The Critic’s Lament

detail from The Art Critic by Norman Rockwell

The Critic’s Lament

If you don’t like this then you’re a moron,
If you do like that then you’re a lout,
If you’d rather t’other, then I guess you’re on your own –
For even when the way is shown,
You’d rather do without.

If you don’t like this then you’re a cretin,
If you do like that then you’re a square –
Yet now, for all my years of selfless vetting of the muse,
So you masses never have to choose,
It’s like you just don’t care

How can you reject my spotless taste
In favour of your own ?
Or let my perfect wisdom go to waste
Despite my megaphone ?
For who will sing the praises of the chosen
That they’ve scarcely earned,
And who will prick the egos of the posers
Once their backs are turned ?

So if you don’t like this then you’re a heathen,
And if you do like that, you’re thick as planks –
For I alone am high priest to this seething sea of stars,
I’m crushing dreams, inflicting scars –
Yet still I get no thanks !

Heroic Verse

Viking Axe by Lexx

Heroic Verse

Bloodaxe Books are publishers of poetry –
And what a name !
As though these are the sagas of berserkers
Seeking Thor and fame,
For telling down the trestles of the feasting hall
From lord to knight,
Or singing by the troubadours to mistresses
By candlelight.
Odes to ale and hymns to war,
And saucy wenches by the score –
To lustily recount and roar,
And ready for a fight.
Or razor-sharp in their attacks,
From broadside blasts to cutting hacks –
Their impish imprint swings the axe
To let their verses bite.

All my teenage years I sought
For such a name –
Till, furnace-wrought, it came !

Not for them, one conjures, the namby-pamby
Hearts on sleeves –
Nor whinging confessionals,
Or whimsies to the Autumn leaves –
No, these are the words of men of action,
And dames of destiny,
To stir my loins and quick my heart
And never rest in me.
Yet much of what they print is dry –
Their blade is dull, their name a lie –
A rubber-and-ketchup alibi
That’s sorely testing me.
So spare me flabby free-verse faff,
And mopey milksops full of chaff –
I need good craic to blow the gaff
And hone the best of me.

I guess what they do has its place,
But all the same,
It’s such a waste of a name…

Drothful Lucubration

The Astronomer by Candlelight by Gerrit Dou

Drothful Lucubration

A dark and stormy night, this night,
Yet ‘tween the clouds the full moon bright
Looks down upon me as I write
These dark and stormy lines.
But hark !  A distant howling queer
I fancy I mayhap may hear
From out the corner of my ear
And through my very spine –
And though my heart may drown it out,
I cannot labour long in doubt,
For surely do I know that sound without,
As it knows me.
The gusting wind brings to my door
A growling low from off the moor
That chills my very being o’er
To tremulous degree.
These pluvious and savage spawn
Shall stalk the psyche ere the dawn,
Shall stalk my rain-lashed psyche ere the dawn,

The Hounds of Dogg’rel bay this night
To seek the forced and base and trite,
And dog the heels of all who write,
Lest we should lapse their way.
We ever fear to be their sport,
Their pity, ruth and mercy nought
To purple, blue or overwrought:
They hack their hackneyed prey.
So some poor pensmith faces doom,
His garret shall become his tomb
As bursting forth, those savage Hounds consume
Each leaden verse;
Their author thus shall meet the fangs
That shred the hand whose metre clangs,
And fore’er mute his blunt harangues
That brought him to these curs,
I pray all gods, I beg, I yearn,
This ill-dread night is not my turn,
This dark and stormy night is not my turn.

Five Loaves & Two Red Fishes

those fish do not look cooked

Five Loaves & Two Red Fishes

Reverend, Reverend, writer of the tales:
Murder, guilt and passionlust, herringful and slick.
Popular and idolised, blessèd are your sales,
Though the critics pan you off as “slight” and “formulaic”.

Reverend, Reverend, writes another tale:
Murder, guilt and passionlust, once more with a twist –
The victim here is Jesus Christ, crucified, impaled.
Yet we know the killer has to be the one who kissed.

That’s okay, the Reverend is not asking whodunnit,
He tells it straight and poignant; for kudos, not for wealth.
Yet at the Ascension, so a final twist is sprung:
It turns out in Heaven waits old Lucifer himself.

“Just how can a Christian priest write of such a blasphemy ?”
Ask his readers and his bishop, still not comprehending.
“All because I do believe the Lord will yet forgive me,
(And I’d surely sell my soul for fiendish-good twist ending.)”

