The Home Book of Verse, Volume 4
Burton Egbert Stevenson

Part 6 out of 6

What fowls are a-wing in the stormy heaven!)"

"But why is your face so yellowy white,
Sister Helen?
And why are your skirts so funnily tight?"
"Be quiet, you torment, or how can I write,
Little brother?
(O Mother Carey, mother!
How gathers thy train to the sea from the heaven!)"

"And who's Mother Carey, and what is her train,
Sister Helen?
And why do you call her again and again?"
"You troublesome boy, why that's the refrain,
Little brother.
(O Mother Carey, mother!
What work is toward in the startled heaven?)"

"And what's a refrain? What a curious word,
Sister Helen!
Is the ballad you're writing about a sea-bird?"
"Not at all; why should it be? Don't be absurd,
Little brother.
(O Mother Carey, mother!
Thy brood flies lower as lowers the heaven.)"

(A big brother speaketh:)

"The refrain you've studied a meaning had,
Sister Helen!
It gave strange force to a weird ballad.
But refrains have become a ridiculous 'fad',
Little brother.
And Mother Carey, mother,
Has a bearing on nothing in earth or heaven.

"But the finical fashion has had its day,
Sister Helen.
And let's try in the style of a different lay
To bid it adieu in poetical way,
Little brother.
So, Mother Carey, mother!
Collect your chickens and go to - heaven."

(A pause. Then the big brother singeth, accompanying himself
in a plaintive wise on the triangle:)

"Look in my face. My name is Used-to-was,
I am also called Played-out and Done-to-death,
And It-will-wash-no-more. Awakeneth
Slowly, but sure awakening it has,
The common-sense of man; and I, alas!
The ballad-burden trick, now known too well,
Am turned to scorn, and grown contemptible -
A too transparent artifice to pass.

"What a cheap dodge I am! The cats who dart
Tin-kettled through the streets in wild surprise
Assail judicious ears not otherwise;
And yet no critics praise the urchin's 'art',
Who to the wretched creature's caudal part
Its foolish empty-jingling 'burden' ties."

Henry Duff Traill [1842-1900]

After Swinburne

If life were never bitter,
And love were always sweet,
Then who would care to borrow
A moral from to-morrow -
If Thames would always glitter,
And joy would ne'er retreat,
If life were never bitter,
And love were always sweet!

If care were not the waiter
Behind a fellow's chair,
When easy-going sinners
Sit down to Richmond dinners,
And life's swift stream flows straighter,
By Jove, it would be rare,
If care were not the waiter
Behind a fellow's chair.

If wit were always radiant,
And wine were always iced,
And bores were kicked out straightway
Through a convenient gateway;
Then down the year's long gradient
'Twere sad to be enticed,
If wit were always radiant,
And wine were always iced.

Mortimer Collins [1827-1876]

After Swinburne

From the depth of the dreamy decline of the dawn through
a notable nimbus of nebulous noonshine,
Pallid and pink as the palm of the flag-flower that flickers
with fear of the flies as they float,
Are the looks of our lovers that lustrously lean from a marvel of
mystic, miraculous moonshine,
These that we feel in the blood of our blushes that thicken and
threaten with throbs through the throat?
Thicken and thrill as a theatre thronged at appeal of an actor's
appalled agitation,
Fainter with fear of the fires of the future than pale with the
promise of pride in the past;
Flushed with the famishing fulness of fever that reddens with
radiance of rathe recreation,
Gaunt as the ghastliest of glimpses that gleam through the gloom
of the gloaming when ghosts go aghast?

Nay, for the nick of the tick of the time is a tremulous touch on
the temples of terror,
Strained as the sinews yet strenuous with strife of the dead who
is dumb as the dust-heaps of death;
Surely no soul is it, sweet as the spasm of erotic, emotional,
exquisite error,
Bathed in the balms of beatified bliss, beatific itself by
beatitude's breath.
Surely no spirit or sense of a soul that was soft to the spirit
and soul of our senses
Sweetens the stress of suspiring suspicion that sobs in the
semblance and sound of a sigh;
Only this oracle opens Olympian in mystical moods and triangular tenses, -
"Life is the lust of a lamp for the light that is dark till the dawn
of the day when we die."

