John Donne |
Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
Me it sucked first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
Thou know'st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame nor loss of maidenhead,
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pampered swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than we would do.
Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, we are met,
And cloistered in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that, self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.
Curel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail, in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it sucked from thee?
Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou
Find'st not thy self nor me the weaker now;
'Tis true; then learn how false, fears be;
Just so much honor, when thou yield'st to me,
Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.
Charles Simic |
A New Version: 1980
What is that little black thing I see there
in the white?
Out of poverty
To begin again:
With the color of the bride
And that of blindness,
Touch what I can
Of the quick,
Speak and then wait,
As if this light
Will continue to linger
On the threshold.
All that is near,
I no longer give it a name.
Once a stone hard of hearing,
Once sharpened into a knife.
Now only a chill
Enough glow to kneel by and ask
To be tied to its tail
When it goes marrying
Its cousins, the stars.
Is it a cloud?
If it's a cloud it will move on.
The true shape of this thought,
Something seeks someone,
It bears him a gift
Of himself, a bit
Of snow to taste,
Glimpse of his own nakedness
By which to imagine the face.
On a late afternoon of snow
In a dim badly-aired grocery,
Where a door has just rung
With a short, shrill echo,
A little boy hands the old,
Bending low over the counter,
A shiny nickel for a cupcake.
Now only that shine, now
Only that lull abides.
That your gaze
Of my first hopeless insomnia.
Kind nurse, show me
The place of salves.
Teach me the song
That makes a man rise
His glass at dusk
Until a star dances in it.
Who are you? Are you anybody
A moonrock would recognize?
There are words I need.
They are not near men.
I went searching.
Is this a deathmarch?
You bend me, bend me,
Oh toward what flower!
Noose big for us all.
As strange as a shepherd
In the Arctic Circle.
Someone like Bo-peep.
All his sheep are white
And he can't get any sleep
Over lost sheep.
And he's got a flute
Which says Bo-peep,
Which says Poor boy,
Take care of your snow-sheep.
Then all's well and white,
And no more than white.
Indiana with one bare tree.
Michigan a storm-cloud.
Wisconsin empty of men.
There's a trap on the ice
Laid there centuries ago.
The bait is still fresh.
The metal glitters as the night descends.
Woe, woe, it sings from the bough.
Our Lady, etc.
You had me hoodwinked.
I see your brand new claws.
Praying, what do I betray
By desiring your purity?
There are old men and women,
All bandaged up, waiting
At the spiked, wrought-iron gate
Of the Great Eye and Ear Infirmery.
We haven't gone far.
Fear lives there too.
Five ears of my fingertips
Against the white page.
What do you hear?
We hear holy nothing
It touched you once, twice,
And tore like a stitch
Out of a new wound.
What are you up to son of a gun?
I roast on my heart's dark side.
What do you use as a skewer sweetheart?
I use my own crooked backbone.
What do you salt yourself with loverboy?
I grind the words out of my spittle.
And how will you know when you're done chump?
When the half-moons on my fingernails set.
With what knife will you carve yourself smartass?
The one I hide in my tongue's black boot.
Well, you can't call me a wrestler
If my own dead weight has me pinned down.
Well, you can't call me a cook
If the pot's got me under its cover.
Well, you can't call me a king
if the flies hang their hats in my mouth.
Well, you can't call me smart,
When the rain's falling my cup's in the cupboard.
Nor can you call me a saint,
If I didn't err, there wouldn't be these smudges.
One has to manage as best as one can.
The poppies ate the sunset for supper.
One has to manage as best as one can.
Who stole my blue thread, the one
I tied around my pinky to remember?
One has to manage as best as one can.
The flea I was standing on, jumped.
One has to manage as best as one can.
I think my head went out for a walk.
One has to manage as best as one can.
This is breath, only breath,
Think it over midnight!
A fly weighs twice as much.
The struck match nods as it passes,
But when I shout,
Its true name sticks in my throat.
It has to be cold
So the breath turns white,
And then mother, who's fast enough
To write his life on it?
A song in prison
And for prisoners,
Made of what the condemned
Have hidden from the jailers.
