Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Dammee!

A Wodehouse poem from a site I've just found -

The Lost Repartee

Oh! bitter the grief that it causes to me,
The thought of that wonderful, lost repartee.
In its youth and its beauty it fled from my brain,
And never, I fear me, ah! never again,
If I wait all my life, from today till I die,
Shall I find such a chance for a crushing reply.

Its wording was mild, but that rendered it worse.
It was crisply satirical, bitterly terse.
And it fled! Yes it fled! In my hour of need
From my agonised brain did it coyly recede,
Returning no more with its luminous ray
Till the critical moment had perished for aye. 

Oh! let lovers lament of love's terrible pangs,
Let hunters talk darkly of tigers and fangs,
Let the gambler repine o'er the loss of his cash
Let the banker hold forth on the woes of a crash,
Let the penniless debtor dilate on how ill
He feels, when a dun ambles in with a bill.
Let the footpad explain all the feelings that gnaw
His heart, when he's safe in the hands of the Law,
Let ministers prate of the worries of state,
But none of these woes – though they're all of them great –
Can compare with the grief that is harassing me
For the loss of that priceless, superb repartee.

First published in Fun Magazine, January 5, 1901.

- Which raises questions.  Well, he was just starting out, but this was bordering on plagiarism; see

Flight
By Charles Stuart Calverley (1831–1884)
 
From “Verses”

OH, memory! that which I gave thee
  To guard in thy garner yestreen—
Little deeming thou e’er couldst behave thee
  Thus basely—hath gone from thee clean!
Gone, fled, as ere autumn is ended        5
  The yellow leaves flee from the oak—
I have lost it for ever, my splendid,
          Original joke.
 
What was it? I know I was brushing
  My hair when the notion occurred;        10
I know that I felt myself blushing
  As I thought, “How supremely absurd!
How they’ll hammer on floor and on table
  As its drollery dawns on them! How
They will quote it!” I wish I were able        15
          To quote it just now.
 
I had thought to lead up conversation
  To the subject—it’s easily done—
Then let off, as an airy creation
  Of the moment, that masterly pun—        20
Let it off with a flash like a rocket’s,
  In the midst of a dazzled conclave,
While I sat, with my hands in my pockets,
          The only one grave.
 
I had fancied young Titterton’s chuckles,        25
  And old Bottleby’s hearty guffaws,
As he drove at my ribs with his knuckles
  His mode of expressing applause;
While Jean Bottleby—queenly Miss Janet—
  Drew her handkerchief hastily out,        30
In fits at my slyness. What can it
          Have all been about?
 
I know ’twas the happiest, quaintest
  Combination of pathos and fun;
But I’ve got no idea—the faintest—        35
  Of what was the actual pun.
I think it was somehow connected
  With something I’d recently read—
Or heard—or perhaps recollected
          On going to bed.        40
 
What had I been reading? The Standard,
  “Double Bigamy,” “Speech of the mayor,”
And later—eh? Yes, I meandered
  Through some chapters of “Vanity Fair.”
How it fuses the grave with the festive!        45
  Yet e’en there, there is nothing so fine,
So playfully, subtly suggestive,
          As that joke of mine.
 
Did it hinge upon “parting asunder”?
  No, I don’t part my hair with my brush.        50
Was the point of it “hair”? Now I wonder!
  Stop a bit—I shall think of it—hush!
There’s hare, a wild animal. Stuff!
  It was something a deal more recondite,
Of that I am certain enough—        55
          And of nothing beyond it.
 
Hair—locks! There are probably many
  Good things to be said about those.
Give me time—that’s the best guess of any.
  “Lock” has several meanings, one knows.        60
Iron locks—iron-gray locks—a “deadlock”
  That would set up an every-day wit.
Then of course there’s the obvious “wedlock,”
          But that wasn’t it.
 
No! Mine was a joke for the ages,        65
  Full of intricate meaning and pith,
A feast for your scholars and sages—
  How it would have rejoiced Sydney Smith!
’Tis such thoughts that ennoble a mortal,
  And, singling him out from the herd,        70
Fling wide immortality’s portal.
          But what was the word?
 
Ah me! ’tis a bootless endeavour.
  As the flight of a bird of the air
Is the flight of a joke—you will never        75
  See the same one again, you may swear.
’Twas my first-born, and oh! how I prized it!
  My darling, my treasure, my own!
This brain and none other devised it—
          And now it has flown.        80

Let's call it a 'Hommage', eh?  

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