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Bert Leston Taylor.

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"So long!"

But gone its cheery, old-time ring:
The poets made it rime with knell.
Joined, it became a dismal thing -
"Farewell!"

"Farewell!" Into the lover's soul
You see fate plunge the cruel iron.
All poets use it. It's the whole
Of Byron.

"I only feel - farewell!" said he;
And always tearful was the telling.
Lord Byron was eternally
Farewelling.

"Farewell!" A dismal word, 'tis true.
(And why not tell the truth about it?)
But what on earth would poets do
Without it!




REFORM IN OUR TOWN


There was a man in Our Town
And Jimson was his name,
Who cried, "Our civic government
Is honeycombed with shame."
He called us neighbors in and said,
"By Graft we're overrun.
Let's have a general cleaning up,
As other towns have done."

The citizens of Our Town
Responded to the call;
Beneath the banner of Reform
We gathered one and all.
We sent away for men expert
In hunting civic sin,
To ask these practised gentlemen
Just how we should begin.

The experts came to Our Town
And told us how 'twas done.
"Begin with Gas and Traction,
And half your fight is won.
Begin with Gas and Traction;
The rest will follow soon."
We looked at one another
And hummed a different tune.

Said Smith, "Saloons in Our Town
Are palaces of shame."
Said Jones, "Police corruption
Has hurt the town's fair name."
Said Brown, "Our lawless children
Pitch pennies as they please."
Now would it not be wiser
To start Reform with these?

The men who came to Our Town
Replied, "No haste with these;
Begin with Gas - or Water -
The roots of the disease."
We looked at one another
And hemmed and hawed a bit;
Enthusiasm faded then
From every single cit.

The men who came to Our Town
Expressed a mild surprise,
Then they too at each other
Looked "with a wild surmise."
Jimson had stock in Traction,
And Jones had stock in Gas,
And Smith and Brown in this and that,
So - nothing came to pass.

The profligates of Our Town
Pitch pennies as of yore;
Police corruption flourishes
As rankly as before,
Still are our gilded ginmills
Foul palaces of shame.
Reform is just as distant
As when the wise men came.




WHEN THE SIRUP'S ON THE FLAPJACK


When the sirup's on the flapjack and the coffee's in the pot;
When the fly is in the butter - where he'd rather be than not;
When the cloth is on the table, and the plates are on the cloth;
When the salt is in the shaker and the chicken's in the broth;
When the cream is in the pitcher and the pitcher's on the tray,
And the tray is on the sideboard when it isn't on the way;
When the rind is on the bacon and likewise upon the cheese,
Then I somehow feel inspired to do a string of rimes like these.




BREAD PUDDYNGE


When good King Arthur ruled our land
He was a goodly king,
And his idea of what to eat
Was a good bag puddynge.

The bag puddynge he had in mind
Was thickly strewn with plums,
With alternating lumps of fat
As big as my two thumbs.

"My love," quoth he to Guinevere,
"We have a joust to-day -
Sir Launce is here, Sir Tris, Sir Gal,
And all the brave array.

"Put everything across to-night
In guise of goodly fare,
And cook us up a bag puddynge
That will y-curl our hair."

"I'll curl your hair," said Guinevere,
"As tight as tight can be;
I'll cook you up a bag puddynge
From my new recipee."

. . . . . . . . . .

"Pitch in and eat, my merry men!"
That night the King did say;
"But save a little room - a bag
Puddynge is on the way.

"Ho! here it comes! Now, by my sword,
A famous feast 'twill be.
Queen Guinevere hath cooked it, Launce,
From her own recipee."

"Odslife!" cried Launce, "if there is aught
I love 'tis this same thing."
And he and all the knights did fall
Upon that bag puddynge.

One taste, and every holy knight
Sat speechless for a space,
While disappointment and disgust
Were writ in every face.

"Odsbodikins!" Sir Tristram cried,
"In all my days, by Jing!
I ne'er did taste so flat a mess
As this here bag puddynge."

"Odswhiskers, Arthur!" cried Sir Launce,
Whose license knew no bounds,
"I would to Godde I had this stuff
To poultice up my wounds."

King Arthur spat his mouthful out,
And sent for Guinevere.
"What is this frightful mess?" he roared.
"Is this a joke, my dear?"

"Oh, ain't it good?" asked Guinevere,
Her face a rosy red.
"I thought 'twould make an awful hit:
_I made it out of bread!_"

. . . . . . . . . .

