Wednesday, 16 June 2004

Take me to your elfin grot...

Nothing is easier to parody than poetic romanticism, whether it's Housman's pessimistic kind:
What? Still alive at twenty-two?
A fine upstanding chap like you?

...or Whitman's slightly soppy kind:
I'd rather sit beneath small stars
Than with rough men who drink in bars

But the most-parodied poem must be Masefield's Sea Fever; even I had a go once with a piece of youthful scatology:
I must go down to the loo again
For the loo I feel disposed
And all I ask is a stout door
And a lock to keep it closed...

and so on, getting pretty tasteless towards the end; at least I had the sense not to call it WC Fever.

But the best version - unfortunately I forget who wrote it—is one which, like all good parodies, springs from affection for the original and apes its spirit as well as its rhythm and metre:
I must go back to a vest again
To a winter vest, with sleeves
And all I ask is an honest shop
Where the shop-men are not thieves
And a fair price, and a free choice
And a full stretch for dining
And a smooth touch on the bare chest
And a smooth inner lining.

[Yes, I know the original omits the word "go" in the first line.]


Robin said...

Only the first two lines are familiar. I heard them in 1959-60 at Gayhurst School, during Johnny Stafford's english lesson on parody. One of us was made to stand and read out his homework. As I recall, there were three verses and it captured Masefield's mood better than this.

Tony said...

Robin: I very much doubt that it was better than the one I quoted, but we shall never know as you don't remember it.

Are you by any chance the (female) Robin with whom I had a very enjoyable exchange of email correspondence in 2005 and whose blog later disappeared?

Jackie Armstrong said...

I remember this poem from when I was attending Dunmore Primary School, Abingdon, Berks in 1960 in Mr Atkinson's class. I believe it was published in the Sheldon Book of Verse which I seem to remember had a pink cover or maybe grey!!I have only been able to remember the first two lines but would really love to read the whole poem. I seem to recall it had three verses too.

Tony said...

Hello Jackie.
Which poem did you mean? I mentioned several. If you are thinking of Sea Fever, you can easily find the words on the internet.

Jackie Armstrong said...

I meant the parody of John Masefield's 'Sea Fever', I must go back to a vest again, a winter vest with sleeves.I too, remember it probably had three verses but do not recall who wrote it.

Tony said...

It's by Patrick Barrington, an Irish peer. There are lots of his poems on the web and I daresay the Masefield parody is there somewhere but I haven't been able to find it.