Mrs. Quiverful, dauntless though dowdy,
With fourteen young ravens to feed,
Who managed to melt Mrs. Proudie,
So great was her need.
Mrs. Proudie, of course, is prodigious,
A terror to friends and to foes,
Ambitious, correctly religious,
Yet leading her lord by the nose;
Very far from an angel or jewel,
Very near to a feminine Pope,
And priceless in waging the duel
That smashed Mr. Slope.
And who would not willingly linger
With you, O Signora, who twirled
Round the tip of your white little finger
Staid clerics and men of the world!
Commanding the spells of a Circe;
Bewitching, though crippled and lame;
Redeeming your malice with mercy
And playing the game.
The clergy—Tractarian, Erastian,
Low Churchmen—you faithfully paint
Reveal to our view no Sebastian,
No martyr, and hardly a saint;
Though perhaps, by so freely discarding
Preferment and riches and fame,
The guileless and good Mr. Harding
Is worthy the name.
You looked upon country and city
With kindly and tolerant eyes;
You never set out to be witty,
Though seldom you failed to be wise;
You were neither ornate nor elliptic,
But most unaffectedly shrewd,
For the art that is consciously cryptic
You strictly tabooed.
Your outlook is certainly narrowed
To lives that are never sublime;
Our hearts are not haunted or harrowed
With desperate anguish or crime;
But a mutual trust is for ever
’Twixt author and reader maintained,
And we know all along we shall never
Be wantonly pained.



There was a time when, posing as a purist,
I thought it fine to criticize and crab
Charles Dickens as a crude caricaturist,
Who laid his colours on too thick and slab,
Who lacked the temper of a judge or jurist
And made life lurid when it should be drab;
In short I branded as a brilliant dauber
The man who gave us Pecksniff and Micawber.
True, there are blots—like spots upon the sun—
And genius, lavish of imagination,
In sheer profusion always has outrun
The bounds of strict artistic concentration;
But when detraction’s worst is said and done,
How much remains for fervent admiration,
How much that never palls or wounds or sickens
(Unlike some moderns) in great generous Dickens!
And in Bleak House, the culminating story
That marks the zenith of his swift career,
The sovereign qualities that won him glory,
As writer and reformer, all appear:
Righteous resentment of abuses hoary,
Of pomp and cant, self-centred, insincere;
And burning sympathy that glows unchecked
For those who sit in darkness and neglect.
Who, if his heart be not of steel or stone,
Can read unmoved of Charley or of Jo;
Of dear Miss Flite, who, though her wits be flown,
Has kept a soul as pure as driven snow;
Of the fierce “man from Shropshire” overthrown
By Law’s delays; of Caddy’s inky woe;
Or of the alternating fits and fluster
That harass the unhappy slavey, Guster?
And there are scores of characters so vivid
They make us friends or enemies for life:
Hortense, half-tamed she-wolf, with envy livid;
The patient Snagsby and his shrewish wife;
The amorous Guppy, who poor Esther chivvied;
Tempestuous Boythorn, revelling in strife;
Skimpole, the honey-tongued artistic cadger;
And that tremendous woman, Mrs. Badger.
No wonder then that, when we seek awhile
Relief and respite from War’s strident chorus,
Few books more swiftly charm us to a smile,
Few books more truly hearten and restore us
Than his, whose art was potent to beguile
Thousands of weary souls who came before us—
No wonder, when the Huns, who ban our fiction,
Were fain to free him from their malediction.



Weary of Macaulay, never nodding,
Weary of the stodginess of Stubbs,
Weary of the scientific plodding
Of the school that only digs and grubs;
I salute, with grateful admiration
Foreign to the hireling eulogist,
Chesterton’s red hot self-revelation
In the guise of England’s annalist.
Here is no parade of erudition,
No pretence of calm judicial tone,
But the stimulating ebullition
Of a sort of humanized cyclone;
Unafraid of flagrant paradoxes,
Unashamed of often seeing red,
Here’s a thinker who the compass boxes
Standing most at ease upon his head.
Yet with all this acrobatic frolic
There’s a core of sanity behind
Madness that is never melancholic,
Passion never cruel or unkind;
And, although his wealth of purple patches
Some precisians may excessive deem,
Still the decoration always matches
Something rich and splendid in the theme.
Not a textbook—that may be admitted—
Full of dates and Treaties and of Pacts,
For our author cannot be acquitted
Of a liberal handling of his facts;
But a stirring proof of Britain’s title,
Less in Empire than in soul, of “Great,”
And a frank and generous recital
Of “the glories of our blood and State.”



(Aged six weeks.)

Small bundle, enveloped in laces,
For whom I stood sponsor last week,
When you slept, with the pinkest of faces,
And never emitted a squeak;
Though vain is the task of illuming
The Future’s inscrutable scroll,
I cannot refrain from assuming
A semi-prophetical rôle.
I predict that in paths Montessorian
Your infantile steps will be led,
And with modes which are Phrygian and Dorian
Your musical appetite fed;
You’ll be taught how to dance by a Russian,
“Eurhythmics” you’ll learn from a Swiss,
How not to behave like a Prussian—
No teaching is needed for this!
Will you learn Esperanto at Eton?
Or, if Eton by then is suppressed,
Be sent to grow apples or wheat on
A ranche in the ultimate West?
Will you aim at a modern diploma
In civics or commerce or stinks?
Inhale the Wisconsin aroma
Or think as the humanist thinks?
Will you learn to play tennis from Covey
Or model your stroke on Jay Gould?
Will you play the piano like Tovey
Or by gramophone records be schooled?
Will you golf, or will golfing be banished
To answer the needs of the plough,
And links from the landscape have vanished
To pasture the sheep and the cow?
Your taste in the region of letters
I only can dimly foresee,
But guess that from metrical fetters
The verse you’ll affect must be free;
And I shan’t be surprised or astounded
If your generation rebels
Against adulation unbounded
Of Shaw and of Bennett and Wells.
Upholding ancestral tradition
Your uncle has booked you at Lord’s,
But I doubt if you’ll sate your ambition
Athletic on well-levelled swards;
No, I rather opine that you’ll follow
The lead that we owe to the Wrights,
And soar like the eagle or swallow
On far and adventurous flights.
But no matter—in joy and affliction,
In seasons of failure or fame,
I cherish the certain conviction
You’ll never dishonour your name;
For the love of the mother that bore you,
The life and the death of your sire
Will shine as a lantern before you,
To guide and exalt and inspire.



