Sonntag, 17. September 2017

Harry Graham (47)

Eine Ballade aus »Adam's Apples«:
Harry Graham: Chance

Though most of us may disbelieve in fairies,
   And label Luck a superstitious myth,
If we'd had an experience like Mary's
   (I mean, of course, my cousin Mary Smith)
We certainly should realize, like her,
How oft the Unexpected does occur.

An aunt of hers, old Mrs Smith (of Barnet),
   Had given her a bracelet, subtly chased –
Two aluminium snakes with eyes of garnet
   Whose bodies were adroitly interlaced –
A bangle which poor Mary couldn't bear
But felt herself in duty bound to wear.

Last year she took her aunt off to the Lido,
   And there upon the sunny sands reclined
Or scudded through the waves like a torpedo –
   She looked so like one, too, from just behind –
While Mrs Smith sat by and viewed the scene
Or read the Barnet Parish Magazine.

One day, as Mary sported in the ocean,
   A shadow loomed beside her, slim and dark;
She heard a boatman cry, with deep emotion:
   »Guardati! Pesce cane!« (»Mind the shark!«)
And, making headlong for the shore forthwith,
She sprang into the arms of Mrs Smith!

»Thank God you're safe!« said Auntie, fondly kissing
   Her niece's pallid cheek and anguished brow;
»But what is this, my child? Your bracelet's missing!
   You must have dropped it in the sea just now!
We can't allow that heirloom to be lost.
It must be found at once, whate'er the cost!«

»Perhaps the shark has swallowed it,« said Mary.
   »If so,« said Auntie, »he should be ashamed!
Send for the Doge! Where are the Bersaglierei?
   What are the coastguards doing?« she exclaimed.
»With such a danger is there none to cope?
What's Mussolini there for, and the Pope?«

In vain did they employ the local diver
   And get the Doge to issue a decree
In which he offered anyone a fiver
   That bracelet to unearth – or to unsea!
Conscious at last that failure was complete,
They shook the spray of Venice off their feet.

This summer, Mrs Smith and cousin Mary
   Selected Westgate as a health-resort
Where bathing holds no risks for the unwary
   And shrimping is a well-protected sport,
And here they built their castles in the sand
And listened to the Borough Council Band.

One morning, on the pier where they were sitting,
   Said Mary: »What's the tune they've just encored?«
»That,« said her aunt, »is the Refrain from Spitting
   At least, it says so on the notice-board.
It's not an opera that I know well;
My favourite, of course, is William Tell

Then, as she spoke, there came the sound of cheering,
   And see! along the asphalt esplanade
A noble army from the beach appearing
   Of man and boy, of matron and of maid,
And in their midst a giant fish they bore:
»A shark,« they cried, »has just been washed ashore!«

At Mary's feet they laid the dead cetacean.*
   Her thoughts flew back to a Venetian bay
And, as they planned the beast's evisceration –
   I'll spare the lurid details, if I may –
She and her aunt exchanged a meaning glance
And prayed in secret to the god of Chance.

*: Sharks are not cetaceous. – Pub.
     This one was. – H. G.

Poor Mrs Smith's excitement rose to fever,
   And Mary too grew anxious, I confess,
As someone slit the fish up with a cleaver
   And found within its vitals – can you guess?
You're wrong, alas! They didn't find a thing
Except two buttons and a piece of string!

Yes. Providence, performing many wonders,
   May move in a mysterious way, no doubt,
Yet will not always rectify our blunders,
   As Mrs Smith and Mary have found out.
The long arm of coincidence grows weak;
The skirts of happy chance are far to seek;
And Jonah's shark was probably unique.

Sonntag, 10. September 2017

Harry Graham (46)

Aus »Strained Relations«:
Harry Graham: In-Laws

It seems to me a crying shame
   That humorists should all disparage
Those worthy persons whom we claim
   As relatives by marriage,
Who have been pilloried so long
In ev'ry so-called »comic« song
   That audiences never pause
   To think, but greet with loud guffaws
   All ribald jokes about »in-laws.«

I always view with deep distress
   The rude and vulgar illustrations
In which the minor comic press
   Makes fun of those relations
Who stimulate the married life
Of many a happy man and wife,
   Whose constant presence should invest
   Existence with an added zest
   And make each union doubly blest.

