Monday, March 31, 2014


Fops: Critical, Clerical, Poetical

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), excerpts from "Who's There, Janet?", in his Lyrical Poems (Edinburgh: Sutherland and Knox, 1860), pp. 179-189:
None of your perking, critical fops,
Who go sniffing about the booksellers' shops,
Smelling each work before publication,
That they may give an account to the nation.
Fellows who write in the weekly Reviews,
With all men for their theme, and themselves for their Muse,
Swaying with large, unfettered dominion
The rambling realms of babbled opinion,
Hanging this sign from the tip of their nose:
"Ready to meet whate'er you propose
In the shape of a YES with a legion of NOES!"

Men so clever the world yet never
Beheld their like, since the sophists of old
Did Socrates wise to death deliver
For speaking plain truth with raillery bold.
Men who are ever strutting about
With ready-made judgments on their snout,
Who nothing in Heaven or Earth revere,
But think God made all things for a sneer;
On faults of their betters who daintily feed,
As flies on ordure feast with greed,
Thinking the readiest way for the small
To grow great, is by lopping the heads of the tall,
And weening they've turned—O wonderful men!
The balance of fate by a snip of their pen;
Forgetting that they, infallible guides,
Themselves are only a straw on the tides,
And, when they are wisest, direct the people,
Just as the weather-cock does on the steeple!


None of your butter-lipped clerical fops,
All decently drilled in Tutorial shops
Of Oxford and Cambridge, so proper and prim,
With orthodox sentences crammed to the brim.
Men who have eyes, but who never can look
Beyond what their fathers for oracles took,
But through sense and through nonsense will swear to a book.
Greeklings well-furnished with learnèd quotation,
To vamp an address, or patch an oration,
Who lisp in elegant verse or prose
What no one cares for, and every one knows,
And think all common-places uncommonly clever,
If them but a Greek or a Roman deliver.


None of your moody, poetical fops,
Who mingle their honey with gall and hops,
Fumes of tobacco, and opiate drops.
Men who think all things here out of joint,
But God did to them this mission appoint,
To dream broad-eyed for a day and a night,
And maunder an Epos to set it all right,
And beget upon clouds a new generation
After their likeness, to model the nation.
These are the men whose heart is broken,
God knows how—but their verse is the token,
Who, because they do not find
All things on Earth just made to their mind,
Because the breeze will sometimes blow
Just in their teeth, where they mean to go;
Because a rose has ever a thorn,
And dark clouds oft obscure the morn;
Or because in a shadowless land
A tree won't grow at the word of command;
And an old house of course must stand,
Till a new one is raised by the builder's hand;
Or because a sheep must die,
Before they can feast on a mutton-pie,
Or because a fair girl with a jaunty bonnet
Won't fetch a sigh, when they whimper a sonnet;
Straightway swell with oracular rage,
And blot with bile their fretful page,
And in this beautiful world can see
Nothing but mildew and misery;
Who, when the birds in spring are singing,
And all the woods with joy are ringing,
Sit chiming creation's funeral knell,
And say that the Earth is a seething hell,
Where only devils and dunces dwell,
Where a thousand fools are led by a knave,
And the proudest is ever the foremost slave,
Where a prize to the clown and the flunkey falls,
But the Jove-born poet must sing to the walls!

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