Monday, November 19, 2012


I never fail to be astonished by the odd functioning of my memory.  This morning, whilst I engaged in a struggle that every human being will recognize, this scatological couplet popped back whole cloth into my mind: I originally read it in my youth, more than sixty years ago, on the wall of a public lavatory in England, and it has remained with me ever since.  It goes like this:
Here I sit all broken-hearted,
Came to shit and only farted.
Not great poetry, I think you'll agree, but it does give expression to the frustration we all must feel in this predicament from time to time.  But this morning the memory also brought to mind those walls that were always rich with inscriptions of all kinds--obscene and primitive drawings of male and female anatomy, forlorn messages of sexual longing for unlikely trysts, idiotic verses like the one above, and so on.  The public "Gentlemen's" always provided interesting, sometimes stimulating reading for a young mind untutored in most of the subjects discussed or illustrated.  My memory has stored several other samples of this art form, most of them too gross to be repeated here.

Is it the simplicity of this verse that makes it so readily memorable?  It is certainly pithy, and the universality of the sentiment is beyond dispute.  The rhyme is neat, and the iambic feet lock the words in with their familiar, heart-beat rhythm.  Perhaps, after all, it is great poetry.  In a modest way.  And my loyal readers will know how much I value modesty--in art, in poetry, in life...

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