The Dismal Throng

The Fairy Tale of Life is done,
The horns of Fairyland cease blowing,
The Gods have left us one by one,
And the last Poets, too, are going!
Ended is all the mirth and song,
Fled are the merry Music-makers;
And what remains? The Dismal Throng
Of literary Undertakers!

Clad in deep black of funeral cut,
With faces of forlorn expression,
Their eyes half open, souls close shut,
They stalk along in pale procession;
The latest seed of Schopenhauer,
Born of a Trull of Flaubert's choosing,
They cry, while on the ground they glower,
" There's nothing in the world amusing!"

There's Zola, grimy as his theme,
Nosing the sewers with cynic pleasure,
Sceptic of all that poets dream.
All hopes that simple mortals treasure;
With sense most keen for odours strong,
He stirs the Drains and scents disaster,
Grim monarch of the Dismal Throng
Who bow their heads before " the Master."

There's Miss Matilda in the south,
There's Valdes in Madrid and Seville,
There's mad Vertaine with gangrened mouth
Grinning at Rimbaud and the Devil.
From every nation of the earth,
Instead of smiling music-makers,
They come, the foes of Love and Mirth,
The Dismal Throng of Undertakers.

There's Tolstol, towering in his place
O'er all the rest by head and shoulders;
No sunshine on that noble face
Which Nature meant to charm beholders!
Mad with his self-made martyr's shirt,
Obscene through hatred of obsceneness,
He from a pulpit built of Dirt
Shrieks his Apocalypse of Cleanness!

There's been, puckering up his lips,
Squirming at Nature and Society,
Drawing with tingling finger-tips
The clothes off naked Impropriety!
So nice, so nasty, and so grim,
He hugs his gloomy bottled thunder;
To summon up one smile from him
Would be a miracle of wonder!

There's Maupassant, who takes his cue
From Dame Bovary's bourgeois troubles;
There's Bourget, dyed his own sick " blue,"
There's Loti, blowing blue soap-bubbles;
There's Mendes (no Catullus, he!)
There's Richepin, sick with sensual passion.
The Dismal Throng! So foul, so free,
Yet sombre all, as is the fashion.

" Turn down the lights! put out the Sun!
Man is unclean and morals muddy,
The Fairy Tale of Life is done,
Disease and Dirt must be our study!
Tear open Nature's genial heart,
Let neither God nor gods escape us,
But spare, to give our subjects rest,
The basest god of all — Priapus!"

The Dismal Throng! 'Tis thus they preach,
From Christiania to Cadie,
Recruited as they talk and teach
By dingy lads and draggled ladies;
Without a sunbeam or a song,
With no clear Heaven to hunger after;
The Dismal Throng! the Dismal Throng!
The foes of Life and Love and Laughter!

By Shakespeare's Soul! if this goes on,
From every face of man and woman
The gift of gladness will be gone,
And laughter will be thought inhuman!
The only beast who smiles is Man!
That marks him out from meaner creatures!
Confound the Dismal Throng, who plan
To take God's birth-mark from out features!

Manfreds who walk the hospitals,
Laras and Glaours grown scientific,
They wear the clothes and bear the palls
Of Stormy Ones once thought terrific;
They play the same old funeral tune,
And posture with the same dejection,
But turn from howling at the moon
To literary vivisection!

And while they loom before our view,
Dark'ning the air that should be sunny,
Here's Oscar growing dismal too,
Our Oscar who was once so funny!
Blue china ceases to delight
The dear curl'd darling of society,
Changed are his breeches, once so bright,
For foreign breaches of propriety!

I grant there's many a sorry place
On Earth, and much in need of mending,
But all the world is not so base
As sickly souls are now contending;
And I prefer my roses still
To all the garlic in their garden —
Let Hedda gabble as she will,
I'll stay with Rosalind, in Arden!

O for one laugh of Rabelais,
To rout these moralising croakers!
(The cowls were mightier far than they,
Yet fled before that King of Jokers).
O for a slash of Fielding's pen
To bleed these pimps of Melancholy!
O for a Box, born once again
To play the Dickens with such folly

Yet stay! why bid the dead arise?
Why call them back from Charon's wherry?
Come, Yankee Mark, with twinkling eyes,
Confuse these ghouls with something merry!
Come, Kipling, with thy soldiers three,
Thy barrack-ladies frail and fervent,
Forsake thy themes of butchery
And be the merry Muses' servant!

Come, Dickens' foster-son, Bret Harte!
(Before he died, he bless'd thy labours!)
Tom Hardy, blow the clouds apart
With sound of rustic fifes and tabors!
Dick Blackmore, full of homely joy,
Come from thy garden by the river,
And pelt with fruit and flowers, old boy,
These dreary bores who drone for ever!

By Heaven! we want you one and all,
For Hypochondria is reigning —
The Mater Dolorosa's squall
Makes Nature hideous with complaining.
Ah! who will pilot the Face that smiled
When Art was virginal and vernal —
The pure Madonna with her Child,
Pure as the light, and as eternal!
Pest on these dreary, dolent airs!
Confound these funeral pomps and poses!
Is Life Dyspepsia's and Despair's,
And Love's complexion all chlorosis?
A lie! There's Health, and Mirth, and Song,
The World still laughs, and goes a-Maying —
The dismal droning doleful Throng
Are only smuts in sunshine playing!

Play up, ye horns of Fairyland!
Shine out, O Sun, and planets seven!
Beyond these clouds a beckoning Hand
Gleams from the lattices of Heaven!
The World's alive — still quick, not dead,
It needs no Undertaker's warning;
So put the Dismal Throng to bed,
And wake once more to Light and Morning!
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