Last Songs from Vagabondia

by Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey


 

A STACCATO TO O LE LUPE


 

O LE LUPE, Gelett Burgess, this is very sad to find:
In The Bookman for September, in a manner most unkind,
There appears a half-page picture, makes me think I’ve lost my mind.

They have reproduced a window,—Doxey’s window,—(I dare say
In your rambles you have seen it, passed it twenty times a day,)

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As "A Novel Exhibition of Examples of Decay."

There is Nordau we all sneer at, and Verlaine we all adore,
And a little book of verses with its betters by the score,
With three faces on the cover I believe I’ve seen before.

Well, here’s matter for reflection, makes me wonder where I am.

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Here is Ibsen the gray lion, linked to Beardsley the black lamb.
I was never out of Boston; all that I can say is, "Damn!"

Who could think, in two short summers we should cause so much remark,
With no purpose but our pastime, and to make the public hark,
When I soloed on The Chap-Book, and you answered with The Lark!

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Do young people take much pleasure when they read that sort of thing?
"Well, they buy it," answered Doxey, "and I take what it will bring.
Publishers may dread extinction—not with such fads on the string.

"There is always sale for something, and demand for what is new.
These young men who are so restless, and have nothing else to do,

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Like to think there is ‘a movement,’ just to keep themselves in view.

"There is nothing in Decadence but the magic of a name.
People talk and papers drivel, scent a vice, and hint a shame;
And all that is good for business, helps to boom my little game."

But when I sit down to reason, think to stand upon my nerve,

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Meditate on portly leisure with a balance in reserve,
In he comes with his "Decadence!" like a fly in my preserve.

I can see myself, O Burgess, half a century from now,
Laid to rest among the ghostly, like a broken toy somehow,
All my lovely songs and ballads vanished with your "Purple Cow."

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But I will return some morning, though I know it will be hard,
To Cornhill among the bookstalls, and surprise some minor bard,
Turning over their old rubbish for the treasures we discard.

I shall warn him like a critic, creeping when his back is turned,
"Ink and paper, dead and done with; Doxey spent what Doxey earned;

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Poems doubtless are immortal, where a poem can be discerned!"

How his face will go to ashes, when he feels his empty purse!
How he’ll wish his vogue were greater; plume himself it is no worse;
Then go bother the dear public with his puny little verse!

Don’t I know how he will pose it; patronize our larger time;

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"Poor old Browning; little Kipling; what attempts they made to rhyme!"
Just let me have half an hour with that nincompoop sublime!

I will haunt him like a purpose, I will ghost him like a fear;
When he least expects my presence, I’ll be mumbling in his ear,
"O Le Lupe lived in Frisco, and I lived in Boston here.

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"Never heard of us? Good heavens, can you never have been told
Of the Larks we used to publish, and the Chap-Books that we sold?
Where are all our first editions?" I feel damp and full of mould.