Four years I spent beneath his rule,
For three of which askance I scanned him,
And only after leaving school
Came thoroughly to understand him;
For he was brusque in various ways
That jarred upon the modern mother,
And scouted as a silly craze
The theory of the “elder brother.”
Renowned at Cambridge as an oar
And quite distinguished as a wrangler,
He felt incomparably more
Pride in his exploits as an angler;
He held his fishing on the Test
Above the riches of the Speyers,
And there he lured me, as his guest,
Into the ranks of the “dry-flyers.”
He made no fetish of the cane
As owning any special virtue,
But held the discipline of pain,
When rightly earned, would never hurt you;
With lapses of the normal brand
I think he dealt most mercifully,
But chastened with a heavy hand
The sneak, the liar and the bully.
We used to criticize his boots,
His simple tastes in food and fiction,
His everlasting homespun suits,
His leisurely old-fashioned diction;
And yet we had the saving nous
To recognize no worse disaster
Could possibly befall the House
Than the removal of its Master.
For though his voice was deep and gruff,
And rumbled like a motor-lorry,
He showed the true angelic stuff
If anyone was sick or sorry;
So when pneumonia, doubly dread,
Of breath had nearly quite bereft me,
He watched three nights beside my bed
Until the burning fever left me.
He served three Heads with equal zeal
And equal absence of ambition;
He knew his power, and did not feel
The least desire for recognition;
But shrewd observers, who could trace
Back to their source results far-reaching,
Saw the true spirit of the race
Embodied in his life and teaching.
The War’s deep waters o’er him rolled
As he beheld Young England giving
Life prodigally, while the old
Lived on without the cause for living;
And yet he never heaved a sigh
Although his heart was inly riven;
He only craved one boon—to die
In harness, and the boon was given.



A stone’s-throw from the College gate
There lives a very noble lady;
A cottage-lawn her whole estate,
Without a tree to keep it shady;
For thirty years she served the school
In quite a number of positions,
And by her character and rule
Upheld its very best traditions.
School generations came and went,
Head followed Head—but in this story
’Tis foreign to my main intent
To say which gained the greatest glory;
Enough that minds of every size,
Hustlers and scholars, bloods and boobies,
All came in time to recognize
Her price was far above all rubies.
For, though immersed in household cares
And such extremely mundane matters
As washing, packing and repairs
Of wardrobes normally in tatters,
She found with unobtrusive tact
A hundred ways of help and healing,
And never overlooked an act
Of cruelty or double-dealing.
Her office and her Spartan breed
Forbade her to be sentimental,
But in an hour of real need
She could be wonderfully gentle;
To fashion, to the swift or strong
She was incapable of truckling,
But helped the lonely soul along
And comforted the ugly duckling.
Robust in body and in mind,
Free from all feminine caprices,
Seeing the best in all her kind,
Though loving nephews more than nieces,
She made no pets; if haply one
Appealed to her beyond another,
It was the orphan or the son
Neglected by a selfish mother.
Too fond to quit a scene so dear,
Too wise to fancy she was slighted,
Loth to intrude or interfere,
Though always helpful when invited,
She is the first whom boys on leave
Greet when they seek their alma mater,
The last they part from on the eve
Of their return to trench and crater.
For in her strong and homely face,
Her life serene and self-forgetting,
They see the Genius of the Place
Incarnate in a human setting;
And, though they readily would own
Their debt to Founder, Saint and Patron,
Keep in their heart of hearts a throne
Of special glory for the Matron.



Our village policeman is tall and well-grown,
He stands six feet two and he weighs sixteen stone;
His gait is majestic, his visage serene,
And his boots are the biggest that ever I’ve seen.
Fame sealed his renown with a definite stamp
When two German waiters escaped from a camp.
Unaided he captured those runaway Huns
Who had lived for a week on three halfpenny buns.
When a derelict porpoise was cast on the shore
Our village policeman was much to the fore;
He measured the beast from its tip to its tail,
And blandly pronounced it “an undersized whale.”
When a small boy was flying his kite on the links
It was promptly impounded by Constable Jinks,
Who astutely remarked that it might have been seen
By the vigilant crew of a Hun submarine.
It is sometimes alleged that great valour he showed
When he chased a mad cow for three miles on the road;
But there’s also another account of the hunt
With a four-legged pursuer, a biped in front.
If your house has been robbed and his counsel you seek
He’s sure to look in—in the course of the week,
When his massive appearance will comfort your cook,
Though he fails in the bringing of culprits to book.
His obiter dicta on life and the law
Set our ribald young folk in a frequent guffaw;
But the elders repose an implicit belief
In so splendid a product of beer and of beef.
He’s the strongest and solidest man in the place,
Nothing—short of mad cattle—can quicken his pace;
His moustache would do credit to any dragoon,
And his voice is as deep as a double bassoon.
His complexion is perfect, his uniform neat,
He rivets all eyes as he stalks down the street;
And I doubt if his critics will ever complain
Of his being a little deficient in brain.
For he’s more than a man; he’s a part of the map;
His going would cause a deplorable gap;
And the village would suffer as heavy a slump
As it would from the loss of the old parish pump.



(Lines suggested by an old Magazine.)

Published the year I went to school—
The second of life’s seven ages—
How fragrant of Victorian rule
Are these forgotten pages!
When meat and fruit were still uncanned;
When good Charles Dickens still was writing;
And Swinburne’s poetry was banned
As rather too exciting.
No murmurs of impending strife
Were heard, no dark suggestions hinted;
Our novelists still looked on life
Through spectacles rose-tinted;
And Paris, in those giddy years,
Still laughed at Offenbach and Schneider,
Blind to the doom of blood and tears,
With none to warn or guide her.
The index and the authors’ names,
Their stories and their lucubrations,
Recall old literary aims
And faded reputations;
We wonder at the influence
That Sala’s florid periods had on
His fellows, and the vogue immense
Of versatile Miss Braddon.
And yet I read Aurora Floyd
In youth with rapture quite unholy—
Not in the way that I enjoyed
Mince-pies or roly-poly;
While “G. A. S.” appeared to me
Like a Leonid fresh from starland,
Not the young lion that we see
Portrayed in Friendship’s Garland.
And there are tinklings of the lute
In orthodox decorous fashion,
But altogether destitute
Of “elemental” passion;
And illustrations which refrain
From all that verges on the shady,
But glorify the whiskered swain,
The lachrymose young lady.
The sirens of the “sixties” showed
No inkling of our modern Circes,
And swells had not evolved the code
That guides our precious Percys;
Woman, in short, was grave or gay,
But not a problem or a riddle,
And maidens still were taught to play
The harp and not the fiddle.
And writers in the main eschewed
All topics tending to disquiet,
All efforts to reorganize
Our dogmas or our diet;
You could not carp at Mendelssohn
Without creating quite a scandal,
And rag-time on the gramophone
Had not supplanted Handel.
Blameless and wholesome in their way,
At times agreeably subacid,
I love these records of a day
Long dead, but calm and placid;
And with a sigh I now replace
This ancient volume of Belgravia
And turn the “latest news” to face
Mutans amaris suavia.



