By Christopher Morley
TRANSLATIONS OF THE CHINESE
HIDE AND SEEK
THE ROCKING HORSE
New York: George H. Doran Company
NEW -GDH- YORK
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES
AN ANGLO-AMERICAN MANDARIN
IN WHOSE HEART ARE MANY
LOGAN PEARSALL SMITH
A Letter of Ballast
Dear Pearsall Smith:
All things, however minute, have their origin; and these fragments, now dedicated to you without your knowledge or permission, were in genesis both hazardous and humble. They were born in a rolltop desk. In 1918, as you know I was working on the Philadelphia Evening Ledger —where I had charge of a column whose most genuine source of pride was that it first gave printers’ ink to some of your prose butterflies now framed and mounted as Mere Trivia. At that time I used to write what I call Synthetic Poems, which began as a mild burlesque of the vers libre epidemic. But I also had a feeling that free verse, then mainly employed as the vehicle as a rather gaudy impression of mere eccentricity, might prove a viable medium for humorous, ironic and satiric brevities. I experimented by including a few of the Synthetic Poems in a book which was in general of quite a different kind. (To gratify the publisher I will mention its title, The Rocking Horse.) I must admit that no one noticed them.
About the same time there arose an access of interest in oriental poem-forms. You yourself sent me from London a volume of Arthur Waley’s delightful Chinese translations. Miss
Amy Lowell and others were busy with Japa-nese Echoes. To paraphrase the old English song, it was “Loud sing Hokku” all across the map. So instead of Synthetic Poems I began to call my broodings Translations from the Chinese; and, for some unknown reason, printed them over the bogus signature of “John Cavendish.” To my surprise and even to my embarrassment, letters soon arrived from earnest literates. Who was John Cavendish? they asked. What about these Translations? they exclaimed. Where can one learn more about Chinese poetry? And they enclosed stamped addressed envelopes. Once more was expressed the beautiful human faculty for tak-ing seriously whatever appears in print. I went ahead, conscientiously, to satisfy the de-mand. In a little book (again I catch the publishers eye) called Hide and Seek I included a large section of Chinese translations, with biographical notes upon the Oriental authors—
done in such a vein that not even the gravest follower of the spurious Cavendish could mis-take the intention.
But there is a gist of this unimportant mat-ter. Little by little my Chinese sages began to coalesce and assume a voice of their own. I became not their creator but their stenographer. I began to feel a certain respect and affection for the “Old Mandarin” who was dimly emerg-ing as their Oriental spokesman. I began to realize that the mind speaks many languages, and some of its sudden intuitions and exclama-tions are truly as enigmatic to us as Chinese writing. We all like to imagine that some-
where, in some far-away Orient of our spirit, there is a philosophy and a way (as Lao-Tse would say) that views with smiling bland com-posure the sad antics of men under the pressure of conflicting desires. In all hearts there is this lurking minified Mandarin whose mockery is more potent because it is serene and hopeless. My own particular Mandarin was born, as I say, in a rolltop desk; by which I mean in a newspaper office. It’s a favorable place for such cheerfully wistful wraiths to arise, for nowhere so insistently as in a newspaper office does one necessarily scrutinize the gallant frenzy of the race.
So my Mandarin gradually became a very real Familiar, and sometimes I see him peering out of a pigeon-hole, mocking me in his suave fashion. The odd thing is that his scoffing fre-quently changes into moods of pity or ecstacy that are even more disconcerting. In spite of his great age and his disillusion, he has mo-ments that are truly boyish. We all like to say, of a man we admire greatly, that he “has the heart of a child.” Certainly there is a naif appealing youthfulness in some of my Man-darins simplicities. Occasionally, late in a winter afternoon, when I have been (after a whole day of random interruptions) trying to get a few hurried paragraphs written for the newspaper, I have quietly become aware of him standing by the window at my elbow. He looks out at the astounding vista of great buildings, terraced in golden tiers, one above another into the transparent dusk. “Why don’t you get some of that into your writing?”
he says to me, waving his hand toward the view. But I don’t have leisure to answer him, for that is the time when I am hurrying to catch the 5:27 train.
