|Both parody and satire examples abound in this pointed, self-deprecating criticism of the commercial aspects of the writing business.|
The Rubaiyat of Omar Cayenne
by Gelett Burgess 1866-1951
WAKE! For the Hack can scatter into flight
Shakespere and Dante in a single Night!
The Penny-a-liner is Abroad, and strikes
Our Modern Literature with blithering Blight.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
WAKE! For the Sun who scatter’d into flight
The Stars before him from the field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav’n, and strikes
The Sultan’s Turret with a Shaft of Light.
Before Historical Romances died,
Methought a Voice from Art’s Olympus cried,
“When all Dumas and Scott is still for Sale,
Why nod o’er drowsy Tales, by Tyros tried?”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Before the phantom of False morning died,
Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried,
“When all the Temple is prepared within,
“Why nods the drowsy Worshipper outside?”
A cock-sure Crew with Names ne’er heard before
Greedily shouted---“Open then the Door!
You know how little Stuff is going to live,
But where it came from there is plenty More.”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern shouted---“Open then the Door!
“You know how little while we have to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more.”
Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
The Artist poor to Calendars aspires,
But of the Stuff the Publisher puts out
Most in the Paper Basket soon suspires.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
Where the WHITE HAND OF MOSES on the Bough
Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires.
Harum indeed is gone, and Lady Rose,
And Janice Meredith, where no one knows;
But still the author gushes overtime,
And many a Poet babbles on in Prose.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Iram indeed is gone with all his Rose,
And Jamshyd’s Sev’n-ring’d Cup where no one knows;
But still a Ruby kindles in the Vine,
And many a Garden by the Water blows.
Aldrich’s lips are lock’d; but people buy
High-piping Authoresses, boomed sky-high.
“How Fine!”---the Publisher cries to the Mob,
That monumental Cheek to justify.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And David’s lips are lockt; but in divine
High-piping Pehlevi, with “Wine! Wine! Wine!
“Red Wine!”---the Nightingale cries to the Rose
That sallow cheek of hers to’ incarnadine.
Come, fill the Purse, to Publishers, this Spring,
Your Manuscripts of paltry Passion bring;
The New York Times has oft a little Way
Of praising---let the Times your praises sing.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter garment of Repentance fling;
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter---and the Bird is on the wing.
Whether by Century or Doubleday,
Whether Macmillan or the Harpers pay,
The Publisher prints new books every Year;
The Critics will keep Busy, anyway!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Whether at Naishapur or Babylon
Whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
The wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop,
The Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.
Each Morn a thousand Volumes brings, you say;
Yes, but who reads the Books of Yesterday?
And this first Autumn List that brings the New
Shall take The Pit and Mrs. Wiggs away.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Each Morn a thousand Roses brings, you say;
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?
And this first Summer month that brings the Rose
Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away.
Well, let it take them! What, are we not through
With Richard Calmady and Emmy Lou?
Let Ade and Dooley guy us as they will,
Or Ella Wheeler Wilcox---heed not you.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Well, let it take them! What have we to do
With Kaikobad the Great, or Kaikhosru?
Let Zal and Rustum bluster as they will,
Or Hatim call to Supper—heed not you.
With me despise this kind of Fiction rude
That just divides the Rotten from the Good,
Where names of Poe and Dickens are forgot---
And Peace to Thackeray with his giant Brood!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
With me along some Strip of Herbage strown
That just divides the desert from the sown,
Where name of Slave and Sultan scarce is known,
And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne.
A Book of Limericks---Nonsense, anyhow---
Alice in Wonderland, the Purple Cow
Beside me singing on Fifth Avenue---
Ah, this were Modern Literature enow!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread---and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness---
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!*
*enow means enough
Some for the stories of the World; and some
Sigh for the Boston Transcript till it come;
Ah, take the Sun, and let The Herald go,
Nor heed the Yellow Journalistic scum!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Some for the Glories of This World; and some
Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come;
Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go,
Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!