White--let me step aside
So that the future may see you,
For when this sheet is blown away,
What else is left
But to set the food on the table,
To cut oneself a slice of bread?
In an unknown year
Of an algebraic century,
An obscure widow
Wrapped in the colors of widowhood,
Met a true-blue orphan
On an indeterminate street-corner.
She offered him
A tiny sugar cube
In the hand so wizened
All the lines said: fate.
Do you take this line
Stretching to infinity?
I take this chipped tooth
On which to cut it in half.
Do you take this circle
Bounded by a single curved line?
I take this breath
That it cannot capture.
Then you may kiss the spot
Where her bridal train last rustled.
Winter can come now,
The earth narrow to a ditch--
And the sky with its castles and stone lions
Above the empty plains.
The snow can fall.
What other perennials would you plant,
My prodigals, my explorers
Tossing and turning in the dark
For those remote, finely honed bees,
The December stars?
Had to get through me elsewhere.
Woe to bone
That stood in their way.
Woe to each morsel of flesh.
In a white anthill.
The rustle of their many feet
This is the last summoning.
Solitude--as in the beginning.
A zero burped by a bigger zero--
It's an awful licking I got.
And fear--that dead letter office.
And doubt--that Chinese shadow play.
Does anyone still say a prayer
Before going to bed?
No one knows its weight.
What The White Had To Say
For how could anything white be distinct
from or divided from whiteness?
Because I am the bullet
That has gone through everyone already,
I thought of you long before you thought of me.
Each one of you still keeps a blood-stained handkerchief
In which to swaddle me, but it stays empty
And even the wind won't remain in it long.
Cleverly you've invented name after name for me,
Mixed the riddles, garbled the proverbs,
Shook you loaded dice in a tin cup,
But I do not answer back even to your curses,
For I am nearer to you than your breath.
One sun shines on us both through a crack in the roof.
A spoon brings me through the window at dawn.
A plate shows me off to the four walls
While with my tail I swing at the flies.
But there's no tail and the flies are your thoughts.
Steadily, patiently I life your arms.
I arrange them in the posture of someone drowning,
And yet the sea in which you are sinking,
And even this night above it, is myself.
Because I am the bullet
That has baptized each one of your senses,
Poems are made of our lusty wedding nights.
The joy of words as they are written.
The ear that got up at four in the morning
To hear the grass grow inside a word.
Still, the most beautiful riddle has no answer.
I am the emptiness that tucks you in like a
The fingernail that scratched on your sleep's
Take a letter: From cloud to onion.
Say: There was never any real choice.
One gaunt shadowy mother wiped our asses,
The same old orphanage taught us loneliness.
Street-organ full of blue notes,
I am the monkey dancing to your grinding--
And still you are afraid-and so,
It's as if we had not budged from the beginning.
We are falling head over heels
At the speed of night.
That milk tooth
You left under the pillow, it's grinning.
This currently out-of-print edition:
Copyright ©1980 Logbridge-Rhodes, Inc.
An earlier version of White was first published
by New Rivers Press in 1972.
Shel Silverstein |
If you were only one inch tall, you'd ride a worm to school.
The teardrop of a crying ant would be your swimming pool.
A crumb of cake would be a feast
And last you seven days at least,
A flea would be a frightening beast
If you were one inch tall.
If you were only one inch tall, you'd walk beneath the door,
And it would take about a month to get down to the store.
A bit of fluff would be your bed,
You'd swing upon a spider's thread,
And wear a thimble on your head
If you were one inch tall.
You'd surf across the kitchen sink upon a stick of gum.
You couldn't hug your mama, you'd just have to hug her thumb.
You'd run from people's feet in fright,
To move a pen would take all night,
(This poem took fourteen years to write--
'Cause I'm just one inch tall).
T S (Thomas Stearns) Eliot |
There's a whisper down the line at 11.
When the Night Mail's ready to depart,
Saying "Skimble where is Skimble has he gone to hunt the thimble?
We must find him or the train can't start.
All the guards and all the porters and the stationmaster's daughters
They are searching high and low,
Saying "Skimble where is Skimble for unless he's very nimble
Then the Night Mail just can't go.