Of course he can be very annoying. It is maddening to hear him contradict and ridicule the compromises and precious makeshifts which we build for self-respect. I tell him that he is an irresponsible doctrine: he has never had to earn a living, to carry on a daily job, or concern himself with anything but pure ration-alism. Also, he has the foreigner’s awkward way of taking our idiom literally. I said to him once, trying to explain a dilema in which I found myself, “I am between the Devil and the Deep Sea.” He smiled that provoking, sallow, tilt eyed smile of his. “Surely your choice is easy,” he said, “for you pretend to be fond of the Sea.” I have tried, in this small book, to translate more or less accurately some of his disturbing comments; but there are many more that I have not been able to render in-telligible. His dialect is often of a sort not found in the glossaries within my reach; and his principles of judgement are so opposite to those on which most of us establish our daily conduct that, as I have told him, I should need a contradictionary to interpret him properly.
So I may, here and there, have made him responsible for sentiments and implications that are my own rather than his. I wish I could tell you how strangely wise and happy he seems, in those rare moments when I am able to give ear to him. In spite of his skepticisms, he apparently sees so much more meaning in
the human panorama than most of us do. And he has the queerest illusions. I have seen him throw down a newspaper in distress because, as he said, he found no word of Beauty in it. And when I explained to him, patiently, that that particular newspaper was not published with any such intention, he said, “Then, why publish it at all?”
Some of my friends, to whom I have talked about this unsettling phantom, have com-plained that he is really to elderly to be a really helpful companion; that his policies were formed under a Bad Old Dynasty; that he is too flippant and volatile to be congenial to Young Intellectuals in whom unorthodoxy has become severe, surly, and compulsory. But I am not one of those that believe that because a man is elderly that he is necessarily shallow. Everyone doubtless considers himself to be wiser, riper, more tolerant, now, than he was one year, five years, ten years ago. And if we think that to be so of ourselves, why may we not credit it as a fact in others? When I meet and talk with some of the youngest and most scathing of the rising Intellectuals, I amuse myself by imagining them as they will be say, thirty years hence. As I listen politely, I can see their faces change and wither. Those can-did young foreheads a little corrugated; those jovial thunderbolts of opinion a little less de-tonative in effect; those busy superlatives grown a trifle grizzled with service. No—I have known so many older heads who really are wiser and wittier than ourselves that I cannot help concluding Time may be a tonic
rather than a sedative. And so I sincerely elect to Stand Up for the Senior Generation. (And then also, when I myself an a Senior, perhaps the Grandchildren will Stand Up for me.)
I don’t know just why I should be saying all this to you, dear Pearsall Smith—except that you seem to have been singularly skillful into carrying on into what one may without offence call Maturity the very spirit and virtue of Youth. I take it that you were perhaps a little elderly in your twenties, which makes you adorably sprightly in your fifties; so much so that you have served in many ways as the per-fect Ambassador from the Men of the Nineties to the Men of the Teens. In you we see how the irreverent humor and hilarious gusto we associate with youth may not merely perdure unabated into the rich urbanity of Middle Age: nay, that they are increased and quick-ened. Uncanonical as it may seem, Youth is the time to be docile and acceptive; not until the Fifth Decade has the mind any real right to begin laughing. Skepticism is meaningless until it emerges from a complete and experi-enced knowledge of all possible beliefs. Long-fellow (I can hear some of my contemporaries titter)—Longfellow wrote an admirable po-tent little satire in his rhymed description of “What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist.” For that is exactly what the hearts of healthy-minded young men do say, and should say. It is a delicious picture of that heavenly earnestness of adolescence. The skepticism of sophomores is only an extroverted form of the same too easy credulity. No
Young Revolutionist is dangerous: it is the Elderly Revolutionist who really makes things revolve. In the young, skepticism is mere biology and demiurge: in the mature it is in-tellectual. And as for matters of theology (in which you have betrayed much acute interest), the study of divinity is usually placed at the wrong end of life. Surely no man should be allowed unanswerably to pulpiteer the Future Life until he himself is near enough to it to make it a reality to his spirit. But if parsons must be ordained in youth, then they should begin as Bishops, and work downward to the really vital office of curate. For the Bishop is respectfully harkened to for his dignity and his scarlet hood; but the curate is listened to (if at all) only for what he says.
