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Composed at Cannes,
December 9th, 1867


(Interlocutors--Mr. Lear and Mr. and Mrs. Symonds.)

 Edwardus--What makes you look so black, so glum, so cross?
           Is it neuralgia, headache, or remorse?

 Johannes--What makes you look as cross, or even more so?
           Less like a man than is a broken Torso?

        E--What if my life is odious, should I grin?
           If you are savage, need I care a pin?

        J--And if I suffer, am I then an owl?
           May I not frown and grind my teeth and growl?

        E--Of course you may; but may not I growl too!
           May I not frown and grind my teeth like you!

        J--See Catherine comes! To her, to her,
           Let each his several miseries refer;
           She shall decide whose woes are least or worst,
           And which, as growler, shall rank last or first.

Catherine--Proceed to growl, in silence I'll attend,
           And hear your foolish growlings to the end;
           And when they're done, I shall correctly judge
           Which of your griefs are real or only fudge.
           Begin, let each his mournful voice prepare,
           (And pray, however angry, do not swear!)

        J--We came abroad for warmth, and find sharp cold!
           Cannes is an imposition, and we're sold.

        E--Why did I leave my native land, to find
           Sharp hailstones, snow, and most disgusting wind?

        J--What boots it that we orange trees or lemons see,
           If we must suffer from such vile inclemency?

        E--Why did I take the lodgings I have got,
           Where all I don't want is:--all I want not?

        J--Last week I called alout, O! O! O! O!
           The ground is wholly overspread with snow!
           Is that at any rate a theme for mirth
           Which makes a sugar-cake of all the earth?

        E--Why must I sneeze and snuffle, groan and cough,
           If my hat's on my head, or if it's off?
           Why must I sink all poetry in this prose,
           The everlasting blowing of my nose?

        J--When I walk out the mud my footsteps clogs,
           Besides, I suffer from attacks of dogs.

        E--Me a vast awful bulldog, black and brown,
           Completely terrified when near the town;
           As calves perceiving butchers, trembling reel,
           So did my calves the approaching monster feel.

        J--Already from two rooms we're driven away,
           Because the beastly chimneys smoke all day;
           Is this a trifle, say?  Is this a joke?
           That we, like hams, should be becooked in smoke?

        E--Say, what avails it that my servant speaks
           Italian, English, Arabic, and Greek,
           Besides Albanian; if he don't speak French,
           How can I ask for salt, or shrimps, or tench?

        J--When on the foolish hearth fresh wood I place,
           It whistles, sings, and squeaks, before my face;
           And if it does unless the fire burns bright,
           And if it does, yet squeaks, how can I write?

        E--Alas! I needs must go and call on swells,
           That they may say, "O Pray draw me the Estrelles."
           On one I went last week to leave a card,
           The swell was out--the servant eyed me hard:
           "This chap's a thief disguised," his face expressed:
           If I go there again, may I be blest!

        J--Why must I suffer in this wind and gloom!
           Roomattics in a vile cold attic room?

        E--Swells drive about the road with haste and fury;
           As Jehu drove about all over Jewry.
           Just now, while walking slowly, I was all but
           Run over by the Lady Emma Talbot,
           Whom not long since a lovely babe I knew,
           With eyes and cap-ribbons of perfect blue.

        J--Downstairs and upstairs, every blessed minute,
           There's each room with pianofortes in it.
           How can I write with noises such as those?
           And, being always discomposed, compose?

        E--Seven Germans through my garden lately strayed
           And all on instruments of torture played:
           They blew, they screamed, they yelled: how can I paint
           Unless my room is quiet, which it ain't?

        J--How can I study if a hundred flies
           Each moment blunder into both my eyes?

        E--How can I draw with green or blue or red,
           If flies and beetles vex my old bald head?

        J--How can I translate German Metaphys-
           -Ics, if mosquitoes round my forehead whizz?

        E--I've bought some bacon (Though it's much too fat),
           But round the house there prowls a hideous cat;
           Once should I see my bacon in her mouth,
           What care I if my rooms look north or south?

        J--Pain from a pane in one cracked window comes,
           Which sings and whistles, buzzes, shrieks and hums;
           In vain amain with pain the pane with this chord
           I fain would strain to stop the beastly dischord!

        E--If rain and wind and snow and such like ills
           Continue here, how shall I pay my bills?
           For who through cold and slush and rain will come
           To see my drawings and to purchase some?
           And if they don't, what destiny is mine?
           How can I ever get to Palestine?

        J--The blinding sun strikes through the olive trees,
           When I walk out, and always makes me sneeze.

        E--Next door, if all night long the moon is shining,
           There sits a dog, who wakes me up with whining.

    Cath.--Forbear!  You both are bores, you've growled enough:
           No longer will I listen to such stuff!
           All men have nuisances and bores to afflict 'um;
           Hark then, and bow to my official dictum!
           For you, Johannes, there is most excuse,
           (Some interruptions are the very deuce),
           You're younger than the other cove, who surely
           Might have some sense--besides, you're somewhat poorly.
           This therefore is my sentence, that you nurse
           The Baby for seven hours, and nothing worse.
           For you, Edwardus, I shall say no more
           Than that your griefs are fudge, yourself a bore;
           Return at once to cold, stewed, minced, hashed mutton--
           To wristbands ever guiltless of a button--
           To raging winds and sea (where don't you wish
           Your luck may ever let you catch one fish?)--

           To make large drawings nobody will buy--
           To paint oil pictures which will never dry--
           To write new books which nobody will read--
           To drink weak tea, on tough old pigs to feed--
           Till spring-time brings the birds and leaves and flowers,
           And time restores a world of happier hours.
[from The Complete Nonsense Book,
edited by Lady Strachey, 1912, pp. 397-402.
This poem first appeared in Nonsense Songs and
, edited by Sir Edward Strachey, 1895.
Etext prepared by Doug Love.]

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