First World War Poetry Digital Archive

The Poet in the Nursery


The youngest poet down the shelves was fumbling In a dim library, just behind the chair From which the ancient poet was mum-mumbling A song about some lovers at a Fair, Pulling his long white beard and gently grumbling That rhymes were troublesome things and never there.

And as I groped, the whole time I was thinking About the tragic poem I'd been writing,... An old man's life of beer and whisky drinking, His years of kidnapping and wicked fighting; And how at last, into a fever sinking, Remorsefully he died, his bedclothes biting.

But suddenly I saw the bright green cover Of a thin pretty book right down below; I snatched it up and turned the pages over, To find it full of poetry, and so Put it down my neck with quick hands like a lover, And turned to watch if the old man saw it go.

The book was full of funny muddling mazes, Each rounded off into a lovely song, And most extraordinary and monstrous phrases Knotted with rhymes like a slave-driver's thong, And metre twisting like a chain of daisies
With great big splendid words a sentence long.

I took the book to bed with me and gloated,
Learning the lines that seemed to sound most grand;
So soon the lively emerald green was coated
With intimate dark stains from my hot hand,
While round the nursery for long months there floated
Wonderful words no one could understand.

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