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I Met a Lady in the Wood -- Patrick Barrington

Guest poem submittedy by William Grey:
(Poem #1596) I Met a Lady in the Wood
 I met a lady in the wood.
   No mortal maid, I knew, was she;
 She was no thing of flesh and blood,
   No child of human ancestry.

 Her beauty held my eyes in thrall.
   I spoke to her sweet words, soft-toned.
 She answered me no word at all,
   But only looked at me and moaned.

 I spoke to her about Exchange,
   Of Sterling and its recent rise.
 The subject was beyond her range;
   She stared at me with haunting eyes.

 I touched upon the price of Rye
   And its effect upon the Pound.
 She walked beside me silently,
   Like one that treads on charméd ground.

 She witched me with her elfin grace.
   I spoke of Wages and the Dole
 And briefly sketched for her the case
   For International Control.

 She gazed upon me as I talked;
   Some elfin thing she seemed to be.
 I knew her, by the way she walked,
   A creature of the Faëry.

 Through green and leafy glades we went,
   Knee-deep among the dewy ferns;
 I touched upon the Law of Rent
   And of Diminishing Returns.

 And, as we wandered through the wood
   Mid oaks and elm-tree boles rotund,
 Explained to her as best I could
   The workings of a Sinking Fund.

 I said that Rubber was depressed
   By recent rumours from Malay.
 She only moaned and beat her breast
   And cried aloud, 'Alack-a-day!'

 I said my brokers had foreseen
   A rise in Oil, and asked her view
 As to the trend of Margarine,
   She only answered 'Willaloo!'

 I took her to a green-lit glade
   Where tall trees twined their branches high
 And a moss-muted streamlet made
   Unmeditating melody;

 And there I paused awhile; and there
   I offered her my heart and hand,
 And bade her take me in her care
   To dwell with her in Fairyland.

 I said I was a Whale-oil King,
   With gold and goods and gear in plenty.
 She said she was a Mrs. Byng
   And had a family of twenty.

 She turned and left me where I stood.
   While round her elfin pipes were fluting
 She walked away into the wood,
   And I walked home to Lower Tooting.
-- Patrick Barrington
 [Notes]

Edward Lear (1812-1888) was an early pioneer of nonsense poetry, a genre
developed further by the Rev Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, (alias Lewis Carroll,
1832-1898), and more recently by Spike Milligna (the well-known
typing-error, 1918-2002). Barrington (1909-1990) is a golden link in this
brilliant chain of absurdists.

Like many of Barrington's poems the comic effect is generated by an
absurdity of juxtapositions -- perhaps most absurdity comes to that, one way
or another. In this masterpiece of inspired nonsense Barrington juxtaposes
Arcadian romance with economic and commercial discourse. The denouement --
when the identity of the elfin companion is exploded -- is vintage
Barrington. As usual, Barrington's romantic narrative is unconsummated.
(Barrington never married.)

The poem was published in 'Songs of a Sub-Man' (London: Methuen & Company
Limited, 1934). The title of the collection presumably parodies Nietzsche's
"ubermensch" ("overman"). Barrington sketches more than one credible
untermensch.

William Grey.

10 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

mad said...

Of note, this poem is also a transparent parody on La Belle Dame Sans
Merci by Keats (minstrels poem 182.)

-Daniel

----
And now this is 'an inheritance' -
Upright, rudimentary, unshiftably planked
In the long ago, yet willable forward

Again and again and again.

William Grey said...

The allusion to Keats 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' is clear; thanks Daniel
for pointing it out. 'Alack-a-day' and 'Willaloo' I recollect from some or
other of the Savoy Operas by Gilbert and Sullivan -- Barrington was a great
fan of these.
William Grey

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