Mr Wilder and Me by Jonathan Coe
8 minutes ago
A stately home where doves, in dovecotes, coo--
fields where calm cattle stand and gently moo,
trim lawns where croquet is the thing to do.
This is the ship, the house party's the crew:
Lord Feudal, hunter of the lion and gnu,
whose walls display the heads of not a few,
Her Ladyship, once Ida Fortescue,
who, like his Lordship very highborn too
surveys the world with a disdainful moue.
Their son--most active with a billiard cue--
Lord Lazy (stays in bed till half past two).
A Balkan Count called Popolesceru
(an ex-Dictator waiting for a coup).
Ann Fenn, most English, modest, straight and true,
a very pretty girl without a sou.
Adrian Finkelstein, a clever Jew.
Tempest Bellairs, a beauty such as you
would only find in books like this (she'd sue
if I displayed her to the public view--
enough to say men stick to her like glue).
John Huntingdon, who's only there to woo
(a fact, except for her, the whole house knew)
Ann Fenn. And, last, the witty Cambridge Blue,
the Honourable Algy Playfair, who
shines in detection. His clear, 'View halloo!'
puts murderers in a frightful stew.
But now the plot unfolds! What déjà vu!
There! In the snow! -- The clear print of a shoe!
Tempest is late for her next rendez-vous,
Lord Feudal's blood spreads wide--red, sticky goo
on stiff white shirtfront--Lazy's billet-doux
has missed Ann Fenn, and Popolesceru
has left--without a whisper of adieu
or saying goodbye, typical mauvais gout!
Adrian Finkelstein, give him his due,
behaves quite well. Excitement is taboo
in this emotionless landowner's zoo.
Algy, with calm that one could misconstrue
(handling with nonchalance bits of vertu)
knows who the murderer is. He has a clue.
But who? But who? Who, who, who, who, who, who?
The Irish are great talkers,
persuasive and disarming.
You can say lots and lots
against the Scots--
but at least they're never charming!
Sleep softly...eagle forgotten...under the stone.Time has its way with you there, and the clay has its own.
"We have buried him now," thought your foes, and in secret rejoiced.They made a brave show of their mourning, their hatred unvoiced.
They had snarled at you, barked at you, foamed at you day after day.
Now you were ended. They praised you,...and laid you away.
The others that mourned you in silence and terror and truth.The widow bereft of her crust, and the boy without youth,The mocked and the scorned and the wounded, the lame and the poorThat should have remembered forever,...remember no more.
Where are those lovers of yours, on what name do they callThe lost, that in armies wept over your funeral pall?They call on the names of a hundred high-valiant ones,A hundred white eagles have risen the sons of your sons,The zeal in their wings is a zeal that your dreaming beganThe valor that wore out your soul in the service of man.
Sleep softly,...eagle forgotten...under the stoneTime has its way with you there and the clay has its own.
Sleep on, O brave-hearted, O wise man, that kindled the flame--To live in mankind is far more than to live in a name,To live in mankind, far, far more...than to live in a name.
"Let the man speak for himself!" Nilssen snapped. "What's going on?"
We shall omit Mannering's answer to this question, which was both inaccurate and inflammatory; we shall omit, also, the ensuing discussion, during which Mannering and Nilssen discovered that their purpose in journeying to Chinatown was one and the same, and Frost, who could intuit quite plainly that the commission merchant was holding him in some suspicion over the sale of the Wells estate, maintained a rather sullen silence. The clarifications took some time,...I found it an engaging voice and a compelling read, and funny as well. But it also has real darkness to it, too: Catton does not soft-pedal the casual sexism and especially racism that would have been all too common at that time; nor, unlike say in Dickens, does she particularly fix things up at the end. Racist acts in particular have no repercussions, alas, a thing all too true to the time and place, I'm sure.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"