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THE CRACKLING OF THORNS



RHYMES OF THE EAST



'A rare and accomplished talent for parody. The book is full
of good-humoured laughter and cleverness in the virtuosities of
verse. ' Scotsman.

' Dum-Dum's verse is capital fun. He has a neatness and unex-
pectedness in rhyme that comes as an ever-new delight, and he is
so genuinely and unforcedly humorous that he provides the most
genial pleasure.' The King.

' Has already won his spurs, and proved himself a worthy com-
panion of Mr. Owen Seaman. His comic muse can sweep a many-
stringed, if sometimes a slightly bitter, lyre.' Daily Telegraph.

' Clever in rhyme, perfect in metre, and full of excellent touches
of light humour. 'Scottish Review.

' Unusual facility for rhyme, a delightful sense of the ludicrous,
an unerring ear for rhythm, and a delicate power of choosing the
right, and, for preference, the unusual word.' Onlooker.

' Some delightful parodies. . . . We have rarely found a book of
verses so entrancing as this one.' Literary World.

'Some of them particularly clever, and most of them full of
humour.' Illustrated Sport ins an< i Dramatic Newt.

' Cheery at all times, and as a rhymester very dexterous. 1
Liverpool Post.

' His light descriptive verse ... is among the best of its class.'
Spectator.

' We have tested his book by reading it two or three times at
intervals, and find that it does not pall.' Academy.

' Hold the stuff of laughter in them. . . . Neither of these could
be read, and the reader's gravity retained.' Daily Chronicle.

'Very fresh and clever. The parodies are excellent.' Man-
chester Guardian.

' It is quite a pleasure to light on such thoroughly well-attuned
efforts (in parody ).' Publish ers Circular.

' There is a most ingenious version of Mandalay in the manner of
Walt Whitman, and The Last Hockey could only have been done
by one who thoroughly understood Tennyson's management of
blank verse." Outlook.

'With all his feeling for humorous contrasts, and his delightful
taste in the grotesque, it is for his sense of style and technique
that this volume, so free from all that is trivial and hackneyed
and slipshod, will win the commendation of the best judges of this
form of belles Itttres.' Punch.



LONDON : ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE & CO., LTD.



THE CRACKLING

OF THORNS .

^

' // is enough that I may play The Poor



BY

DU M-DUM

AUTHOR OF 'RHYMES OF THE EAST*
' IN THE HILLS,' ETC.



LONDON

ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE

AND COMPANY, LTD.

1906



Edinburgh: T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty



TO
MY DEAR FRIEND

OWEN SEAMAN

(MASTER OF THE CRAFT)

IN ACKNOWLEDGMENT

OF KINDLY SPONSORSHIP

AND INVALUABLE

COUNSEL



PREFACE

MOST, if not all, of these verses are published by
kind permission of Mr. Blackwood, and of Messrs.
Bradbury and Agnew, in whose periodicals they
originally appeared. They have, of course, been
overhauled.

I have tried to make a book which might appeal
at any ordinary time to any ordinary person. To
this end I have included no political pieces, and
none, I hope, in which the subject-matter had only
the transient interest of the moment. As the
rejection of others was, in some cases, rather a
painful proceeding, I trust that it may be accounted
to me for righteousness.

I should like, if I may, to take this opportunity
of saying that my use of the pseudonym ' Dum-
Dum ' is limited to the pages of Punch.

JOHN KENDALL.



CONTENTS

PAGE

ODE TO A NEW TALL HAT, I

TO A FAT PIG, 4

MY TAILOR'S BILL, 7

MY LAST ILLUSION, II

ODE ON THE PASSING OF ST. JAMES'S HALL, . . 1$

THRENODY ON A POLAR BEAR, 1 9

A BIRTHDAY SONG, 21

AN INSURANCE POLICY, 24

ODE TO THE BACK OF MY HEAD, .... 27

TO A CAGED LION, 3O

THE SIMPLE LIFE, 32

LOVE'S COLOURS, 36

ODE TO A FUR-LINED COAT, 38

TO THE SEA-SERPENT, 42

LINES BY AN INSOMNIAC, 46

LEAP-YEAR PROSPECTS, 48



THE CRACKLING OF THORNS



PAGE



ODE TO THE 'WHOLE HOG,' 51

TO THE HIPPOPOTAMUS, 55

THE GOLF HABIT, ... 58

HONEST RELUCTANCE, 60

ODE TO A HORSE-SHOE FOUND LYING IN THE

ROAD, 6l

A BALLAD OF EDINBURGH TOON, 66

MY MALADY, 69

REFORM, 72

TRAGEDY, -75

TO MY SENSE OF HUMOUR, 78



ODE

TO A NEW TALL HAT

ALL hail, thou dear congenial tyrant, hail !