42 then the signal's nearly due
And the passengers are frantic to a man—
Then Skimble will appear and he'll saunter to the rear:
He's been busy in the luggage van!
He gives one flash of his glass-green eyes
And the signal goes "All Clear!"
And we're off at last for the northern part
Of the Northern Hemisphere!
You may say that by and large it is Skimble who's in charge
Of the Sleeping Car Express.
From the driver and the guards to the bagmen playing cards
He will supervise them all, more or less.
Down the corridor he paces and examines all the faces
Of the travellers in the First and the Third;
He establishes control by a regular patrol
And he'd know at once if anything occurred.
He will watch you without winking and he sees what you are thinking
And it's certain that he doesn't approve
Of hilarity and riot, so the folk are very quiet
When Skimble is about and on the move.
You can play no pranks with Skimbleshanks!
He's a Cat that cannot be ignored;
So nothing goes wrong on the Northern Mail
When Skimbleshanks is aboard.
Oh, it's very pleasant when you have found your little den
With your name written up on the door.
And the berth is very neat with a newly folded sheet
And there's not a speck of dust on the floor.
There is every sort of light-you can make it dark or bright;
There's a handle that you turn to make a breeze.
There's a funny little basin you're supposed to wash your face in
And a crank to shut the window if you sneeze.
Then the guard looks in politely and will ask you very brightly
"Do you like your morning tea weak or strong?"
But Skimble's just behind him and was ready to remind him,
For Skimble won't let anything go wrong.
And when you creep into your cosy berth
And pull up the counterpane,
You ought to reflect that it's very nice
To know that you won't be bothered by mice—
You can leave all that to the Railway Cat,
The Cat of the Railway Train!
In the watches of the night he is always fresh and bright;
Every now and then he has a cup of tea
With perhaps a drop of Scotch while he's keeping on the watch,
Only stopping here and there to catch a flea.
You were fast asleep at Crewe and so you never knew
That he was walking up and down the station;
You were sleeping all the while he was busy at Carlisle,
Where he greets the stationmaster with elation.
But you saw him at Dumfries, where he speaks to the police
If there's anything they ought to know about:
When you get to Gallowgate there you do not have to wait—
For Skimbleshanks will help you to get out!
He gives you a wave of his long brown tail
Which says: "I'll see you again!
You'll meet without fail on the Midnight Mail
The Cat of the Railway Train.
Charles Bukowski |
ah, christ, what a CREW:
poetry, always more
P O E T R Y .
if it doesn't come, coax it out with a
get your name in LIGHTS,
get it up there in
8 1/2 x 11 mimeo.
keep it coming like a miracle.
ah christ, writers are the most sickening
of all the louts!
gutless, flea-bitten and
in tinker-toy rooms
with their flabby hearts
they tell us
what's wrong with the world-
as if we didn't know that a cop's club
can crack the head
and that war is a dirtier game than
or down in a basement bar
hiding from a wife who doesn't appreciate him
and children he doesn't
he tells us that his heart is drowning in
hell, all our hearts are drowning in vomit,
in pork salt, in bad verse, in soggy
but he thinks he's alone and
he thinks he's special and he thinks he's Rimbaud
and he thinks he's
and death! how about death? did you know
that we all have to die? even Keats died, even
Thomas-THEY KILLED HIM, of course.
Thomas didn't want all those free drinks
all that free pussy-
FORCED IT ON HIM
when they should have left him alone so he could
write write WRITE!
and there's another
I've met them at their country
places (don't ask me what I was doing there because
I don't know).
they were born with money and
they don't have to dirty their hands in
slaughterhouses or washing
dishes in grease joints or
driving cabs or pimping or selling pot.
this gives them time to understand
they walk in with their cocktail glass
held about heart high
and when they drink they just
you are drinking green beer which you
brought with you
because you have found out through the years
that rich bastards are tight-
they use 5 cent stamps instead of airmail
they promise to have all sorts of goodies ready
upon your arrival
from gallons of whisky to
50 cent cigars.
but it's never
and they HIDE their women from you-
their wives, x-wives, daughters, maids, so forth,
because they've read your poems and
figure all you want to do is fuck everybody and
which once might have been
true but is no longer quite
he WRITES TOO.
