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Short poem

Don Marquis (1878-1937)

Romeo and Juliet

              1Pop Montague's old brain was wried
              2    Through all its convolutions
              3With constant thoughts of Homicide
              4    And kindred institutions.

              5White-haired Giuseppi Capulet,
              6    Although he liked his daughter,
              7The pert, precocious Juliet,
              8    Was fonder still of slaughter.

              9Young Romeo was just designed
            10    To play Italian opera:
            11A looker, with a tenor mind --
            12    A perfect star for Wopera.

            13Each cutthroat father kept at hand,
            14    In their respective houses,
            15A low-browed, cloaked, romantic band
            16    Of swordsmen, thugs, and souses.

            17When ennui made Giuseppi sad
            18    He'd go a-Montagueing;
            19Pop Montague's perticuler fad
            20    Was Capulet-pursuing.

            21How could young lovers dodge their doom,
            22    With all these complications?
            23They gravitated to the tomb
            24    To join their near relations.

            25Their bloody story I might trace --
            26    How loved they but to rue it --
            27At length if I but had the face,
            28    But Shakespeare beat me to it.

            29(They're Shakespeare's corpses -- let him hop
            30    About his morgue and sort 'em --
            31I'll start where he came to a stop
            32    And pull a brief post-mortem.

            33Will for the dagger and the kiss,
            34    The poison and the quarrels,
            35But my preoccupation is,
            36    Far more than Will's, with morals.)

            37So when the feud had run its course
            38    And slain its scores and dozens
            39The ancient cutthroats got remorse --
            40    And gave it to their cousins.

            41Quoth Caputlet: "We're here to-day --
            42    But where are we to-morrow?"
            43Pop Montague would often say:
            44    "I feel a sort of sorrow!"

            45Remorse soon heightened to regret;
            46    They signed a bond one Monday --
            47Old Montague and Capulet --
            48    To slay no man on Sunday!

            49Their hearts grew softer with the years,.
            50    Their mood grew kind and pensive --
            51They mused, one morning, bathed in tears,
            52    "Some days, crime seems offensive!"

            53Salt globules furrowed each lank cheek,
            54    They thought of son and daughter,
            55And vowed that more than once a week
            56    They'd not indulge in slaughter.

            57Upon their own reform they'd gloat,
            58    In consciousness of virtue,
            59And murmur as they cut a throat:
            60    "I'm sorry if I hurt you!"

            61Thus Montague and Capulet,
            62    They took to heart the lesson,
            63And so the death of Juliet
            64    In some ways proved a blessin'.

            65And this reform of which I speak
            66    Made them far less rejected --
            67They stuck to murder once a week
            68    And died loved and respected!


1] wried: contorted.

12] Wopera: "wop" (slang word for an Italian) + "opera."

16] souses: drunkards.

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: Don Marquis, Sonnets to a Red-haired Lady (By a Gentleman with a Blue Beard) and Famous Love Affairs (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page, 1922): 103-06. PS 3525 A797S66 Robarts Library
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2003
Recent editing: 1:2003/7/5

Form: quatrains
Rhyme: abab

Other poems by Don Marquis