Wednesday, August 30, 2006

For of all sad words of tongue and pen

Pertinent to Oro's mid-life crisis-related post below, I recently happened upon this criminally-overlooked gem of a song by PG Wodehouse: The Rhyme of the Sitter-Out.

Joan, with an air of settled gloom,
Upon my mobile face
I see you dancing round the room,
A miracle of grace.
I note your partner smile with glee
While whirling you about
Alas, such joys are not for me,
For I’m a sitter-out.

I might have learned in days gone by
The waltz, its graceful swing
Had I consented but to try
But did I? No such thing.
Extraneous aid, though kindly lent
Consistently I’d flout
And mark the dreadful punishment
For I’m a sitter-out.

The scales have fallen from my eyes,
I see the vivid truth;
Fully at last I realise
The folly of my youth.
I might have learned when young and slim,
And now I’m old and stout,
I’m only fit in wind and limb
To be a sitter-out.

To watch my fellow-men and feel
That they’re enjoying life
Should be enough the wound to heal
And blunt Remorse’s knife.
I ought to be content, I know;
I should be soothed, no doubt;
But still at times one finds it slow
To be a sitter-out.

Oh, spare, I beg, a single glance,
Devotion’s only fee;
Eschew for once the mazy dance,
And come and talk to me.
Ah, shun me not; turn not away
With irritated pout,
But comfort for a space, I pray,
A luckless sitter-out.

Whatever subject’s to your mind
I’ll probe it with a will;
Yea, even, if you feel inclined,
Talk Education Bill.
I’ll range from China to Peru,
I’ll skim from golf to gout;
My brain shall be ransacked for you
When we are sitting-out.

14 Comments:

Blogger Peter Burnet said...

That is superb, Brit. Is there a link? I can see citing this a million times in the coming years as those my age start killing dinner parties more and more with laments about never having lived their dream of conquering Everest on a dirt bike or whatever.

It's a little like this one that pops into my head whenever Skipper or Harry winds up.

August 30, 2006 3:41 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

I remember reading it while browsing in a second-hand bookshop, but have only managed to find it on the web on a pdf at this obscure US Wodehousian society website here.

I've been sitting on it for a while, waiting for an opportunity to spring it on an unsuspecting world...

August 30, 2006 3:50 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I suppose a modern rendition might have been set in a swinger's club rather than at a dance. I don't mind sharing with you all that I'm undergoing quite the little crisis myself as I look back on decades wasted trying to respect the weaker vessels like a gentleman only to learn too late from Oro that they are all a bunch of insatiable frisky minxs'.

It's been a while and I can't give cites, but I've read several radical feminist tracts where the author gets autobiographical and talks about how mom's career dreams (uncannily commonly to be an actress)were thwarted by domestic drudgery. The unexplored implication is always that anyone as talented as mom would have won several Oscars for the asking if she hadn't been condemned for life to scrubbing toilets by dad the slavemaster. The poor dears are so consumed with rage against the patriarchy that they never pause to consider that almost everyone has youthful dreams of glory which end up 99.999% unfulfilled. And they never ask the real question, which is what kind of parent lays the guilt for unfulfilled ambition on his or her kids.

August 30, 2006 4:37 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

And the other question is: just how many actresses do we need?

We don't want them to outnumber the audience.

August 30, 2006 4:58 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Peter, your regrets at acting the gentlemen and missing out on the sexual revolution reminds me os an SNL skit where a female talk show host is interviewing a feminist author who has written a book about the "sensitive male" and a man who fits the sensitive male stereotype. All of the women in the audience are giving their amens to the whole feminist litany of how they are looking for mr sensitive, when a loudmouth man stands up in the audience and tells them they're all full of crap, and that women should do as they're told, yada yada. All of a sudden the women are attracted to the lout and ignore the sensitive guy. Even the feminist asks the lout what he is doing after the show.

The poem reminds me of a Paul Simon song:

{Refrain}
Slip sliding away, slip sliding away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip sliding away


I know a man, he came from my hometown
He wore his passion for his woman like a thorny crown
He said Delores, I live in fear
My love for you's so overpowering
I'm afraid that I will disappear


{Refrain}

I know a woman, became a wife
These are the very words she uses to describe her life
She said a good day ain't got no rain
She said a bad day is when I lie in the bed
And I think of things that might have been

{Refrain}

And I know a father who had a son
He longed to tell him all the reasons for the things he'd done
He came a long way just to explain
He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping
Then he turned around and headed home again

{Refrain}

God only knows, God makes his plan
The information's unavailable to the mortal man
We work our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we're gliding down the highway
When in fact we're slip sliding away

{Refrain twice}

August 30, 2006 5:41 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Anoter poem on regrets, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.

August 30, 2006 5:45 AM  
Blogger David said...

Sitting here, in my own Autumn, I reflect back upon life as lived, and consider the paths unwalked, the mountains unclimbed, the lovers left unloved, and I hark back to the minstrel's unanswerable question.

August 30, 2006 8:10 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

"It is the most shattering experience of a young man's life when he awakens and quite reasonably says to himself: "I will never play The Dane." When that moment comes, one's ambition ceases."

Uncle Monty, Withnail and I

August 30, 2006 8:22 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Try choosing to be a reporter. I have been working off and on on memoirs (for my kids only), with the title 'Onlooker.'

August 30, 2006 12:10 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Yeah, but guys, what about frustrated blogging ambitions? How are we going to feel about our lives when these headlines appear on the respective 75th birthdays of

Harry:

WORLD ANTI-SLAVERY CONFERENCE SLAMS NSF, THANKS POPE

Orrin:

MUSLIMS/SECULARISTS SIGN PACT--RESOLVE TO CRUSH CHRISTIANS

Skipper:

"HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO STUPID?"--FR. DAWKINS

Duck:

OIL HITS $5/BARREL--GAS STATIONS TO GIVE AWAY FREE TOYS

Me:

WORLD TODDLER GROUP TELLS ADULTS TO MIND OWN BUSINESS

Oro

N.O.W. ENDORSES CELIBACY--SAYS MEN ALL HAVE DIRTY MINDS

Aog

LIBERTARIANS ACCLAIM BART AS NEW LEADER

M Ali

BLOGGING HELPS IMMIGRANTS ASSIMILATE BAD HABITS

David

CHIEF RABBI LAUDS FRENCH EXCEPTIONALISM

Brit

STUDY PROVES "DUNNOISTS" ARE JUST DUMB

August 30, 2006 12:26 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Peter,
It's the Discombobulation! You've just had a vision! I'm glad you wrote it down, I will include it in the canon.

August 30, 2006 2:09 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Peter, you seem to have confused tolerance with admiration.

I tolerate a great deal from Christians, admire little of it.

August 30, 2006 9:10 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

All of Peter's headlines are surely inevitable.

When I was a kid it was an established fact amongst us that if you consumed any liquid, espcially fizzy pop but even including water, during a football match in which you were playing, the effects on your system would be dire: stomach cramps, seizures and quite possibly, death.

Yet today's footballers, rugby players etc swig copiously from bottles of water and glucose drinks at every break.

And everything we knew was wrong.

I find myself saying that more and more these days.

August 31, 2006 1:15 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Harry:

I am sure that the real Harry is bursting with tolerance and all kinds of other good things. It's the Harry-pixels that scare me.

August 31, 2006 3:08 AM  

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