Mild is the mirk and monotonous music of memory, melodiously mute
as it may be,
While the hope in the heart of a hero is bruised by the breach of
men's rapiers, resigned to the rod;
Made meek as a mother whose bosom-beats bound with the bliss-bringing
bulk of a balm-breathing baby,
As they grope through the graveyard of creeds under skies growing
green at a groan for the grimness of God.
Blank is the book of his bounty beholden of old, and its binding
is blacker than bluer:
Out of blue into black is the scheme of the skies, and their dews
are the wine of the blood-shed of things;
Till the darkling desire of delight shall be free as a fawn that
is freed from the fangs that pursue her,
Till the heart-beats of hell shall be hushed by a hymn from the
hunt that has harried the kennel of kings.

Algernon Charles Swinburne [1837-1909]

After Heine

Rain on the face of the sea,
Rain on the sodden land,
And the window-pane is blurred with rain
As I watch it, pen in hand.

Mist on the face of the sea,
Mist on the sodden land,
Filling the vales as daylight fails,
And blotting the desolate sand.

Voices from out of the mist,
Calling to one another:
"Hath love an end, thou more than friend,
Thou dearer than ever brother?"

Voices from out of the mist,
Calling and passing away;
But I cannot speak, for my voice is weak,
And. . . . this is the end of my lay.

Rudyard Kipling [1865-1936]

After Poe

In the lonesome latter years
(Fatal years!)
To the dropping of my tears
Danced the mad and mystic spheres
In a rounded, reeling rune,
'Neath the moon,
To the dripping and the dropping of my tears.
Ah, my soul is swathed in gloom,
In a dim Titanic tomb,
For my gaunt and gloomy soul
Ponders o'er the penal scroll,
O'er the parchment (not a rhyme),
Out of place, - out of time, -
I am shredded, shorn, unshifty,
(Oh, the fifty!)
And the days have passed, the three,
Over me!
And the debit and the credit are as one to him and me!

'Twas the random runes I wrote
At the bottom of the note,
(Wrote and freely
Gave to Greeley)
In the middle of the night,
In the mellow, moonless night,
When the stars were out of sight,
When my pulses, like a knell,
Danced with dim and dying fays,
O'er the ruins of my days,
O'er the dimeless, timeless days,
When the fifty, drawn at thirty,
Seeming thrifty, yet the dirty
Lucre of the market, was the most that I could raise!

Fiends controlled it,
(Let him hold it!)
Devils held me for the inkstand and the pen;
Now the days of grace are o'er,
(Ah, Lenore!)
I am but as other men;
What is time, time, time,
To my rare and runic rhyme,
To my random, reeling rhyme,
By the sands along the shore,
Where the tempest whispers, "Pay him!" and I answer,

Bayard Taylor [1825-1878]

Being The Only Genuine Sequel To "Maud Muller"
After Whittier

Maud Muller all that summer day
Raked the meadow sweet with hay;

Yet, looking down the distant lane,
She hoped the Judge would come again.

But when he came, with smile and bow,
Maud only blushed, and stammered, "Ha-ow?"

And spoke of her "pa," and wondered whether
He'd give consent they should wed together.

Old Muller burst in tears, and then
Begged that the Judge would lend him "ten";

For trade was dull and wages low,
And the "craps," this year, were somewhat slow.

And ere the languid summer died,
Sweet Maud became the Judge's bride.

But on the day that they were mated,
Maud's brother Bob was intoxicated;

And Maud's relations, twelve in all,
Were very drunk at the Judge's hall;

And when the summer came again,
The young bride bore him babies twain;

And the Judge was blest, but thought it strange
That bearing children made such a change.

For Maud grew broad, and red, and stout,
And the waist that his arm once clasped about

Was more than he now could span; and he
Sighed as he pondered, ruefully,

How that which in Maud was native grace
In Mrs. Jenkins was out of place;

And thought of the twins, and wished that they
Looked less like the men who raked the hay

On Muller's farm, and dreamed with pain
Of the day he wandered down the lane.

