A Lady Thinks She is Thirty
Good-by Now or Pardon My Gauntlet
More About People
Ode to a Baby
The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus
The Terrible People
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A LADY THINKS SHE IS THIRTY
Unwillingly Miranda wakes,
Feels the sun with terror,
One unwilling step she takes,
Shuddering to the mirror.
Miranda in Miranda's
Is old and gray and dirty;
Twenty-nine she was last night;
This morning she is thirty.
Shining like the morning
Like the twilight shining,
Haunted by a calendar,
Miranda sits a-pining.
Silly girl, silver girl,
Draw the mirror toward you;
Time who makes the years to whirl
Adorned as he adorned you.
Time is timelessness for
Calendars for the human;
What's a year, or thirty, to
Loveliness made woman?
Oh, Night will not see
Yet soft her wing, Miranda;
Pick up your glass and tell me, then --
How old is Spring, Miranda?
There once was a man from Calcutta,
Who coated his tonsils with butta,
Thus converting his snore
From a thunderous roar,
To a soft, oleaginous mutta.
PARDON MY GAUNTLET
Bring down the moon for genteel Janet;
She's too refined for this gross planet.
She wears garments and you wear clothes,
You buy stockings, she purchases hose.
She say That is correct, and you say Yes,
And she disrobes and you undress.
Confronted by a mouse or moose,
You turn green, she turns chartroose.
Her speech is new-minted, freshly quarried;
She has a fore-head, you have a forehead.
Nor snake nor slowworm draweth nigh her;
You go to bed, she doth retire.
To Janet, births are blessed events,
And odors that you smell she scents.
Replete she feels, when her food is yummy,
Not in the stomach but the tummy.
If urged some novel step to show,
You say Like this, she says Like so.
Her dear ones don't die, but pass away;
Beneath her formal is lonjeray.
Of refinement she's a fount, or fountess,
And that is why she's now a countess.
She was asking for the little girls' room
And a flunky though she said the earl's room.
MORE ABOUT PEOPLE
When people aren't asking question
They're making suggestions
And when they're not doing one of those
They're either looking over your shoulder or stepping on your toes
And then as if that weren't enough to annoy you
They employ you.
Anybody at leisure
Incurs everybody's displeasure.
It seems to be very irking
To people at work to see other people not working,
So they tell you that work is wonderful medicine,
Just look at Firestone and Ford and Edison,
And they lecture you till they're out of breath or something
And then if you don't succumb they starve you to death or something.
All of which results in a nasty quirk:
That if you don't want to work you have to work to earn enough money so that you
won't have to work.
ODE TO A BABY
A bit of talcum
Is always walcum.
People expect old men to die,
They do not really mourn old men.
Old men are different. People look
At them with eyes that wonder when...
People watch with unshocked eyes;
But the old men know when an old man dies.
There was a young belle of old Natchez
Whose garments were always in patchez.
When comment arose
On the state of her clothes,
She replied, When Ah itchez, Ah scratchez.
THE BOY WHO LAUGHED AT
In Baltimore there lived a boy.
He wasn't anybody's joy.
Although his name was Jabez Dawes,
His character was full of flaws.
In school he never led his
He hid old ladies' reading glasses,
His mouth was open when he chewed,
And elbows to the table glued.
He stole the milk of hungry kittens,
And walked through doors marked NO ADMITTANCE.
He said he acted thus because
There wasn't any Santa Claus.
Another trick that tickled
Was crying 'Boo' at little babies.
He brushed his teeth, they said in town,
Sideways instead of up and down.
Yet people pardoned every sin,
And viewed his antics with a grin,
Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,
'There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Deploring how he did
His parents swiftly sought their grave.
They hurried through the portals pearly,
And Jabez left the funeral early.
Like whooping cough, from
child to child,
He sped to spread the rumor wild:
'Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes
There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Slunk like a weasel of a marten
Through nursery and kindergarten,
Whispering low to every tot,
'There isn't any, no there's not!'
The children wept all
And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.
No infant dared hang up his stocking
For fear of Jabez' ribald mocking.
He sprawled on his untidy
Fresh malice dancing in his head,
When presently with scalp-a-tingling,
Jabez heard a distant jingling;
He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof
Crisply alighting on the roof.
