Thursday, August 09, 2018

'Rhyme Above the Heads of Monarchs Sails'

From The Wayzgoose: A South African Satire (Jonathan Cape, 1928) by Roy Campbell:

“True poesy admits no curb at all
Though judges bellow, and though lawyers bawl;
Down on the gravest judge, as on a child,
My muse has looked, and as a parent, smiled:
For rhyme above the heads of monarchs sails
And wit outlasts the concrete of the gaols.
Then hear the damned sedition that I sing,
A poet, though in rags, is thrive a king,
Who dares the world without an army face
And kick a mongrel town into its place!
Jostling with emperors, an outlaw gay,
Shouldering paunchy statesmen from his way,
Along the sounding thoroughfares of time
He swaggers in the clashing spurs of rhyme,
And all around him throng, with forms divine,
His gay seraglio of Muses Nine,
Those strapping girls whose love, to say the least,
Would make a rabid Mormon of a priest.”

About that peculiar word in Campbell’s title, the OED explains: “An entertainment given by a master printer to his workmen around St Bartholomew's Day (24 August), marking the beginning of the season of working by candlelight. In later use: an annual festivity held in summer by the members of a printing establishment, consisting of a dinner and (usually) an excursion into the country.” In a “remark” (footnote) to his chapbook-length poem, Campbell writes of wayzgoose:

“It appears to be a vast corroboree [OED: “the native dance of the Australian aborigines”] of journalists, and to judge from their own reports of it, it combines the functions of a bun-fight [“a jocular expression for a tea-party”], an Eisteddfod [“a congress of (Welsh) bards”], and an Olympic contest. The Wayzgoose of this poem, however, is not only attended by those who celebrate the function annually, but by all the swarms of would-be poets, novelists, philosophers, etc., in South Africa, who should all be compelled to attend such functions daily.”

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