Look to the blowing Advertiser---“Lo,
Booming’s the way,” he says, “to make Books go!
I advertise until I’ve drained my Purse,
And huge Editions on the Market throw.”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Look to the blowing Rose about us---“Lo,
Laughing,” she says “into the world I blow,
At once the silken tassel of my Purse
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw.”
And those who made a Mint off Miss MacLane,
And those who shuddered at her Jests profane,
Alike consigned her to Oblivion,
And buried once, would not dig up again.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And those who husbanded the Golden grain,
And those who flung it to the winds like Rain,
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn’d
As buried once, Men want dug up again.
Anthony Hope men set their hearts upon---
Like Conan Doyle he prospered; and anon,
Remained unopened on the dusty Shelf,
Delighting us an Hour---and then was gone.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes---or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face,
Lighting a little hour or two---is gone.
Think, in this gaudy monthly Magazine
Whose Covers are Soapette and Breakfastine,
How Author after Author with his Tale
Fills his fool Pages, and no more is seen.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai
Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp
Abode his destined Hour, and went his way.
They say that now Miss Myra Kelly reaps
Rewards that Howells used to have for Keeps:
And Seton, that great Hunter of Wild Beasts
Has Coin ahead; Cash comes to him in Heaps!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
They say the Lion and Lizard keep
The courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:
And Bahram, the great Hunter---the Wild Ass
Stamps o’er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.
I sometimes think that never Prose is read
So good as that by Advertising bred,
And every Verse Sapolian poets sing
Brings laurel wreaths once twin’d for Spenser’s head.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled
;That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head.
And this audacious Author, young and green
In Smart Set---surely you know whom I mean---
Ah, look upon him lightly! For who knows
But once in Lippincott’s he wrote unseen!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And this reviving Herb whose tender Green
Fledges the River-Lip on which we lean---
Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen!
Ah, my Beloved, write the Book that clears
TO-DAY of dreary Debt and Sad Arrears;
To-morrow!---Why, To-morrow I may see
My Nonsense popular as Edward Lear’s.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
TO-DAY of past Regrets and future Fears:
To-morrow---Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n thousand Years.
For some we’ve read, the month’s Six Selling Best
The Bookman scored with elephantine Jest,
Have sold a half a Million in a Year,
Yet no one ever heard of them, out West!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
For some we loved, the loveliest and the best
That from his Vintage rolling Time hath prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to rest.
And we, that now within the Editor’s Room
Make merry while we have our little Boom,
Ourselves must we give way to next month’s Set---
Girls with Three Names, who know not Who from Whom!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And we that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom,
Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend---ourselves to make a Couch---for whom?
Ah, make the most of what we yet may do,
Before our Royalties have vanish’d, too,
Book after Book, and under Book to lie,
Sans Page, sans Cover, Reader---or Review!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and---sans End!
Alike for those who for TODAY have Shame,
And those who strive for some TO-MORROW’s Fame,
A critic from anonymous Darkness cries,
“Fools, your Reward will fool you, just the Same!”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare,
And those that after some TO-MORROW stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries,
“Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There.”
Why, e’en Marie Corelli, who discuss’d
Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, is thrust
Like Elbert Hubard forth; her Words to Scorn
Are scatter’d, and her Books by Critics cussed.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss’d
Of the Two Worlds so wisely…they are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scatter’d and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.
Myself when young did eagerly peruse
James, Meredith and Hardy---but to lose
My Reason, trying to make Head or Tail;
The more I read, the more did they confuse.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about; but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.
With them the Germs of Madness did I sow,
And with “Two Magics” sought to make it grow;
Yet this was all the Answer that I found---
“What it is all about, I do not know!”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d---
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”
Into the Library, and Why not knowing,
Nor What I Want, I find myself a-going;
And out of it, with Nothing fit to Read---
Such is the Catalogue’s anaemic Showing.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Into this Universe, and Why not knowing
Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing;
And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing.
