A Ballad of a Bun

Original Text: 

"A Ballad of a Bun." The Battle of the Bays (London: The Bodley Head, 1896): 22-26. OCLC Id: 1822279. Internet Archive.

(after J. D.)
"I am sister to the mountains now,
And sister to the sun and moon."
"Heed not bellettrist jargon."
                                John Davidson.
2    That is to say, all through the year--
3Her patient pen was occupied
4    With songs and tales of pleasant cheer.
5But still her talent went to waste
6    Like flotsam on an open sea;
7She never hit the public taste,
9Across the sounding City's fogs
10    There hurtled round her weary head
11The thunder of the rolling logs;
12    "The Critics' Carnival!" she said.
13Immortal prigs took heaven by storm,
14    Prigs scattered largesses of praise;
15The work of both was rather warm;
16    "This is," she said, "the thing that pays!"
17Sharp envy turned her wine to blood--
18    I mean it turned her blood to wine;
19And this resolve came like a flood--
20    "The cake of knowledge must be mine!
21"I am in Eve's predicament--
22    I sha'n't be happy till I've sinned;
23Away!" She lightly rose, and sent
24    Her scruples sailing down the wind.
25She did not tear her open breast,
26    Nor leave behind a track of gore.
27But carried flannel next her chest.
28    And wore the boots she always wore.
29Across the sounding City's din
30    She wandered, looking indiscreet.
31And ultimately landed in
32    The neighbourhood of Regent Street.
33She ran against a resolute
34    Policeman standing like a wall;
35She kissed his feet and asked the route
36    To where they held the Carnival.
37Her strange behaviour caused remark;
38    They said, "Her reason has been lost;"
39Beside her eyes the gas was dark,
40    But that was owing to the frost.
41A Decadent was dribbling by;
42    "Lady," he said, "you seem undone;
43You need a panacea; try
45"It is fulfilled of precious spice,
46    Whereof I give the recipe;--
47Take common dripping, stew in vice,
48    And serve with vertu; taste and see!
49"And lo! I brand you on the brow
50    As kin to Nature's lowest germ;
51You are sister to the microbe now,
52    And second-cousin to the worm."
53He gave her of his golden store,
54    Such hunger hovered in her look;
55She took the bun, and asked for more,
56    And went away and wrote a book.
57To put the matter shortly, she
58    Became the topic of the town;
59In all the lists of Bellettrie
60    Her name was regularly down.
61"We recognise," the critics wrote,
63Some even made a verbal note
64    Of Shakespeare being out of it.
65The seasons went and came again;
66    At length the languid Public cried:
68    That hardly ever turns aside.
69"We want a little change of air;
70    On that," they said, "we must insist;
71We cannot any longer bear
72    The seedy sex-impressionist."
73Across the sounding City's din
74    This rumour smote her on the ear:
75"The publishers are going in
76    For songs and tales of pleasant cheer!"
77"Alack!" she said, "I lost the art,
78    And left my womanhood foredone,
79When first I trafficked in the mart
80    All for a mess of Bodley bun.
81"I cannot cut my kin at will,
83I am sister to the microbe still,
84    And second-cousin to the worm!"

Notes

1] A parody of John Davidson's "A Ballad of a Nun." Back to Line
8] Bellettrie: belles lettres (neologism not in OED). Back to Line
44] John Lane and Elkin Mathews, partnered in the Bodley Head publishers, published "stylishly decadent" works such as the literary periodical The Yellow Book. An English bun is a sweet cake at this time, but it is also slang for a tail. Back to Line
62] Guy de Maupassant (1850-93), 19th-century French short-story writer. Heinrich Heine (1797.-1856), German satirical poet. Back to Line
67] Lane: John Lane, London literary publisher. Back to Line
82] protoplastic: archetypal, created first. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1896
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2011
Rhyme: 
Form: