Billy Collins |
As sure as prehistoric fish grew legs
and sauntered off the beaches into forests
working up some irregular verbs for their
first conversation, so three-year-old children
enter the phase of name-calling.
Every day a new one arrives and is added
to the repertoire.
You Dumb Goopyhead,
You Big Sewerface, You Poop-on-the-Floor
(a kind of Navaho ring to that one)
they yell from knee level, their little mugs
flushed with challenge.
Nothing Samuel Johnson would bother tossing out
in a pub, but then the toddlers are not trying
to devastate some fatuous Enlightenment hack.
They are just tormenting their fellow squirts
or going after the attention of the giants
way up there with their cocktails and bad breath
talking baritone nonsense to other giants,
waiting to call them names after thanking
them for the lovely party and hearing the door close.
The mature save their hothead invective
for things: an errant hammer, tire chains,
or receding trains missed by seconds,
though they know in their adult hearts,
even as they threaten to banish Timmy to bed
for his appalling behavior,
that their bosses are Big Fatty Stupids,
their wives are Dopey Dopeheads
and that they themselves are Mr.
Samuel Johnson |
LONG-EXPECTED one and twenty
Ling'ring year at last has flown,
Pomp and pleasure, pride and plenty
Great Sir John, are all your own.
Loosen'd from the minor's tether,
Free to mortgage or to sell,
Wild as wind, and light as feather
Bid the slaves of thrift farewell.
Call the Bettys, Kates, and Jenneys
Ev'ry name that laughs at care,
Lavish of your Grandsire's guineas,
Show the spirit of an heir.
All that prey on vice and folly
Joy to see their quarry fly,
Here the gamester light and jolly
There the lender grave and sly.
Wealth, Sir John, was made to wander,
Let it wander as it will;
See the jocky, see the pander,
Bid them come, and take their fill.
When the bonny blade carouses,
Pockets full, and spirits high,
What are acres? What are houses?
Only dirt, or wet or dry.
If the Guardian or the Mother
Tell the woes of willful waste,
Scorn their counsel and their pother,
You can hang or drown at last.
Samuel Johnson |
CONDEMN'D to Hope's delusive mine,
As on we toil from day to day,
By sudden blasts or slow decline
Our social comforts drop away.
Well tried through many a varying year,
See Levet to the grave descend,
Officious, innocent, sincere,
Of every friendless name the friend.
Yet still he fills affection's eye,
Obscurely wise and coarsely kind;
Nor, letter'd Arrogance, deny
Thy praise to merit unrefined.
When fainting nature call'd for aid,
And hov'ring death prepared the blow,
His vig'rous remedy display'd
The power of art without the show.
In Misery's darkest cavern known,
His useful care was ever nigh,
Where hopeless Anguish pour'd his groan,
And lonely Want retired to die.
No summons mock'd by chill delay,
No petty gain disdained by pride;
The modest wants of every day
The toil of every day supplied.
His virtues walk'd their narrow round,
Nor made a pause, nor left a void;
And sure th' Eternal Master found
The single talent well employ'd.
The busy day, the peaceful night,
Unfelt, uncounted, glided by;
His frame was firm--his powers were bright,
Though now his eightieth year was nigh.
Then with no fiery throbbing pain,
No cold gradations of decay,
Death broke at once the vital chain,
And freed his soul the nearest way.
More great poems below...