I have in my possession a collection called The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse, given to me, I think, by my father. Not to be punk, mind you, but perhaps as an acknowledgement that his son was weird and would never gain any remunerative work. Just like the son in today’s poem. In any case, this volume was first published in 1930, and includes among its esteemed ranks many of the most famous English poets–Wordsworth and Tennyson, for example. It also includes a whole lotta nobodies, nobodies like Cornelius Whur (1782-1853), a gardener and a Wesleyan minister. Apparently he was quite, quite sympathetic, and composed maudlin poems about the tragedies and gravestones he observed in his native Norfolk. Like most of the verse in The Stuffed Owl, the poem here is written in a tightly-measured, sing-songy form, making its expression of tragic subject all the more bathetic. I’m including the original author’s note, to enhance your understanding. Enjoy.
[The lines below were suggested by seeing an artist who was born without arms, who supports himself and his parents also by his profession.–AUTHOR’S NOTE.]
“Alas! alas!” the father said,
“O what a dispensation!
How can we be by mercy led in such a situation?
Be not surprised by my alarms,
The dearest boy is without arms!…
“I have no hope, no confidence,
The scene around is dreary;
Hoiw can I meet such vast expense?
I am by trying weary.
You must, my dearest, plainly see
This armless boy will ruin me.”