It seems too bad, I suddenly realize, to make you the victim of this grotesquely irrelevant pronouncement. But it must stand as your misfortune, since you who write so exquisitely and think with such delicate humorous honesty have shown yourself unwittingly as the ideal liaison officer between the generations. Those who would try absurdly to persuade us that there is some deep seated and inevitable hos-tility between the Young Men and their Elders can never stir up more than a sham battle while we see you pacing pensively between the op-posing trenches. After all, the one paramount virtue, not peculiar to any age, is sincerity.
Which of course suggests the delicious prob-lem as to how far a man may be insincere quite innocently and unconsciously. That indeed is too perilous to discuss. But truly I sometimes
wonder if some of the embattles youths of the Younger Set, who so fiercely defy and reject the wiles of the Foundering Fathers, have ever really seen or known an Older Man? More-over one is tempted to think that those who are so certain that the Intellect and everything really interesting began about the year 1919 are insecurely rooted in the great soil of life itself. Considering that every essential joy and agony of the human spirit was already Old Stuff when Lucretius wrote, that view seems to show a disrespect to Life itself—a serious disability in any artist.
Alas, I have now far overshot my mark, and after these heroics I fear my darling Old Mandarin will seem rather tame. You your-self, dear Pearsall Smith, with your keen ex-cisive sense, could have intimated all this in one glittering page.
The Palimpsest, 19
A TIME OF CRISIS, 21
INSCRIPTION FOR A BUTTERFLY’S WING, 22
ADVICE TO THOSE HIRING YOUNG MANDARINS, 23
INSCRIPTION FOR A MAN-HOLE IN BROOKLYN, 24
INSCRIPTION FOR A DOOR KNOCKER ON TENTH
“THE SUN’S OVER THE FOREYARD,” 26
THE OLD MANDARIN ON HIS TRAVELS, 27
AN AMERICAN MYSTIC, 28
HE LIKES TO GIVE BOTH SIDES OF THE MAT-
HE PASSES ON THE GOOD WORD, 30
THE OLD MANDARIN GRIEVES, 31
A LETTER TO HIS FRIEND HO KUM, 32
VIGNETTE OF A POET, 33
VERY FEW REMEMBER, 34
THOUGHTS IN A KITCHEN, 35
ONLY WORD OF MOUTH, 36
A LETTER TO HIS FRIEND MU KOW, 38
HE COMFORTS HIMSELF, 40
HE IS ONLY HUMAN, 41
A MOMENT OF MEDITATION, 42
LITTLE MINDS EVERYWHERE THE SAME, 43
AN ENIGMA IN THE WOODPILE, 44
HIS EXPERIENCE WITH THE NEWSPAPERS, 45
DEUS HAEC OTIA FECIT, 47
BURROWING LIKE A MOLE, 48
THE HUBBUB OF THE UNIVERSE, 49
AN ARTIST, 50
A PATTERN IN THE MUD, 51
THE CIGARETTE STUB, 52
TO HIS SERVING MAID, 53
MEDITATIONS ON POETRY, 57
A PRAGMATIST, 58
A HAPPY LIFE, 59
A NATIONAL FRAILTY, 60
THE MAN WITH THE RAKE, 61
VERITAS VOS DAMNABIT, 63
ANOTHER POSTPONEMENT, 64
ADVANTAGE OF A BOOKISH UPBRINGING, 65
(A + B)², 67
SECRET THOUGHTS, 68
THE REALIST, 69
MUTUAL ESTEEM, 72
SUNK WITHOUT A TRACE, 74
IRRITATION OF THE OLD MANDARIN, 75
HE BROODS, 76
ETERNITY AND THE TOOTH, 78
A PROVERB, 79
THE TOLERATOR, 80
THE PAINTER, 81
THE POET, 82
OH, INEQUITABLE BUILDINGS! 85
TICK DOULOUREAUX, 86
FROM THE CHINESE
There is in each mans heart,
A secret script, a cryptic language:
The strange ideographs of the spirit,
Scribbled over or half erased
By the swift stenography of daily life.