And, looking down that dreary track,
He half regretted that he came back.

For, had he waited, he might have wed
Some maiden fair and thoroughbred;

For there be women as fair as she,
Whose verbs and nouns do more agree.

Alas for maiden! alas for judge!
And the sentimental, - that's one-half "fudge";

For Maud soon thought the Judge a bore,
With all his learning and all his lore;

And the Judge would have bartered Maud's fair face
For more refinement and social grace.

If, of all words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are, "It might have been,"

More sad are these we daily see:
"It is, but hadn't ought to be."

Bret Harte [1839-1902]

From "The Song of Milkanwatha"

He killed the noble Mudjokivis,
With the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside,
Made them with the skin side outside,
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside:
He, to get the cold side outside,
Put the warm side fur side inside:
That's why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside,
Why he turned them inside outside.

George A. Strong [1832-1912]

After Longfellow

They stood on the bridge at midnight,
In a park not far from the town;
They stood on the bridge at midnight,
Because they didn't sit down.

The moon rose o'er the city,
Behind the dark church spire;
The moon rose o'er the city,
And kept on rising higher.

How often, oh! how often
They whispered words so soft;
How often, oh! how often,
How often, oh! how oft.

Ben King [1857-1894]

After Arabella Eugenia Smith

If I should die to-night
And you should come to my cold corpse and say,
Weeping and heartsick o'er my lifeless clay -
If I should die to-night,
And you should come in deepest grief and woe -
And say: "Here's that ten dollars that I owe,"
I might arise in my large white cravat
And say, "What's that?"

If I should die to-night
And you should come to my cold corpse and, kneel,
Clasping my bier to show the grief you feel,
I say, if I should die to-night
And you should come to me, and there and then
Just even hint at paying me that ten,
I might arise the while,
But I'd drop dead again.

Ben King [1857-1894]

Of W. W. (Americanus)

The clear cool note of the cuckoo which has ousted the legitimate
The whistle of the railway guard dispatching the train to the
inevitable collision,
The maiden's monosyllabic reply to a polysyllabic proposal,
The fundamental note of the last trump, which is presumably D natural;
All of these are sounds to rejoice in, yea, to let your very ribs
re-echo with:
But better than all of them is the absolutely last chord of the
apparently inexhaustible pianoforte player.

James Kenneth Stephen [1859-1892]

Inscribed To An Intense Poet

"O crikey, Bill!" she ses to me, she ses.
"Look sharp," ses she, "with them there sossiges.
Yea! sharp with them there bags of mysteree!
For lo!" she ses, "for lo! old pal," ses she,
"I'm blooming peckish, neither more nor less."
Was it not prime - I leave you all to guess
How prime! - to have a Jude in love's distress
Come spooning round, and murmuring balmilee,
"O crikey, Bill!"

For in such rorty wise doth Love express
His blooming views, and asks for your address,
And makes it right, and does the gay and free.
I kissed her - I did so! And her and me
Was pals. And if that ain't good business,
"O crikey, Bill!"


Now ain't they utterly too-too
(She ses, my Missus mine, ses she),
Them flymy little bits of Blue.

Joe, just you kool 'em - nice and skew
Upon our old meogginee,
Now ain't they utterly too-too?

They're better than a pot'n' a screw,
They're equal to a Sunday spree,
Them flymy little bits of Blue!

Suppose I put 'em up the flue,
And booze the profits, Joe? Not me.
Now ain't they utterly too-too?

I do the 'Igh Art fake, I do.
Joe, I'm consummate; and I see
Them flymy little bits of Blue.

Which, Joe, is why I ses ter you -
Aesthetic-like, and limp, and free -
Now ain't they utterly too-too,
Them flymy little bits of Blue?

William Ernest Henley [1849-1903]


I. - (Macaulay)
Pour, varlet, pour the water,
The water steaming hot!
A spoonful for each man of us,
Another for the pot!
We shall not drink from amber,
No Capuan slave shall mix
For us the snows of Athos
With port at thirty-six;
Whiter than snow the crystals
Grown sweet 'neath tropic fires,
More rich the herb of China's field,
The pasture-lands more fragrance yield;
Forever let Britannia wield
The teapot of her sires!

