Reginald's Peace Poem
[pen name of Hector Hugh Munro, who was killed by a sniper during
World War One; published 1904]
"I'm writing a poem on Peace," said Reginald, emerging from a
sweeping operation through a tin of mixed biscuits, in whose
depths a macaroon or two might yet be lurking.
"Something of the kind seems to have been attempted already,"
said the Other.
"Oh, I know; but I may never have the chance again. Besides, I've
got a new fountain pen. I don't pretend to have gone on any very
original lines; in writing about Peace the thing is to say what
everybody else is saying, only to say it better. It begins with
the usual ornithological emotion —
'When the widgeon westward winging
Heard the folk Vereeniginging,
Heard the shouting and the singing'" —
"Vereeniginging is good, but why widgeon?"
"Why not? Anything that winged westward would naturally begin
with a W."
"Need it wing westward?"
"The bird must go somewhere. You wouldn't have it hang around and
look foolish. Then I've brought in something about the heedless
hartebeest galloping over the deserted veldt."
"Of course you know it's practically extinct in those regions?"
"I can't help that, it gallops so nicely. I make it have all
sorts of unexpected yearnings —
'Mother, may I go and maffick,
Tear around and hinder traffic?'
Of course you'll say there would be no traffic worth bothering
about on the bare and sun-scorched veldt, but there's no other
word that rhymes with maffick."
Reginald considered. "It might do, but I've got a lot about
angels later on. You must have angels in a Peace poem; I know
dreadfully little about their habits."
"They can do unexpected things, like the hartebeest."
"Of course. Then I turn on London, the City of Dreadful
Nocturnes, resonant with hymns of joy and thanksgiving —
'And the sleeper, eye unlidding,
Heard a voice for ever bidding
Much farewell to Dolly Gray;
Turning weary on his truckle –
Bed he heard the honey-suckle
Lauded in apiarian lay.'
Longfellow at his best wrote nothing like that."
"I agree with you."
"I wish you wouldn't. I've a sweet temper, but I can't stand
being agreed with. And I'm so worried about the aasvogel."
Reginald stared dismally at the biscuit-tin, which now presented
an unattractive array of rejected cracknels.
"I believe," he murmured, "if I could find a woman with an
unsatisfied craving for cracknels, I should marry her."
"What is the tragedy of the aasvogel?" asked the Other
"Oh, simply that there's no rhyme for it. I thought about it all
the time I was dressing – it's dreadfully bad for one to
think whilst one's dressing – and all lunch-time, and I'm
still hung up over it. I feel like those unfortunate
automobilists who achieve an unenviable motoriety by coming to a
hopeless stop with their cars in the most crowded thoroughfares.
I'm afraid I shall have to drop the aasvogel, and it did give
such lovely local colour to the thing."
"Still you've got the heedless hartebeest."
"And quite a decorative bit of moral admonition – when
you've worried the meaning out —
'Cease, War, thy bubbling madness that the wine shares,
And bid thy legions turn their swords to mine shares.'
Mine shares seems to fit the case better than ploughshares.
There's lots more about the blessings of Peace, shall I go on
"If I must make a choice, I think I would rather they went on
with the war."