No man can easily decipher this cordi-
This blurred text corrupted by fears
But now and then,
Reading his own heart
(So little studied, such fine reading
He sees fragments of rubric shine
Old words of truth and trouble
Illuminated, red and gold.
the study of this hidden language
Is what I call
Translations from the Chinese.
A TIME OF CRISIS
ON a thin blue morning
Of the Month of Officials
Came Noh Kale, the income tax
I laid down my roll of Confucius
And said: “Friend,
My treasure is at your disposal;
Let us audit it together—
Thirteen unfinished poems,
A letter from an editor
Saying that a check will be here shortly;
My ivory chopsticks,
And this view, from my tea house,
of the girls bathing on the other side of
But still the obstinate agent
And with the reiteration of a primitive
mind cried loudly:
“Quarterly installment still due,
INSCRIPTION FOR A BUTTER-
THERE were two languages:
One is of the Great Mandarins and
It is civil, precise, and meaningless.
The Speach of the Spirit,
So rarely spoken, so dimly understood,
Is haltingly whispered
By lonely men.
In the first I am glip,
In the latter I stammer;
But I know which will serve me
In the Foreign Land.
ADVICE TO THOSE HIRING
WHEN I was private adviser
To Her Celestial serenity The
It was my duty
To interview young Mandarins
Applying for important positions.
I always chose those who were shy,
For shyness in a youth
It is a sign that he is aware
This is a perplexing world
And it is not well to uncover
His golden soul
To those who would not understand it.
INSCRIPTION FOR A MAN-HOLE
In spinning over the leaves of a
The eye catches a glamourous phrase
That a methodical search through the
Fails to rediscover.
Even so, every day,
There are moments of shining astonish-
That my sober retrospection
Can never define.
INSCRIPTION FOR A DOOR-
KNOCKER ON TENTH
THERE are some critics
(Said the Old Mandarin, sip-
ping a petit verre)
Who remind me of a gong at a grade
Clanging loudly and vainly
As the train roars by.
“THE SUN’S OVER THE
WHEN I was a passenger in the
I became aware of a pleasant
the captain’s boy used to come politely
“The captain’s compliments, and the
sun’s over the foreyard.”
And presently I learned that this meant
Come aft to the poop
And have a drink.
For mariners, men of sound self-control,
Never touch the bottle
Until the sun reaches the yards.
Now that I myself am a seaman
I always ship in square sail,
Never in steam.
In a steamer
The yards are so much higher.
THE OLD MANDARIN ON HIS
WHEN I visited America
I saw two things that struck
me as extraordinary:
People packed in the subway
Rocking uneasily on their hams
Endlessly studying the newspapers;
And people packed in the movies
Endlessly staring at the films.
I said to myself
If the American people ever develop
There are two great industries
That will crash.
AN AMERICAN MYSTIC
BUT you do not understand the
Said an American mystic
Sitting next to me at the Rotary Club.
It is a traveling hermitage,
A flying monastery,
A nunnery that moves at fifty miles an
Into it’s roaring wagons
Thoughtful men and women descend
They know that there,
The only place in the whole city,
They can meditate undisturbed.
HE LIKES TO GIVE BOTH SIDES
OF THE MATTER
AND as for the newspapers
You forget that they are the last
Many a poor devil has.
Go down to Battery Park
And see the chaps lying on the grass.
Newspapers are their blankets,
Their pillows, their sunshades;
Newspapers their Bibles.
After everything else has gone
A poor bum will cling to his newspaper
As his last link with life.
HE PASSES ON THE GOOD
THE Americans, I said,
Are the kindest people in the
The most excitable,
The most juvenile.
The men are unaware of philosophy,
The women are unaware they are un-
aware of philosophy,
But the young girls . . .
And while I was talking
I heard with annoyance
My grand-nephew whispering,
“I must visit America.
I never heard the old statesman so elo-
THE OLD MANDARIN GRIEVES
WHEN I was in New York
I studied the faces of the peo-
ple reading newspapers
In the subway,
And I saw that the papers most read
Were sensational, sordid, salacious.
And in my mind I composed a little
To the editors of those papers.
“Your readers needed plain nourishing
truth” (I said)
“And you gave them this scented com-
Spiced and sugared with vanilla and
They asked for bread
And you gave them
A chocolate eclair.”
