by Kenneth Slessor
(To the memory of William Hickey, Esq.)
COMING out of India with ten thousand a year
Exchanged for flesh and temper, a dry Faust
Whose devil barters with digestion, has he paid dear
For dipping his fingers in the Roc's valley?
Who knows? It's certain that he owns a rage,
A face like shark-skin, full of Yellow Jack,
And that unreckoning tyranny of age
That calls for turtles' eggs in Twickenham.
Sometimes, by moonlight, in a barge he'll float
Whilst hirelings blow their skulking flageolets,
Served by a Rajah in a golden coat
With pigeon-pie . . . Madeira . . . and Madeira . . .
Or in his Bon de Paris with silver frogs
He rolls puff-bellied in an equipage,
Elegant chariot, through a gulf of fogs
To dine on dolphin-steak with Post-Captains.
Who knows? There are worse things than steak, perhaps,
Worse things than oyster-sauces and tureens
And worlds of provender like painted maps
Pricked out with ports of claret and pitchcocked eels,
And hubbubs of billiard-matches, burnt champagne,
Beautiful ladies "of the establishment"
Always in tempers, or melting out again,
Bailiffs and Burgundy and writs of judgment-
Thus to inhabit huge, lugubrious halls
Damp with the steam of entrees, glazed with smoke,
Raw drinking, greasy eating, bussing and brawls,
Drinking and eating and bursting into bed-chambers.
But, in the end, one says farewell to them;
And if he'd curse to-day-God damn your blood!-
Even his curses I'd not altogether condemn,
Not altogether scorn; and if phantoms ate-
Hickey, I'd say, sit down, pull up, set to:
Here's knife and fork, there's wine, and there's a barmaid.
Let us submerge ourselves in onion-soup,
Anything but this "damned profession of writing".
Last updated October 06, 2022