Hat of the gorgeous bloom and brimmy curves,
Whose lustre bids the very sun grow pale,

And strikes white blindness down the optic
nerves

Of him that too incautiously observes,
How pure thy pride ! Thy raven gloss how chaste !
Thy tout ensemble, alas, how soon abased !

Thou art too fragile, O thou lovely thing,

For this hard world, where storms be swift and

shrewd ;

Where danger wanders darkly on the wing,
And men abrade, and * with forced fingers rude '
Scar thine incomparable nigritude,
O woful tale, that careless hands should be
Rough on so exquisite a Hat as thee !

A



2 THE CRACKLING OF THORNS

A thousand perils wait thee in the street,

Perils from which thou mayst not ride aloof :

Full many a stabbing gingham thou shalt meet ;
The sharp concussion of the hansom's roof
And imminent window shall not find thee
proof ;

Nor warm consoling iron, nor suasive plush,

Once gone, may all restore thy pristine blush !

Felt shall usurp thee in thy peggy home ;
Harsh coatings rub thy delicate dress awry ;

Tho' thou wert cased beneath a lucent dome
Of clearest crystal, impious maids would ply
The flippant duster to thine injury ;

Dust thee, forsooth ! Dear heavens, how long,
how long

Must we support this lamentable wrong?

Better and wiser 'twere that thou hadst been
Garbed as thy rugged sires, who nothing knew

Of silken nap or vulnerable sheen ;
These from the coy and shivering beaver drew
His furred protection, comely to the view,

Strong in defence, to hurts of rain or wind

Inured, and pleasing all, except the skinned I



TO A NEW TALL HAT 3

And yet I know not. Were it so, perchance,
To see thee hardy were to love thee less,

E'en as the dam's peculiar vigilance

For her one weakling something doth express
Of love grown deep through tender pitifulness ;

And thou wouldst lack beguilement, being stout,

To lure friend Pluvius from his threatened drought.

But come, dear Hat : upon my favoured brow
Perch lightly, and affront the glowing skies ;

There shall not be so bright a thing as thou
On the fair scene ; this noon shall many eyes
Water, and strangers turn to eulogise.

Let us fare forth, and flaunt thy little span

Of triumph, giving pleasure while we can !



THE CRACKLING OF THORNS



TO A FAT PIG

WHEN I peruse that tranquil countenance,

When I behold you lying in the deep,
Calm torpor of your customary trance,
And smiling in your sleep ;

When I compare the lives that men endure,

The hard hours treading on each other's heels,
With yours, an easy, drowsy sinecure,
Unbroken, save for meals ;

Stirred to the limits of mine injured pride

By your outrageous otium cum dig. ,
O Hog, if I could only reach you, I 'd
' Larn ye to be a ' pig !

O Hog, O fat, insufferable Hog,

The very barn-door hen must ply a leg
Or go unvictualled ; even the household dog
Has to sit up and beg.



TO A FAT PIG 5

Judged by your smug complacency, you seem

To think yourself a strangely favoured beast ;
But is there not a shadow on the dream,
A spectre at the feast ?

You never budge. For your voracious need

Mysterious broths are brought you from afar ;
Strange washes coax you if you 're off your feed
(Not that you ever are !)

The great trough yawns beneath your very snout;

You eat, you sleep, upon the selfsame spot ;
People object to see you move about
They 'd rather you did not.

O Hog, so unsuspecting and so fat,

Do you suppose that these attentions spring
From Man's great kindness? If you swallow

that,
You 'd swallow anything !

