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Wodehouse poets: I have got dyspepsia

In approximately 25 minutes, I will be heading off to explore P.G. Wodehouse locations in Shropshire, on route to the wedding of a Wodehouse lover called Bill. To mark the occasion, I’d like to share my favourite ‘Wodehouse’ poem — presented as the work of Lancelot Mulliner in ‘Came the Dawn’. I wanted this to be read at my own wedding, but the celebrant bucked.

DARKLING (A Threnody)
By L. BASSINGTON MULLINER
(Copyright in all languages, including the Scandinavian)

Black branches,
Like a corpse’s withered hands,
Waving against the blacker sky:
Chill winds,
Bitter like the tang of half-remembered sins;
Bats wheeling mournfully through the air,
And on the ground
Worms,
Toads,
Frogs,
And nameless creeping things;
And all around
Desolation,
Doom,
Dyspepsia,
And Despair.
I am a bat that wheels through the air of Fate;
I am a worm that wriggles in a swamp of Disillusionment ;
I am a despairing toad;
I have got dyspepsia.

from: Came the Dawn (Meet Mr Mulliner)

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36 Comments

  1. ashokbhatia says:

    Those who have suffered (or are afflicted by) dyspepsia would not be the only ones admiring this composition. Pip, pip!

  2. Ninepennyworth of Sherry says:

    I, for one, feel like I want to eat a breakfast pickle upon reading this but seeing as how I haven’t any idea what a breakfast pickle is, one is stymied.

  3. John Hawley says:

    Absolutely the best description of how to go about Jeeves and Wooster. As I am about to embark onto those stories it is the perfect primer. Thanks Honoria Plum.

    John

  4. Riz says:

    I might add this wonderful poem to the list of poems I’d like to rote learn this year. Pip, pip.

    • honoria plum says:

      You are very clever! I can barely remember my name and date of birth. A gift for remembering poetry is wonderful.

      • Riz says:

        Oh, I can’t boast any natural talent. My memory is so poor I can’t remember what I had for breakfast…or even if I had breakfast. It was as a determined experiment that I forced some poems into the grey cells….nothing quite like a but of learning parrot fashion (I mean, hey, it works fine for the parrot).

        Just wanted to say that if you are still in the UK, there is an excellent theatrical play of Jeeves of Wooster doing the rounds..may be worth a look-see.

      • honoria plum says:

        What Ho again! Yes, I saw the play just before Christmas — gift to self — have written a little review of it here. Loved it. It wasn’t what I expected (I didn’t know it was a play of the Code of the Woosters until they started playing) but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Have you had a chance to see it?

      • Riz says:

        Yes indeed…just saw it last wknd in fact…it a good mash up with some extra silliness thrown in for good measure!

  5. ‘I wanted this to be read at my own wedding, but the celebrant bucked.’

    That’s such a great line!

    How are you getting on with the novel?

    • honoria plum says:

      Working on it like mad. Also writing a short story to be revealed here — for fun. Thanks xx

      • Make sure you still give it your best shot though.

        Don’t build yourself in a get-out clause to comfort yourself with just in case no one likes it. (We’ve all been there…)

      • honoria plum says:

        Thanks Victoria! I cant wait to share it with you.

      • Paul (the P is silent) says:

        Honoria, Can’t wait to read your short story!

      • honoria plum says:

        Thanks Paul. I’m having fun writing it too.

      • This is an extract from a comment made at Miss Darcy’s Library (http://www.missdarcyslibrary.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/midnight-melodrama) by limr (http://www.asalinguist.com) which I thought was fascinating.

        The article is just as interesting – especially as most of the authors Parker mentions are no longer known, unlike herself. I especially like the snippet that she took over as drama critic at ‘Vanity Fair’ from our old friend Plum!

        ‘An excerpt from an interview with Dorothy Parker:

        “INTERVIEWER: Do you think Hollywood destroys the artist’s talent?

        PARKER: No, no, no. I think nobody on earth writes down. Garbage though they turn out, Hollywood writers aren’t writing down. That is their best. If you’re going to write, don’t pretend to write down. It’s going to be the best you can do, and it’s the fact that it’s the best you can do that kills you. I want so much to write well, though I know I don’t, and that I didn’t make it. But during and at the end of my life, I will adore those who have.”

        http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4933/the-art-of-fiction-no-13-dorothy-parker

      • honoria plum says:

        Very interesting. I read a biography of Parker and it was desperately sad. Do her comments strike a chord with you and your experiences of writing for screen?