When good King Arthur ruled our land
He was a goodly king,
And only once in all his reign
Was made a Bread Puddynge.




MUSCA DOMESTICA


Baby bye, here's a fly,
We will watch him, you and I;
Lest he fall in Baby's mouth,
Bringing germs from north and south.
In the world of things a-wing
There is not a nastier thing
Than this pesky little fly; -
So we'll watch him, you and I.

See him crawl up the wall,
And he'll never, never fall;
Save that, poisoned, he may drop
In the soup or on the chop.
Let us coax the cunning brute
To the tempting Tanglefoot,
Or invite his thirsty soul
To the poison-paper bowl.

I believe with six such legs
You or I could walk on eggs;
But he'd rather crawl on meat
With his microbe-laden feet.
Eggs would hardly do as well -
He could not get through the shell;
Better far, to spread disease,
Vegetables, meat, or cheese.

There he goes, on his toes,
Tickling, tickling Baby's nose.
Heaven knows where he has been,
And what filth he's wallowed in.
Drat the nasty little wretch!
He's the deuce and all to ketch.
Ah! He's settled on the wall.
Now the thunderbolt shall fall!

Baby bye, see that fly?
We will swat him, you and I.




THE PASSIONATE PROFESSOR

"_But bending low, I whisper only this:_
_'Love, it is night.'_"
- HARRY THURSTON PECK.


Love, it is night. The orb of day
Has gone to hit the cosmic hay.
Nocturnal voices now we hear.
Come, heart's delight, the hour is near
When Passion's mandate we obey.

I would not, sweet, the fact convey
In any crude and obvious way:
I merely whisper in your ear -
"Love, it is night!"

Candor compels me, pet, to say
That years my fading charms betray.
Tho' Love be blind, I grant it's clear
I'm no Apollo Belvedere.
But after dark all cats are gray.
Love, it is night!




A BALLADE OF WOOL-GATHERING


Now is my season of unrest,
Now calls the forest, day and night;
And by its pleasant spell obsessed,
My wits go soaring like a kite.
Forgive me if I be not bright,
And pardon if I seem distrait;
Wood-fancies put my wits to flight; -
The woods are but a week away.

Palleth upon my soul the jest,
Falleth upon my pen a blight.
The daily task has lost its zest,
And everything is flat and trite.
There's nothing humorous in sight;
Don't mind if I am dull to-day.
For every column is a fight
When woods are but a week away.

Woods in the robes of summer dressed -
In greens and grays and browns bedight!
A journey on a river's breast,
Beneath the wedded blue-and-white!...
This end the Voyage of Delight
Waits, in a little wood-bound bay,
A bark canoe, all trim and tight; -
The woods are but a week away!


_L'Envoi_

Dear Reader, there is much to write;
I've many weighty things to say.
But who can write when woods invite,
And woods are but a week away!




TO THE SUN

(_Variations on a theme by Gilbert._)


Shine on, Old Top, shine on!
Across the realms of space
Shine on!
What though I'm in a sorry case?
What though my collar is a wreck,
And hangs a rag about my neck?
What though at food I can but peck?
Never _you_ mind!
Shine on!

Shine on, Old Top, shine on!
Through leagues of lifeless air
Shine on!
It's true I've no more shirts to wear,
My underwear is soaked, 'tis true,
My gullet is a redhot flue -
But don't let that unsettle you!
Never _you_ mind!
Shine on! [_It shines on._]




WHEN IT IS HOT

"_And Nebuchadnezzar commanded the most mighty men that were in his
army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into
the burning fiery furnace._"


Consider Mr. Shadrach,
Of fiery furnace fame:
He didn't bleat about the heat
Or fuss about the flame.
He didn't stew and worry,
And get his nerves in kinks,
Nor fill his skin with limes and gin
And other "cooling drinks."

Consider Mr. Meshach,
Who felt the furnace too:
He let it sizz nor queried "Is
It hot enough for you?"
He didn't mop his forehead,
And hunt a shady spot;
Nor did he say, "Gee! what a day!
Believe me, it's some hot."

Consider, too, Abed-nego,
Who shared his comrades' plight:
He didn't shake his coat and make
Himself a holy sight.
He didn't wear suspenders
Without a coat and vest;
Nor did he scowl and snort and howl,
And make himself a pest.