[A volume has recently appeared under the title of The Value of the Classics, in which “three hundred competent observers, representing the leading interests of modern life” in America, and including three living Presidents of the United States—Wilson, Taft, and Roosevelt—testify their conviction that classical studies are of essential value in the best type of liberal education.]

O ye Humanists half-hearted, now reluctantly resigned
To concede the claim of Science to control the youthful mind,
Once again cry Sursum corda—reinforcement comes at last
From an unexpected quarter in a wondrous counter-blast.
If there is a modern country which effete tradition hates,
Surely ’tis the Great Republic known as the United States,
Home of hustlers and of boosters, home of energy and “vim,”
Filled with innovating notions bubbling over at the brim.
Nowhere else can we discover, though we closely scan the map,
Such a readiness in scrapping anything there is to scrap;
Yet the pick of her progressives boldly swarm into the lists
As the most unflinching champions of the harried Humanists.
Wilson, Taft and Teddy Roosevelt figure in the foremost flight,
Followed by three hundred chosen men of leading and of light—
Men of great and proved achievement in diversified careers,
Statesmen, lawyers, doctors, bankers, railwaymen and engineers.
Dons of course may be discounted, also College Presidents,
But the most impressive statements come from scientific gents,
Who admit that education on a humanistic base
Gives their students vast advantage in the specializing race.
Botany relies on Latin ever since Linnæus’ days;
Biologic nomenclature draws on Greek in countless ways;
While in medicine it is obvious you can never take your oath
What an ailment means exactly if you haven’t studied both.
Heads of business corporations, magnates in the world of trade,
’Neath the banner of the Classics formidably stand arrayed,
Holding with a firm conviction that their faithful study brings
Knowledge of the art of handling men and regulating things.
Courage, ye depressed upholders of the old curriculum,
Quit your mood apologetic, bang the loud scholastic drum,
For the verdict of the Yankees queers the scientific pitch
When the Humanists were struggling in their last defensive ditch.
Honour, then, the brave Three Hundred who, like those renowned of yore,
Strive to guard from rude barbarians Hellas and her precious lore;
And let all of us determine firmly never to forget
Βλώσκω, ἔμολον, μέμβλωκα, piget, pudet, pœnitet.



[In the new History of American Literature it is stated that Robert Treat Paine, the Boston poet (1773-1811), enjoyed such a reputation “that he could command five dollars a line for his verse, a price never before approached in America, and perhaps never since equalled.”]

Say, is it true, O priceless Ella Wheeler,
That you, the blameless Sappho of the West,
Stricken humanity’s most potent healer,
Consoler of the doubting and distressed,
Passion’s intense, impeccable revealer,
Of all best-sellers quite the very best,
Than Tupper’s self far sweeter and sublimer,
Were equalled by an early Boston rhymer?
It cannot be that such ecstatic yearning,
Such pure domestic raptures uncontrolled,
Such lavish use of old proverbial learning
Of ancient saws cast in a modern mould,
When measured by the crucial test of earning,
By market value, reckoned up in gold,
Never secured you, prophetess benign,
More than a bare five dollars to the line.
Tried by this test, I own, scant was the gleaning
Of Milton—just five “jingling tingling quid”
Paid for his Paradise; but then his meaning
Was wilfully from artless readers hid.
Besides, he wrote blank verse and from a leaning
To heresy was never wholly rid;
Your creed is crystal clear and orthodox,
Your rhymes salute us like a postman’s knocks.
Five dollars for a line! Oh, no, great Ella,
That clearly cannot mark your maximum;
The market-price of your celestia mella
Must far surpass that negligible sum.
Let some obscure American Apella
Believe it, I am sure it cannot come
To half the rate a high-browed journal pays
For one of your incomparable lays.






Our hearts go out with all our ships that plough the deadly sea,
But the ship that brought us safely back the only Arthur B.
Was freighted with good wishes in a very high degree.
There are heaps of politicians who can hustle and can shriek,
And some, though very strong in lung, in brains are very weak,
But A. J. B.’s equipment is admittedly unique.
His manners are delightful, and the workings of his mind
Have never shown the slightest trace of self-esteem behind;
Nor has he had at any time a private axe to grind.
For forty years and upwards he has graced the public scene
Without becoming sterilized or stiffened by routine;
He still retains his freshness and his brain is just as keen.
His credit was not shipwrecked on the fatal Irish reef;
He has always been a loyal and a sympathetic chief;
And he has also written The Foundations of Belief.
As leader of the Mission to our cousins and Allies,
We learn with satisfaction, but without the least surprise,
That he proved the very cynosure of Transatlantic eyes.
For the special brand of statesman plus aristocratic sage,
Like the model king-philosopher described in Plato’s page,
Is uncommonly attractive in a democratic age.
Balfour Must Go!” was once the cry of those who deemed him slack,
But now there’s not a single scribe of that unruly pack
Who is not glad in every sense that Balfour has come back.

June 20, 1917.



(February, 1917)

What is Master Winston doing?
What new paths is he pursuing?
What strange broth can he be brewing?
Is he painting, by commission,
Portraits of the Coalition
For the R.A. exhibition?
Is he Jacky-obin or anti?
Is he likely to “go Fanti,”
Or becoming shrewd and canty?
Is he in disguise at Kovel,
Living in a moujik’s hovel,
Penning a tremendous novel?
Does he run a photo-play show?
Or in sæva indignatio
Is he writing for Horatio?
Fired by the divine afflatus
Does he weekly lacerate us,
Like a Juvenal renatus?
As the great financial purist,
Will he smite the sinecurist
Or emerge as a Futurist?
Is he regularly sending
Haig and Beatty screeds unending,
Good advice with censure blending?
Is he ploughing, is he hoeing?
Is he planting beet, or going
In for early ’tato-growing?
Is he writing verse or prosing,
Or intent upon disclosing
Gifts for musical composing?
Is he lecturing to flappers?
Is he tunnelling with sappers?
Has he joined the U-boat trappers?
Or, to petrify recorders
Of events within our borders,
Has he taken Holy Orders?
Is he well or ill or middling?
Is he fighting, is he fiddling?—
He can’t only be thumb-twiddling.
These are merely dim surmises,
But experience advises
Us to look for weird surprises.
* * * * *
Thus we summed the situation
When Sir Hedworth Meux’ oration
Brought about a transformation.
Lo! the Blenheim Boanerges
On a sudden re-emerges
And, to calm the naval gurges,
Fisher’s restoration urges.



