by John Crowe Ransom
In due season the amphibious crocodile
Rose from the waves and clambered on the bank
And clothed himself, having cleansed his toes which stank
Of bayous of Florida and estuaries of Nile.
And if he had had not water on his brain,
Remember what joys were his. The complete landlubber
In a green mackintosh and overshoes of rubber —
Putting his umbrella up against the rain
For fear of the influenza — sleeking his curls —
Prowling among the petticoats and the teacups —
Visiting the punchbowl to the verge of hiccups —
Breaching his promises and playing with the girls.
At length in grey spats he must cross the ocean.
So this is Paris? Lafayette, we are here.
Bring us sweet wines but none of your French beer!
And he weeps on Notre Dame with proper emotion.
This is the Rive Gauche, here's the Hotel Crillon.
Where are the brave poilus? They are slain by his French.
And suddenly he cries, I want to see a trench!
Up in the North eventually he sees one
Which is all green slime and water; whereupon lewd
Nostalgic tremors assail him; with strangled oaths
He flees; he would be kicking off his clothes
And reverting to his pre-Christian mother's nude.
Next on the grand tour is Westminster, and Fleet Street.
His Embassy must present him to King George.
Who is the gentleman having teeth so large?
That is Mr. Crocodile, our renowned aesthete.
To know England really one must try the country
And the week-end parties; he is persuaded to straddle
A yellow beast in a red coat on a flat saddle.
Much too gymnastical are the English gentry.
Surely a Scotch and soda with the Balliol men.
But when old Crocodile rises to speak at the Union
He is too miserably conscious of his bunion
And toes too large for the aesthetic regimen.
It is too too possible he has wandered far
From the simple center of his rugged nature.
I wonder, says he, if I am the sort of creature
To live by projects, travel, affaires de coeur?
Crocodile ponders the marrying of a wife
With a ready-made fortune and ready-made family;
The lady is not a poem; she is a homily,
And he hates the rectangular charms of the virtuous life.
Soberly Crocodile sips of the Eucharist.
But as he meditates the obscene complexes
And infinite involutions of the sexes,
Crocodile sets up for a psychoanalyst.
But who would ever have thought it took such strength
To whittle the tree of being to its points
While the deep-sea urge cries Largo, and all the joints
Tingle with gross desire of lying at length?
Of all the elements mixed in Crocodile
Water is principal; but water flows
By paths of least resistance; and water goes
Down, down, down; which is proper and infantile.
The earth spins from its poles and is glared on
By the fierce incessant suns, but here is news
For a note in the fine-print column Thursday Reviews:
Old Robert Crocodile has packed and gone.
His dear friends cannot find him. The ladies write
As usual but their lavender notes are returned
By the U. S. Postmaster and secretively burned.
He has mysteriously got out of sight.
Crocodile hangs his pretty clothes on a limb
And lies with his fathers, and with his mothers too,
And his brothers and sisters as it seems right to do;
The family religion is good enough for him.
Full length he lies and goes as water goes,
He weeps for joy and welters in the flood,
Floating he lies extended many a rood,
And quite invisible but for the end of his nose.
Last updated October 11, 2022