I recollect, in days gone by,
   When courting my inamorata,
A backward, timid swain was I
   Who needed a self-starter:
And yet her people were so kind
They wouldn't let me change my mind;
   And though they knew I was no »catch«
   'Twas they who kept me to the scratch
   And practically made the match.

The mother of my fiancée
   (Who had six daughters then unmarried)
Would lightly laugh my qualms away,
   And all objections parried.
She pushed us in each other's arms,
And raved about her darling's charms,
   Making a comprehensive list
   (Including sev'ral that I'd missed)
   Till I no longer could resist.

As for my dear one's father, he
   Was just as tactful as her mother;
He'd always leave us, after tea,
   Alone with one another.
Locking the door, with some remark
About how »lovers love the dark,«
   He'd turn the gas off at the main;
   And I would sit for hours with Jane
   Trying to light the stove again.

My loved one's sisters (she had five)
   Behaved in as discreet a fashion,
And did their best to keep alive
   Our oft-times waning passion.
Before they entered any room
In which, amid sepulchral gloom,
   The chilly pair of lovers sat,
   They'd knock their loudest rat-a-tat
   Or cough outside upon the mat.

When first I set up house with Jane
   Her parents were of great assistance;
They'd never viewed me with disdain
   Or kept me at a distance.
Her father came, without a fuss,
Three nights a week, to dine with us;
   Her mother, with maternal zeal,
   Appeared at ev'ry other meal,
   And quite at home they made us feel.

They chose the carpets and the chintz,
   They bought the curtains (with our savings),
Replaced my set of Baxter prints
   With Marcus Stone engravings;
And ev'ry day, when we were out,
They'd move the furniture about
   And rearrange our little nest,
   And though at times we might protest,
   We knew, of course, that they knew best.

And when our tiny firstborn came
   Their loving-kindness quite nonplussed us
We'd chosen »Henry« as his name,
   But they preferred »Augustus«:
And, later, though we'd wished to call
His sister »Mary« – not at all!
   In this we were allowed no voice,
   For they'd already made their choice,
   And she was duly christened »Joyce.«

My wife has brothers, charming men,
   Who never seem to need inviting;
They know they're welcome in my den,
   And when I'm busy writing
They very often condescend
To sit with me for hours on end,
   Explaining how I'd make it pay
   By doing what I do to-day
   In some completely diff'rent way.

Their sisters, whom I love so well,
   Delight me with their girlish chatt'ring
They use my house as an hotel,
   Which is extremely flatt'ring.
It's really very nice to feel,
If one pops in to snatch a meal,
   Another's on the telephone;
   My wife and I are bound to own
   We're never lonely, or alone.

Sonntag, 3. September 2017

Harry Graham (45)

Aus »Canned Classics«:
Harry Graham: The Postman and the Lift

»›Most of our tenants pay rents of from £350 a year upward,‹ says Mr. Goddard, of Messrs. Goddard and Smith, the well-known Piccadilly house agents, ›and would strongly resent having to ride up and down in lifts with postmen.« – Daily Mail.

I used to live in Jermyn Street,
   Upon the seventh floor.
I occupied a charming suite,
Bed, bath, and boudoir, all complete;
   That flat is mine no more!
For in my lute appeared a rift:
They let the postman use the lift!

Was it for this I had to pay
   Three hundred pounds a year?
I never shall forget the day
A relative arrived to stay
   (First cousin to a peer);
My word! How Aunt Eliza sniff'd!
She met a postman in the lift!

»What!« she demanded, »must I ride
   With common men like him?«
She drew her scornful skirts aside,
Her smelling-bottle she applied,
   She shook in ev'ry limb.
»Be good enough,« she said, »to sift
The lower orders from the lift!«

»Good Goddard! Fellow,« I exclaimed,
   »Is there no public stair?
Are there no regulations framed
To make a working-man ashamed
   To breathe his betters' air?
To anarchy we surely drift
When common postmen use the lift!«

In vain I claim my legal rights,
   My landlord won't give way.
He says his pity he excites
To see men scaling seven flights
   So many times a day.
To other chambers I must shift,
Where postmen never use the lift!