he has plenty of time and a
postoffice box in town
and he drives there 3 or 4 times a day
looking and hoping for accepted
he thinks that poverty is a weakness of the
he thinks your mind is ill because you are
drunk all the time and have to work in a
factory 10 or 12 hours a
he brings his wife in, a beauty, stolen from a
he lets you gaze for 30 seconds
then hustles her
she has been crying for some
you've got 3 or 4 days to linger in the
guesthouse he says,
"come on over to dinner
but he doesn't say when or
and then you find out that you are not even
IN HIS HOUSE.
you are in
ONE of his houses but
his house is somewhere
you don't know
he even has x-wives in some of his
his main concern is to keep his x-wives away from
he doesn't want to give up a
and you can't blame him:
his x-wives are all young, stolen, kept,
talented, well-dressed, schooled, with
varying French-German accents.
WRITE POETRY TOO.
but his big problem is to get down to that mail
box in town to get back his
and to keep his eye on all the other mail boxes
in all his other
meanwhile, the starving Indians
sell beads and baskets in the streets of the small desert
the Indians are not allowed in his houses
not so much because they are a fuck-threat
but because they are
dirty? I look down at my shirt
with the beerstain on the front.
ignorant? I light a 6 cent cigar and
he or they or somebody was supposed to meet me at
of course, they weren't
"We'll be there to meet the great
well, I looked around and didn't see any
besides it was 7 a.
the trouble was there were no
not even a
he's a poet.
he's also a doctor, a head-shrinker.
no blood involved that
he won't tell me whether I am crazy or
not-I don't have the
he walks out with his cocktail glass
disappears for 2 hours, 3 hours,
then suddenly comes walking back in
with the same cocktail glass
to make sure I haven't gotten hold of
something more precious than
my cheap green beer is killing
he shows heart (hurrah) and
gives me a little pill that stops my
but nothing decent to
he'd bought a small 6 pack
for my arrival but that was gone in an
hour and 15
"I'll buy you barrels of beer," he had
I used his phone (one of his phones)
to get deliveries of beer and
the town was ten miles away,
I peeled my poor dollars from my poor
and the boy needed a tip, of
the way it was shaping up I could see that I was
hardly Dylan Thomas yet, not even
certainly Creeley wouldn't have
had beerstains on his
anyhow, when I finally got hold of one of his
x-wives I was too drunk to
sure, I imagined him peering
through the window-
he didn't want to give up a damn thing-
leveling the luger while I was
while "The March to the Gallows" was playing over
and shooting me in the ass first and
my poor brain
"an intruder," I could hear him telling them,
"ravishing one of my helpless x-wives.
I see him published in some of the magazines
not very good stuff.
a poem about me
too: the Polack.
the Polack whines too much.
the Polack whines about his
country, other countries, all countries, the Polack
works overtime in a factory like a fool, among other
fools with "pre-drained spirits.
the Polack drinks seas of green beer
full of acid.
the Polack has an ulcerated
the Polack picks on fags
" the Polack hates his
wife, hates his daughter.
his daughter will become
an alcoholic, a prostitute.
the Polack has an
"obese burned out wife.
" the Polack has a
the Polack has a
thank you, Doctor (and poet).
any charge for
this? I know I still owe you for the
Your poem is not too good
but at least I got your starch up.
most of your stuff is about as lively as a
wet and deflated
but it is your round, you've won a round.
going to invite me out this
Summer? I might scrape up
got an Indian friend who'd like to meet
you and yours.
he swears he's got the biggest
pecker in the state of California.
and guess what?
Rudyard Kipling |
I ate my fill of a whale that died
And stranded after a month at sea.
There is a pain in my inside.
Why have the Gods afflicted me?
Ow! I am purged till I am a wraith!
Wow! I am sick till I cannot see!
What is the sense of Religion and Faith :
Look how the Gods have afflicted me!
How can the skin of rat or mouse hold
Anything more than a harmless flea?.
The burning plague has taken my household.
Why have my Gods afflicted me?
All my kith and kin are deceased,
Though they were as good as good could be,
I will out and batter the family priest,
Because my Gods have afflicted me!