A LETTER TO HIS FRIEND
I WAS interested in New York
By the theatre advertisements,
And the skill with which
The critics’ notices are utilized.
There was a play called Nancy Knocks
The Lens wrote: “This play is extraor-
dinary pestilent rot,
Only by the tragically inappropriate
talent of Mr. Soandso
Is there an occasional flash of humor.”
I thought to myself:
“That show in done for, and a good job
The next day I read the advertisements.
“Extraordinary . . . humor.”—Lens.
VIGNETTE OF A POET
I GAVE a lecture (said the Old
To some friendly people in a New
And they told me that the famous poet,
William Butler Yeates,
Had once lectured there,
But that nobody could hear him.
And as he murmured his beautiful wist-
(Becoming less and less audible)
The audience began to twitch.
Suddenly he said:
“My poetry always seems sad,
But it never seemed as sad as it does to-
VERY FEW REMEMBER
AS I went down from Trenton
By a strip of canal sword-blade
blue in the dusk,
I suddenly remembered
That this was the way to Camp Dix
And I remembered
Troop trains traveling in the night.
THOUGHTS IN THE KITCHEN
THE night I cave a supper to
Chancellor Mu kow
My serving maid departed,
And after the ceremony
I had to do the cleaning-up myself.
and I was thinking:
Even an “informal” dinner
Means a terrible lot of washing up.
and though it takes a pretty big flame
To boil a cauldron of water,
A very small flame
Will keep it boiling.
there must be some philosophical appli-
cation for these thoughts
If I could only discern it.
ONLY WORD OF MOUTH
WHEN I die
I shall miss the ads.
There will be plenty of ads in
Car - cards, billboards, double - page
All the delightful old favorites,
Such jolly folderol,
Such appealing bunkum.
But in Hell
There will be no ads—
It is too honest.
WHEN I visit your Great City
One of the newspapers
Was conducting a department
The Inquiring Reporter.
And I noticed
That no matter what questions the
To the citizens he met
(Whether matters of finance, politics,
ethics or sport)
They always had a definite answer
Prompt and precise,
Knowing exactly what ought to be done
What a shock it would have been to that
If he had met me,
For I might have said:
“I’m not sure. Come again to-morrow,
When I have had time to think it over,
And I may be able to offer an opinion.”
A LETTER TO HIS FRIEND
THE Americans are wrongly sup-
posed to be
Deficient in delicate sentiment.
For when I was in New York
I went to Polo Grounds
To see what they call the World’s
One has to watch baseball every instant,
Or you miss something.
For while I was foolishly admiring
The gold Frontier of sunlight receding on the turf
There was a loud cry,
A whirl of dust and limbs,
And I feared some tragic accident.
But when I asked what was amiss
The man next to me, with tears in his eyes,
Said that one of the players
Had stolen home.
And I thought to myself
How charmingly touching:
Here, amid all the uproar and excite-
This fine fellow could not resist the call
of his loved ones
And sacrificed his enjoyment just to
greet his wife and bairns.
There can be no question about it,
For the next morning I read an account
of the game
Written by Irvin Cobb, one of their
And he wrote:
“McNally, afflicted with acute nos-
HE COMFORTS HIMSELF
WHEN I visited America
(It is the tedious Old Man-
I was eager to visit the birthplaces
Of Emily Dickinson and Louise Imogen
And I found that this people
Had so neglected two of their greatest
That they hardly even knew their
But I was not peevish or distraught:
I said to myself
Humanity is everywhere alike—
I myself am but little known in China.
HE IS ONLY HUMAN
ONLY once, I think,
Did I loose my temper;
And that was when the newsboy
In a train on Long Island
Cried, in a voice of violent hoarse as-
“Buy Bringing Up Father,
The Funniest Book Ever Published.”
With my Oriental respect for ancestry,
And later I said to the lad
(With, I fear, a touch of bitterness)
“Have you ever read The Wrong
A MOMENT OF MEDITATION
I WAS told that America was a free
But I found many of its substantial
Terrorized by the advertisements
into believing it was immoral
To wear a straw hat
Later than September 15th.