Consider, friends, this trio -
How little fuss they made.
They didn't curse when it was worse
Than ninety in the shade.
They moved about serenely
Within the furnace bright,
And soon forgot that it was hot,
With "no relief in sight."




THE SIMPLE, HEARTFELT LAY


Lives of poets oft remind us
Not to wait too long for Time,
But, departing, leave behind us
Obvious facts embalmed in rime.

Poems that we have to ponder
Turn us prematurely gray;
We are infinitely fonder
Of the simple, heartfelt lay.

Whitman's _Leaves of Grass_ is odious,
Browning's _Ring and Book_ a bore.
Bleat, O bards, in lines melodious, -
Bleat that two and two is four!

Must we hunt for hidden treasures?
Nay! We want the heartfelt straight.
Minstrel, sing, in obvious measures -
Sing that four and four is eight!

Whitman leads to easy slumbers,
Browning makes us hunt the hay.
Pipe, ye potes, in simplest numbers,
Anything ye have to say.




Q·HORATIVS·FLACCUS
B· L· T·SVO·SALVTEM


HAEC·CARMINA·MI·VETVLE·QVAE
ME·IVVENE·PARVM·DILIGENTER
COMPOSITA·EXCIDERVNT·SENEX
REFICIENDA·LIMANDAQVE·IAM
DVDVM·EXISTIMO·QVOD·NVNC
DEMVM·FACTVM·EST·MIRARIS
FORTASSE·CVR·ANGLICE·RE
SCRIPSERIM·DESINES·MIRARI
CVM·DIXERO·SINE·FVCO·OPOR
TERE·POETA·ETIAM·VIVVS·NON
SOLVM·ACCOMMODEM·MEA·OPERA
AD·NORMAM·RECENTIORVM·TEM
PORVM·SED·ETIAM·VTAR·NEMPE
EA·LINGVA·QVAE·MAIORE·RE
SILIENDI·VT·ITA·DICAM·VI
PRAEDITA·VIDEATVR·VELIM
SINT·NOVI·VERSVS·TIBI·MVL
TO·IVCVNDIORES·QVAM·PRIS
CA·EXEMPLA

SCRIBEBAM·HELNGON
[=XVII]·KAL·DEC




A NOTE FROM MR. FLACCUS

(_Concerning the verses that follow._)


Dear B. L. T.:

You know my "pomes." Well, old man, I was pretty young when I got them
out of my system, and they seem rather raw to me now - I'm getting along,
you know; so I've been thinking that I'd do 'em over again, file 'em
down, as we used to say. Enclosed is the result of my labors.

I presume you are wondering why I have done them into United States; but
you know perfectly well that a poet as much alive as I am to-day must
not only keep up with the procession, but choose a thought-vehicle that
has good springs to it - "beaucoup resiliency," I s'pose you'd call it.

I hope you will like these new lines of mine better than their
prototypes.

Yours regardfully,
Q. H. F.

_Helngon, November 15._




I

TO ARISTIUS FUSCUS

"_Integer vitæ scelerisque purus._"


Fuscus, old scout, if a guy's on the level
That's all the arsenal he'll have to tote;
Up to St. Peter or down to the Devil,
No need to carry a gun in his coat.

Prowling around, as you know is my habit,
I met a wolf in the forest, and he
Beat it for Wolfville and ran like a rabbit.
(He was some wolf, too, receive it from me.)

Where I may happen to camp is no matter, -
Paris, Chicago, Ostend or St. Joe, -
Like the old dame in the nursery patter
I shall make music wherever I go.

Drop me in Dawson or chuck me in Cadiz,
Dump me in Kansas or plant me in Rome, -
I shall keep on making love to the ladies:
Where there's a skirt is my notion of home.


II

DUETTO

"_Donec gratus eram._"


HORACE:

What time my Lydia owned me lord
No Persian king had much on Horace;
And when you blew my bed and board
I was some sad, believe me, Mawruss.

LYDIA:

What time you loved no other She,
Before this Chloë person signed you,
I flourished like a green bay tree;
Now I'm the Girl You Left Behind You.

HORACE:

This Chloë dame that takes my eye
Has so peculiar an allurance
I would not hesitate to die
If she could cop my life insurance.

LYDIA:

Well, as for that, I know a gent
With whom it's some delight to dally.
With me he makes an awful dent;
I'd perish once or twice for Cally.

HORACE:

Suppose our former love should go
Into a new de luxe edition?
Suppose I tie a can to Chlo,
And let you play your old position?

LYDIA:

Why, then, you cork, you butterfly,
You sweet, philandering, perjured villain,
With you I'd love to live and die,
Tho' Cally boy were twice as killin'.


III

TO PYRRHA

"_Quis multa gracilis._"


What young tin whistle gent,
Bedaubed with barber's scent, -
What cheapskate waits on you
To woo,
O Pyrrha?

For whom the puff and rat
And transformation that
You bought a year ago
Or so,
O Pyrrha?

Peeved? Not a bit. Not I
I'm sorry for the guy.
He draws a lovely lime
This time,
O Pyrrha!

I've dipped. The wet ain't fine.
Hung on the votive line
My duds. The gods can see
I'm free.
Eh, Pyrrha!


IV

TO ARISTIUS FUSCUS

"_My sweetly-smiling, sweetly-speaking Lalage._"


Fuscus, take a tip from me:
This here job's no bed of roses,
Not the cinch it seems to be,
Not the pipe that one supposes.
What care I, tho', if I may
Lallygag with Lalage.

Every day there's ink to spill,
Tho' I may not feel like working.
Every day a hole to fill;
One must plug it - there's no shirking.
Oh, that I might all the day
Lallygag with Lalage!

People say, "Gee! what a snap,
Turning paragraphs and verses.
He's the band on Fortune's cap,
Gets a barrel of ses-_terces_."
Let them gossip, while I play
Hide and seek with Lalage.

People hand me out advice:
"Hod, you're doing too much drivel.
Write us something sweet and nice.
Stow the satire, chop the frivol."
But we have the rent to pay,
Lalage; eh, Lalage?

Ladies shy the saving sense
Write me patronizing letters;
And there are the writing gents,
Always out to knock their betters.
What cares Flaccus if he may
Lallygag with Lalage!

No, old top, the writing lay's
Not a bed of sweet geranium.
Brickbats mingle with bouquets
Shied at my devoted cranium.
Does it peeve yours truly? Nay.
Nothing can - with Lalage.

Paste this, Fuscus, in your hat:
Not a pesky thing can peeve me.
Take it, too, from Horace flat,
She's some gal, is Lal, believe me.
So I coin this word to-day,
"Lallygag" - from Lalage.


V

TO SYLVIA


Were I on the Latin lay,
Were I turning Odes to-day,
You would draw a gem from me,
Little maid of mystery!

In an Ode I'd love to spout you;
I am simply bug about you.
That's the way! - the fairest peach
Is the one that's out of reach.

I have toasted in my time
Many a peach (and many a lime),
All of them, I must confess,
Lacking your elusiveness.

Lalage, my well known flame,
Was considerable dame;
Likewise Lydia and Phyllis,
Chloë, Pyrrha, Amaryllis.

Syl, if you had lived when they did
You'd have had those damsels faded.
(That will give you, girl, some notion
Of your Flaccus's devotion.)

Yep. If I were doing Odes
In my quondam favorite modes,
With your image to qui-vive me
I'd tear off some Ode, believe me!




A BALLAD OF MISFITS

"_Chacun son métier:_
_Les vaches seront bien gardées._"
- LA FONTAINE.


With skill for doing this or that
The Lord each man endows.
Some men are best for pushing pens,
And some for pushing plows;
And oh, the many many more
That should be tending cows!
_Chacun son métier:_
_Les vaches bien gardées._

The ivory-headed serving maid
Who poses as a "cook,"
She hath a very bovine brain,
She hath a bovine look.
Oh, prithee, lead her to the kine,
Oh, prithee get the hook!
_Chacun son métier:_
_Les vaches bien gardées._

The papering-and-painting gents
Whose work is never done,
Who mess around your house until
You pine to pull a gun,
Who take three mortal days to do
What should be done in one; -
_Chacun son métier:_
_Les vaches bien gardées._

The pestilential "pianiste,"
The screechy singer too,
The writer of the stupid book
And of the dull review,
The actor who is greatest when
He takes his exit cue; -
_Chacun son métier:_
_Les vaches bien gardées._

If every one were set to do
The task for which he's fit,
The writer of these trifling lines
Might also have to quit.
At tending cows the undersigned
Might make an awful hit.
_Chacun son métier:_
_Les vaches bien gardées._




AN ORIENTAL APOLOGY


When the hour was come Prince Chun arose,
And balanced a shoestring on his nose.
"From this some notion you will get,"
Said he, "of China's deep regret."