Montag, 28. August 2017


Lehrgedicht über den richtigen Umgang mit Außerirdischen

Wenn am Himmel Kugeln kreisen,
die mit kolossalen Strahlen
deinen Namen in die fahlen
abendlichen Wolken malen,
darfst du keinen Mut beweisen;
nein: Dann schleiche dich auf leisen
Sohlen fort
                 von diesem Ort.

Wenn im Garten UFOs landen,
denen Kreaturn entsteigen,
die drauf brennen, dir ihr eigen-
artiges Gefährt zu zeigen:
Lass das Angebot versanden,
tu als hättst du's nicht nicht verstanden,
lächle dumm
                    und dreh rasch um.

Wenn dich grüne oder graue
Wesen in ihr Raumschiff reißen,
dich auf den OP-Tisch schmeißen
und in deine Beine beißen;
dann, mein lieber Freund, vertraue
besser nicht aufs Glück, nein: Haue
ihnen auf
              den Kopf. Und lauf!

Sonntag, 27. August 2017

Harry Graham (44)

Aus »Deportmental Ditties and Other Verses«:
Harry Graham: The Trucks of Truro. A Ballad for the Boudoir
A writer in Punch declares that the saddest sight he ever saw was a row of dispirited trucks standing in a siding, on each of which was painted the bitter words, »This truck not to go East of Truro.«

When the waters of the Douro
   Flow up-country from the sea;
When these trucks go East of Truro,
   Then my heart will faithless be!
Sparkling like some rich liqueur, oh!
Tender, delicate and pure, oh!
As Bellini's chiaroscuro,
   Is the love that kindles me!
When these trucks go East of Truro,
   Then will I be false to thee!

Though the clerk forget his bureau,
   I will not forgetful be!
Though these trucks go East of Truro,
   Thou shalt not go East of me!
Though each celebrated Euro-
Pean oculist or neuro-
Path, when he effects a cure, o-
   Mit to take his patient's fee!
Though these trucks go East of Truro,
   I will still have truck with thee!

Sonntag, 20. August 2017

Harry Graham (43)

Das Sonntagsgedicht aus »The Motley Muse«:
Harry Graham: Perspective

[»It is sad and humiliating, but true, that our humanity is a matter
of geography.« — The Pall Mall Gazette.]

When told that twenty thousand Japs
   Are drowned in a typhoon,
We feel a trifle shocked, perhaps,
   But neither faint nor swoon.
»Dear me! How tragic!« we repeat;
   »Ah, well! Such things must be!«
Our ordinary lunch we eat
   And make a hearty tea;
Such loss of life (with shame I write)
Creates no loss of appetite!

When on a Rocky Mountain ranch
   Two hundred souls, all told,
Are buried in an avalanche.
   The tidings leave us cold.
»Poor fellows!« we remark. »Poor things!«
   »All crushed to little bits!«
Then go to Bunty Pulls the Strings,
   Have supper at the Ritz,
And never even think again
Of land-slides in the State of Maine!

But when the paper we take in
   Describes how Mr. Jones
Has slipped on a banana-skin
   And broken sev'ral bones,
»Good Heavens! What a world!« we shout
   »Disasters never cease!«
»What is the Government about?«
   »And where are the Police?«
Distraught by such appalling news
All creature comforts we refuse!

Though plagues exterminate the Lapp,
   And famines ravage Spain,
They move us not like some mishap
   To a suburban train.
Each foreign tale of fire or flood,
   How trumpery it grows
Beside a broken collar-stud,
   A smut upon the nose!
For Charity (Alas! how true!)
Begins At Home — and ends there, too!

Sonntag, 13. August 2017

Harry Graham (42)

Aus »Baby's Baedeker«:
Harry Graham: Portugal

You are requested, if you please,
   To note that here a people lives
Referred to as the Portuguese;
   A fact which naturally gives
The funny man a good excuse
To call his friend a Portugoose.

Avoid the obvious, if you can,
And never be a funny man.