What, without asking, to be hypnotized
Into a Sale of Stevenson disguised?
Oh, many a page of Bernard Shaw’s last Play
Must drown the thought of Novels Dramatized!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
What, without asking hither hurried Whence?
And, without asking, Whither hurried hence!
Oh, many a Cup of this forbidden Wine
Must drown the memory of that insolence!
Up from the Country, into gay Broadway
I came, and bought a Scribner’s, yesterday,
And many a Tale I read and understood,
But not the master-tale of Kipling’s “They.”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Up from Earth’s Center through the Seventh Gate
I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate,
And many a Knot unravel’d by the Road;
But not the Master-knot of Human Fate.
There was a Plot to which I found no Key;
And Others seem to be as Dull as Me;
Some little talk there was of Ghosts, and Such,
Then Mrs. Bathurst left me more at Sea!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
There was the Door to which I found no Key;
There was the Veil through which I might not see:
Some little talk awhile of ME and THEE
There was---and then no more of THEE and ME.
Kim could not answer---Sherlock Holmes would fail---
The most enlightened Browningite turn pale
In futile Wonder and in blank Dismay;
Say, is there ANY Meaning to that Tale?Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Earth could not answer; nor the Seas that mourn
In flowing Purple, of their Lord Forlorn;
Nor rolling Heaven, with all his Signs reveal’d
And hidden by the sleeve of Night and Morn.
Then of the Critic, he who works behind
The Author’s back, I tried the Clue to find;
But he, too, was in Darkness; and I heard
A Literary Agent say---“THEY ALL ARE BLIND!”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Then of the THEE IN ME who works behind
The Veil, I lifted up my hands to find
A lamp amid the Darkness; and I heard,
As from Without---“THE ME WITHIN THEE BLIND!”
Then, from the lips of Editor, I learn,
“This Story is the Kind for which I yearn;
Its Advertising brought us such Renown,
We jumped Three Hundred Thousand, on the Turn!”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Then to the Lip of this poor earthen Urn
I lean’d, the Secret of my Life to learn;
And Lip to Lip it murmur’d---“While you live
,“Drink!---for, once dead, you never shall return.”
I think the man exaggerated some
His increased Circulation,---but, I vum!
If I could get Two Thousand for one Tale,
I’d write him Something that would simply Hum!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
I think the Vessel, that with fugitive
Articulation answer’d once did live,
And drink; and Ah! The passive Lip I kiss’d,
How many Kisses might it take---and give!
For I remember, shopping by the way,
I saw a Novel writ by Bertha Clay;
And there was scrawled across its Title-Page,
“This is the Stuff that Sells---so People say!”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
For I remember stopping by the way
To watch a Potter thumping his wet Clay:
And with its all-obliterated Tongue
It murmur’d---“Gently, Brother, gently, pray!”
Listen---a moment listen!---Of the same
Wood-pulp on which is printed Hewlett’s Name,
The “Duchess” Books are made---in fifty years
They both will rot asunder---who’s to Blame?”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And has not such a Story from of Old
Down Man’s successive generations roll’d
Of such a clod of saturated Earth
Cast by the Maker into Human mold?
And not a Book that from our Shelves we throw
To the Salvation Army, but shall go
To vitiate the Taste of some poor Soul
Who can get nothing else to read---go Slow!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And not a drop that from our Cups we throw
For Earth to drink of, but may steal below
To quench the fire of Anguish in some Eye
There hidden---far beneath, and long ago.
As then the Poet for his morning Sup
Fills with a Metaphor his mental Cup,
Do you devoutly read your Manuscripts
That Somone may, before you burn them up!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
As then the Tulip for her morning sup
Of Heav’nly Vintage from the soil looks up,
Do you devoutly do the like, till Heav’n
To Earth invert you---like an empty cup.