Wise men know
there is no such thing as a free coun-
There never will be.
LITTLE MINDS EVERYWHERE
WHEN I walked in America
In my ample robes of a phi-
Little dogs barked at me
And rude street-boys
Called me Lane Bryant,
Which is, apparently,
The name of an American mandarin.
Even so, when Prominent Americans
Go hurrying about in their tubular
Little dogs bark with anguish.
Thus do petty minds in all lands
Confronted by the unusual
Show their distress.
AN ENIGMA IN THE WOODPILE
AN American friend of mine,
A Man in a newspaper office,
Is very wealthy
He tells me he has an income
Of 10,000 interruptions a year.
HIS EXPERIENCE WITH THE
W HEN the ship came up the
The New York Reporters
Hastened to assail me with questions.
For some curious reason
They were eager for my views
On the Fourth Dimension,
Which was then
(So I heard afterward)
A subject of violent discussion
In the Sunday Magazine Sections.
Rather pleased in their interest in such
I said, in all good faith,
The Fourth Dimension is Supra-
It bears the same relation to Space
That Space does to Flatness.
It may be said to be Continuity,
Or, speaking poetically,
It is the Shadow
That Time casts on Eternity.
But the High-spirited City Editors,
Finding these modest thoughts of mine
They came out that afternoon with
AGED MANDARIN SAYS SHORT SKIRTS
MAKE HIM FEEL YOUNG AGAIN.
DEUS HAEC OTIA FECIT
I SEE a lawn
Strewn here and there with little knobs of bone
And chewed billets,
And I feel justified in saying
Is a dog.
I see a world
Strewn here and there
With delightful evidences of law—
Geometrical cobwebs, dark blue thun-
The lid of the tea kettle gently chin-
Hailstones round and white as cam-
I say, it looks as though there were a
Even if this god is only the binomial
He is no less a god.
BURROWING LIKE A MOLE
W HAT is the difference
Between a Fried Egg
And a Freuá Ego?
The same (my dear) as between
THE HUBBUB OF THE
MAN makes a great fuss
About this planet
Which is only a ball-bearing
In the hub of the universe.
it reminds me
Of the stuff of a humorous weekly
Sitting in grave conference
On a two-line joke.
I KNOW a shoeshiner
Who applies his liquid polish
With little thin brushes
And breathes careful anxiety
As he paints the edge of my souls.
He ought to use a mahlstick—
He is an artist at heart.
A PATTERN IN THE MUD
SOMETIMES, in the slime of a
You will see a clear and lovely
Of little loops and triangles
Imprinted by the tire
Of a motor truck.
Such was the life of No Sho,
The young and tender poet.
the city crushed him,
But he left his runes
In the grime.
THE CIGARETTE STUB
TOSSED aside in the uproar
No Sho was quenched;
But in his verses
You will hear a satirical whisper
Like the hiss of a cigarette stub
Cast into a sink.
TO HIS SERVING MAID
Whom he discovered throwing per-fectly good food into the garbage pail, e. g., remnants of lotus salad, pickled snails, and fragments of birds’ nests which might have been made into nourishing soup.
TRANSFIXED with anguish
(O Daughter of Inequity)
I stood when I saw the sarcastic
Gild the contents of your
Unthrifty garbage can.
O wasteful and slack minded offspring
Of cheese-witted peasantry,
Fallen in evil ways
While in service to the Peking profi-
When half the world is starving
You would toss away
A practicable mouse-patty
Or an undamaged rice-cake—
When you die
And your miserable wraith
Approached the Pagoda of the Immor-
May even that lean and grissly portion
of your spirit
Which is worth saving
Be tossed without hesitation
Into the pergatorial incinerator.
I SAW a man about to write a poem:
He trod ruthlessly down a subway
Leaving behind him, left and right.
And anguished faces.
Twenty minutes later
He wrote a lyric
Of exquisite tenderness.
IN a subway car
I saw a girl
reading the New Re-
Her long dark lashes
Were bent above an article
Called “The Surplus Woman”
She was temptingly beautiful
And she smiled upon the text
With gentle assurance and security.
MEDITATIONS ON POETRY
POETS seem to be much in demand.