Oft have I noticed, hovering round the sty
Where you, unknowing, snore in Morpheus'

arms,

A gross red man, who with an owner's eye
Approves your bulging charms.



THE CRACKLING OF THORNS

Darkly he jprods you with his oaken staff

Like this I 'm sorry and remains awhile
Gloating ; and laughs a grim, carnivorous laugh,
While you sleep on, and smile.

O Hog, so fat, so green, did you awake
To the ferocious menace of those eyes,
You would sleep less, methinks, but you would

take
A deal more exercise.



MY TAILOR'S BILL



MY TAILOR'S BILL

'Tis ever thus. My noblest aberration
Results in wisdom after the event ;
I never yet conferred an obligation
Of which I didn't bitterly repent ;
I never paid a tailor's bill
(And after this I never will !)
But that I shivered for the precedent.



Brief was the scene, yet moving while it lasted.
At the first shock, when he beheld the Boon,
The noble fellow looked quite flabbergasted,
Turned a pale green, and seemed about to

swoon ;

While all his chorused tailorhood
Marvelled, and praised me where I stood
Balmily beaming, like the bland, grave, Moon.



THE CRACKLING OF THORNS

Anon, with watery smile and due obeisance,

He bore the rare and curious receipt,
And gave me peace ; and I, in full complaisance,
Patted him thrice ; and moved upon my beat
Exuding merit, till the mood
Waned, and I felt strange doubts obtrude,
If in my action I had been discreet.



True that to such impulsive generosity

Self-approbation lends a fleeting charm,
Yet, save we learn to curb impetuosity,
Our afterthoughts will fill us with alarm ;
For pauper's dole and Tailor's cheque
Alike may bring a soul to wreck,
And Charity may do a power of harm.



Ay, many a vessel's lot has thus been blighted ;

Men have been moral, even to excess,
When lo ! a windfall came ! They got excited ;
Threw off their cloak of frugal stodginess,
Rose up, and did so carry on
That they, and all their dross, have gone
Down to Gehenna, leaving no address.



MY TAILOR'S BILL 9

I trust that no such prodigal backsliding
May lure my gentle Tailor to his fall.
The loss of one so patient, so confiding,
Would do me injury beyond recall.
His homely faith is much to me ;
And, failing him, I fail to see
Whom I should honour, how be clothed withal.

And what if in his breast the Dun should waken ?

What if I have but edged his vampire-tooth ?
And he should be so grievously mistaken

As to seek blood more blood ; and, void of ruth,
With foul and ghoulish lust assail
His unsuspecting clientele ?
The dear gods hold him ! This from me,
forsooth !



Myself, I fear him not. But much I tremble

Lest he should pass the news to other ears ;
And round my gates a ravening horde assemble,
Keen'd with the concentrated hopes of years,
Thinking (vain optimists !) to find
Their patron squeezably inclined,
Till I be wearied of their vile arrears.



io THE CRACKLING OF THORNS

These are the doubts that come to me in legions :
These are the thoughts that pierce me to the

core ;

While deep, deep down in mine interior regions,
I hear my muffled inward monitor
Mourning the loss of such a sum
To that financial vacuum
Which, as a child of Nature, I abhor !



MY LAST ILLUSION n



MY LAST ILLUSION

MORE years ago than I can state
(Or would divulge if I were able)

It was my privilege and fate
To worship the enchanting Mabel.

She was a maid of sweet fifteen ;

Blue-eyed and flaxen as a fairy
Was Mabel ; as a rule I lean

To something darker, but I vary.

And for a while the love-god smiled
On our young selves, and all was jolly,

Till I was shamefully beguiled

By one who bore the name of Molly.

For Molly's eyes were as black as ink,
And Molly's hair was deepest sable ;

It pains me even now to think
How badly I behaved to Mabel.



12 THE CRACKLING OF THORNS

But I was doomed to pay the price,

For Molly proved both false and giddy ;

We quarrelled once, we quarrelled twice,
And I was jilted for a middy.

bitter, bitter was my cup !

I moved abroad like one demented ;

1 hardly cared for bite or sup

Till I saw Mabel, and repented.

