(Poem #1868) The Talented Man
Dear Alice! you'll laugh when you know it, -- Last week, at the Duchess's ball, I danced with the clever new poet, -- You've heard of him, -- Tully St. Paul. Miss Jonquil was perfectly frantic; I wish you had seen Lady Anne! It really was very romantic, He *is* such a talanted man! He came up from Brazenose College, Just caught, as they call it, this spring; And his head, love, is stuffed full of knowledge Of every conceivable thing. Of science and logic he chatters, As fine and as fast as he can; Though I am no judge of such matters, I'm sure he's a talented man. His stories and jests are delightful; -- Not stories or jests, dear, for you; The jests are exceedingly spiteful, The stories not always *quite* true. Perhaps to be kind and veracious May do pretty well at Lausanne; But it never would answer, -- good gracious! Chez nous -- in a talented man. He sneers, -- how my Alice would scold him! -- At the bliss of a sigh or a tear; He laughed -- only think! -- when I told him How we cried o'er Trevelyan last year; I vow I was quite in a passion; I broke all the sticks of my fan; But sentiment's quite out of fashion, It seems, in a talented man. Lady Bab, who is terribly moral, Has told me that Tully is vain, And apt -- which is silly -- to quarrel, And fond -- which is sad -- of champagne. I listened, and doubted, dear Alice, For I saw, when my Lady began, It was only the Dowager's malice; -- She *does* hate a talented man! He's hideous, I own it. But fame, love, Is all that these eyes can adore; He's lame, -- but Lord Byron was lame, love, And dumpy, -- but so is Tom Moore. Then his voice, -- *such* a voice! my sweet creature, It's like your Aunt Lucy's toucan: But oh! what's a tone or a feature, When once one's a talented man? My mother, you know, all the season, Has talked of Sir Geoffrey's estate; And truly, to do the fool reason, He *has* been less horrid of late. But today, when we drive in the carriage, I'll tell her to lay down her plan; -- If ever I venture on marriage, It must be a talented man! P.S. -- I have found, on reflection, One fault in my friend, -- entre nous; Without it, he'd just be perfection; -- Poor fellow, he has not a sou! And so, when he comes in September To shoot with my uncle, Sir Dan, I've promised mamma to remember He's only a talented man!
This is an unexpectedly funny poem - I started off smiling, but had to laugh out loud before I was done. It's hard to write a humorous poem where the intent is that the reader laugh at the narrator; it's even harder when the main element of the poem's humour is that indefinable quality, "tone of voice". But Praed not only manages to thread the poem through with a delightful vein of sly humour, he makes the whole thing look wonderfully effortless - indeed, I was almost tempted to dismiss this as a funny but essentially trivial poem, until I started to think about just how chancy a thing humour can be. It's still a trivial poem, mind you, but it's also an impressive one. That humour of this sort is indeed tricky to handle is unfortunately revealed with a jar in the last verse, which has a definite "I have no idea how to end this" feel to it. The supplied punchline is superficially funny, but it is a tired, cliched sort of humour, and one inconsistent in tone with the rest of the poem. Happily, it doesn't detract from the rest of the poem - there is a slight sense of letdown at the end, but, at least for me, the lingering impression is entirely positive. martin Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winthrop_Mackworth_Praed [Praed seems to have led an interesting and active life]