[“The most trenchant critics of the Government since its formation have been Mr. Pringle and Mr. Hogge.”—British Weekly.]

The gipsy camping in a dingle
I reckon as a lucky dog;
He doesn’t hear the voice of Pringle,
He doesn’t hear the snorts of Hogge.
The moujik crouching in his ingle
Somewhere near Tomsk or Taganrog
I envy; he is far from Pringle
And equally remote from Hogge.
I find them deadly when they’re single,
But deadlier in the duologue,
When the insufferable Pringle
Backs the intolerable Hogge.
I’d rather walk for miles on shingle
Or flounder knee-deep in a bog
Than listen to a speech from Pringle
Or hearken to the howls of Hogge.
Their tyrannous exactions mingle
The vices of Kings Stork and Log;
One day I give the palm to Pringle,
The next I offer it to Hogge.
The style of Mr. Alfred Jingle
Was jumpy, but he did not clog
His sense with woolly words, like Pringle,
With priggish petulance, like Hogge.
I’d love to see the Bing Boys bingle,
To go to music-halls incog.,
Instead of being posed by Pringle
And heckled by the hateful Hogge.
My appetite is gone; I “pingle”
(As Norfolk puts it) with my prog;
My meals are marred by thoughts of Pringle,
My sleep is massacred by Hogge.
O patriots, with your nerves a-tingle,
With all your righteous souls agog,
Will none of you demolish Pringle
And utterly extinguish Hogge?



[Dr. Arthur Shadwell, in the Nineteenth Century for January, 1917, in his article on “Ordeal by Fire,” after denouncing idlers and loafers and shirkers, falls foul “above all” of the young girls called flappers, “with high heels, skirts up to their knees and blouses open to the diaphragm, painted, powdered, self-conscious, ogling: ‘Allus adallacked and dizened oot and a ’unting arter the men.’”]

Good Dr. Arthur Shadwell, who lends lustre to a name
Which Dryden in his satires oft endeavoured to defame,
Has lately been discussing in a high-class magazine
The trials that confront us in the year Nineteen Seventeen.
He is not a smooth-tongued prophet; no, he takes a serious view;
We must make tremendous efforts if we’re going to win through;
And though he’s not unhopeful of the issue of the fray
He finds abundant causes for misgiving and dismay.
Our optimistic journals his exasperation fire,
And the idlers and the loafers stimulate his righteous ire;
But it is the flapper chiefly that in his gizzard sticks,
And he’s down upon her failings like a waggon-load of bricks.
She’s ubiquitous in theatres, in rail and ’bus and tram,
She wears her “blouses open down to the diaphragm,”
And, instead of realizing what our men are fighting for,
She’s an orgiastic nuisance who in fact enjoys the War.
It’s a strenuous indictment of our petticoated youth
And contains a large substratum of unpalatable truth;
Our women have been splendid, but the Sun himself has specks,
And the flapper can’t be reckoned as a credit to her sex.
Still it needs to be remembered, to extenuate her crimes,
That these flappers have not always had the very best of times;
And the life that now she’s leading, with no Mentors to restrain,
Is decidedly unhinging to an undeveloped brain.
Then again we only see her when she’s out for play or meals,
And distresses the fastidious by her gestures and her squeals,
But she is not always idle or a decorative drone,
And if she wastes her wages, well, she wastes what is her own.
Still to say that she’s heroic, as some scribes of late have said,
Is unkind as well as foolish, for it only swells her head;
She oughtn’t to be flattered, she requires to be repressed,
Or she’ll grow into a portent and a peril and a pest.
Dr. Shadwell to the Premier makes an eloquent appeal
In firm and drastic fashion with this element to deal;
And ’twould be a real feather in our gifted Cambrian’s cap
If he taught the peccant flapper less flamboyantly to flap.
But, in our way of thinking, ’tis for women, kind and wise,
These neglected scattered units to enrol and mobilize,
Their vagabond activities to curb and concentrate,
And turn the skittish hoyden to a servant of the State.
She’s young; her eyes are dazzled by the glamour of the streets;
She has to learn that life is not all cinemas and sweets;
But given wholesome guidance she may rise to self-control
And earn the right of entry on the Nation’s golden Roll.



[The Daily Chronicle, writing on women farmers, quotes the tribute of Hutton, the historian, to a Derbyshire lady who died at Matlock in 1854: “She undertakes any kind of manual labour, as holding the plough, driving the team, thatching the barn, using the flail; but her chief avocation is breaking horses at a guinea per week. She is fond of Pope and Shakespeare, is a self-taught and capable instrumentalist, and supports the bass viol in Matlock Church.”]

Though in the good old-fashioned days
The feminine factotum rarely
Was honoured with a crown of bays
When she had won it fairly;
She did emerge at times, like one
For manual work a perfect glutton,
Blue-stocking half, half Amazon,
As chronicled by Hutton.
But now you’ll find her counterpart
In almost every English village—
A mistress of the arduous art
Of scientific tillage,
Who cheerfully resigns the quest
Of all that makes a woman charming,
And shows an even greater zest
For gardening and farming.
She used to petrify her dons;
She was a most efficient bowler;
But now she’s baking barley scones
To help the Food Controller;
Good Mrs. Beeton she devours,
And not the dialogues of Plato,
And sets above the Cult of Flowers
The cult of the Potato.
The studious maid whose classic brow
Was high with conscious pride of learning
Now grooms the pony, milks the cow,
And takes a hand at churning;
And one I know, whose music had
Done credit to her educators,
Has sold her well-beloved “Strad”
To purchase incubators!
The object of this humble lay
Is not to minimize the glory
Of women of an earlier day
Whose deeds are shrined in story;
’Tis only to extol the grit
Of clever girls—and none work harder—
Who daily do their toilsome “bit”
To stock the nation’s larder.



Momentous sage of Mona’s Isle,
Pride of your fellow-Manx,
Renowned alike upon the Nile
And by the Tiber’s banks—
What though sour critics, whom it irks
To watch your widening reign,
And elders of illiberal kirks
Affect a harsh disdain;
What though fastidious souls declare
Your style distinction lacks
Or sacrilegiously dare
To mimic it, like “Max”;
So long as countless myriads hold
Your lucubrations dear,
And, side by side, the copies sold
Would circumvent the sphere?
Let pert reviewers carp and jibe,
Let jealous pens deride,
The interviewers, noble tribe,
Are solid on your side.
Have you not shown in all its bloom
Rome’s grandeur to mankind,
And, culling “copy” at Khartoum,
Laid bare the Arab mind?
Did not your heroine, Glory Quayle
Our views of life transform;
Did not all modern heroes pale
Beside the great John Storm?
As long as char-à-banc or ’bus
Brings trippers to your shrine,
Shall the new star Cainiculus
High in the welkin shine.
Loud booms the wave in Bradda’s cave,
Yet with a muffled tone
Matched with the sound, immense, profound,
From your great trumpet blown.



