Bert Leston Taylor.

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"Oh, take a brace, old man!" said I.
"Let me prescribe a nip of rye,
And then we'll go to see a play;
I've two for Barrymore to-day."
"No, no," he groaned; "'twould be a bore,
With all respect to Barrymore."
Said I: "Then whither shall we go?"
Said he: "A moving picture show."


_Lang Syne._

Twas a holy mystery
In the days of chivalry.
More than pageant was the Rite
In the sight of clod and knight.
Sword and Scepter, Orb and Rod,
Faith in self and faith in God;
Oaths of Homage fiercely flung,
Faith in heart and faith in tongue; -
Gone the things that meaning gave
"With the old world to the grave."


Knightly faith was born to fade:
Now the Rite is masquerade.
Now a cockney paladin
Winds a penny horn of tin.
Where in reverence heads were bowed
Surges now a careless crowd;
"Muddied oafs" and "flanneled fools"
Jostle "Yanks" with camping stools; -
Gone the things that meaning gave
"With the old world to the grave."


Let us have peace, and Thy blessing,
Lord of the Wind and the Rain,
When we shall cease from oppressing,
From all injustice refrain;
When we hate falsehood and spurn it;
When we are men among men.
Let us have peace when we earn it -
Never an hour till then.

Let us have rest in Thy garden,
Lord of the Rock and the Green,
When there is nothing to pardon,
When we are whitened and clean.
Purge us of skulking and treason,
Help us to put them away.
We shall have rest in Thy season;
Till then the heat of the fray.

Let us have peace in Thy pleasure,
Lord of the Cloud and the Sun;
Grant to us æons of leisure
When the long battle is done.
Now we have only begun it;
Stead us! - we ask nothing more.
Peace - rest - but not till we've won it -
Never an hour before.


O siren of tresses peroxide,
And heart that is hard as a flint,
Blue orbs of complacency ox-eyed,
That light at the mark of the mint,
Ears only for jingle of joybells,
A conscience as light as a cork -
You are wedded to follies and foibles,
My Lady New York.

True, you have (not enough, tho', to hurt you)
Your moods and your manners austere;
You have visions and vapors of virtue,
And "reform" for a time has your ear;
But of chaste Puritanic embraces
You soon have enough and to spare,
And then you kick over the traces,
And virtue forswear.

So go it, milady! Foot fleetly
The paths that are primrose and gay;
Abandon your fancy completely
To follies and fads of the day.
"Reform" is a something that throttles
The joys of the pace that's intense -
Smash hearts, reputations, and bottles,
And ding the expense!


The Ancient Wood is white and still,
Over the pines the bleak wind blows,
Voiceless the brook and mute the rill,
Silence too where the river flows.
Still I catch the scent of the rose
And hear the white-throat's roundelay,
Footing the trail that Memory knows,
Over the hills and far away.

I have only a pipe to fill:
Weaving, wreathing rings disclose
A trail that flings straight up the hill,
Straight as an arrow's flight. For those
Who fare by night the pole star glows
Above the mountain top. By day
A blasted pine the pathway shows
Over the hills and far away.

The Ancient Wood is white and chill,
But what know I of wintry woes?
The Pipesmoke Trail is mine at will -
Naught may hinder and none oppose.
Such the power the pipe bestows,
When the wilderness calls I may
Tramping go, as I smoke and doze,
Over the hills and far away.


Deep in the canyons lie the snows:
They shall vanish if I but say -
If my fancy a-roving goes
Over the hills and far away.


You have heard that mildewed story,
That tradition horned and hoary,
That it wearies one to roam,
Past a doubt;
That one vainly on vacation
Tries to find recuperation,
Till he hunts his happy home
Tuckered out.

That abroad there is no comfort,
That a man must journey home for 't -
You have heard that whiskered wheeze,
Have you not?
'Tis a commonplace to cavil
At the "luxuries of travel,"
For in travel lack of ease
Is your lot.

You have heard that gag historic;
It was often sprung by Yorick;
It's as old as Noah's ark
And its crew.
It's the commonest (at basis)
Of all common commonplaces; -
So I merely would remark
That - it's true.


Whene'er I quote I seldom take
From bards whom angel hosts environ;
But usually some damned rake
Like Byron.

Of Whittier I think a lot,
My fancy to him often turns;
But when I quote 'tis some such sot
As Burns.

I'm very fond of Bryant, too,
He brings to me the woodland smelly;
Why should I quote that "village roo,"
P. Shelley?

I think Felicia Hemans great,
I dote upon Jean Ingelow;
Yet quote from such a reprobate
As Poe.

To quote from drunkard or from rake
Is not a proper thing to do.
I find the habit hard to break,
Don't you?


"I remember, I remember" -
Something special? Not a bit.
But, you see, this is November,
And Remember rimes with it.


Tho' my verse is exact,
Tho' it flawlessly flows,
As a matter of fact
I would rather write prose.

While my harp is in tune,
And I sing like the birds,
I would really as soon
Write in straightaway words.

Tho' my songs are as sweet
As Apollo e'er piped,
And my lines are as neat
As have ever been typed,

I would rather write prose -
I prefer it to rime;
It's less hard to compose,
And it takes me less time.

"Well, if that be the case,"
You are moved to inquire,
"Why appropriate space
For extolling your lyre?"

I can only reply
That this form I elect
'Cause it pleases the eye,
And I like the effect.


