Friday, September 08, 2006

Poetry Friday - Stevie Smith

"Souvenir de Monsieur Poop"

I am the self-appointed guardian of English literature,
I believe tremendously in the significance of age;
I believe that a writer is wise at 50,
Ten years wiser at 60, at 70 a sage.
I believe that juniors are lively, to be enoucraged with
discretion and snubbed,
I believe also that they are bouncing, communistic, ill
mannered and, of course, young.
But I never define what I mean by youth
Because the word undefined is more useful for general
purposes of abuse.
I believe that literature is a school where only those who apply
themselves diligently to their tasks acquire merit.
And only they after the passage of a good many years (see
But then I am an old fogey.
I always write more in sorrow than in anger.
I am, after all, devoted to Shakespeare, Milton,
And, coming to our own times,
Of course
I have never been known to say a word against the
established classics,
I am in fact devoted to the established classics.
In the service of literature I believe absolutely in the principle
of division;
I divide into age groups and also into schools.
This is in keeping with my scholastic mind, and enables me to
Not only youth
(Which might be thought intellectually frivolous by pedants)
but also periodical tendencies,
To ventilate, in a word, my own political and moral
(When I say that I am an old fogey, I am, of course, joking.)
English Literature, as I see it, requirs to be defended
By a person of integrity and essential good humour
Against the forces of fanatacism, idiosyncrasy and anarchy.
I perfectly apprehend the perilous nature of my convictions
And I am prepared to go to the stake
For Shakespeare, Milton,
And, coming to our own times,
Of course
I cannot say more than that, can I?
And I do not deem it advisable, in the interests of the editor
to whom I am spatially contracted,
To say less.

1 comment:

Kerri said...

I know this is an old post, but I wanted to thank you for it. I've just discovered Stevie Smith myself, and needed a link to this poem for my Modern British Poetry class. I could kiss this woman for writing this poem, and you for sharing it!