What good to rise and bar the door?
A shower of soot was on the floor.
What was beheld by Jabez
The fireplace full of Santa Claus!
Then Jabez fell upon his knees
With cries of 'Don't,' and 'Pretty Please.'
He howled, 'I don't know where you read it,
But anyhow, I never said it!'
'Jabez' replied the angry saint,
'It isn't I, it's you that ain't.
Although there is a Santa Claus,
There isn't any Jabez Dawes!'
Said Jabez then with
'Oh, yes there is, and I am him!
Your magic don't scare me, it doesn't'
And suddenly he found he wasn't!
From grimy feet to grimy locks,
Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,
And ugly toy with springs unsprung,
Forever sticking out his tongue.
The neighbors heard his
They searched for him, but not with zeal.
No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,
Which led to thunderous applause,
And people drank a loving cup
And went and hung their stockings up.
All you who sneer at Santa
Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,
The saucy boy who mocked the saint.
Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.
I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist,
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
"You mean," he said, "a crocodile."
THE TERRIBLE PEOPLE
People who have what they want are very fond of telling people who haven't what
they want that they really don't want it,
And I wish I could afford to gather all such people into a gloomy castle on the
Danube and hire half a dozen capable Draculas to haunt it.
I don't' mind their having a lot of money, and I don't care how they employ it,
But I do think that they damn well ought to admit they enjoy it.
But no, they insist on being stealthy
About the pleasures of being wealthy,
And the possession of a handsome annuity
Makes them think that to say how hard it is to make both ends meet is their
You cannot conceive of an occasion
Which will find them without some suitable evasion.
Yes indeed, with arguments they are very fecund;
Their first point is that money isn't everything, and that they have no money
anyhow is their second.
Some people's money is merited,
And other people's is inherited,
But wherever it comes from,
They talk about it as if it were something you got pink gums from.
Perhaps indeed the possession of wealth is constantly distressing,
But I should be quite willing to assume every curse of wealth if I could at the
same time assume every blessing.
The only incurable troubles of the rich are the troubles that money can't cure,
Which is a kind of trouble that is even more troublesome if you are poor.
Certainly there are lots of things in life that money won't buy, but it's very
Have you ever tried to buy them without money?
Poets aren't very useful
Because they aren't consumeful or produceful.
Song of the Open Road
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The summer like a rajah dies,
And every widowed tree
Kindles for Congregationalist eyes
An alien suttee.
SONG OF THE OPEN ROAD
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I'll never see a tree at all.
The Tale of Custard the Dragon
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The song of canaries
And when they're molting
They're pretty revolting.
This creature fills its mouth with venom
And walks upon its duodenum.
He who attempts to tease the cobra
Is soon a sadder he, and sobra.
The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.
I don't mind eels
Except as meals.
Whales have calves,
Cats have kittens,
Bears have cubs,
Bats have bittens,
Swans have cygnets,
Seals have puppies,
But guppies just have little guppies.
Behold the hippopotamus!
We laugh at how he looks to us,
And yet in moments dank and grim,
I wonder how we look to him.
Peace, peace, thou hippopotamus!
We really look all right to us,
As you no doubt delight the eye
Of other hippopotami.
Tell me, O Octopus, I begs
Is those things arms, or is they legs?
I marvel at thee, Octopus;
If I were thou, I'd call me Us.
The ostrich roams the great Sahara.
Its mouth is wide, its neck is narra.
It has such long and lofty legs,
I'm glad it sits to lay its eggs.
The pig, if I am not mistaken,
Supplies us sausage, ham, and bacon.
Let others say his heart is big --
I call it stupid of the pig.
A shrimp who sought his lady shrimp
Could catch no glimpse
Not even a glimp.
At times, translucence
Is rather a nuisance.
THE TALE OF CUSTARD THE
Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.
Now the name of the little
black kitten was Ink,
And the little gray mouse, she called hum Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.
Custard the dragon had big
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio daggers on his toes.
Belinda was as brave as a
barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.
Belinda tickled him, she
tickled him unmerciful,
Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival,
They all sat laughing in the little red wagon
At the realio, trulio, cowardly dragon.