She tells us all we needn’t know;
She always draws the longest bow;
She dramatizes guilt and crime;
Exalts the mummer and the mime;
Worships success, however won;
Confounds vulgarity with fun;
Lends credence to each passing craze,
Fans party rancour to a blaze,
Till people of a sober mind
Grow envious of the deaf and blind.
O what are all the other Nine,
The Muses fondly deemed divine
Matched with the Tenth, the modern Muse,
That now manipulates our news.






An Elegiac Ode

Queen of the palate! Universal Sweet!
Gastronomy’s delectable Gioconda!
Since with submission loyally I greet
And follow out the regimen of Rhondda,
I cannot be considered indiscreet
If I essay, but never go beyond, a
Brief elegiac tribute to a sway
By sterner needs now largely swept away.
Thy candy soothes the infant in its pram;
Thou addest mellowness to old brown sherry;
Thou glorifiest marmalade, on Cam
And Isis making breakfast-tables merry;
Thou lendest magic to the meanest jam
Compounded of the most insipid berry;
And canst convert the sourest crabs and quinces
To jellies fit for epicures and princes.
Thou charmest unalloyed, in loaf or lumps
Or crystals; brown and moist, or white and pounded;
I never was so deeply in the dumps
That, once thy fount of sweetness I had sounded,
Courage returned not; even with the mumps
I still could view with gratitude unbounded
The navigators of heroic Spain
Who found the New World—and the sugar-cane.
Sprinkled on buttered bread thou dost excite
In human boys insatiable cravings;
On Turkish (I regret to say) Delight
Thou lurest them to dissipate their savings,
Instead of banking them, or sitting tight,
Or buying useful books and good engravings;
And lastly, mixed with strawberries and cream,
Thou art more than a dish, thou art a dream.
Before necessity, that knows no ruth,
Ordained thy frugal use in tea and coffee,
Some Stoics banned thee—men who in their youth
Showed an unnatural dislike of toffee;
For sweetness charms the normal human tooth,
Sweetness inspires the singer’s tenderest strophe,
Since old Lucretius musically chid
The curse of life—amari aliquid.
Eau sucrée, I admit, is rather tame
Compared with beer or whisky blent with soda;
But gallant Frenchmen, experts at this game,
Commend it highly either as a coda
Or prelude to their meals, and much the same
Is sherbet, which the Gaekwar of Baroda
And other Oriental satraps quaff
In preference to ale or half-and-half.
Nor must I fail, O potent saccharin!
Thou chemic offspring of by-products coaly,
Late corner on the culinary scene,
To hail thy aid, although it may be lowly
Even compared with beet; for thou hast been
Employed in sweetening my roly-poly—
Thou whom I once regarded as a dose
And now the active rival of glucose!
But still I hear some jaundiced critic say,
Some rigid self-appointed censor morum,
“Why harp upon the pleasures of a day
When freely sweetened was each cup and jorum,
Ere stern controllers had begun to stay
The genial outflow of the fons leporum?
Now sugar’s scarce, and we must do without it,
Why let regretful fancy play about it?”
True, yet it greatly goes against the grain,
Unless one has the patience of Ulysses,
Wholly and resolutely to refrain
From dwelling on the memory of past blisses;
Forbidden fruits allure the strong and sane;
Joys loved but lost are what one chiefly misses;
This is my best excuse if I deplore
“So sad, so sweet, the days that are no more.”



[Mr. M. Grieve, writing from “The Whins,” Chalfont St. Peter, in the Daily Mail of the 12th October, 1917, suggests herb-teas to meet the shortage, as being far the most healthful substitutes. “They can also,” he says, “be blended and arranged to suit the gastric idiosyncrasies of the individual consumer. A few of them are agrimony, comfrey, dandelion, camomile, woodruff, marjoram, hyssop, sage, horehound, tansy, thyme, rosemary, stinging-nettle and raspberry.”]

Although, when luxuries must be resigned,
Such as cigars or even breakfast bacon,
My hitherto “unconquerable mind”
Its philosophic pose has not forsaken,
By one impending sacrifice I find
My stock of fortitude severely shaken—
I mean the dismal prospect of our losing
The genial cup that cheers without bemusing.
Blest liquor! dear to literary men,
Which Georgian writers used to drink like fishes,
When cocoa had not swum into their ken
And coffee failed to satisfy all wishes;
When tea was served to monarchs of the pen,
Like Johnson and his coterie, in “dishes,”
And came exclusively from far Cathay—
See “China’s fragrant herb” in Wordsworth’s lay.
Beer prompted Calverley’s immortal rhymes,
Extolling it as utterly eupeptic;
But on that point, in these exacting times,
The weight of evidence supports the sceptic;
Beer is not suitable for torrid climes
Or if your tendency is cataleptic;
But tea in moderation, freshly brewed,
Was never by Sir Andrew Clark tabooed.
We know for certain that the Grand Old Man
Drank tea at midnight with complete impunity,
At least he long outlived the Psalmist’s span
And from ill-health enjoyed a fine immunity;
Besides, robust Antipodeans can
And do drink tea at every opportunity;
While only Stoics nowadays contrive
To shun the cup that gilds the hour of five.
But war is war, and when we have to face
Shortage in tea, as well as bread and boots,
’Tis well to teach us how we may replace
The foreign brew by native substitutes,
Extracted from a vegetable base
In various wholesome plants and herbs and fruits,
“Arranged and blended,” very much like teas,
To suit our “gastric idiosyncrasies.”
It is a list for future use to file,
Including woodruff, marjoram and sage,
Thyme, agrimony, hyssop, camomile
(A name writ painfully on childhood’s page),
Tansy, the jaded palate to beguile,
Horehound, laryngeal troubles to assuage,
And, for a cup ere mounting to the stirrup,
The stinging-nettle’s stimulating syrup.
And yet I cannot, though I gladly would,
Forget the Babylonian monarch’s cry,
“It may be wholesome, but it is not good,”
When grass became his only food supply;
Such weakness ought, of course, to be withstood,
But oh, it wrings the teardrop from my eye
To think of Polly putting on the kettle
To brew my daily dose of stinging-nettle!



