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Short poem

Franklin Pierce Adams (1881-1960)

Bricks and Straw

              1My desk is cleared of the litter of ages;
              2Before me glitter the fair white pages;
              3My fountain pen is clean and filled,
              4And the noise of the office has long been stilled.
              5Roget's Thesaurus is at my hand,
              6And I'm ready to do some work that's grand,
              7Dignified, eminent, great, momentous,
              8Memorable, worthy of note, portentous,
              9Beautiful, paramount, vital, prime,
            10Stirring, eventful, august, sublime.
            11For this is the way, I have read and heard,
            12That authors look for the fitting word.
            13All of the proud ingredients mine
            14To build, like Marlowe, the mighty line.
            15But never a line from my new-filled pen
            16That couldn't be done by a child of ten.
            17Oh, how did Shelley and how did Keats
            18Weave magic words on the fair white sheets
            19Under conditions that, were they mine,
            20I couldn't bear? And I'd just resign.
            21Yet Milton wrote passable literature
            22Under conditions I couldn't endure.
            23Coleridge and Chatterton did their stuff
            24Over a road that I'd christen rough.
            25Wordsworth and -- soft! -- could it be that they
            26Waited until they had something to say?


1] Bricks and Straw: enduring building material, and ephemeral stuff that blows away. Yet just as straw is needed in making bricks (cf. Exodus 5.6-21; allusion courtesy of James Fulford), so a poet's best work comes from what is most ephemeral in the living of a life; or so Adams seems to say.

5] Roget's Thesaurus: a dictionary of synonyms, arranged by topic, and a writer's tool that does not necessarily bode well for composing in that it (not the writer's mind) supplies the topic or subject matter only as a word-list.

10] Four lines that might come directly out of Roget's Thesaurus.

14] Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593), Elizabethan poet and playwright. Ben Jonson praises Shakespeare for "how far thou didst our Lyly outshine, / Or sporting Kyd, or Marlowe's mighty line" in "To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare."

17] Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) and John Keats (1795-1821), both Romantic poets.

22] John Milton (1608-1674) wrote Paradise Lost when he was blind.

23] Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was addicted to opium, and Thomas Chatterton (1752-70), in his teens, in poverty, committed suicide.

25] William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

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: Franklin P. Adams, So Much Velvet (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page, and Co., 1924): 101-02. PS 3501 .D24 S46 Robarts Library
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2003
Recent editing: 1:2003/8/12*1:2003/8/29

Form: couplets

Other poems by Franklin Pierce Adams