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James Kenneth Stephen (1859-1892)

The Ballade of the Incompetent Ballade-Monger


              1I am not ambitious at all:
              2  I am not a poet, I know
              3(Though I do love to see a mere scrawl
              4  To order and symmetry grow).
              5  My muse is uncertain and slow,
              6I am not expert with my tools,
              7  I lack the poetic argot:
              8But I hope I have kept to the rules.

              9When your brain is undoubtedly small,
            10  'Tis hard, sir, to write in a row,
            11Some five or six rhymes to Nepaul,
            12  And more than a dozen to Joe:
            13  The metre is easier though,
            14Three rhymes are sufficient for 'ghouls,'
            15  My lines are deficient in go,
            16But I hope I have kept to the rules.

            17Unable to fly let me crawl,
            18  Your patronage kindly bestow:
            19I am not the author of Saul,
            20  I am not Voltaire or Rousseau:
            21  I am not desirous, oh no!
            22To rise from the ranks of the fools,
            23  To shine with Gosse, Dobson and Co.:
            24But I hope I have kept to the rules.

            25Dear Sir, though my language is low,
            26  Let me dip in Pierian pools:
            27My verses are only so so,
            28  But I hope I have kept to the rules.

Notes

7] argot: slang (French).

15] go: energy, spirit.

19] the author of Saul: probably Robert Browning (1802-1889).

20] Voltaire: French satirical author (1694-1778), e.g., of Candide.
Rousseau: Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), French philosopher and writer.

23] Gosse: Sir Edmund William Gosse (1849-1928), translator, poet, and man of letters, sometimes attacked for carelessness in his writing.
Henry Austin Dobson (1840-1921), a light-verse poet and a close friend of Gosse.

26] Pierian pools: the nine Muses were worshipped at Pieria in Macedonia.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: J. K. Stephen, Lapsus Calami, new edn. (Cambridge: Macmillan and Bowes, 1891), pp. 39-40. PR 5473 S4L3 1891 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1891
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/6

Rhyme: ababbcbc ababbcbc ababbcbc bcbc


Other poems by James Kenneth Stephen