      • It’s the P. G. Wodehouse interview I found on the same site that really struck a chord. His approach has got me wondering if I could write some sort of novel after all and I’m trying to work my thoughts on this into a little aside on my ‘advice on writing articles’. (I posted part two of this a couple of days ago.)

      • Sorry, I was distracted and pressed ‘reply’ before I’d added the links.

        Wodehouse interview at

        http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3773/the-art-of-fiction-no-60-p-g-wodehouse

        second part of my ‘writing advice’ article at

        http://www.moulderslane.wordpress.com

      • honoria plum says:

        Thanks Victoria — I loved you piece and have commented there. I have seen the Paris Review article before, but it’s one that’s always worth reading again. His advice about treating characters like actors is one that has always stuck with me. It makes good sense. I also like the insights into Wodehouse’s home life: ‘His wife, Ethel, or his sister-in-law, Helen, did the worrying for him.’ What a difference that would make for a writer!

      • Re: Parker – I find it interesting too that she’s so associated with the Alonquin Round Table (it’s always DP and the circle at the ART, whenever anyone references it) and yet she herself says that she didn’t actually go there that often because it was so expensive.

      • Thank you so much for your lovely, thoughtful comment on my post! I seem to have spent most of my life finding answers only through time-consuming and costly mistakes – so if I can help others short-cut through similar dilemmas it’ll be something!

        Yes, it would absolutely marvellous to have someone else to do all the worrying for you! I’ve always thought it was a question of earning enough money to employ someone (I’ve always rather liked the American assistant model) but I suppose a spouse would do equally as well. I wonder if it’s a male/female thing though – the supportive earthbound wife/mistress of the Artist trope?? Oh, well, we can dream …

      • There’s a good post on moving from blogging to Writing at ‘Tales from the Reading Room’ which has some really interesting thoughts on various books from an academic yet very accessible perspective. (http://www.litlove.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/from-blog-to-book/)

      • honoria plum says:

        Great piece and another good find Victoria. I never knew there had been blogs turned to books. Hmmmm….

  6. Paul (the P is silent) says:

    Here are two of my fave poetry-related moments:

    But he did not waver. He was in no mood to read MacBean’s masterpiece that night. In the twenty minutes of silence after leaving Miss Forrester he had realized that “Grace” rhymes with “face”, and he wanted to sit alone in his study and write poetry. The two men parted with a distant nod. I beg your pardon? Yes, you are right. Two distant nods. It was always a failing of mine to count the score erroneously.”

    — “A Woman is Only a Woman,” in The Clicking of Cuthbert


    ‘You really love me, Annabelle?’

    ‘Yes, Mordred.’

    ‘Sir Murgatroyd,’ said Mordred formally, ‘I have the honour to ask you for your daughter’s hand. I am only a poor poet …’

    ‘How poor?’ asked the other, keenly.

    ‘I was referring to my Art,’ explained Mordred. ‘Financially, I am nicely fixed.”

    –“The Fiery Wooing of Mordred,” Young Men in Spats

  7. Paul (the P is silent) says:

    Sorry if that got bungled. Just copy the url from “https..” through to “….m4a” and paste it in your browser. It should start playing the short audio file 🙂

    [audio src="https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/6418638/I%27m%20only%20a%20poor%20poet.m4a" /]

  8. ashokbhatia says:

    Honoria, hope the slings and arrows of Fate are leaving you with enough time to finish off that book of yours?
    Do you intend to self-publish?

    • honoria plum says:

      Thanks Ashok. I’ve been working on a short story lately, so have had the book on hold until I finish it. I can’t wait to get your thoughts once it’s finished.

      • ashokbhatia says:

        Nice to hear that creative juices continue to spring forth unabated. It would be a privilege to assist you in any way I can!

        Meanwhile, I have taken the liberty of re-blogging your wholesome post on Desert Island Pickings. Just could not resist the temptation. Hope it is not taken amiss.

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