Perplex’d no more with editorial “Nay”
To-morrow’s Reputation cast away,
And lose your College Education in
The flippant, foolish Fiction of To-day.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Perplext no more with Human or Divine,
To-morrow’s tangle to the winds resign,
And lose your fingers in the tresses of
The Cypress-slender Minister of Wine.
And if the Bosh you write, the Trash you read,
End in the Garbage Barrel…take no Heed;
Think that you are no worse than other Scribes,
Who scribble Stuff to meet the Public need.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
End in what All begins and ends in---Yes;
Think then you are TO-DAY what YESTERDAY
You were---TO-MORROW you shall not be less.
So, when WHO’S-WHO records your silly Name,
You’ll think that you have found the Road to Fame;
And though ten thousand other Names are there,
You’ll fancy you’re a Genius, just the Same!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
So when the Angel of the darker Drink
At last shall find you by the river-brink,
And, offering his Cup, invite your Soul
Forth to your Lips to quaff---you shall not shrink.
Why, if an Author can fling Art aside,
And in a Book of Balderdash take Pride,
Wer’t not a Shame---wer’t not a Shame for him
A Conscientious Novel to have tried?Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Why, if the Soul can fling the Dust aside,
And naked on the Air of Heaven ride,
Were’t not a Shame---were’t not a Shame for him
In this clay carcass crippled to abide?
Writing’s a Trade where Newspapers pay best;
LeGalliene this Verity confess’d;
So join the Union, like the rest of us---
Who strikes for Art is looked at as a Jest.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
‘Tis but a Tent where takes his one day’s rest
A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest;
The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash
Strikes, and prepares it for another Guest.
And fear not, if the Editor refuse
Your work, he has no more from which to choose;
The Literary Microbe shall bring forth
Millions of Manuscripts too bad to use.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And fear not lest Existence closing your
Account, and mine, should know the like no more;
The Eternal Saki from that Bowl has pour’d
Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour.
When Fitch’s Comedies have all gone past,
Oh, the long Time Pinero’s plays shall last,
Which of Belasco’s little Triumphs heed
As Frohman’s Self should heed a Bowery Cast!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
When You and I behind the Veil are past,
Oh, but the long, long while the World shall last,
Which of our Coming and Departure heeds
As the Sea’s self should heed a pebble-cast.
A Moment’s Halt---Pray see this charming, chaste
Ladies’ Home Journal---“On the New Shirt Waist”—
“Advice to Girls,” and so forth---here is reach’d
The Nothing women yearn for, undebased!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
A Moment’s Halt—a momentary taste
Of BEING from the Well amid the Waste---
And Lo!---the phantom Caravan has reach’d
The NOTHING it set out from---Oh, make haste!
Would you a hurried Lunch Hour wish to spend
About THE SECRET---hearken to me, Friend!
The Editors themselves must guess their Way---
And on their Wives’ and Sisters’ Hints depend!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Would you that spangle of Existence spend
About the SECRET---quick about it, Friend!
A Hair perhaps divides the False and True;
And upon what, prithee, does life depend?
A Hair perhaps divides the Good from Bad;
And Bok himself a Lot of Trouble had
Before he found Stenographers were Wise---
Then, as they laughed or wept, his Soul was glad.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
A Hair perhaps divides the false and True;
Yes; and a single Alif were the clue---
Could you but find it---to the Treasure-house,
And peradventure to THE MASTER too;
The Woman’s Touch runs through our Magazines;
For her the Home-and-Mother Tale, and Scenes
Of love-and-Action, Happy at the End---
The same old Plots, the same old Ways and Means.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Whose secret Presence through Creation’s veins
Running Quicksilver-like eludes your pains;
Taking all shapes from Mah to Mahi and
They change and perish all---but He remains;
The Theme once guess’d, the Tale’s as good as told,
Though Dialect and Local Color mould;
This Style will last throughout Eternity,
While Women buy our Books---if Books are sold.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
A moment guessed---then back behind the Fold
Immerst of Darkness round the drama roll’d
Which, for the Pastime of Eternity,
He doth Himself contrive, enact, behold.