My privy and well drain into each other
After the custom of Christendie.
Fevers and fluxes are wasting my mother.
Why has the Lord afflicted me?
The Saints are helpless for all I offer--
So are the clergy I used to fee.
Henceforward I keep my cash in my coffer,
Because the Lord has afflicted me.
I run eight hundred hens to the acre
They die by dozens mysteriously.
I am more than doubtful concerning my Maker,
Why has the Lord afflicted me?
What a return for all my endeavour--
Not to mention the L.
I am an atheist now and for ever,
Because this God has afflicted me!
Money spent on an Army or Fleet
Is homicidal lunacy.
My son has been killed in the Mons retreat,
Why is the Lord afflicting me?
Why are murder, pillage and arson
And rape allowed by the Deity?
I will write to the Times, deriding our parson
Because my God has afflicted me.
We had a kettle: we let it leak:
Our not repairing it made it worse.
We haven't had any tea for a week.
The bottom is out of the Universe!
This was none of the good Lord's pleasure,
For the Spirit He breathed in Man is free;
But what comes after is measure for measure,
And not a God that afflicteth thee.
As was the sowing so the reaping
Is now and evermore shall be.
Thou art delivered to thine own keeping.
Only Thyself hath afflicted thee!
George Bradley |
the people are very small and shrink,
dwarves on the way to netsuke hell
bound for a flea circus in full
retreat toward sub-atomic particles--
difficult to keep in focus, the figures
at that end are nearly indistinguishable,
generals at the heads of minute armies
differing little from fishwives,
emperors the same as eskimos
huddled under improvisations of snow--
eskimos, though, now have the advantage,
for it seems to be freezing there, a climate
which might explain the population's
outr? dress, their period costumes
of felt and silk and eiderdown,
their fur concoctions stuffed with straw
held in place with flexible strips of bark,
and all to no avail, the midgets forever
stamping their match-stick feet,
blowing on the numb flagella of their fingers--
but wait, bring a light, clean the lens.
can it be those shivering arms are waving,
are trying to attract attention, hailing you?
seen from the other end of the telescope,
your eye must appear enormous,
must fill the sky like a sun,
and as you occupy their tiny heads
naturally they wish to communicate,
to tell you of their diminishing perspective--
yes, look again, their hands are cupped
around the pinholes of their mouths,
their faces are swollen, red with effort;
why, they're screaming fit to burst,
though what they say is anybody's guess,
it is next to impossible to hear them,
and most of them speak languages
for which no Rosetta stone can be found--
but listen harder, use your imagination.
the people at the other end of the telescope,
are they trying to tell you their names?
yes, surely that must be it, their names
and those of those they love, and possibly
something else, some of them.
the largest are struggling to explain
what befell them, how it happened
that they woke one morning as if adrift,
their moorings cut in the night,
and were swept out over the horizon,
borne on an ebbing tide and soon
to be discernible only as distance,
collapsed into mirage, made to become
legendary creatures now off every map.
Marianne Moore |
I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a
high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to
eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against 'business documents and
school-books'; all these phenomena are important.
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
insolence and triviality and can present
for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in them', shall
In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.
Robert William Service |
My flask of wine was ruby red
And swift I ran my sweet to see;
With eyes that snapped delight I said:
"How mad with love a lad can be!"
The moon was laughing overhead;
I danced as nimbly as a flea.
Thought I: In two weeks time we'll wed;
No more a lonesome widow she;
For I have bought a double bed
And I will father children three.
So singing like a lark I sped
To her who ne'er expected me.
And then I went with wary tread,
Her sweet surprise to greet with glee;
To where her lamplit lattice shed
A rosy radiance on the lea:
And then my heart sank low like lead,
Two shadows on the blind to see.
A man was sitting on the bed,
And she was nudely on his knee.
I saw her face drain white with dread,
I saw her lover madly flee.
Oh how her blood is ruby red,
And I await the gallows tree
Robert William Service |
Said President MacConnachie to Treasurer MacCall:
"We ought to have a piper for our next Saint Andrew's Ball.
Yon squakin' saxophone gives me the syncopated gripes.
