Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Two poems

Since we didn't get anything from The Coloured Lands yesterday, today we shall have double the fun. What follows are two poems from that very book, though there is no particular theme thereto. I really will get around to his lengthy demonology at some point, but for now, you just get these scraps. I will try to put up some images I've scanned too, but Blogger is being lame at the moment and won't let me. I'll try to add them at home.

Ballade of Kindness to Motorists

O Motorists, Motorists, run away and play,
I pardon you. Such exercise resigned,
When would a statesman see the woods in May?
How could a banker woo the western wind?
When you have knocked a dog down I have pined,
When you have kicked the dust up I have sneezed,
These things come from your absence - well, of Mind -
But when you get a puncture I am pleased.

I love to see you sweating there all day
About some beastly hole you cannot find;
While your poor tenants pass you in a dray,
Or your sad clerks bike by you at grind,
I am not really cruel or unkind;
I would not wish you mortally diseased,
Or deaf or dumb or dead or mad or blind,
But when you get a puncture I am pleased.

What slave that dare not smile when chairs give way?
When smart boots slip, having been lately shined?
When curates cannon with the coffee tray?
When trolleys take policemen from behind?
When kings come forth in public, having dined,
And palace steps are just a trifle greased? -
The joke may not be morbidly refined,
But when you get a puncture I am pleased.

Prince of the Car of Progress Undefined!
On to your far Perfections unappeased!
Leave your dead past with its dead children lined;
But when you get a puncture I am pleased.

The Jazz

A Study of Modern Dancing, in the manner of Modern Poetry

Thrills of vibrant discord,
Like the shivering of glass;
Some people dislike it; but I do not dislike it.
I think it is fun,
Approximating to the fun
Of merely smashing a window;
But I am told that it proceeds
From a musical instrument,
Or at any rate
From an instrument.

Black flashes . . .
. . . Flashes of intermitten darkness;
Somebody seems to be playing with the electric light;
Some may possibly believe that modern dancing
Looks best in the dark.

I do not agree with them.
I have heard that modern dancing is barbaric,
Pagan, shameless, shocking, abominable.
No such luck - I mean no such thing.
The dancers are singularly respectable
To the point of rigidity,
With something of the rotatory perseverence
Of a monkey on a stick;
But there is more stick than monkey,
And not, as slanderers assert,
More monkey than stick.

Let us be moderate,
There are a lot of jolly people doing it,
(Whatever it is),
Patches of joyful colour shift sharply,
Like a kaleidoscope.
Green and gold and purple and splashes of splendid black,
Familiar faces and unfamiliar clothes;
I see a nice-looking girl, a neighbour of mine, dancing.
After all,
She is not very different;

She looks nearly as pretty as when she is not dancing . . .
. . . I see certain others, less known to me, also dancing.
They do not look very much uglier
Than when they are sitting still.

(Bound, O Terpsichore, upon the mountains,
With all your nymphs upon the mountains,
And Salome that held the heart of a king
And the head of a prophet;
For to the height of this tribute
Your Art has come.)

If I were writing an essay
- And you can put chunks of any number of essays
Into this sort of poem -
I should say that there was a slight disproportion
Between the music and the dancing;
For only the musician dances
With excitement,
While the dancers remain cold
And relatively motionless
(Orpheus of the Lyre of Life
Leading the forests in fantastic capers;
Here is your Art eclipsed and reversed,
For I see men as trees walking).

If Mr. King stood on his head,
Or Mr. Simon butted Mr. Gray
In the waistcoat,
Or the two Burnett-Browns
Strangled each other in their coat-tails,
There would then be a serene harmony,
A calm unity and oneness
In the two arts.
But Mr. King remains on his feet,
And the coat-tails of Mr. Burnett-Brown
Continue in their customary position.

And something else was running in my head -
- Songs I had heard eariler in the evening;
Songs of true lovers and tavern friends,
Decent drunkenness with a chorus,
And the laughter of men who could riot.
And something stirred in me;
A tradition
Strayed from an older time,
And from the freedom of my fathers:
That when there is banging, yelling and smashing to be done,
I like to do it myself,
And not delegate it to a slave,
However accomplished.
And that I should sympathise,
As with a revolt of human dignity,
If the musician had suddenly stopped playing,
And had merely quoted the last line
Of a song sung by Mrs. Harcourt Williams:
"If you want any more, you must sing it yourselves."


Such scathing rebukes! How did he do it! More, of course, as time goes by.

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