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Washing the Dishes -- Christopher Morley

       
(Poem #833) Washing the Dishes
 When we on simple rations sup
 How easy is the washing up!
 But heavy feeding complicates
 The task by soiling many plates.

 And though I grant that I have prayed
 That we might find a serving-maid,
 I'd scullion all my days I think,
 To see Her smile across the sink!

 I wash, she wipes. In water hot
 I souse each pan and dish and pot;
 While Taffy mutters, purrs, and begs,
 And rubs himself against my legs.

 The man who never in his life
 Has washed the dishes with his wife
 Or polished up the silver plate--
 He still is largely celibate.

 One warning: there is certain ware
 That must be handled with all care:
 The Lord Himself will give you up
 If you should drop a willow cup!
-- Christopher Morley
Notes: From Chimneysmoke (1921)
       souse (v): soak, immerse, steep

A charming little poem, presenting an unexpected perspective on domestic
bliss. The poet's thesis is neatly summed up in the penultimate verse:

       The man who never in his life
       Has washed the dishes with his wife
       Or polished up the silver plate--
       He still is largely celibate.

The last verse is merely an anticlimax, bringing the poem to a gentle
conclusion - the main impact, despite the distraction of a final punchline,
is definitely in the verse before.

Links:

There's an accompanying illustration - see
  [broken link] http://geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/morley01.html#12

We've run one Morley poem, complete with biography (and don't miss Sunil
Iyengar's comment at the end): poem #553

-martin

133 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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I like this poem but I find his use of the the third person singular in verses two and three a little problematic. After referring to a wish to find a serving maid he then says he wouldn't mind doing the washing up if he could see 'her' smile across the sink. But the 'her' is clearly his wife, previously referred to as 'you' by implication, in the 'we' of 'we might find'. Am I alone in finding this confusing?
Dave Collins

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