A Housekeeper’s Palinode

Margarine—the prefix “oleo-”
Latterly has been effaced,
Though no doubt in many a folio
Of the grocer’s ledger traced—
Once I arrogantly rated
You below the cheapest lard;
Once your “g” enunciated,
With pedantic rigour, hard.
How your elements were blended
Naught I knew; but wild surmise
Hinted horrors that offended
Squeamish and fastidious eyes.
Now this view, unjust, unfounded,
I recant with deep remorse,
Knowing you are not compounded
From the carcass of the horse.
Still with glances far from genial
I beheld you, margarine,
And restricted you to menial
Services in my cuisine.
Still I felt myself unable,
Though you helped to fry my fish,
To endure you at my table
Nestling in the butter-dish.
Now that I have clearly tracked your
Blameless progress from the nut,
I proclaim your manufacture
As a boon, without a “but.”
Now I trudge to streets far distant,
Humbly in your queue to stand,
Till the grocer’s tired assistant
Dumps the packet in my hand.
Though you lack the special savour
Of the product of the churn,
Still the difference in flavour
I’m beginning to unlearn.
Thoughts of Devonshire or Dorset
From my mind have vanished quite,
Since the stern demands of war set
Limits to my appetite.
Butter is of course delicious;
But when that is dear and scant
Welcome, margarine, nutritious
Palatable lubricant!



[“Lord Desborough has just been reminding us of the neglected source of food supply that we have in the eels of our rivers and ponds. He stated, ‘The food value of an eel is remarkable. In food value one pound of eels is better than a loin of beef.… The greatest eel-breeding establishment in the world is at Comacchio, on the Adriatic. This eel nursery is a gigantic swamp of 140 miles in circumference. It has been in existence for centuries, and in the sixteenth century it yielded an annual revenue of £1,200 to the Pope.’”—Liverpool Daily Post.]

When lowering clouds refuse to lift
And spread depression far and wide,
And when the need of strenuous thrift
Is loudly preached on every side,
What boundless gratitude one feels
To Desborough, inspiring chief,
For telling us: “One pound of eels
Is better than a loin of beef”!
Of old, Popes made eel-breeding pay
(At least Lord Desborough says they did),
And cleared per annum in this way
Twelve hundred jingling, tingling quid.
In fact my brain in anguish reels
To think we never took a leaf
Out of the book which taught that eels
Are better than prime cuts of beef.
In youth, fastidiously inclined,
I own with shame that I eschewed,
Like most of my unthinking kind,
This luscious and nutritious food;
But now that Desborough reveals
Its value, with profound belief
I sing with him: “One pound of eels
Is better than a loin of beef.”
I chant it loudly in my bath,
I chant it when the sun is high,
And when the moon pursues her path
Noctambulating through the sky.
And when the bill of fare at meals
Is more than usually brief,
Again I sing: “One pound of eels
Is better than a loin of beef.”
It is a charm that never fails
When friends accost me in the street
And utter agonizing wails
About the price of butcher’s meat.
“Cheer up,” I tell them, “creels on creels
Are hastening to your relief;
Cheer up, my friends, one pound of eels
Is better than a loin of beef.”
Then all ye fearful folk, dismayed
By threatened shortage of supplies,
Let not your anxious hearts be swayed
By croakers or their dismal cries;
But, from Penzance to Galashiels,
From Abertillery to Crieff,
Remember that “one pound of eels
Is better than a loin of beef.”
But these are only pleasant dreams
Unless, to realize our hopes,
Proprietors of ponds and streams
Re-stock them, like the early Popes.
Then, though we still run short of keels
And corn be leaner in the sheaf,
We shall at least have endless eels,
Unnumbered super-loins of beef.



[Being a faithful effort to versify the article written by Dr. E. I. Spriggs, at the request of the Food Controller, on the food requirements of people of different ages and build.]

Good people, who long for a lead
On the paramount crux of the time,
I pray you give diligent heed
To the lessons I weave into rhyme;
And first, let us note, one and all—
Whether living in castle or “digs”—
“Large people need more than the small,”
For that’s the first maxim of Spriggs.
Now, as most of the food that we eat
Is wanted for keeping us warm,
The requisite quota of heat
Is largely a question of form;
And the ratio of surface to weight,
As anyone readily twigs,
Is the root of the point in debate
As sagely expounded by Spriggs.
Hence the more we resemble a sphere
Less heat on the surface is lost,
And the needful supply, it is clear,
Is maintained at less lavish a cost;
’Tis economy, then, to be plump
As partridges, puffins or pigs,
Who are never a prey to the hump,
So at least I interpret my Spriggs.
Next, the harder it freezes or snows
The greater the value of fat,
And the larger the appetite grows
Of John, Sandy, Taffy and Pat.
(Conversely, in Midsummer days,
When liquid more freely one swigs,
Less viand the appetite stays—
This quatrain’s a gloss upon Spriggs.)
For strenuous muscular work
A larger allowance of grub
We need than is due if we shirk
Exertion, and lounge in a pub;
For the loafer who rests in a chair
Everlastingly puffing at “cigs”
Can live pretty nearly on air,
So I gather at least from my Spriggs.
Why children need plentiful food
He nextly proceeds to relate:
Their capacity’s larger than you’d
Be disposed to infer from their weight;
They’re growing in bulk and in height,
They’re normally active as grigs,
And exercise breeds appetite—
This stanza is absolute Spriggs.
Last of all, with an eloquent plea
For porridge at breakfast in place
Of the loaf, and for oatcake at tea
A similar gap to efface;
For potatoless dinners—with rice,
For puddings of maize and of figs,
Which are filling, nutritious and nice—
Thus ends the Epistle of Spriggs.



A jocular burden rings in my ear
Of Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese;
It tells of good cheer ere food was dear,
Of a time of plenty and peace and ease.
With bread thrown in there was ample fare
In Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese
For men to repair all the wear and tear
Of bodily tissue, though busy as bees.
Carnivorous folk might ask for more
Than Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese,
But that was before the stress of war
Had simplified meals with a steady squeeze.
For butter has almost fled from our ken,
And eggs are fetching enormous fees,
And the laying hen is on strike again,
And my grocer has run clean out of cheese.
So I’m bidding good-bye to the old refrain—
It isn’t attuned to times like these—
And I sing this strain as I stand in the rain,
Margarine, rice and potatoes, please!



“I wear my very oldest suits,
I go about in shocking boots,
And (bar potatoes) feed on roots,
And various cereal substitutes
For wheat, and non-imported fruits.
No meat my table now pollutes,
But, though I spare warm-blooded brutes,
I sometimes sup on frogs and newts.
I often spend laborious days
Supported by a little maize;
And rice prepared in divers ways
My appetite at luncheon stays.
From sugar I avert my gaze;
Unsweetened tea my thirst allays;
I never go to any plays
Or smoke expensive Henry Clays.”
Our excellent Economist
His pet extravagance forgets,
Which rather spoils his little list—
His fifty daily cigarettes.