Drawing room evenings, women’s
Literary luncheons, Chamber of Com-
Wherever two or three sandwiches are
There is always a poet
Exchanging his “message”
For an equivalent bulk
Of chow mein
And jellied sharks’ fins.
All of this is proof
Of a widespread hunger,
And not merely on the part of the poet.
THE American poet Lindsay
(A mercurial fellow)
Began his career
By codifying the ways in which the poet
Can get a free meal.
Here was a seer!
Here was a man with a strong grasp of
A HAPPY LIFE
THE American poet Whitman
Did little to assist the razor
But he erected a plausible philosophy
Which, without soft concealments,
He called Loafing,
This so irritated the American people
(Who were busy putting up buildings
And tearing them down again)
That they never forgave him.
He was deficient in humor,
But he had a good time.
A NATIONAL FRAILTY
THE American people
Were put into the world
To assist Foreign lecturers.
When I visited them
They filled the crowded halls
To hear me tell the Great Truths
Which they might as well have read
In their own prophet Thoreau.
They paid me, for this,
Three hundred dollars a night,
And ten of their mandarins
Invited me to visit at Newport.
My agent told me
If I would wear Chinese costume on the
It would be five hundred.
THE MAN WITH THE RAKE
IT is queer to think that many people
Have never raked leaves.
On a brilliant Sunday morning in
I admired trees as ruddy as burnt or-
The sauterne of the leaves, I said to
And enjoying the crisp rustle.
That is what I like about raking
it is wine and opiate for the mind:
The incessant skirmish of the wit is
And as you rake and burn
And dodge, with smarting eyes,
The pungent, veering reek,
You fall into a dull easy muse,
And think to yourself,
After all, what is writing books
But raking leaves?
And at such times
I plant the seeds of poems.
it takes poems a long time to grow—
They lie germinating in the dark of the
But next spring, very likely,
There may emerge the green and tender
Of two or three bright stanzas.
VERITAS VOS DAMNABIT
IT is the Mark of extreme youth
To believe that telling the Whole
Is always useful.
Truth is not a diet
But a condiment.
ONCE, on a midnight of rain and
When the windowsrattled in
The hollow darkness,
I was in the kitchen
Eating cold turkey and cranberry sauce
Frisked from the icebox.
My mind was clear and busy:
Then, I suppose, I came as near as I ever
To being ready to write a great
poem. . . .
But I lay down on my couch to meditate
And was soon fast asleep.
ADVANTAGE OF A BOOKISH
WHEN the wine has done its rosy
(As the reputable English
I enjoy to study in tranquility
the lovable absurdities of men.
And then my familiarity with litera-
Beasteads me well,
Affording me always a scholarly expla-
For conduct seemingly eccentric.
Once, I remember,
After an evening in which Chancellor
Mu Kow and myself
Had repeatedly toasted toe loveliness
of the moon,
Condoling our solitude
In the wide pale sky,
I lay in a perfection of comfortable
In a gently revolving cabbage field.
But my wife’s parents
Heading the search party
Discovered me there, and cried lamen-
tation and oxytones.
Be of good cheer, I said:
It is with me as with the great Flaubert
Who pernoctated in a cabbage patch
Noting down, for purpose of literature,
The tincture of moonshine
On the leaves of the vegetables.
Even so, I sacrifice myself for realism.
Tenderly they carried me in.
(A + B)²
MARRIAGE is the square of a
In other words
a² + b² + 2ab
Where 2ab (of course)
AND while my visitor prattled
I courteously nodded;
My eye was fast upon him,
My face bright with attention;
But inwardly I was saying:
“The excellent fellow, why does he tell
me all this?
What has this to do with me?
O Buddha, when will he depart?”
THE sun shown on the meadow
And the painted silver patines on
the level river;
A purple bird spread scarlet wings
Under the trumpet vine arbor
And the scent of the pink melons was
in the balmy air.
But, down there by the waterside,
These colors gave me no comfort.
I was wondering
Whether an early morning bath
would ease my mahogony colored
Of his plague of fleas.
AN Irish acquaintance
Insists, with monotonous outcry,
That I have been bought
“With British gold.”
This is agreeable news,
Do the payments begin?