Belinda giggled till she
shook the house,
and Blink said Weeck! which is giggling for a mouse,
Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age,
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage.
Suddenly, suddenly they
heard a nasty sound,
And Mustard growled, and they all looked around.
Meowch! cried Ink, and Ooh! cried Belinda,
For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda.
Pistol in his left hand,
pistol in his right,
And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright,
His beard was black, one leg was wood;
It was clear that the pirate meant no good.
Belinda paled, and she
cried Help! Help!
But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp,
Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,
And little mouse Blink strategically mouseholed.
But up jumped Custard
snorting like an engine,
Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon,
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm,
He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm.
The pirate gaped at
And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon,
He fired two bullets, but they didn't hit,
And Custard gobbled him, every bit.
Belinda embraced him,
Mustard licked him,
No one mourned for his pirate victim.
Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate
Around the dragon that ate the pirate.
But presently up spoke
little dog Mustard,
I'd been twice as brave if I hadn't been flustered.
And up spoke Ink and up spoke Blink,
We'd have been three times as brave, we think,
And Custard said, I quite agree
That everybody is braver than me.
Belinda still lives in her
little white house,
With her little black kitten and her little gray mouse,
And her little yellow dog and her little red wagon,
And her realio, trulio little pet dragon.
Belinda is as brave as a
barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs,
Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage.
Hark to the whimper of the sea-gull;
He weeps because he's not an ea-gull.
Suppose you were, you silly sea-gull.
Could you explain it to your she-gull?
The turtle lives 'twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
In such a fix to be so fertile.
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The ant has made himself illustrious
Through constant industry industrious.
Would you be calm and placid
If you were full of formic acid?
I objurgate the centipede,
A bug we do not really need.
At sleepy-time he beats a path
Straight to the bedroom or the bath.
You always wallop where he's not,
Or, if he is, he makes a spot.
The firefly's flame Is something for which science has no name
I can think of nothing eerier
Than flying around with an unidentified glow on a
God in his wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.
Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good,
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.
The wasp and all his numerous family
I look upon as a major calamity.
He throws open his nest with prodigality,
But I distrust his waspitality.
A Watched Example Never Boils
Everybody Tells Me Everything
Further Reflections on Parsley
Just Keep Quiet and Nobody
Possessions are Nine
Points of Conversation
Pretty Halcyon Days
So Does Everybody Else, Only
Not So Much
The Abominable Snowman
The Clean Platter
Reflection on a Wicked World
Reflections on Ice Breaking
Riding on a Railroad Train
Back to Top
A WATCHED EXAMPLE NEVER
The weather is so very mild
That some would call it warm.
Good gracious. aren't we lucky, child?
Here comes a thunderstorm.
The sky is now indelible
The branches reft asunder;
But you and I we do not shrink;
We love the lovely thunder.
The garden is a raging
The hurricane is snarling;
Oh, happy you and happy me!
Isn't the lightning darling?
Fear not the thunder,
It's weather, simply weather;
It's friendly giants full of fun
Clapping their hands together.
I hope of lightning our
Will never be exhausted;
You know its lanterns in the sky
For angels who are losted.
We love the kindly wind
The jolly thunderbolt,
We watch in glee the fairy trail
Of ampere, watt, and volt.
Oh, than to enjoy a storm
There's nothing I would rather,
Don't dive between the blankets, Miss!
Or else leave room for Father.
Develops the jaw,
But celery, stewed,
Is more quietly chewed.
EVERYBODY TELLS ME
I find it very difficult to enthuse
Over the current news.
Just when you think that at least the outlook is so black that it can grow no
blacker, it worsens,
And that is why I do not like the news, because there has never been an era when
so many things were going so right for so many of the wrong persons.
FURTHER REFLECTIONS ON
JUST KEEP QUIET AND
NOBODY WILL NOTICE
There is one thing that ought to be taught in all the colleges,
Which is that people ought to be taught not to go around always making
I don't mean the kind of apologies people make when they run over you or borrow
five dollars or step on your feet,
Because I think that is sort of sweet;
No, I object to one kind of apology alone,
Which is when people spend their time and yours apologizing for everything they
You go to their house for a meal,
And they apologize because the anchovies aren't caviar or the partridge is veal;
They apologize privately for the crudeness of the other guests,
And they apologize publicly for their wife's housekeeping or their husband's
If they give you a book by Dickens they apologize because it isn't by Scott,
And if they take you to the teahter, the apologize for the acting and the
dialogue and the plot;
They contain more milk of human kindness than the most capacious diary can,
But if you are from out of town they apologize for everything local and if you
are a foreigner they apologize for everything American.