Much obloquy was thine in days of yore,
O Porker, and thy service manifold
(Save for a casual mention, curt and cold)
Ungrateful man continued to ignore;
Nay worse, he ceased not daily to outpour
Abuse upon thy breed, to sneer and scold,
Till every porcine trait, in days of old,
We learned to ridicule or to abhor.
But now the days of calumny are past,
These cruel innuendoes we disown,
And epithets designed to blame or blast
Take on a new and honorific tone;
For England needs thee, blameless Porker, now,
And Prothero salutes the sovereign sow.







(With grateful acknowledgments to the anonymous but urbane author of “Bath in History and Social Traditions.”)

Fair city, though King Bladud and his story
Is largely wrapt in mythologic mist
And legends of your fame in ages hoary
Are scouted by the sceptic annalist,
One century at least of crowded glory
Inspires a recent genial eulogist
And prompts a humble rhymer to rehearse
Your merits in a piece of jingling verse.
I pass the Romans, business-like invaders;
Of their enduring traces he that runs
May read elsewhere; I pass the Saxon raiders
And tales of mediæval monks and nuns,
Of leper hospitals and mud-bath waders,
And hurry on to Beaux and Belles and Buns;
Your palmy days, me judice, began
In the Augustan period of Queen Anne.
The men who planned and built your noble Abbey
Well earned the homage of a sacred bard,
Yet in your golden roll it would be shabby
Your minor worthies wholly to discard;
And though your Bun, now sugarless and flabby
And highly-priced, is sadly shrunk and marred,
The first compounder of its rich delight
Ought not to pass into eternal night.
Of your great trio, Allen, Wood and Nash,
Allen, Mæcenas-postman, leaves me cold;
He had not one redeeming vice to clash
With his array of virtues manifold;
But he was patriotic, for his cash
Freed Wood’s majestic genius, sane yet bold,
Until a new and gracious city rose;
And Nash was far the finest of the Beaux.
At least this meed of praise must we accord him,
That he restrained the mutinies of Mode;
That Wesley was the only man who floored him;
That order was the essence of his code;
That bullies feared him, that the poor adored him,
And, though in age a thorny path be trode,
For many a year none could his seat disturb,
Mounted on Folly ridden on the curb.
What famous names, what episodes romantic
Are linked with yours in Clio’s sacred shrine
Ere piety pronounced you Corybantic
And seaside bathing compassed your decline!
Sherry” and Siddons, Hannah the pedantic,
Fielding and Walpole, how your annals shine!—
Immortal Jane, and Herschel counting bars
And drilling fiddlers—and discovering stars.
Yet even when your vogue was slowly waning
Rich sunset splendours lingered on the scene,
When Sultan Beckford in your midst was reigning
And lending you an Oriental mien;
When D’Arblay, loyal to her haunts remaining,
Extolled your beauties varied and serene;
When in the Octagon men heard Magee
And Lansdown teams rejoiced in “W. G.”
Fashion may veer; the elegant and witty—
Light come, light go—may scatter far and wide,
But still the terraced colonnaded city
Stands proudly by the silver Avon’s tide,
And scenes that move to wonder, praise and pity,
Touched gently by the hand of Time, abide;
Still, O immortal Bath, you wear your crown
Fresh in your beauty, old in your renown.



Dwarfing the town that to the hillside clings
On terraced slopes, the castle, nobly planned
And noble in its ruined greatness, flings
Its double challenge to the sea and land.
Oh, if the ancient spirit of the place
Could win free utterance in articulate tones,
What tales to hearten and inspire and brace
Would issue from these grey and lichened stones
Once manned and held by paladin and peer,
Now tenanted by jackdaws, bats and owls,
Save when the casual tourist through its drear
And grass-grown courts disconsolately prowls.
Once famous as the scene of Border fights,
Now watching, in the greatest war of all,
Old men, with their bilingual acolytes,
Beating, outside its gates, a little ball;
While on the crumbling battlements on high,
Where mail-clad men-at-arms kept watch and ward,
Adventurous sheep amaze the curious eye
Instead of grazing on the level sward.
Inland the amphitheatre of hills
Sweeps round with Snowdon as their central crest,
And murmurs of innumerable rills
Blend with the heaving of the ocean’s breast.
Already Autumn’s fiery finger laid
On heath and marsh and woodland far and wide
In all their gorgeous pageantry has arrayed
The tranquil beauties of the countryside.
Here every prospect pleases, and the spot,
Unspoilt, unvulgarized by man, remains,
Thanks largely to a System which has not
Accelerated or improved its trains.
Yet even here, amid untroubled ways,
Far from the city’s fevered, tainted breath,
Yon distant plume of yellow smoke betrays
The ceaseless labours of the mills of death.



Let mighty pens praise mighty rivers—
The Yang-tse-Kiang or Hoang-Ho,
In climes that desiccate the livers
Of foreigners who come and go.
Some may prefer the Mississippi,
Others the Nile, whose genial flood
Enriches the industrious “Gippy”
With gifts of fertilizing mud.
Bates found the Amazon amazing;
But, all unfit for lordly themes;
I choose the simpler task of praising
One of our humble Berkshire streams.
Here are no tropical surprises,
No cataracts roaring from the steep;
No hippo your canoe capsizes,
No rhinos on the bather creep.
Here, as along the banks you potter,
The fiercest creature is the gnat;
You may perhaps espy an otter,
You’re sure to see a water-rat.
The kingfisher, a living jewel,
On halcyon days darts in and out,
But never interrupts the duel
Between the angler and the trout.
Hard by the plovers wheel and clamour,
The gold is still upon the gorse,
And mystery and calm and glamour
Brood o’er the little river’s source,
Where, in a pool of blue-green lustre,
The water bubbles from the sand,
And pine-trees in a solemn cluster
Like sentinels around it stand.
And thence, through level champaign gliding,
Past cottages with russet tiles,
Past marsh and mead the stream goes sliding
For half-a-dozen tranquil miles,
Till, with its waters still untainted
And fringed with waving starwort stems,
With towns and factories unacquainted,
It merges in the silver Thames.
“Scorn not small things; their charm endears them,”
The ancient poet wisely sang;
Great rivers man admires but fears them;
We love our homely little Pang.



When I see on a poster
A programme which “features”
Charlie Chaplin and other
Delectable creatures,
I feel just as if
Someone hit me a slam
Or a strenuous biff
On the mid diaphragm.
When I read in a story,
Though void of offences,
That somebody “glimpses”
Or somebody “senses,”
The chord that is struck
Fills my bosom with ire,
And I’m ready to chuck
The whole book in the fire.
When against any writer
It’s urged that he “stresses”
His points, or that something
His fancy “obsesses,”
In awarding his blame
Though the critic be right,
Yet I feel all the same
I could shoot him at sight.
But (worst of these horrors)
Whenever I read
That somebody “voices”
A national need,
As the Bulgars and Greeks
Are abhorred by the Serb,
So I feel toward the freaks
Who employ this vile verb.