But if, in spite of this, you build a Plot
Which these immortal Elements has not,
You gaze TO-DAY upon a Slip, which reads:
“The Editor Regrets”---and such-like Rot.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
But if in vain, down the stubborn floor
Of Earth, and up to Heav’n’s unopening Door,
You gaze TO-DAY, while You are You---how then
TO-MORROW, when You shall be You no more?
Waste not your Ink, and don’t attempt to use
That Subtle Touch which Editors refuse;
Better be jocund at two cents a word
Than, starving, court an ill-requited Muse!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Waste not your HOUR, nor in the vain pursuit
Of This and That endeavor and dispute;
Better be jocund with the fruitful Grape
Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.
You know, my Friends, I’ve done with Purple Cows,
And long to sober Fiction paid my Vows;
Spontaneous Glee is mighty hard to Sell---
‘Twas Carolyn Wells that shot across my Bows.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
You know, my Friends, with what a brave Carouse
I made a Second Marriage in my house;
Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed,
And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse.
For Stuff and Nonsense being in my Line,
As Nonsense modern Fiction I define;
But of the sort that one would care for, I
Can Find but Little---and that Little’s mine!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
For “Is” and “Is-not” though with Rule and Line
And “UP-AND-DOWN” by Logic I define,
Of all that one should care to fathom, I
Was never deep in anything but---Wine.
Ah, but this wholesale Satire, you may say,
Makes me pretend to be a Critic---Nay!
Rather be roasted than to roast, say I;
And I have been well roasted, by the way!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Ah, by my Computations, People say,
Reduce the Year to better reckoning?---Nay,
‘Twas only striking from the Calendar
Unborn To-morrow and dead Yesterday.
And lately, in a Studio, A Miss
Sat smiling o’er a Book---and it was this:
“The Pipes of Pan”---she showed it me, and read,
Bidding me pay attention---it was Bliss!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And lately, by the Tavern Door agape,
Came shining through the Dusk an Angel Shape
Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and
He bid me taste of it; and ‘twas---the Grape!
Bliss Carman, who with genius absolute,
My poor satiric Logic can confute;
The only Poet who, in Modern Days,
His Poems can to clinking Gold transmute!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
The Grape that can with Logic absolute
The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute:
The sovereign Alchemist that in a trice
Life’s leaden metal into Gold transmute;
The vagrant Singer, how does he, good Lord,
Compete with such a money-making Horde
Of tinsel rhymesters that infest the Shops?
They say he makes enough to pay his Board!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
The mighty Mahmud, Allah-breathing Lord,
That all the misbelieving and black Horde
Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul
Scatters before him with his whirlwind Sword.
Why, be our Talent truly Art, how dare
Refuse our Lucubrations everywhere?
And if it’s Rot, as our Rejections hint,
God knows the things they print are Rot, for Fair!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Why, be this Juice the growth of God, who dare
Blaspheme the twisted tendril as a Snare?
A Blessing, we should use, should we not?
And if a Curse---why, then, Who set it there?
I must abjure Dramatic Force, I must
Take the Sub-Editor’s decree on Trust,
Or lured by hope of selling something Good,
Write out my Heart---then burn it in Disgust!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
I must abjure the Balm of Life, I must,
Scared by some After-reckoning ta’en on trust,
Or lured with Hope of some Diviner Drink,
To fill the Cup---when crumbled into Dust!
Oh, threats of Failure, hopes of Royalties!
One thing at least I’ve sold---these Parodies;
One thing is certain, Satire always sells;
The Roast is read, no matter where it is.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Of threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise!
One thing at least is certain---This Life Flies;
One thing is certain and the rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.
Strange, is it not? That of the Authors who
Publish in England, such a mighty Few
Make a Success, though here they score a Hit?
The British Public knows a Thing or Two!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
Before us passed the door of Darkness through,
Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
Which to discover we must travel too.
