Sunday, December 16, 2007

Poets' Corner


when the cold weather
comes i always
get a new interest in sociology
i am almost human that way
it worries me as to how
the other half
are going to get through
the winter
last evening i went
into a cheap eating house
and dropped into a beef stew
and had a warm bath
and a bit to eat
and listened afterwards
to a couple of bums
who had begged enough
during the day to get a supper
they were talking
about this new movement
on the part of the jobless
and homeless
to take possession of the churches
and live there during
the cold weather
said the first bum
i dont think i could do it
it would bring up
too many associations
you see i am a minister s son
you too exclaimed the second bum
why i also
am the son of a preacher
my father was a minister
in small towns all his life
he worked himself to death at it
he never got paid enough
to live on
and it was not until i left home
and became a hobo that i ever
got as much as i wanted to eat
at one meal
precisely my experience
said the other bum
have you ever had any temptation
said number one to quit being a hobo
and take a regular job
yes said number two
very often
but i have always had
the strength of character
to resist temptation
it is my duty to my fellow men
to see that they have
material on which to wreak
their passion to be charitable
during the christmas holidays
it makes the well to do
more comfortable and gives
them a warm virtuous glow
when they give me a dime
and i should not feel justified
in taking from them
such a simple and inexpensive pleasure
yes said the other bum
the rich we have always with us
they are the great problem of the age
we must treat them as well
as we can and help them
to have a little fun by the way
so that they can forget at least temporarily
the biblical assurance
that it is as hard for them to enter
the kingdom of heaven
as for a camel
to pass through a needle s eye
well said the other one
sometimes i think i would
be willing to change places with a rich man
and run the risk
oh certainly said the other
i have never had any instinctive
hatred for riches
it is only work that i detest
riches are all very well
if you inherit them
but i doubt if they are worth
toiling for
think of all the millions
toiling miserably in order
to be damned
it is a pathetic sight
but if one inherits riches
he knows that the fates
have doomed him to be damned
before his birth
and it is of little use to struggle
that is far different from striving
desperately all one s life
to lay up enough wealth
to damn one
i perceive said his new found friend
that your early training
has stayed by you
you have a truly religious nature
yes replied the other
at the cost of great
personal sacrifice in many ways
i have kept myself
an object of charity
in order to foster
the spirituality of the well to do
the most passionate piety
could do but little more
but if you had inherited
great riches said the other bum
would you have given them to the poor
i doubt was the reply
that i would have felt justified
in doing that
i would more likely have said to myself
that providence
had by that token
marked me out as one destined
to hell fire
and would have considered it
impious to struggle against
the manifest wishes of heaven
well sighed the other
life is full of terrible problems
indeed it is
rejoined his friend
but i am afraid that i shall
never solve even the least of them
when i am empty and cold
i am not in the mood for meditation
and when i am warm and replete
i go to sleep
the few guiding principles
i learned in father s church
have carried me thus far
and i shall go on to the end
never thinking beyond them
i merely apply them literally
and they work
they have made me what i am
he concluded complacently


FROM: the lives and times of archy and mehitabel by don marquis
doubleday doran & co inc 1935

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