YOU should never tell your dreams
If you wish them to come true”
My dear old great-aunt used to
Since Freud went into a second edition
I see she was ahead of her time.
(A witty Frenchman has pointed
Was not an original creator,
For He made man
In His own image.
That is why man
Spells Him with a capital.
EDWARD BOK has related
That when he went to call
On Randolph Waldo Emerson in
his last years,
The old philosopher
Was noncomposed in his wits.
If so, it was probably because
He had a psychic vision
Of the long panorama of the L.H.J.
Stretching away into the future.
SUNK WITHOUT A TRACE
WE are well called brokers
For we are usually broke,
Cried the old financier on his
But the heirs all unsuspecting
Were out among the Grand Banks
Fishing for codicils.
IRRITATION OF THE OLD
THERE was another reporter
(A young woman, this time)
Who came to my hotel to ask
The Fine Art of Self-Salesmanship
Had made much progress in China?
I said, “Dear young Madam,
As regards ladies, our language has for
that Fine Art
An ugly word.
As regards Aggressive Business Men
I can only say,
STUDYING the life of the Ameri-
Its nervous haste,
It’s lack of privacy,
I said to myself:
Oysters are here
But, loving this volatile people,
And desiring their souls’ good,
When will cloisters
Come in season?
Is a disease of the oyster.
Is a disease of the spirit
Caused by the irritation
Of a granule of Truth
Fallen into that soft grey bivalve
We call the mind.
ETERNITY AND THE TOOTH
IN regard to Eternity (said the Old
I feel about it as I do about one of
Every now and then it gives me
A devil of a twinge,
And for a while
I groan and can think of naught else.
Then the anguish abates and I dismiss
it from my mind.
But I know, just the same,
That some day
I’ve got to go through with it.
WE have a saying in China
That a man will wash his
hands cleaner for visitors
Than he will for the family.
He who is full of sentensious wisdom in
Maybe dark and doubtful within.
FROM time to time
I have laid my heart bare before
And you did not like it.
So I must point out to you
It is my heart, not yours.
My wrongness, perhaps,
Is dearer to me
Than your rightness.
Yet you must not think
That when I disagree with you
I dislike you.
On the contrary:
I love you for having ideas of your own.
I know how you came to have those
And they are precious to you.
I TALKED with a young painter,
And as we came along Beekman
My eye dwelt upon the shining audacity
Of the Woolworth Building.
But he was peering downward along the
Where were clear pools of melted snow.
“See!” he cried,
“That’s how it ought to be painted!”
There, reflected in a long panel of water,
Sharp and exquisite, was the pale
Enriching every puddle in the neigh-
True! I said—
beauty like the Medusa:
Look her in the face, and you run mad;
But, like Perseus,
Study her reflection in the polished
Look upon life in the mirror of some art
And, perhaps, you will stay sane.
I TALKED with a poet
Who had just cashed a royalty check.
“In the past six months,” he boasted,
“They sold thirty copies.
I tell you, it warms the cockles
Of my right-hand trouser.”
In your Great City
I see, in jewelers’ windows,
Clocks that tell the guaranteed
And in front of those clocks people
Adjusting their watches.
But suppose there were displayed, be-
side the street,
some great poem,
Telling of perfect Truth or Beauty,
How many passers
Would pause to adjust their minds?
ON my way to your theatres, said
the dubious Old Mandarin,
I see To-morrow’s papers
At eight o’clock To-night,
So does your strange mad city
Leap hotly towards the Future,
Tossing aside each day before it is
Hungrily, fatuously, craving the next.
Is it possible that the Editor
Is dissatisfied with each and every of his
That he hurries To-morrow so close
upon its heels?
OH, INEQUITABLE BUILDINGS!
AND as for those who work on
What are they, poor hasty mice,
But cannon fodder?
I AM wounded
In a fatal artery.
The vein of Time is cut,
The minutes are bleeding, bleeding
Bartender, make me a tourniquet for
Or I shall tick to death.
Here Ends This Book of Translations
from the Chinese, Scrupulously De-
ciphered by Christopher Morley
from the original cordiscript,
and published by George H.
Doran Company in the
month of May, 1922.
And both publisher and
author invoke hand-
s o m e generous