I'm sick of jazz, I want to hear the skirling of the pipes.
"Alas! it's true," said Tam MacCall.
"The young folk of to-day
Are fox-trot mad and dinna ken a reel from Strathspey.
Now, what we want's a kiltie lad, primed up wi' mountain dew,
To strut the floor at supper time, and play a lilt or two.
In all the North there's only one; of him I've heard them speak:
His name is Jock MacPherson, and he lives on Boulder Creek;
An old-time hard-rock miner, and a wild and wastrel loon,
Who spends his nights in glory, playing pibrochs to the moon.
I'll seek him out; beyond a doubt on next Saint Andrew's night
We'll proudly hear the pipes to cheer and charm our appetite.
Oh lads were neat and lassies sweet who graced Saint Andrew's Ball;
But there was none so full of fun as Treasurer MacCall.
And as Maloney's rag-time bank struck up the newest hit,
He smiled a smile behind his hand, and chuckled: "Wait a bit.
And so with many a Celtic snort, with malice in his eye,
He watched the merry crowd cavort, till supper time drew nigh.
Then gleefully he seemed to steal, and sought the Nugget Bar,
Wherein there sat a tartaned chiel, as lonely as a star;
A huge and hairy Highlandman as hearty as a breeze,
A glass of whisky in his hand, his bag-pipes on his knees.
"Drink down your doch and doris, Jock," cried Treasurer MacCall;
"The time is ripe to up and pipe; they wait you in the hall.
Gird up your loins and grit your teeth, and here's a pint of hooch
To mind you of your native heath - jist pit it in your pooch.
Play on and on for all you're worth; you'll shame us if you stop.
Remember you're of Scottish birth - keep piping till you drop.
Aye, though a bunch of Willie boys should bluster and implore,
For the glory of the Highlands, lad, you've got to hold the floor.
The dancers were at supper, and the tables groaned with cheer,
When President MacConnachie exclaimed: "What do I hear?
Methinks it's like a chanter, and its coming from the hall.
"It's Jock MacPherson tuning up," cried Treasurer MacCall.
So up they jumped with shouts of glee, and gaily hurried forth.
Said they: "We never thought to see a piper in the North.
Aye, all the lads and lassies braw went buzzing out like bees,
And Jock MacPherson there they saw, with red and rugged knees.
Full six foot four he strode the floor, a grizzled son of Skye,
With glory in his whiskers and with whisky in his eye.
With skelping stride and Scottish pride he towered above them all:
"And is he no' a bonny sight?" said Treasurer MacCall.
While President MacConnachie was fairly daft with glee,
And there was jubilation in the Scottish Commy-tee.
But the dancers seemed uncertain, and they signified their doubt,
By dashing back to eat as fast as they had darted out.
And someone raised the question 'twixt the coffee and the cakes:
"Does the Piper walk to get away from all the noise he makes?"
Then reinforced with fancy food they slowly trickled forth,
And watching in patronizing mood the Piper of the North.
Proud, proud was Jock MacPherson, as he made his bag-pipes skirl,
And he set his sporran swinging, and he gave his kilts a whirl.
And President MacConnachie was jumping like a flea,
And there was joy and rapture in the Scottish Commy-tee.
"Jist let them have their saxophones wi' constipated squall;
We're having Heaven's music now," said Treasurer MacCall.
But the dancers waxed impatient, and they rather seemed to fret
For Maloney and the jazz of his Hibernian Quartette.
Yet little recked the Piper, as he swung with head on high,
Lamenting with MacCrimmon on the heather hills of Skye.
With Highland passion in his heart he held the centre floor;
Aye, Jock MacPherson played as he had never played before.
Maloney's Irish melodists were sitting in their place,
And as Maloney waited, there was wonder in his face.
'Twas sure the gorgeous music - Golly! wouldn't it be grand
If he could get MacPherson as a member of his band?
But the dancers moped and mumbled, as around the room they sat:
"We paid to dance," they grumbled; "But we cannot dance to that.
Of course we're not denying that it's really splendid stuff;
But it's mighty satisfying - don't you think we've had enough?"
"You've raised a pretty problem," answered Treasurer MacCall;
"For on Saint Andrew's Night, ye ken, the Piper rules the Ball.