But Mabel's wrath was undisguised,
She was distinctly stern and chilly ;

I told her I apologised ;

I begged her not to be so silly.

I left no stone unturned to woo
The suffrage of her tender mercies ;

I wrote her letters not a few,
And some extremely poignant verses ;

Tears, vows, entreaties, all were vain :
We parted with a final flare-up

I only saw her once again,
Just at the time she put her hair up.



MY LAST ILLUSION 13

Years waned, and still we ranged apart ;

But though in minor ways unstable,
Down in its deeps, my battered heart

Has always hankered after Mabel ;

And often, when I heard the name,

It would begin to throb con moto
In homage to my boyhood's flame,

And grief at having lost her photo.

That is all over now. To-night

For one brief hour we came together,

And for that one brief hour you might
Have knocked me over with a feather.

Perhaps the fault was mine. Perhaps,

In nourishing a youth's Ideal,
I had forgotten how the lapse

Of time would modify the Real.

Maybe the charms that won a boy's
Young heart were there in full perfection,

But could no longer counterpoise
My bias for a dark complexion.



14 THE CRACKLING OF THORNS

But ah ! what boots the abstract doubt ?

Seeing that she has wed Another,
What boots it that I thought her stout,

And ominously like her mother?

'Tis but my last illusion fled,

Perished dissolved in idle folly ;

The Mabel of my dreams is dead ;
I wonder what became of Molly !



THE PASSING OF ST. JAMES'S HALL 15



ODE

ON THE PASSING OF ST. JAMES'S HALL

OLD Hall, that wert so long the classic shrine

Of Music grateful to the cultured ear,
Though something tedious to the Philistine

Where all was German, complex, and severe,
Thou shalt not pass unhonoured to thy fall

Without some more or less ' melodious tear,'
For of all sights, all sounds, that I recall,
Are none more sanctified than thine, St. James's
Hall.

Sweet are the memories of thy native Pop.,

Where the grave Four that ministered thereat
With strenuous horse-tail wrung some master-Op.

From the complaining entrails of the cat.
How diligent they were ! How calm their mien !

How great a dignity upon them sat !
There was a restful something on the scene
Which (after meals) could make the maddest mind
serene.



16 THE CRACKLING OF THORNS

Thou wert, in truth, the Home of grave delights,
Wherein no froward element could mar

The cavernous gravity that ruled the rites ;
Here, one would say, the coyest alien Star

Could come out strong, nor fear to be defied
By pin-drop or victorious catarrh,

Saving, alas ! for one that basely plied
With impious muffin-bell his grisly ware outside.

There was a scene of tragedy one day,

And Britain's capital had gathered there
Her Beauty and Hysteria, to pay

Homage to one they held surpassing fair,
Not for his general favour (which was poor),

But for the scandal of his head of hair ;
'Twas said that when he took his yearly tour,
Twelve skilled detectives watched that mystic
chevelure.



Ah me ! He did but touch the happy keys,
And magical music from his hands did flow ;

Music of whispering zephyrs in tremulous trees,
Lighter than fluttering feathers or falling
snow,



THE PASSING OF ST. JAMES'S HALL 17

Softer than murmuring brooks in a shadowy dell,

Music most beautiful, most soft, most low.
Oh, not a whisper broke that tranced spell,
When hark ! it was! it was that cursed muffin-bell!



Tinkling it rose ; and, jingling as it came,

Louder and louder clanged with pitiless beat
On the strained tympanum ; with eyes aflame

The virtuoso, frozen to his seat,
Sat horror-stricken ; jangling it passed by ;

We heard it tinkling, tinkling, up the street ;
And the great audience breathed one mighty sigh,
And laughed, until methought that some must
surely die.

Then did that artist straightly go distraught.

Madly he danced, and madly beat his breast ;
With lifted palm he bitterly besought

Aid from the most high gods ; his horrid crest
Rose up like quills ; one scream escaped his

soul,

One scream of anguish not to be suppressed ;
Wildly he tugged his crisped aureole,
And bolted, e'en as bolts a rabbit down his hole.

B



i8 THE CRACKLING OF THORNS

Farewell, old Hall I To-day the fickle throng
Carry their worship to a newer fane.

