What Grandfather Said

A poem by Alfred Noyes

(An epistle from a narrow-minded old gentleman to a young artist of superior intellect and intense realism.)


Your thoughts are for the poor and weak?
Ah, no, the picturesque's your passion!
Your tongue is always in your cheek
At poverty that's not in fashion.

You like a ploughman's rugged face,
Or painted eyes in Piccadilly;
But bowler hats are commonplace,
And thread-bare tradesmen simply silly.

The clerk that sings "God save the King,"
And still believes his Tory paper,--
You hate the anæmic fool? I thought
You loved the weak! Was that all vapour?

Ah, when you sneer, dear democrat,
At such a shiny-trousered Tory
Because he doffs his poor old hat
To what he thinks his country's glory,

To you it's just a coloured rag.
You hate the "patriots" that bawl so.
Well, my Ulysses, there's a flag
That lifts men in Republics also.

No doubt his thoughts are cruder far;
And, where those linen folds are shaking,
Perhaps he sees a kind of star
Because his eyes are tired and aching.

Banal enough! Banal as truth!
But I'm not thinking of his banners.
I'm thinking of his pinched white youth
And your disgusting "new art" manners.

His meek submission stirs your hate?
Better, my lad, if you're so fervent,
Turn your cold steel against the State
Instead of sneering at the servant.

He does his job. He draws his pay.
You sneer, and dine with those that pay him;
And then you write a snobbish play
For democrats, in which you play him.

Ah, yes, you like simplicity
That sucks its cheeks to make the dimple.
But this domestic bourgeoisie
You hate,--because it's all too simple.

You hate the hearth, the wife, the child,
You hate the heavens that bend above them.
Your simple folk must all run wild
Like jungle-beasts before you love them.

You own a house in Cheyne Walk,
(You say it costs three thousand fully)
Where subtle snobs can talk and talk
And play the intellectual bully.

Yes. I say "snobs." Are names alone
Free from all change? Your word "Victorian"
Could bite and sting in ninety one
But now--it's deader than the saurian.

You think I live in yesterday,
Because I think your way the wrong one;
But I have hewed and ploughed my way,
And--unlike yours--it's been a long one.

I let Victoria toll her bell,
And went with Strindberg for a ride, sir.
I've fought through your own day as well,
And come out on the other side, sir,--

The further side, the morning side,
I read free verse (the Psalms) on Sunday.
But I've decided (you'll decide)
That there is room for song on Monday.

I've seen the new snob on his way,
The intellectual snob I mean, sir,
The artist snob, in book and play,
Kicking his mother round the scene, sir.

I've heard the Tories talk like fools;
And the rich fool that apes the Tory.
I've seen the shopmen break your rules
And die like Christ, in Christ's own glory.

But, as for you, that liberal sneer
Reminds me of the poor old Kaiser.
He was a "socialist," my dear.
Well, I'm your grandson. You'll grow wiser.

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