By Revelations of the Past we’ve learn’d
The Yankee Author usually is burn’d;
All of our Story Writers say the Same;
The London Critic all their Books have spurn’d.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
The Revelations of Devout and Learn’d
Who rose before us, and as Prophets burn’d,
Are all but Stories, which, awoke from Sleep
They told their comrades, and to Sleep return’d.
I sent my Agent where the Buyers dwell,
Some clever Stories of my own to sell:
And by and by the Agent said to me,
“One thing I sold---that’s doing Mighty Well!”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And by and by my Soul return’d to me,
And answer’d “I Myself am Heav’n and Hell:”
So Heaven seems tame indeed when I behold
Editions of Five Hundred Thousand sold;
When Clippings show how Critics scorch me, then
Hell’s Roasting seems comparatively Cold!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Heav’n but the Vision of fulfill’d Desire,
And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,
Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.
We are no other than a passing Show
Of clumsy Mountebanks that come and go
To please the General Public; now, who gave
To IT the right to judge, I’d like to know?Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
We are no other than a moving row
Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go
Round with the Sun-illumined Lantern held
In Midnight by the Master of the Show;
Important Writers bound to feed ITS taste
For Literature and Poetry debased;
Hither and thither pandering we strive,
And one by one our Talents are disgraced.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
The Scribe no question makes of Verse or Prose,
But what the Editor demands he shows;
And he who buys three thousand words of Drule,
He knows what People want---you Bet He knows!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Here or There as strikes the Player goes;
And He that toss’d you down into the Field,
He knows about it all---HE knows---HE knows!
The facile Scribbler writes; and, having writ,
No Rules of Rhetoric bother him a Bit,
Or lure him back to cancel half a Line,
Nor Grammar’s protests change a Word of it.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
And though you wring your Hands and wonder Why
Such slipshod Work the Magazines will buy,
Don’t grumble at the Editor, for he
Must serve the Public, e’en as You and I.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’d we live and die,
Lift not your hands to It for help---for It
As impotently moves as you or I.
With Puck’s first joke, they did the last Life feed,
And there of Judge’s Stories sowed the Seed:
And the first jokelet that Joe Miller wrote
The Sunday Comic-Section readers read.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
With Earth’s first Clay They did the Last Man knead,
And there of the Last Harvest sow’d the Seed:
And the first Morning of Creation wrote
What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.
Yesterday This Day’s popular Song supplants;
TO-MORROW’S will be even worse, perchance:
Drink! For the latest Coon-Song’s floating by:
Drink! Now the music is an Indian Dance!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
YESTERDAY This Day’s Madness did prepare;
TO-MORROW’S Silence, Triumph, or Despair:
Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why:
Drink! for you know not why you go nor where.
I tell you this---When, started from the Goal,
The first Plantation Ditty ‘gan to roll
Through Minstrel Troupes and Negro Baritones
In its predestined race from Pole to Pole,Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
I tell you this---When, started from the Goal,
Over the flaming shoulders of the Foal
Of Heav’n Parwin and Mushtari they flung,
In my predestined Plot of Dust and Soul.
The Song had caught a Rag-Time girls could shout
And Piano-Organs make a Din about;
But syncopated Melodies at last
Will pass away, and more shall come, no doubt.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
The Vine had struck a fiber: which about
It clings my Being---let the Dervish flout;
Of my Base metal may be filed a Key
That shall unlock the Door he howls without.
And this I know: though Vaudeville delight,
Musical Comedy can bore me quite;
One act of Ibsen from the Gallery caught,
Better than Daly for a festal Night!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And this I know: whether the one True Light
Kindle to Love, or Wrath-consume me quite,
One Flash of It within the Tavern caught
Better than in the Temple lost outright.
What! out of senseless Show-Girls to evoke
A Drama? Surely, I resent the Joke!