In a recent verse adventure
I compiled “a little list”
Of the verbs deserving censure,
Verbs that “never would be missed”;
Now, to flatter the fastidious,
Suffer me the work to crown
With three epithets—all hideous—
And one noisome noun.
First, to add to the recital
Of the words that gall and irk,
Is the old offender “vital,”
Done to death by overwork;
Only a prolonged embargo
On its use by Press and pen
Can recall this kind of argot
Back to life again.
I, in days not very distant,
Though the memory gives me pain,
From the awful word “insistent”
Did not utterly refrain;
Once it promised to refresh us,
Seemed to be alert enough;
Now I loathe it, laboured, precious—
Merely verbal fluff.
Thirdly, in the sheets that daily
Cater for our vulgar needs,
There’s a word that figures gaily
In reviewers’ friendly screeds,
Who declare a book’s “arresting,”
Mostly, it must be confessed,
Meaning just the problem-questing
Which deserves arrest.
Last and vilest of this bad band
Is that noun of gruesome sound,
“Uplift,” which the clan of Chadband
Hold in reverence profound;
Used for a dynamic function
’Tis a word devoid of guile,
Only as connoting unction
It excites my bile.



O Metaphasia, peerless maid,
How can I fitly sing
The priceless decorative aid
To dialogue you bring,
Enabling serious folk, whose brains
Are commonplace and crude,
To soar to unimagined planes
Of sweet ineptitude.
Changed by your magic, common sense
Nonsensical appears,
And stars of sober influence
Shoot madly from their spheres.
You lure us from the beaten track,
From minding P.’s and Q.’s,
To paths where white is always black
And pies resemble pews.
Strange beasts, more strange than the giraffe,
You conjure up to view,
The flue-box and the forking-calf,
Unknown at any Zoo;
And new vocations you unfold,
Wonder on wonder heaping,
Hell-banging for the overbold,
And toffee-cavern keeping.
With you we hatch the pasty snipe,
And all undaunted face
Huge fish of unfamiliar type—
Bush-pike and bubble-dace;
Or, fired by hopes of lyric fame,
We deviate from prose,
And make it our especial aim
Bun-sonnets to compose.
I wonder did the ancients prove
Responsive to your spell,
Or, riveted to Reason’s groove,
Against your charms rebel.
And yet some senator obese,
In Rome long years ago,
May have misnamed a masterpiece
De Gallo bellico.
We know there were heroic men
Ere Agamemnon’s days,
Who passed forgotten from our ken,
Lacking a poet’s praise;
But, though great Metaphasiarchs
Have doubtless flourished sooner,
I’m sure their raciest remarks
Have been eclipsed by S*****r.



Up to the end of the great Queen’s reign
Pegasus proved a tractable steed;
Verse was metrical, mostly sane;
“Fleshly” singers who wished to exceed
Seldom, however great was their need,
Held that prosody was a crime.
Critics were one and all agreed:
“Poets will never abandon rhyme.”
Now, inspired by a high disdain,
Grudging the past its rightful meed,
Georgian minstrels, might and main,
Urge that verse must be wholly freed
Now and for ever from rules that lead
Singers in chains to a jingling chime,
Slaves of the obscurantist screed:
“Poets will never abandon rhyme.”
Milton and Tennyson give them pain;
Marinetti’s the man they heed,
Grim apostle of stress and strain,
Noise, machinery, smell and speed.
Yet the best of the British breed,
Fighters who sing ’mid blood and grime,
Lend new force to the ancient rede:
“Poets will never abandon rhyme.”
Prince, vers libre is a noxious weed;
Verse that is blank may be sublime;
Still, in spite of the Georgian creed,
Poets will never abandon rhyme.



(Lines suggested by the recent demise of the inventor of Esperanto.)

As a patriotic Briton
I am naturally smitten
With disgust
When some universal lingo
By a zealous anti-Jingo
Is discussed.
Some there are who hold that Spanish
In the end is bound to banish
Other tongues;
Some again regard Slavonic
As a stimulating tonic
For the lungs.
I would sooner bank on Tuscan,
Ay, or even on Etruscan,
Than on Erse;
But fanatical campaigners,
Gaelic Leaguers and Sinn Feiners
Find it terse.
Some are moved to have a shy at
Persian, thanks to the Rubáiyát
And its ease;
But it’s quite another matter
If you’re anxious for to chatter
In Chinese.
To instruct a brainy brat in
Canine or colloquial Latin
May be wise;
But it’s not an education
As a fruitful speculation
I’d advise.
French? All elegance equips it,
But how oft on foreign lips it
Runs awry;
German, tainted, execrated,
Is for ages relegated
To the sty.
As for brand-new tongues invented
By professors discontented
With the old,
Well, the prospect of a “panto”
Played and sung in Esperanto
Leaves me cold.



(Lines suggested by an Australian aboriginal place-name commonly known by its last syllable.)

Fine names are found upon the map—
Kanturk and Chirk and Cong,
Grogtown and Giggleswick and Shap,
Chowbent and Chittagong;
But other places, less renowned,
In richer euphony abound
Than the familiar throng;
For instance, there is Beeyah-byyah-bunniga-nelliga-jong.
In childhood’s days I took delight
In Lear’s immortal Dong,
Whose nose was luminously bright,
Who sang a silvery song.
He did not terrify the birds
With strange and unpropitious words
Of double-edged ontong;
I’m sure he hailed from Beeyah-byyah-bunniga-nelliga-jong.
Prince Giglio’s bag, the fairy’s gift,
Helped him to right the wrong,
Encouraged diligence and thrift,
And “opened with a pong”;
But though its magic powers were great
It could not quite ejaculate
A word so proud and strong
And beautiful as Beeyah-byyah-bunniga-nelliga-jong.
I crave no marble pleasure-dome,
No forks with golden prong;
Like Horace, in a frugal home
I’d gladly rub along,
Contented with the humblest cot
Or shack or hut, if it had got
A name like Billabong,
Or, better still, like Beeyah-byyah-bunniga-nelliga-jong.
Sweet is the music of the spheres,
Majestic is Mong Blong,
And bland the beverage that cheers,
Called Sirupy Souchong;
But sweeter, more inspiring far
Than tea or peak or tuneful star
I deem it to belong
To such a place as Beeyah-byyah-bunniga-nelliga-jong.