I dread these apologizers even as I am depicting them,
I shudder as I think of the hours that must be spend in contradicting them,
Because you are very rude if you let them emerge from an argument victorious,
And when they say something of theirs is awful, it is your duty to convince them
politely that it is magnificent and glorious,
And what particularly bores me with them,
Is that half the time you have to politely contradict them when you rudely agree
So I think there is one rule every host and hostess ought to keep with the comb
and nail file and bicarbonate and aromatic spirits on a handy shelf,
Which is don't spoil the denouement by telling the guests everything is
terrible, but let them have the thrill of finding it out for themselves.
This is my dream,
It is my own dream,
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt.
Then I dreamt that my true love unkempt it.
ARE NINE POINTS OF CONVERSATION
Some people, and it doesn't matter whether they are paupers or millionaires,
Think that anything they have is the best in the world just because it is
If they happen to own a 1921 jalopy,
They look at their neighbor's new de luxe convertible like the wearer of a 57th
Street gown at a 14th Street copy.
If their seventeen-year-old child is still in the third grade they sneer at the
graduation of the seventeen-year-old children of their friends,
Claiming that prodigies always come to bad ends,
And if their roof leaks,
It's because the shingles are antiques.
Other people, and if doesn't matter if they are Scandinavians or Celts,
Think that anything is better than theirs just because it belongs to somebody
If you congratulate them when their blue-blooded Doberman pinscher wins the
obedience championship, they look at you like a martyr,
And say that the garbage man's little Rover is really infinitely smarter;
And if they smoke fifteen-cent cigars they are sure somebody else gets better
cigars for a dime.
And if they take a trip to Paris they are sure their friends who went to Old
Orchard had a better time.
Yes, they look on their neighbor's ox and ass with covetousness and their own ox
and ass with abhorrence,
And if they are wives they want their husband to be like Florence's Freddie, and
if they are husbands they want their wives to be like Freddie's Florence.
I think that comparisons are truly odious, I do not approve of this constant
proud or envious to-do;
And furthermore, dear friends, I think that you and yours are delightful and I
also think that me and mine are delightful too.
PRETTY HALCYON DAYS
How pleasant to sit on the beach,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun,
With ocean galore within reach,
And nothing at all to be done!
No letters to answer,
No bills to be burned,
No work to be shirked,
No cash to be earned,
It is pleasant to sit on the beach
With nothing at all to be done!
How pleasant to look at the ocean,
Democratic and damp; indiscriminate;
It fills me with noble emotion
To think I am able to swim in it.
To lave in the wave,
Majestic and chilly,
Tomorrow I crave;
But today it is silly.
It is pleasant to look at the ocean;
Tomorrow, perhaps, I shall swim in it.
How pleasant to gaze at
As their sailboats they manfully sail
With the vigor of Vikings and whalers
In the days of the Vikings and whale.
They sport on the brink
Of the shad and the shark;
If its windy they sink;
If it isn't, they park.
It is pleasant to gaze at the sailors,
To gaze without having to sail.
How pleasant the salt
Of the air and the sand and the sun;
Leave the earth to the strong and athletic,
And the sea to adventure upon.
But the sun and the sand
No contractor can copy;
We lie in the land
Of the lotus and poppy;
We vegetate, calm and aesthetic,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun.
I test my bath before I sit,
And I'm always moved to wonderment
That what chills the finger not a bit
Is so frigid upon the fundament.
SO DOES EVERYBODY
ELSE, ONLY NOT SO MUCH
O all ye exorcizers come and exorcize now, and ye clergymen draw nigh and clerge,
For I wish to be purged of an urge.
It is an irksome urge, compounded of nettles and glue,
And it is turning all my friends back into acquaintances, and all my
acquaintances into people who look the other way when I heave into view.