I feel the joke in this one is rather laboured, as are some of the rhymes.  Incidentally, the Bible contains one of the first locked-room mysteries in literature in the Book of Daniel (or at least in the versions that allow house-room for the apocryphal additions such as Bel & The Dragon).  And if you’re interested, the most common fish in the Sea of Galilee was the tilapia.

Fahrenheit Four-Hundred-Something

burning book page
Photo by Movidagrafica Barcelona on


Fahrenheit Four-Hundred-Something

They burned our books,
But we remember, word-by-word
Except the few that slipped on by,
The odd paragraph that’s blurred,
The bits we didn’t really understand,
But set to memory
Along with all the boring bits –
They’re still all in there…probably.

They burned our books…
Except, no, we burned our books
Before they could, to make a point –
We burned them for the good !
We pass them down, like Homer –
But in secret, out of sight.
Mutation ?  Evolution ?
They just make the story better…right ?



Prithee, Sirrah ?

big cocks
details from Charles Vth by Titian, Antonio Navagero by Giovanni Moroni & Guidubaldo della Rovere by Agnolo Bronzino

Prithee, Sirrah ?

The poster announced “Shakespeare Season !”
Well, why not ?, I thought.
For no particular reason,
I’d seen precisely naught.
I know it sounds high treason,
But I guess this time I’m caught.

Yet all reviews and interviews I heard
Said much the same –
They read the play, yes, ev’ry word,
Before they even came,
To better understand.  But that’s absurd !
Just what’s their game…?

What about the spoilers, hey ?
Will Macbeth be number one ?
But the plot matter less, they say,
Than ‘getting’ a Tudor pun !
This all feels like homework anyway,
And not much fun !

You clearly can’t be arsed to try
And make the story clear,
And surely don’t want oiks as I
To gaze upon your Lear.
I think I’m gonna pass you by
For something less austere.

The Rose & The Nightingale

a bit like the flag of japan


The Rose & The Nightingale

(after Oscar Wilde)

Poor little student, moping for a girl,
He yearns to have a crimson rose to give her –
“Shucks !” thinks a nightingale, heart in a whirl,
“I’ll plead with the rose-bush to deliver !
But woe, all its blossoms are white as a pearl…
…Unless I thorn my breast and sing a-quiver.”

Thus the little nightingale gives her life for beauty,
As nothing but a lacky to a human.
Raising future nightingales – that should be her duty !
At this rate, extinction’s surely looming !
The rose, though, is delighted with this unexpected booty –
With birdie’s rotting body, times are blooming !

Lonely in her dying breath, as atoms fall apart,
She thinks this makes a handy metaphor –
The poor romantic soul who bares her tender heart
For the callous world to savagely ignore.
(Like artists ev’rywhere, she demands we love her art,
And buy into her struggles and her lore.)

As for the student, he plucks the crimson rose
(Denying for this bud to spread its seed),
And seeks out his classmate with the pretty nose –
But she looks less than happy with his weed.
“But don’t you see ?  This blossom is a mutant !  I propose
To splice its genes and follow where they lead.”

“Pah!” says his paramour, crushing all his dreams,
“I’m bored with ev’ry rose and phlox and crocus !
For I’m in love with rubies, sparkling in the sun-beams –
I want to find a way to make them focus…”
The student is crushed – as is the crimson rose, it seems –
He’s had enough of love and hocus-pocus !



Sonnet for the Shrews

Aviator by Billy Norrby


Sonnet for the Shrews

Come, mistress, stay – no patriarch am I !
No zealous male, yet you rebuke me so;
I never wish to dim your spark of eye,
For not all men are as Petruchio.
I plead, do not agglomerate my sex,
And score the mixture only by its worst –
When many brothers scant deserve this hex
Of deeming women-passionate as curst.
If chauvinistic authors grumble loud
And laud a brute as model for our kind,
Then know of we who wish you still unbowed
And retch at thoughts of ‘taming’ such a mind.
Far better shrews, for shrewdness thence hath sprung
In women sharp of wit and swift of tongue.



The Voice Speaks

Wanderer above the Sea of Fog by Casper Friedrich


The Voice Speaks

            (in reply to Rupert Brooke’s The Voice)

Late in the dusk, in the ancient woods
I saw a poet on my stroll
In desp’rate search for solitude,
At one with all and deep of soul.

I bid him “Ho !” and “What a view !”
But he just sighed at ‘one-of-those’.
From lofty heights, his dagger-eyes
Shot down along his haughty nose.

So strange, we took so diff’rently
To seeing beauty silver-pearled –
When I see set a sun so soft,
I want to share it with the world.

I guess for really clever chaps,
We little people must appal –
There’s some so full of inner peace,
They need no other folks at all.