Harry Graham: The Siren
'Mid summertime's fantastic heat,
When urban pavements parch the feet,
To some far loophole of retreat
Our drowsy thoughts go straying;
In bondage on each office-stool,
We dream of caverns dim and cool,
Of shady grots beside some pool
Where nymphs and fauns are playing,
Where timid dryads coyly scatter
In flight before the local satyr.
While some (the more romantic chaps)
May plan a walking-tour, perhaps,
Where coloured counties spread their maps
For Shropshire lads on Bredon,
And some (the richer fellows) plot
A cruise to Lapland in a yacht,
And thus enjoy, if polyglot,
The voice that breathes o'er Sweden,
And others yearn for Monte Carlo,
For Fontainebleau, or even Marlow,
Much simpler travel-tastes have I;
My needs the humblest joys supply;
I never try to aim too high,
Nor choose too large a target,
For I recall (sweet souvenir!)
The holiday I spent, last year,
In seaside lodgings with my dear
Aunt Ramsgaret at Margate*,
With whom and where that blest vacation
Was one long round of dissipation.
* Should this not be »Aunt Margaret at Ramsgate«? – Pub.
Yes. – H.G.
Each morning she would take the air,
Propelled by me in a bath-chair –
That is, the weather being fair
And other things propitious.
Then home to lunch we gaily hied,
And though, I own, the meal supplied
Erred somewhat on the frugal side,
The mince was quite delicious,
And tapioca, too, would follow,
With lumps that were sheer joy to swallow.
Each afternoon, from three to five,
We hired a fly and took a drive –
Of vehicles one could contrive
No nicer form to ride in –
And then upon the pier we'd sit,
Enjoying all that (you'll admit)
Makes England still a country fit
For Pierrots to reside in;
And oh! what talks we'd have together
About our ailments and the weather!
On stormy mornings we'd remain
Indoors, and Aunt would not complain,
Declaring that she liked the rain,
It made her fringe so wavy!
And if the afternoons were wet
She would produce her wireless set,
And we would very often get
Morse signals from the Navy
Or howlings from some foreign station
Which she ascribed to oscillation.
Sea-bathing was a sport I'd planned,
But the authorities had banned
Undressing on the open strand,
And though a Nature-lover
Might deem such regulations strange,
They would not suffer a sea-change
Unless one somehow could arrange
To do it under cover;
Attempts to shed one's underclothing
In public they beheld with loathing.
Though this was something of a blow,
My habits I would not forgo –
»Aut nec aut nihil,«* as you know,
Has always been my motto –
And, after tea, when Auntie lay
Upon her couch, I'd slip away
To a sequestered little bay
Where (in a cave or grotto)
My garment's plenary removal
Could meet with no one's disapproval.
* »Neck or nothing.«
One evening, as I doffed my socks,
I noticed here upon the rocks
A maiden with peroxide locks
Who sat and watched me stripping.
She wore a one-piece bathing-suit
And was a most attractive »beaut,«
And when she said: »Hullo, old fruit!«
I felt that I was slipping.
And when she giggled rather sweetly
I knew that I had fall'n completely!
Then up she sprang and, like a shot,
(She was a lovesome thing, God wot!)
She bolted from the cave or grot
And leapt into the briny.
She sank like – was it Milton said? –
A daystar in the ocean bed,
The reared anon her dripping head
As, with her eyes all shiny,
She shouted: »Catch me if you can, sir!«
And dived again like a merganser!
A moment's start was all I gave,
Then darted from my grot or cave,
And through the cool translucent wave
Pursued the nymph and caught her;
In vain she struggled to escape;
I seized her firmly by the nape
(Which was of most convenient shape)
And home rejoicing brought her.
»Oh, fie!« she cried, »You didn't otto!«
But »Neck or nothing« – that's my motto!
'Twas thus our love-affair began.
Each day, as to that cave I ran,
The offing for her form I'd scan,
I couldn't live without it!
She looked so sweet in deshabille,
And when she kept an even keel
She seemed as graceful as a seal –
I spoke to her about it.
She answered: »What of your vile corpus?
No doubt 'twas made like that on porpoise!«
Ah, yes, she'd such a sense of fun,
She dearly loved a harmless pun;
I well remember making one
That specially rejoiced her.
As we were swimming through a shoal,
I murmured: »There's no plaice like sole!«
And on a breakwater (or mole)
Suggested I should »'oist-'er!«
She smiled a smile so quaint, so elfish,
And said: »That would be very shellfish!«
She was the trimmest little craft
(Conspicuously so abaft),
And how I loved her when she chaffed
And said that I was her »buoy,«
For she was so »attached« to me!
And when she perched upon my knee,
Just like a mermaid from the sea,
And whispered: »Atta Merboy!«
The very lobsters started blushing;
The tide went out as far as Flushing.
Such happiness was doomed, alas!
My Aunt, to watch The Skylark pass,
One evening, through her op'ra-glass
Quite innocently gazing,
Observed us sporting in the foam;
Her colour changed from puce to chrome,
She hurried forth and dragged me home,
Her eyes with anger blazing,
And packed me off, next morning early,
To »Kenilworth,« my home near Purley.
I've never met my Siren since,
And yet, whenever I eat mince
Or tapioca, I evince
Strong symptoms of emotion.
In retrospect I see her still,
Broadbased upon that rocky sill,
Submerged or compassed (as you will)
By the inviolate ocean!
And distance does but serve to heighten
The mem'ry of our time at Brighton!*
* Should this not be »Margate«? – Ed.
No. Ramsgate. – H.G.
Sonntag, 19. Februar 2017
Harry Graham (17)
Nachtrag zum Valentinstag: ein recht romantisches Gedicht aus »Adam's Apples« (1930):