REGINALD'S PEACE POEM

“I’m writing a poem on Peace,” said Reginald, emerging

from a sweeping operation through a tin of mixed biscuits,

in whose depths a macaroon or two might yet be lurking.

“Something of the kind seems to have been attempted

already,” said the Other.

“Oh, I know; but I may never have the chance again.

Besides, I’ve got a new fountain pen. I don’t pretend to

have gone on any very original lines; in writing about Peace

the thing is to say what everybody else is saying, only to

say it better. It begins with the usual ornithological

emotion:

`When the widgeon westward winging

Heard the folk Vereeniginging,

Heard the shouting and the singing—‘ “

“Vereeniginging is good, but why widgeon?”

“Why not? Anything that winged westward would naturally

begin with a w.”

“Need it wing westward?”

“The bird must go somewhere. You wouldn’t have it hang

around and look foolish. Then I’ve brought in something

about the heedless hartebeest galloping over the deserted

veldt.”

“Of course you know it’s practically extinct in those

regions?”

“I can’t help that, it gallops so nicely. I make it have

all sorts of unexpected yearnings:

‘Mother, may I go and maffick,

Tear around and hinder traffic?’

Of course you’ll say there would be no traffic worth

bothering about on the bare and sun-scorched veldt, but

there’s no other word that rhymes with maffick.”

“Seraphic?”

Reginald considered. “It might do, but I’ve got a lot

about angels later on. You must have angels in a Peace

poem; I know dreadfully little about their habits.”

“They can do unexpected things, like the hartebeest.”

“Of course. Then I turn on London, the City of Dreadful

Nocturnes, resonant with hymns of joy and thanksgiving:

‘And the sleeper, eye unlidding,

Heard a voice for ever bidding

Much farewell to Dolly Gray;

Turning weary on his truckle-

Bed he heard the honeysuckle

Lauded in apiarian lay.’

Longfellow at his best wrote nothing like that.”

“I agree with you.”

“I wish you wouldn’t. I’ve a sweet temper, but I can’t

stand being agreed with. And I’m so worried about the

aasvogel.”

Reginald stared dismally at the biscuit-tin, which now

presented an unattractive array of rejected cracknels.

“I believe,” he murmured , “if I could find a woman

with an unsatisfied craving for cracknels, I should marry

her.”

“What is the tragedy of the aasvogel?” asked the Other

sympathetically.

“Oh, simply that there’s no rhyme for it. I thought

about it all the time I was dressing—it’s dreadfully bad

for one to think whilst one’s dressing—and all lunch-time,

and I’m still hung up over it. I feel like those

unfortunate automobilists who achieve an unenviable

notoriety by coming to a hopeless stop with their cars in

the most crowded thoroughfares. I’m afraid I shall have to

drop the aasvogel, and it did give such lovely local colour

to the thing.”

“Still you’ve got the heedless hartebeest.”

“And quite a decorative bit of moral admonition—when

you’ve worried the meaning out—

‘Cease, War, thy bubbling madness that the wine shares,

And bid thy legions turn their swords to mine shares.’

Mine shares seems to fit the case better than ploughshares.

There’s lots more about the blessings of Peace, shall I go

on reading it?”

“If I must make a choice, I think I would rather they

went on with the war.”