Home  »  Fairies and Fusiliers  »  42. The Poet in the Nursery

Robert Graves (1895–1985). Fairies and Fusiliers. 1918.

42. 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 beastly 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 pretty emerald green was coated

With jam and greasy marks from my hot hand,

While round the nursery for long months there floated

Wonderful words no one could understand.