Sonntag, 24. September 2017

Harry Graham (48)

Ein Gedicht zum Ende des Wahlkampfs aus »Canned Classics«:
Harry Graham: The Craven (With Apologies to Edgar Allen Poe)

(At the last General Election the Unionist and Liberal candidates for Chelsea both enjoyed the name of Hoare.)

Ah! distinctly I remember, 'twas an evening in November,
   When I canvassed for the Member whose rosette I proudly wore,
Rousing voters to reflection on the Veto and Protection,
   Handing tracts in each direction, thrusting bills through ev'ry door,
   Till I reached the Chelsea section, where each rival's name is Hoare,
                 Simply that and nothing more!

There I argued with each zany, and cajoled the bright and brainy,
   In the district labelled Cheyné (where Carlyle abode of yore),
Till I found a man, a craven, with his feeble chin unshaven,
   Ev'ry window of whose haven a perplexing placard bore,
   'Twas a poster neatly graven with the motto: »Vote for Hoare!«
                 Only that and nothing more!

»Tell me which,« I asked him, snorting, »of the two you are supporting;
   On your window-sills the sporting of such posters I deplore;
Be you dunderhead or scholar« (here I seized him by the collar),
   »Will you brook the Yankee Dollar being dumped on Britain's shore?
   Do you fancy, in your squalor, that your food will cost you more?«
                 Quoth the craven: »Vote for Hoare!«

My acquaintance thus I rallied, till I grew fatigued and pallid,
   But my arguments (though valid) he continued to ignore;
»Shall an alien contribution help to wreck the Constitution?«
   I inquired, in consecution, till my throat was dry and sore.
   »Are you keen on Devolution? Tell me frankly, I implore!«
                 Quoth the craven: »Vote for Hoare!«

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!