Guest poem submitted by Philip Watson:
(Poem #1775) The Wasp
Of those uncertain creatures Who take a simple joy In swelling up one's features On purpose to annoy, Things void of natural sweetness, Aggressive and inhosp. (Pardon the incompleteness) You are the first, O wasp. There is no place we visit In England's pleasant land (It isn't your place, is it?) But you must take a hand; You set the nerves a-jangle, You turn the tan to chalk Of anglers when they angle, Of walkers when they walk. In no uncertain manner You bid the bather flee; You foil the caravanner Who merely wants his tea; You raid the earnest hopper, You break upon our sports, And are, I'm told, improper To river girls in shorts. We slap at you and swat you; We fell you as we may (The rapture when we've got you Is more than words can say); One may see great deeds daily When men unused to strife Brave you, albeit palely, For screaming child or wife. And we have learnt to fashion A lure that cannot fail, Born of a lasting passion That you confess for ale; An artful jar that cozens You in and, when you're tight, Drowns you in drink by dozens, A most immoral sight. But when the day is sinking And you retire to rest That, to my private thinking, Is where man comes out best; Armed with his apparatus He tracks you to the comb Whence you come forth to bait us; Then, when the last wasp's home, Bring forth, O man, your funnel; With oil and poison come; Take heed lest haply one'll Pass down a warning hum; Insert with care the former; Pour down the latter thick; That should have made things warmer; That will have done the trick. Thus with discreet defiance We tackle you, and yet, For all the arts of science, You don't seem much upset; Alert and undiminished You still appear to prosp.; I leave the word unfinished To rhyme with you, O wasp.
Listening to the wireless the other day, I heard an item wherein the BBC told us that this had been 'a bad year for wasps'. I thought this a somewhat ambiguous statement. For instance, if one were to hear that it had been a 'bad year for cholera', it would be logical to assume that there was a lot of it about lately, to the detriment of humanity. This was not, it transpired, what they meant. Instead, after a cold snap in the springtime, the wasps themselves has suffered a serious decline in numbers. To my way of thinking (which I grant may be criticised as selfish), that made it an entirely splendid year for wasps. Lest any of your English readers fail to appreciate the alleviation of our torment this year, I thought that the following would be apposite. The poem was written by Captain John Kendall under the pen name Dum-Dum. It appears in an anthology of his work entitled 'Short Doses', published in London by Constable & Co Ltd in 1932: it may have appeared previously in the periodical 'Punch'. I believe that you have only one other of Kendall's works posted on your site, which drought I hope the above may help to remedy. A critical reviewer must, I think, question whether such material would still amuse a contemporary audience. Given that humour is so very much embedded in its original cultural context, it frequently neither travels nor ages well. For, if 'the past is another country', then the England of 1932 must seem to today's English reader, as altogether another planet. The more humour is culturally specific, the more ephemeral its appeal; and I suppose vice versa (whence the continuing popularity of a large body of execrable slapstick). With kind regards, and much appreciation of your excellent work, Philip Watson. Luppitt, Devonshire, England