Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Ballade Of Suicide: Favorite Poems

A Ballade Of Suicide

The gallows in my garden, people say,
Is new and neat and adequately tall;
I tie the noose on in a knowing way
As one that knots his necktie for a ball;
But just as all the neighbors--on the wall--
Are drawing a long breath to shout "Hurray!"
The strangest whim has seized me...After all
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

Tomorrow is the time I get my pay--
My uncle's sword is hanging in the hall--
I see a little cloud all pink and grey--
Perhaps the rector's mother will not call--
I fancy that I heard from Mr. Gall
That mushrooms could be cooked another way--
I never read the works of Juvenal--
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

The world will have another washing-day;
The decadents decay; the pedants pall;
And H. G. Wells has found that children play,
And Bernard Shaw discovered that they squall,
Rationalists are growing rational--
And through thick woods one finds a stream astray
So secret that the very sky seems small--
I think I will not hang myself to-day.


Prince, I can hear the trumpet of Germinal,
The tumbrels toiling up the terrible way;
Even to-day your royal head may fall,
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

--G. K. Chesterton, 1874-1936.

G. K. Chesterton was probably the man who would be voted the least likely to commit suicide, and in this poem mocking the idea, he gives several reasons why. It is written in the ballade form, which he and his friends took up with glee after seeing it demonstrated in the play Cyrano DeBergerac. Sometimes they would compose them together, taking alternate lines and trying to top each other in preposterous rhymes. The "envoi" always concludes with disparaging remarks addressed to the "Prince", who represents the acme of all that is contemptible. Chesterton was friends with both Wells and Shaw, but always thought their grand analyses never took into account the ordinary life of ordinary people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where's your dang GK one man show? The world awaits, good sir!