II. - (Tennyson)
I think that I am drawing to an end:
For on a sudden came a gasp for breath,
And stretching of the hands, and blinded eyes,
And a, great darkness falling on my soul.
O Hallelujah! . . . Kindly pass the milk.

III. - (Swinburne)
As the sin that was sweet in the sinning
Is foul in the ending thereof,
As the heat of the summer's beginning
Is past in the winter of love:
O purity, painful and pleading!
O coldness, ineffably gray!
O hear us, our handmaid unheeding,
And take it away!

IV. - (Cowper)
The cosy fire is bright and gay,
The merry kettle boils away
And hums a cheerful song.
I sing the saucer and the cup;
Pray, Mary, fill the teapot up,
And do not make it strong.

V. - (Browning)
Tut! Bah! We take as another case -
Pass the pills on the window-sill; notice the capsule
(A sick man's fancy, no doubt, but I place
Reliance on trade-marks, Sir) - so perhaps you'll
Excuse the digression - this cup which I hold
Light-poised - Bah, it's spilt in the bed - well, let's on go -
Hold Bohea and sugar, Sir; if you were told
The sugar was salt, would the Bohea be Congo?

VI. - (Wordsworth)
"Come, little cottage girl, you seem
To want my cup of tea;
And will you take a little cream?
Now tell the truth to me."

She had a rustic, woodland grin,
Her cheek was soft as silk,
And she replied, "Sir, please put in
A little drop of milk."

"Why, what put milk into your head?
'Tis cream my cows supply;"
And five times to the child I said,
"Why, pig-head, tell me, why?"

"You call me pig-head," she replied;
"My proper name is Ruth.
I called that milk" - she blushed with pride -
"You bade me speak the truth."

VII. - (Poe)
Here's a mellow cup of tea - golden tea!
What a world of rapturous thought its fragrance brings to me!
Oh, from out the silver cells
How it wells!
How it smells!
Keeping tune, tune, tune,
To the tintinnabulation of the spoon.
And the kettle on the fire
Boils its spout off with desire,
With a desperate desire
And a crystalline endeavor
Now, now to sit, or never,
On the top of the pale-faced moon,
But he always came home to tea, tea, tea, tea, tea,
Tea to the n-th.

VIII. - (Rossetti)
The lilies lie in my lady's bower,
(O weary mother, drive the cows to roost),
They faintly droop for a little hour;
My lady's head droops like a flower.

She took the porcelain in her hand
(O weary mother, drive the cows to roost);
She poured; I drank at her command;
Drank deep, and now - you understand!
(O weary mother, drive the cows to roost).

IX. - (Burns)
Weel, gin ye speir, I'm no inclined,
Whusky or tay - to state my mind
Fore ane or ither;
For, gin I tak the first, I'm fou,
And gin the next, I'm dull as you:
Mix a' thegither.

X. - (Walt Whitman)
One cup for my self-hood,
Many for you. Allons, camerados, we will drink together,
O hand-in-hand! That tea-spoon, please, when you've done with it.
What butter-colored hair you've got. I don't want to be personal.
All right, then, you needn't. You're a stale-cadaver.
Eighteen-pence if the bottles are returned.
Allons, from all bat-eyed formulas.

Barry Pain [1864-1928]


Two voices are there: one is of the deep;
It learns the storm cloud's thunderous melody,
Now roars, now murmurs with the changing sea,
Now birdlike pipes, now closes soft in sleep;
And one is of an old half-witted sheep
Which bleats articulate monotony,
And indicates that two and one are three,
That grass is green, lakes damp, and mountains steep:
And, Wordsworth, both are thine: at certain times,
Forth from the heart of thy melodious rhymes
The form and pressure of high thoughts will burst;
At other times-good Lord! I'd rather be
Quite unacquainted with the A, B, C,
Than write such hopeless rubbish as thy worst.

James Kenneth Stephen [1859-1892]


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