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James Weldon Johnson, ed. (1871–1938).  The Book of American Negro Poetry.  1922.
 
Stanzas from The Fledgling Bard and the Poetry Society
 
George Reginald Margetson
 
 
PART I

I’M out to find the new, the modern school,
Where Science trains the fledgling bard to fly,
Where critics teach the ignorant, the fool,
To write the stuff the editors would buy;
It matters not e’en tho it be a lie,—        5
Just so it aims to smash tradition’s crown
And build up one instead decked with a new renown.
 
A thought is haunting me by night and day,
And in some safe archive I seek to lay it;
I have some startling thing I wish to say,        10
And they can put me wise just how to say it.
Without their aid, I, like the ass, must bray it,
Without due knowledge of its mood and tense,
And so ’tis sure to fail the bard to recompense.
 
Will some kind one direct me to that college        15
Where every budding genius now is headed,
The only source to gain poetic knowledge,
Where all the sacred truths lay deep imbedded,
Where nothing but the genuine goods are shredded,—
The factory where they shape new feet and meters        20
That make poetic symbols sound like carpet beaters.
 
I hope I’ll be an eligible student,
E’en tho I am no poet in a sense,
But just a hot-head youth with ways imprudent,—
A rustic ranting rhymer like by chance        25
Who thinks that he can make the muses dance
By beating on some poet’s borrowed lyre,
To win some fool’s applause and please his own desire.
 
Perhaps they’ll never know or e’en suspect
That I am not a true, a genuine poet;        30
If in the poet’s colors I am decked
They may not ask me e’er to prove or show it.
I’ll play the wise old cock, nor try to crow it,
But be content to gaze with open mind;
I’ll never show the lead but eye things from behind.        35
 
PART II

I have a problem all alone to solve,
A problem how to find the poetry club,
It makes my sky piece like a top revolve,
For fear that they might mark me for a snob.
They’ll call me poetry monger and then dub        40
Me rustic rhymer, anything they choose,
Ay, anything at all, but heaven’s immortal muse.
 
Great Byron, when he published his Childe book,
In which he sang of all his lovely dears,
Called forth hot condemnation and cold look,        45
From lesser mortals who were not his peers.
They chided him for telling his affairs,
Because they could not tell their own so well,
They plagued the poet lord and made his life a hell.
 
They called him lewd, vile drunkard, vicious wight,        50
And all because he dared to tell the truth,
Because he was no cursed hermaphrodite,—
A full fledged genius with the fire of youth.
They hounded him, they hammered him forsooth;
Because he blended human with divine,        55
They branded him “the bard of women and of wine.”
 
Of course I soak the booze once in a while,
But I don’t wake the town to sing and shout it;
I love the girls, they win me with a smile,
But no one knows, for I won’t write about it.        60
And so the fools may never think to doubt it,
When I declare I am a moral man,
As gifted, yet as good as God did ever plan.
 
Every man has got a hobby,
Every poet has some fault,        65
Every sweet contains its bitter,
Every fresh thing has its salt.
 
Every mountain has a valley,
Every valley has a hill,
Every ravine is a river,        70
Every river is a rill.
 
Every fool has got some wisdom,
Every wise man is a fool,
Every scholar is a block-head,
Every dunce has been to school.        75
 
Every bad man is a good man,
Every fat man is not stout,
Every good man is a bad man
But ’tis hard to find him out.
 
Every strong man is a weak man,        80
You may doubt it as you please,
Every well man is a sick man,
Every doctor has disease.
 

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