Farewell ! 'tis all the burden of my song.
E'en as I write, methinks I see again

The fond, familiar scene thy soothing spell
O'ercomes me and I hear the sad refrain

Of clear intestines throbbing out ' Farewell ! '
And hark ! it is ! it is I that cursed muffin-bell !



THRENODY ON A POLAR BEAR 19



THRENODY ON A POLAR BEAR

WHO DIED IN SUMMER OF PLEURISY AT THE
LONDON ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS

O listen, listen, ladies gay !

No haughty feat of arms I tell;
Soft is the note, and sad the lay

That mourns the lovely Samuel.
Let the kind tear be freely shed;
Weep, you that loved him, weep, for he is dead!

He came, a youngling from the rigid North,
Unkindly rapt from his protesting dam,

To be a people's pride, and wear thenceforth
The ludicrous but honoured name of Sam.

Twice seven years a quiet life he led ;

Weep, you that loved him, weep, for he is dead!

White was his ample fleece, and black his eye ;

And oh, his sense of humour ! 'Twas his game
To filch umbrellas from the passers-by,

And, growling dreadfully, devour the same,



20 THE CRACKLING OF THORNS

While the despoiled breathed curses on his head ;
Weep, you that loved kirn, weep, for he is dead!

He was not made for climate such as this,
Our English summer pierced him to the bone,

'Give me,' he sighed, with bitter emphasis,
' The genial horrors of my native zone !

This is the very ' thus and thus he said ;

Weep, you that loved him, weep, for he is dead!

Alas ! we knew not that he inly wanned ;

We could not look beneath that snowy pell ;
Only we saw him frolic in his pond,

Only we thought, ' How blithe is Samuel ! '
No minatory cough awoke our dread ;
Weep, you that loved him, weep, for he is dead!

Yes, pleurisy has knocked him out of time.

His lungs were delicate ; the wear and tear
Of long exposure to our frequent clime

Has been too many for a Polar Bear ;
And Death came sweeping up with sullen

tread ;
Weep, you that loved him, weep, for he is dead!



A BIRTHDAY SONG 21



A BIRTHDAY SONG

THE morn is bright, the skies are clear,

The lark awakes, and Chanticleer
Explosively proclaims the anniversary

Of the glad day when I was born

This jolly world of ours t' adorn,
And be, I 'm told, a terror to the nursery.

There are to whom a birthday brings

The solemn thought that Youth has wings,
Who dream of Chronos closing in around them,

And weep to think that man must grow

Old at an age of so-and-so
(My own contemporaries, too, confound them !)

And there be those whom such a date

Serves only to infuriate,
Who find existence void and pleasure hollow ;

' Why were we ever born ? ' they say,

And darkly curse their natal day
As the prime cause of all they have to swallow.



22 THE CRACKLING OF THORNS

Myself, I do not hold with these.

This Vale of Tears has much to please
A merry soul ; if Man be born to trouble,

The fact is neither here nor there ;

If Life 's the bubble they declare,
I find it an extremely pleasant bubble.



Nor do I, like my craven peers,
Confess to getting on in years

Just when the joys of life are fairly started,
Or mourn for my departed Youth
Merely because I 'm no, forsooth !

I don't acknowledge that it has departed.



True that the carping eye can trace
Some lines on my engaging face,

But what of them ? Their cause is very

simple ;

I 've had them for a long, long while :
These are the places where I smile,

And those well, any one can tell a dimple.



A BIRTHDAY SONG 23

The polished argent of my crown

Has lost its growth of sheeny brown,
But many a head that 's prematurely thinned owes

Its losses to the tropic hat.

You could not call me really fat ;
Not fat (I know, from looking into windows).



But there, what boots the outer skin ?

If jocund be the heart within,
The rolling years affect one very lightly ;

And a hilarious turn of mind

That and my innocence combined
Has kept me young and eminently sprightly.



Wherefore, O pious Morn, to thee
Be greeting ! And I hope to see

Many returns, both prosperous and pleasant.
And ere the day has gained his height,
I will perform my 'customed rite,

And go and give myself a birthday present.



24 THE CRACKLING OF THORNS



AN INSURANCE POLICY

MY dear and only love, before
The very solemn hour arrives

When we must join for evermore

Our tastes, our tempers, and our lives,

Let us insure a constant flow
Of rapture at its highest pitch

By settling down, through weal or woe,
To win the Dunmow Flitch.

Let that romantic trophy be
A shining beacon and a star

To keep us going strong and free
From all demoralising jar ;

And with benign, effulgent ray,
Approve our cordial intent

'Gainst clouds on either side we '11 say
On yours, for argument.



AN INSURANCE POLICY 25

If ever through the coming year
You feel a mood of dull distress,

The cause whereof may not appear
(Maybe the cook, or cussedness) ;

If there should come a moment when
You seem to lose your self-control,

And counting slowly up to ten
Fails to relieve your soul ;

If you should feel insanely prone

To controversial debate,
Till reason totters on her throne

From pure desire to aggravate ;
If you would madly say, you will,

Merely because I hope you won't,
Dear, though the struggle makes you ill,
Think of the Flitch, and don't.

Think of the prize which none can win
Save they can take their solemn oath

(And stick to it through thick and thin)
That, from the hour that sealed their troth,

Their life has passed serenely by
Without a pang in either heart

A word disqualifies ; a sigh
Upsets the apple-cart.



26 THE CRACKLING OF THORNS

Let never discord pass our doors,
Nor temper mar our perfect bliss

By fault of mine or, maybe, yours
(Yours, darling by hypothesis !)

Let the bright Flitch dissolve your heat,
And keep you, by our early vow,

Always as nice as oh, my sweet !
As nice as you are now.

So shall our days be wholly fair ;

And, when the year is safely through,
Down we will go to Dunmow's Mayor,

And take our oaths till all is blue ;
Then will our praise be fitly psalmed

By men and maidens, far and nigh ;
And we will have the Flitch embalmed,
To witness if we lie.



TO THE BACK OF MY HEAD 27



ODE

TO THE BACK OF MY HEAD

MY Self s part-creature, whose unlovely shape,

Making thy lord a public raree-show,
Doth ride my hitherto unconscious nape

Plain to all eyes save mine ; to whom I owe
The consequence, more galling than a blow,
Of ribald gesture and unfettered jape

That marks our passage wheresoe'er we go ;
Back of my Head, this day I looked on thee,
And do accept the gods' inscrutable decree.

'Tis sad to hear the personal remark
Rising distinctly o'er the social hum ;

'Tis sad to see the mirth-enkindled spark
In eyes that always brighten when we come ;
Sad to be conscious of the gibing thumb,



28 THE CRACKLING OF THORNS

Yet find the cause thereof profoundly dark ;

To move 'mid waggish coteries, where some,
With contumelious fluttering of the lid,
Ask, ' Did you ever? ' or declare, ' They never did ! '

Oft I have cast an apprehensive glance

Into some friendly mirror standing by,
Fearing that by some tragical mischance
I might have come away without my tie ;
Yet was my habit formal to the eye.
True, I am something strange of countenance,

But there are others even more awry ;
My contour there are many far more fat ;
/ never knew what those idiots were laughing at !

And it has been that men have called me proud;
For I have tamed my features to a stare

Of lofty tolerance, and spurned the crowd
With the unruffled camel's tranquil air
Of one superior, who doesn't care !

They knew not that my spirit cried aloud
To beg the stronger kindly to forbear ;
To bid the small be careful what he said ;
And, with a brave man's wrath, to punch the weak-
ling's head.



TO THE BACK OF MY HEAD 29

To-day I tarried for a fleeting space

Where my confiding tailor plies his craft ;
I met my mirrored double face to face ;
(How strange !) I sawhim sideways and abaft;
And, for the coolness of the genial draught,
Had cast my beaver from his pride of place ;
And there, oh, clear as tho' 'twere photo-
graphed,

Thou crusher of a good man's sturdy pride,
I saw thy multiple aspect, and was petrified !

I have no will to hold thee up to scorn,

Nor power to say, No more be head of mine !
Thou art my burden, and must needs be borne.


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Online Library1869-1952 Dum-DumThe crackling of thornes → online text (page 1 of 3)