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Thread: Waste Paper

  1. #1
    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    Waste Paper

    After T. S. Eliot won that poetry poll recently, I was motivated to go and reread much of it, and do a bit of reading around the subject. I was surprised to discover that another one of my favourite authors, H. P. Lovecraft, absolutely despised Eliot, and thought The Waste Land so dreadful and meaningless that he actually composed a rather cutting parody of it. So, I'm interested, what do you all think of Lovecraft's rather sour attempt to imitate Eliot?

    Waste Paper: A Poem of Profound Insignificance

    I
    Out of the reaches of illimitable night
    The blazing planet grew, and forc'd to life
    Unending cycles of progressive strife
    And strange mutations of undying light
    And boresome books, than hell's own self more trite
    And thoughts repeated and become a blight,
    And cheap rum-hounds with moonshine hootch made tight,
    And quite contrite to see the flight of fright so bright
    I used to ride my bicycle in the night
    With a dandy acetylene lantern that cost $3.00
    In the evening, by the moonlight, you can hear those darkies singing
    Meet me tonight - in dreamland... BAH!
    I used to sit on the stairs of the house where I was born
    After we left it but before it was sold
    And play on a zobo with two other boys.
    We called ourselves the Blackstone Military Band
    Won't you come home, Bill Bailey, won't you come home?
    In the spring of the year, in the silver rain
    When petal by petal the blossoms fall
    And the mocking birds call
    And the whippoorwill sings, Marguerite.
    The first cinema show in our town opened in 1906
    At the old Olympic, which was then call'd Park,
    And moving beams shot weirdly thro' the dark
    And spit tobacco seldom hit the mark.
    Have you read Dickens' American Notes?
    My great-great-grandfather was born in a white house
    Under green trees in the country
    And he used to believe in religion and the weather.

    II
    "Shantih, shantih, shantih"..."Shanty House"
    Was the name of a novel by I forget whom
    Published serially in the "All-Story Weekly"
    Before it was a weekly. Advt.
    Disillusion is wonderful, I've been told,
    And I take quinine to stop a cold
    But it makes my ears... always...
    Always ringing in my ears...
    It is the ghost of the Jew I murdered that Christmas day
    Because he played "Three O'Clock in the Morning" in the flat above me...
    Three O'Clock in the morning, I've danc'd the whole night through
    Dancing on the graves in the graveyard
    Where life is buried; life and beauty
    Life and art and love and duty
    Ah, there, sweet cutie.
    Stung!
    Out of the night that covers me
    Black as the pit from pole to pole
    I never quote things straight except by accident.
    Sophistication! Sophistication!
    You are the idol of our nation
    Each fellow has
    Fallen for jazz
    And we'll give the past a merry razz
    Thro' the ghoul-guarded gateways of slumber
    And fellow-guestship with the glutless worm.
    Next stop is 57th St. - 57th St. the next stop.
    Achilles' wrath, to Greece the direful spring,
    And the governor-general of Canada is Lord Byng
    Whose ancestor was shot or hung,
    I forget which, the good die young.
    Here's to your ripe old age,
    Copyright, 1847, by Joseph Miner,
    Entered according to act of Congress.

    III
    In the office of the librarian of Congress
    America was discovered in 1492
    This way out.
    No, lady, you gotta change at Washington St. to the Everett train.
    Out in the rain on the elevated
    Crated, sated, all mismated.
    Twelve seats on this bench,
    How quaint.
    In a shady nook, beside a brook, two lovers stroll along.
    Express to Park Ave., Car Following.
    No, we had it cleaned with the sand blast.
    I know it ought to be torn down.
    Before the bar of a saloon there stood a reckless crew,
    When one said to another, "Jack, this message came for you."
    "It may be from a sweetheart, boys," said someone in the crowd,
    And here the words are missing... but Jack cried out aloud:
    "It's only a message from home, sweet home,
    From loved ones down on the farm
    Fond wife and mother, sister and brother..."
    Bootleggers all and you're another
    In the shade of the old apple tree
    'Neath the old cherry tree sweet Marie
    The Conchologist's First Book
    By Edgar Allan Poe
    Stubbed his toe
    On a broken brick that didn't show
    Or a banana peel
    In the fifth reel
    By George Creel
    It is to laugh
    And quaff
    It makes you stout and hale
    And all my days I'll sing the praise
    Of Ivory Soap
    Have you a little T. S. Eliot in your house?

    IV
    The stag at eve had drunk his fill
    The thirsty hart look'd up the hill
    And craned his neck just as a feeler
    To advertise the Double-Dealer.
    William Congreve was a gentleman
    O art what sins are committed in thy name
    For tawdry fame and fleeting flame
    And everything, ain't dat a shame?
    Mah Creole Belle, ah lubs yo' well;
    Aroun' mah heart you hab cast a spell
    But I can't learn to spell pseudocracy
    Because there ain't no such word.
    And I says to Lizzie, if Joe was my feller
    I'd teach him to go to dances with that
    Rat, bat, cat, hat, flat, plat, fat
    Fry the fat, fat the fry
    You'll be a drug-store by and by.
    Get the hook!
    Above the lines of brooding hills
    Rose spires that reeked of nameless ills,
    And ghastly shone upon the sight
    In ev'ry flash of lurid light
    To be continued.
    No smoking.
    Smoking on four rear seats.
    Fare win return to 5 cents after August 1st
    Except outside the Cleveland city limits.
    In the ghoul-haunted Woodland of Weir
    Strangers pause to shed a tear;
    Henry Fielding wrote "Tom Jones"
    And cursed be he that moves my bones.
    I saw the Leonard-Tendler fight
    Farewell, farewell, O go to hell.
    Nobody home
    In the shantih.
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

  2. #2
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    I'm ashamed to say that I'm not familiar with the works of H.P. Lovecraft, but he was mainly an author of gothic tales, right? One doesn't think of horror writers as having a sense of humor, but this parody does display a very funny "take" on Eliot's masterpiece. I liked the "quoting" which the original poem does, but there are only a couple of lines from an actual song that was popular in the time Eliot wrote this-- "O that Shakespearean rag," not to the extent that Lovecraft takes it. Also, the original does have a handful of rhyming lines, but certainly not as many as the parody.

    My respect and admiration for the original and highly influential Eliot poem remains undiminished, but I do have to say that I enjoyed this parody. Thanks for posting it.

  3. #3
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    Definitely enjoyed reading this, as it sends up 'The Waste Land' so well, what with the constant topic jumping... would have been good to see a more direct parody of certain lines, though.

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