How dear to this heart is the old roller towel
Which fond recollection presents to my view.
It hung like a pall on the wall of the washroom,
And gathered the grime of the linotype crew.
The sink and the soap and the lye that stood by it
Remain; but the towel is gone past recall.
O tempora! Also, O mores! Sic transit
The time-honored towel that creaked on the wall.
The grimy old towel, the slimy old towel,
The tacky old towel that hung on the wall.

Now hangs in the washroom a huge roll of paper -
The old printer's towel we'll never see more.
The new (see directions) is "used like a blotter,"
And crumpled and scattered in wads on the floor.
And often, when drying my hands in this fashion,
The tears of remembrance will gather and fall,
And I sigh (though I'm not what you'd call sentimental)
For the classic old towel that propped up the wall.
The sainted old towel, the tainted old towel,
The gooey old towel that hung on the wall.


(_The confession of a club lady._)

The path up Culture's Hill is steep,
And weary is the way,
With very little time for sleep
And none at all for play.

She that this toilsome task essays
Must never bat an eye,
But keep her firm, unwavering gaze
Forever fixed on high.

For should she ever careless grow,
And let her glances stray
Down to the shallow vale below,
Where Pleasure's Court holds sway -

Lured by the thrice forbidden fruit,
She'd lose her equipoise,
And like a wayward Pleiad shoot
Down to forbidden joys.

I've been but short time on the road,
My courage still is strong;
Yet often have I felt the goad
That hurries me along.

I've fallen over Maeterlinck,
And bumped myself to tears,
Burne-Jones's pictures made me blink,
And Wagner hurts my ears.

I've stumbled over Ibsen humps
And over Rembrandt rocks,
I've got some fierce Debussy bumps,
Some awful Nietsche knocks.

I'm wearied by the ceaseless quest,
I'm wayworn and footsore.
I've Culture till I cannot rest -
Yet still I climb for more.

But oh, when all is done and said,
Upon some manly breast
I'd like to lay my tired head
And take a good long rest.


"_The erotic motive is almost entirely absent from American poetry. Even
our younger American poets are more profoundly interested in the why and
wherefore of things than in the girdle of Helen or the gleaming limbs of
'the white implacable Aphrodite.'_"

In the years of my season erotic,
When Eros was lord of my days,
And I loved, with a love idiotic,
The Mabels and Madges and Mays;
When a purple and passionate lyric
Would sing all the night in my head, -
I yearned, like the young Mr. Viereck,
For everything red.

I doted on poems of passion,
And put my own pantings in rime,
To celebrate, after a fashion,
The damsels who took up my time.
I fed upon Swinburne, believe me,
I feasted on Byron and Burns,
And couplets from Sappho would give me
Most exquisite turns.

How apparent it was that our songbirds -
Our Emerson, Lowell, and Payne,
And Bryant and Drake - were the wrong birds
To pipe to the passional strain.
There was, in a word, nothing doing
In all of the rimes that they wrote;
They seemed to be always pursuing
The ethical note.

What truth, I inquired, was so mighty,
What ethical thing was so rare,
As the limbs of the white Aphrodite
Or a strand of her heaven-kissed hair!
The girdle of red-headed Helen
Outweighed all the wherefores and whys,
And Wisdom elected to dwell in
A pair of blue eyes.

_Now_ lyrical sizzlers and scorchers
Fail somehow to set me ablaze;
No longer are exquisite tortures
Provoked by these passionate lays.
I've tinned - and I can't say I've missed 'em -
The poems of passion and sin.
_Some_ things one gets out of one's system,
And other things _in_.


"_Go, little book," as Poet Southey said;_
_You might be better and you might be worse._
_With just one word of warning you are sped:_
_Remember, you're not Poetry - you're Verse._

* * * * *


Always 82
Autumn Revery 104
Ballad of Misfits 63
Ballade of a Bore 97
Ballade of the Cannery 86
Ballade of Cap and Bells 76
Ballade of Death and Time 28
Ballade of Irresolution 68
Ballade of the Pipesmoke Carry 110
Ballade of Spring's Unrest 22
Ballade of Wool-Gathering 48
Bards We Quote, The 113
Bread Puddynge 42
Breakfast Food Family, The 19
Coronation, The 107
Day of the Comet, The 66
Dinosaur, The 75
Dornröschen 34
"Farewell" 36
Gentle Doctor Brown 78
Hence These Rimes 115
Horace: A Note from Mr. Flaccus 54
I. To Aristius Fuscus 56
II. Duetto 57
III. To Pyrrha 59
IV. To Aristius Fuscus 60
V. To Sylvia 62
How They Might Have Brought
the Good News 73
In the Gallery 80
In the Lamplight 17
Kaiser's Farewell, The 30
Land of Rainbow's-End, The 95
Laundry of Life, The 93
Lay of St. Ambrose 9
Miss Legion 27
Modern Mariner, The 84
Morning After, The 67
Musca Domestica 45
My Lady New York 109
Old Roller Towel, The 116
Oriental Apology, An 65
Pandean Pipedreams 88
Passional Note, The 119
Passionate Professor, The 47
Persistent Poet, The 114
Pole, The 99
Post-Vacational 112
Recoil, The 105
Reform in Our Town 38
Rime of the Clark Street Cable 25
Sh-h-h-h! 101
Simple, Heartfelt Lay, The 53
Sons of Battle 108
To a Tall Spruce 14
To Lillian Russell 32
To the Sun 50
To What Base Uses 70
"Treasure Island" 21
Up Culture's Hill 117
Vanished Fay, The 102
When It Is Hot 51
When the Sirup's on the Flapjack 41
Why? 24
Wisdom in a Capsule 94

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