Said President MacConnachie: "You've said a solemn thing.
Tradition holds him sacred, and he's got to have his fling.
But soon, no doubt, he'll weary out.
Have patience; bide a wee.
Respect the Piper," said the Scottish Commy-tee.
And so MacPherson stalked the floor, and fast the moments flew,
Till half an hour went past, as irritation grew and grew.
Then the dancers held a council, and with faces fiercely set,
They hailed Maloney, heading his Hibernian Quartette:
"It's long enough, we've waited.
Come on, Mike, play up the Blues.
And Maloney hesitated, but he didn't dare refuse.
So banjo and piano, and guitar and saxophone
Contended with the shrilling of the chanter and the drone;
And the women's ears were muffled, so infernal was the din,
But MacPherson was unruffled, for he knew that he would win.
Then two bright boys jazzed round him, and they sought to play the clown,
But MacPherson jolted sideways, and the Sassenachs went down.
And as if it was a signal, with a wild and angry roar,
The gates of wrath were riven - yet MacPherson held the floor.
Aye, amid the rising tumult, still he strode with head on high,
With ribbands gaily streaming, yet with battle in his eye.
Amid the storm that gathered, still he stalked with Highland pride,
While President and Treasurer sprang bravely to his side.
And with ire and indignation that was glorious to see,
Around him in a body ringed the Scottish Commy-tee.
Their teeth were clenched with fury; their eyes with anger blazed:
"Ye manna touch the Piper," was the slogan that they raised.
Then blows were struck, and men went down; yet 'mid the rising fray
MacPherson towered in triumph - and he never ceased to play.
Alas! his faithful followers were but a gallant few,
And faced defeat, although they fought with all the skill they knew.
For President MacConnachie was seen to slip and fall,
And o'er his prostrate body stumbled Treasurer MacCall.
And as their foes with triumph roared, and leagured them about,
It looked as if their little band would soon be counted out.
For eyes were black and noses red, yet on that field of gore,
As resolute as Highland rock - MacPherson held the floor.
Maloney watched the battle, and his brows were bleakly set,
While with him paused and panted his Hibernian Quartette.
For sure it is an evil spite, and breaking to the heart,
For Irishman to watch a fight and not be taking part.
Then suddenly on high he soared, and tightened up his belt:
"And shall we see them crush," he roared, "a brother and a Celt?
A fellow artiste needs our aid.
Come on, boys, take a hand.
Then down into the mêlée dashed Maloney and his band.
Now though it was Saint Andrew's Ball, yet men of every race,
That bow before the Great God Jazz were gathered in that place.
Yea, there were those who grunt: "Ya! Ya!" and those who squeak: "We! We!"
Likewise Dutch, Dago, Swede and Finn, Polack and Portugee.
Yet like ripe grain before the gale that national hotch-potch
Went down before the fury of the Irish and the Scotch.
Aye, though they closed their gaping ranks and rallied to the fray,
To the Shamrock and the Thistle went the glory of the day.
You should have seen the carnage in the drooling light of dawn,
Yet 'mid the scene of slaughter Jock MacPherson playing on.
Though all lay low about him, yet he held his head on high,
And piped as if he stood upon the caller crags of Skye.
His face was grim as granite, and no favour did he ask,
Though weary were his mighty lungs and empty was his flask.
And when a fallen foe wailed out: "Say! when will you have done?"
MacPherson grinned and answered: "Hoots! She's only ha'f begun.
Aye, though his hands were bloody, and his knees were gay with gore,
A Grampian of Highland pride - MacPherson held the floor.
And still in Yukon valleys where the silent peaks look down,
They tell of how the Piper was invited up to town,
And he went in kilted glory, and he piped before them all,
But wouldn't stop his piping till he busted up the Ball.
Of that Homeric scrap they speak, and how the fight went on,
With sally and with rally till the breaking of the dawn.
And how the Piper towered like a rock amid the fray,
And the battle surged about him, but he never ceased to play.
Aye, by the lonely camp-fires, still they tell the story o'er-
How the Sassenach was vanquished and - MacPherson held the floor.