For me, it is not Pleasure, but a Pain---
An Everlasting Bore for decent Folk.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
What! out of senseless Nothing to provoke
A conscious Something to resent the yoke
Of unpermitted Pleasure, under pain
Of everlasting Penalties, if broke!
What, must the Theatre Manager be paid---
Our Gold for what his Carpenter has made---
Must we pay Stars we never did Contract,
And cannot hiss at?---Oh, the sorry trade!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
What! from his helpless Creature be repaid
Pure Gold for what he lent him dross-allay’d---
Sue for a Debt he never did contract,
And cannot answer---Oh the sorry trade!
Oh Thou, who dost with cool sarcastic Grin
Scorn the poor Magazine my Story’s in,
Though Thou impute to ignorance my Work,
I know how bad ‘t will be, ere I begin!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Oh Thou, who didst with pitfall and with gin*
Beset the Road I was to wander in,
Thou wilt not with Predestined Evil round
Enmesh, and then impute my Fall to Sin!
*gin means a trap or snare
Oh Thou, whose Taste demandeth silly Tales,
Damning the Author when he Tries and Fails,
Let us toss up to see which one is Worse---
Thy Fault or mine---Which is it, Heads or Tails?Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Oh Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
And ev’n with Paradise devise the Snake:
For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man
Is blacken’d---Man’s forgiveness give---and take!
As, for his Luncheon Hour, away had slipp’d
The Editor, his Office-Boy I tipp’d,
And once again before the Sacred Desk
I stood, surrounded by much Manuscript.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
As under cover of departing Day
Slunk hunger-stricken Ramazan away,
Once more within the Potter’s house alone
I stood, surrounded by the Shapes of Clay.
Manuscripts of all Sizes, great and small,
Upon that Desk, in numbers to appall!
And Some looked very interesting; some
I saw no Sign of Merit in, at all.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Shapes of all Sorts and Sizes, great and small,
That stood along the floor and by the wall;
And some loquacious Vessels were; and some
Listen’d perhaps, but never talk’d at all.
Said one among them---“Surely not in vain
My Author has exhausted all his Brain
In writing me, to be rejected here---
I’d hate to have to be sent back again!”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Said one among them---“Surely not in vain
My substance of the common Earth was ta’en
And to this Figure molded, to be broke,
Or trampled back to shapeless Earth again.”
Then said a Second---“Ne’er a Girl or Boy
Such Stuff as I am really could enjoy:
Yet He who wrote me, when I am return’d,
Will me with Curse and bitter Wrath destroy!”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Then said a Second---“Ne’er a peevish Boy
Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy;
And He that with his hand the Vessel made
Will surely not in after Wrath destroy.”
After a literary Silence spake
A Manuscript of Henry Jame’s make;
“They sneer at me for being so occult:
But Kipling’s found such Stuff is going to Take!”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
After a momentary silence spake
Some Vessel of a more ungainly Make;
“They sneer at me for leaning all awry:
What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?”
Whereat some one of the typewritten Lot---
I think it was Cy Brady’s---waxing hot---
“All this of Shop and Patter---Tell me then,
Who buys---Who reads---the Stuff that boils my Pot?”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Whereat some one of the loquacious Lot---
I think a Sufi pipkin---waxing hot—
“All this of Pot and Potter---Tell me then,
Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?”
“Why,” said another, “Some there are who tell
Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell
The luckless Tales he marr’d in making---Pish!
He’s a blamed Fool, Any Old Thing will sell!”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
“Why,” said another, “Some there are who tell
Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell
The luckless Pots he marr’d in making---Pish!
He’s a Good Fellow, and ‘twill all be well.”
“Well,” murmur’d one, “Let whoso write or buy,
My words with long Oblivion are gone dry:
But bind me new, let Christy illustrate,
Methinks I’d sell at Christmas time; I’ll try!”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
“Well,” murmured one, “Let whoso make or buy,
My Clay with long Oblivion is gone dry:
But fill me with the old familiar Juice,
Methinks I might recover by and by.”