It is an indication that my mental buttery is butterless and my mental larder
And it consists not of "Stop me if you've heard this one," but of
"I know you've heard this one because I told it to you myself, but I'm
going to tell it to you again regardless,"
Yes I fear I am living beyond my mental means.
When I realize that it is not only anecdotes that I reiterate but what is far
worse, summaries of radio programs and descriptions of caroons in newspapers and
I want to resist but I cannot resist recounting the bright sayins of celebrities
that everybody already is familiar with every word of; I want to refrain but
cannot refrain from telling the same audience on two successive evenings the
same little snatches of domestic gossip about people I used to know that they
have never heard of.
When I remember some titillating episode of my childhood I figure that if it's
worth narrating once it's worth narrating twice, in spite of lackluster eyes and
And indeed I have now worked my way backward from titillating episodes in my own
childhood to titillating episodes in the childhood of my parents or even my
And what really turns my corpuscles to ice,
I carry around clippings and read them to people twice.
And I know what I am doing while I am doing it and I don't want to do it but I
can't help doing it and I am just another Ancient Mariner,
And the prospects for my future social life couldn't possibly be barrener.
Did I tell you that the prospects for my future social life couldn't be barrener?
THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN
I've never seen an abominable snowman,
I'm hoping not to see one,
I'm also hoping, if I do,
That it will be a wee one.
THE CLEAN PLATTER
Some singers sing of ladies' eyes,
And some of ladies' lips,
Refined ones praise their ladylike ways,
And coarse ones hymn their hips.
The Oxford Book of English Verse
Is lush with lyrics tender;
A poet, I guess, is more or less
Preoccupied with gender.
Yet I, though custom calls me crude,
Prefer to sing in praise of food.
Just any old kind of food.
Pheasant is pleasant of course,
And terrapin, too, is tasty,
Lobster I freely endorse,
In pâté or patty or pasty.
But there's nothing the matter with butter,
And nothing the matter with jam,
And the warmest of greetings I utter
To the ham and the yam and the clam.
For they're food,
And I think very highly of food.
Though I'm broody at times
When bothered by rhymes,
Some painters paint the
And some the gathering storm.
Others portray young lambs at play,
But most, the female form.
'Twas trite in that primeval dawn
When painting got its start,
That a lady with her garments on
Is Life, but is she Art?
By undraped nymphs I am not wooed;
I'd rather painters painted food.
Just any old kind of food.
GO purloin a sirloin my pet,
If you'd win a devotion incredible;
And asparagus tip vinaigrette,
Or anything else that is edible.
Bring salad or sausage or scrapple,
A berry or even a beet.
Bring an oyster, an egg, or an apple,
As long as its something to eat.
If it's food,
Never mind what kind of food.
When I ponder my mind
I consistently find
It is glued
There is something about a Martini,
A tingle remarkably pleasant;
A yellow, a mellow Martini;
I wish I had one at present.
There is something about a Martini,
Ere the dining and dancing begin,
And to tell you the truth,
It is not the vermouth--
I think that perhaps it's the gin.
REFLECTION ON A WICKED WORLD
REFLECTIONS ON ICE-BREAKING
RIDING ON A RAILROAD TRAIN
Some people like to hitch and hike;
They are fond of highway travel;
Their nostrils toil through gas and oil,
They choke on dust and gravel.
Unless they stop for the traffic cop
Their road is a fine-or-jail road,
But wise old I go rocketing by;
I'm riding on the railroad.
I love to loll like a limp
In a peripatetic salon;
To think and think of a long cool drink
And cry to the porter, allons!
Now the clickety clack of wheel on track
Grows clickety clackety clicker:
The line is clear for the engineer
And it mounts to his head like liquor.
With a farewell scream of escaping steam
The boiler bows to the Diesel;
The iron horse has run its course
And we ride a chromium weasel;
We draw our power from the harnessed shower,
The lightning without the thunder,
But a train is a train and will so remain
While the rails glide glistening under.
Oh, some like trips in
And some in gasoline wagons,
And others swear by the upper air
And the wings of flying dragons.
Let each make haste to indulge his taste,
Be it beer, champagne or cider;
My private joy, both man and boy,
Is being a railroad rider.