Verse > Robert Graves > Fairies and Fusiliers
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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        5
  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;        10
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,        15
  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,        20
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,        25
  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.        30
 

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