So while the Manuscripts were wisely speaking,
The Editor came in whom I was seeking;
And then they signall’d to me, “Brother! Brother!
Yours is rejected! You had best be sneaking!”Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
So while the Vessels one by one were speaking,
The little Moon look’d in that all were seeking:
And then they jogg’d each other, “Brother! Brother!
Now for the Porter’s shoulder-knot a-creaking!”
Though Carnegie for Literature provide,
He tombs a Body whence the Life has died,
And no one seems to turn a single leaf
Upon the unfrequented Classic side,Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Ah, with the Grape my fading life provide,
And wash the Body whence the Life has died,
And lay me, shrouded in the living Leaf,
By some not unfrequented Garden-side.
Unless to see some First Editon rare,
Or curious styles of Binding to compare;
Art’s True Believers know their Aldus well,
But of the Author bound, are unaware!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
That ev’n buried Ashes such a snare
Of Vintage shall fling up into the Air
As not a True-believer passing by
But shall be overtaken unaware.
Indeed, Rare Books that they have yearn’d for long
Have done their Literary Taste much wrong;
Reprints of Burton will not sell to-day
(I mean the stupid Burton) for a Song!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Indeed the Idols I have loved so long
Have done my credit in this World much wrong:
Have drown’d my Glory in a shallow Cup,
And sold my Reputation for a song.
Indeed, such First Editions oft before
I envied, but they proved to be a Bore.
Why, are not Tenth Editions still more rare?
Mine are! Why are they not worth even more?Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before
I swore---but was I sober when I swore?
And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand
My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore.
And much as Art has play’d the Infidel
And robb’d me of my Royalties---Ah, well,
I often wonder what the Women read
One half as clever as the Stuff I sell!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And much as Wine has play’d the Infidel,
And robb’d me of my Robe of Honor---Well,
I wonder often what the Vintners buy
One half so precious as the stuff they sell.
Yet Ah, that Spring should come to bring our Woes!
That Christmas Season’s Sales should ever close!
The Book whose praises loud the Critic sang,
Is not the one that sells the most, God knows!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Yet Ah, that Spring should vanish with the Rose!
That Youth’s sweet-scented manuscript should close!
The Nightingale that in the branches sang,
Ah whence, and whither flown again, who knows!
Would but these Book Reviewers ever yield
One glimpse---if dimly, yet indeed, reveal’d
Of what the fainting Traveller can read
Worth reading---but the Critic’s eyes are seal’d.Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Would but the Desert of the Fountain yield
One glimpse---if dimly, yet indeed, reveal’d,
To which the fainting Traveler might spring,
As springs the trampled herbage of the field!
Would but some winged Angel bring the News
Of Critic who reads Books that he Reviews!
And make the stern Reviewer do as well
Himself, before he Meed of Praise refuse!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Would but some winged Angel ere too late
Arrest the yet unfolded Roll of Fate,
And make the stern Recorder otherwise
Enregister, or quite obliterate!
Ah, Love! Could you and I perchance succeed
In boiling down the Million Books we read
Into One Book, and edit that a Bit---
There’d be a WORLD’S BEST LITERATURE, indeed!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Ah Love! could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits---and then
Re-mold it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!
Oh, rising Author, read Me once again
Before my Memory gradually wane!
How oft hereafter you may look for me
In this same Library---and look in vain!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
Yon rising Moon that looks for us again---
How oft hereafter will she wax and wane;
How oft hereafter rising look for us
Through this same Garden---and for one in vain!
And when dear Reader, you shall chance to spend
A night within The Hall of Fame---attend!
If, in that blissful call, you find the Spot
Where I broke in---don’t turn me down, my friend!Quatrain from original Rubaiyat
And when like her, oh Saki, you shall pass
Among the Guests Star-scatter’d on the Grass,
And in your joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made One---turn down an empty Glass!
Return to Examples of Parody from The Rubaiyat of Omar Cayenne