Lemonade for the old gentleman coming home hot from church.
Two trilogies, ten good-sized buckets full
of novels for the middle-class, all much alike
one another, capable and dull,
and many clever articles and such-like—
these were the excrement of his long toil.
And so for twenty years or more he kept
old men and women at their midnight oil,
and old maids at their candles, ere they slept,
with records of suburban loves and hates,
garnished with sentiment, and spiced with lust;
hatched out a Book Club; lectured in the States;
and still spewed book on book, till in disgust
a dozen bored reviewers took to drink.
And when he died, they say, his very grave
yawned; while the worms, forgathered by the brink,
fond welcome to a fellow-creature gave.
By soot-stained brick and slick new glass,
on foot, in trams and buses crammed,
where grass once grew they glumly pass,
the white-faced rabble of the damned.
See, Jack and Jill, fond lovers still,
share hopes with eunuchs, priests and popes:
safe now, they fall from no tall hill,
immured in mire with midwife Stopes.
Their world is neither brave nor new,
but brummagem, and ripe for rot,
and men and maidens rummage through
the middens of their fathers' lot.
There go John Doe and Richard Roe:
wrist-watch, Time's elegant technocrat,
wears them with ease, as these, to show
man's godhead, bear the bowler hat.
Whatever hells in sleep they haunt
from cheap flats daily they deploy,
chins up, with jaunty grins, to flaunt
assurance like a shop-soiled toy.
The workless loll; they too are serfs
who only stand and wait till walls
of brick shall break and fall, and turf
and clumps of weed re-cover all.
Through dirt of gutters, furtive, sly,
their clouds of glory still they trail;
the world is too much with them—ay!
a tin can at a mongrel's tail.
Fishers of men, well-wishers all
of all who drift and swiftly drown—
pull in your lines: not wily Paul
could haul these souls and salt them down.
Beachcombers all, who tend Hell's fires,
and hunt for driftwood, flotsam, faggots—
your quest is vain, vain your desires
as theirs who bait their hooks with maggots.
No Flood, nor flow of molten mud,
shall honour with expensive doom
this flesh and blood, all nipped in bud
or smothered in its mother's womb.
For these are dead—beyond all well
or ill, as far past heal or hurt,
or hope of Heaven, or dread of Hell,
as lice upon a cast-off shirt.
Among the workers he was bright vermilion,
among the gentry white, pure white, this fellow;
he wore the rainbow, vied with the chameleon,
yet through it all retained his native yellow.
having rejected Jonah and Genesis,
contrived to erect
a towering edifice of belief
on the assumption that God
is an abridgement of the calculus
and lived happily
What is adequate suffices.
The heart is gold, the name is Otto,
'Women and children first' the motto.
With eager eye good Mistress Lot
picks out the spires of Camelot.
His fame is quickly gone, but not his meat:
the worm, fastidious wretch, declines to eat.
We asked for bread, he gave us stones:
may this one press upon his bones!