Now balancing upon his ear
A stein of foaming lager beer,
"This attitude," said he, "reveals
How very sorry China feels."

Then spinning top-like on his cue,
"I can't begin to tell to you
The deep remorse we suffer for
The death of your Ambassador."

Next, placing on his cue a plate,
He said, as it 'gan to gyrate:
"Nothing that's happened in his reign
Has caused my Emperor so much pain."

Upon his back he did declare,
While juggling five balls in the air,
"This attitude - the humblest yet -
Expresses personal regret."

Last, spreading out a deck of cards -
"Accept my Emperor's regards.
As our intentions were well meant,
Pray overlook the incident."




THE DAY OF THE COMET

(_May 18, 1910._)


Here it is - Eighteenth of May!
Dawneth now the fatal day
When we take the awful veil
Of the fearsome comet's tail.
Vale, Earth!

What will happen, heaven knows;
We can't even guess, suppose,
Hazard, speculate, surmise,
Hint, conjecture, theorize,
Or divine.

Will we merely drill a hole
Through the trailing aureole?
Or will the prediction dire
Of a world destroyed by fire
Be fulfilled?

Shall we crook our knees and pray
Counting this the Judgment Day?
Or preserve a cosmic ca'm,
Caring not a cosmic dam
What may come?

There's the rub. If we but knew
We should know just what to do.
Yes is just as good as No
To all questions. Here we go! -
Hang on tight!




THE MORNING AFTER

(_May 19, 1910._)


Here we are, friends, whole and hale
In or through the comet's tail;
And as far as we can say,
Matters are about as they
Were before.

Everything is much the same
As before the comet came.
Grasses grow and waters run -
Nothing new beneath the sun -
Same old sphere.

Life is drab or life is gay,
Thorny path or primrose way;
All is common, all is strange;
"Down the ringing grooves of change"
Spins the world.

Change but of a humdrum kind.
What we vaguely had in mind
Was some new sensation or
Thrill we never felt before.
Vain desire!

Nothing's added to the stock:
Same old shiver, same old shock.
Round about the sun we'll go
In the same old status quo.
Awful bore!




A BALLADE OF IRRESOLUTION


Isolde, in the story old,
When Ireland's coast the vessel nears,
And Death were fairer to behold,
To Tristan gives "the cup that clears."
Straight to their fate the helmsman steers:
Unknowing, each the potion sips....
Comes echoing through the ghostly years
"Give me the philtre of thy lips!"

Ah, that like Tristan I were bold!
My soul into the future peers,
And passion flags, and heart grows cold,
And sicklied resolution veers.
I see the Sister of the Shears
Who sits fore'er and snips, and snips....
Still falls upon my inward ears,
"Give me the philtre of thy lips!"

Hero of lovers, largely soul'd!
Imagination thee enspheres
With song-enchanted wood and wold
And casements fronting magic meres.
Tristan, thy large example cheers
The faint of heart; thy story grips! -
My soul again that echo hears,
"Give me the philtre of thy lips!"


_L'Envoi_

Sweet sorceress, resolve my fears!
He stakes all who Elysium clips.
What tho' the fruit be tares and tears! -
Give me the philtre of thy lips!




TO WHAT BASE USES!

"_Mrs. O - - now takes her daily dip at 5 in the afternoon, instead
of in the morning._"
- NEWPORT ITEM.


This is the forest primeval.

This the spruce with the glorious plume
That grew in the forest primeval.

This is the lumberman big and browned
Who felled the spruce tree to the ground
That grew in the forest primeval.

This is the man with the paper mill
Who bought the pulp that paid the bill
Of the husky lumberjack who chopped
The lofty spruce and its branches lopped
That grew in the forest primeval.

This is the publisher bland and rich
Who bought the roll of paper which
Was made by the man with the paper mill
Who bought the pulp that paid the bill
Of the lumberjack with the murderous ax
Who felled the spruce with lusty hacks
That grew in the forest primeval.

This is the youth with the writing tool
Who does the daily Newport drool
That helps to make the publisher rich
Who ordered the stock of paper which
Was made by the man with the paper mill
Who bought the pulp that paid the bill
Of the husky Swede in the Joseph's coat
Who swung his ax and the tall spruce smote
That grew in the forest primeval.

This is the lady far from slim
Who changed the hour of her daily swim


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Online LibraryBert Leston TaylorA line-o'-verse or two → online text (page 2 of 4)