Guest poem sent in by Nisha Susan
(Poem #1930) The Dover Bitch
So there stood Matthew Arnold and this girl With the cliffs of England crumbling away behind them, And he said to her, 'Try to be true to me, And I'll do the same for you, for things are bad All over, etc., etc.' Well now, I knew this girl. It's true she had read Sophocles in a fairly good translation And caught that bitter allusion to the sea, But all the time he was talking she had in mind The notion of what his whiskers would feel like On the back of her neck. She told me later on That after a while she got to looking out At the lights across the channel, and really felt sad, Thinking of all the wine and enormous beds And blandishments in French and the perfumes. And then she got really angry. To have been brought All the way down from London , and then be addressed As a sort of mournful cosmic last resort Is really tough on a girl, and she was pretty. Anyway, she watched him pace the room And finger his watch-chain and seem to sweat a bit, And then she said one or two unprintable things. But you mustn't judge her by that. What I mean to say is, She's really all right. I still see her once in a while And she always treats me right. We have a drink And I give her a good time, and perhaps it's a year Before I see her again, but there she is, Running to fat, but dependable as they come. And sometimes I bring her a bottle of Nuit d' Amour.
Having recently discovered Anthony Hecht I am alternating between postures of extreme surprise at others who have not read him and indignation at those who have and not told me that he exists. This particular poem is such a satisfying parody with its wide-eyed Holden Caulfield taunts at Mathew Arnold and mock-earnestness. Hecht has also written hilarious imitations of Horace's odes as if Horace was a lotus-eating New Yorker who wrote for Vogue. Hecht's poems do that tricky dance of being full of literary, even classical allusion and yet being very accessible and fun. Perepateia for instance is a poem for anyone who likes to go to the theatre. And the toothsome beauty of the poem is evident even when one has no clue who ... is. For the critics of course Anthony Hecht is an important poet because he wrote about the Holocaust and war. Nisha [Links] We've run Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach": http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/89.html A well-written obit: http://www.breakoutofthebox.com/AnthonyHecht.htm Biographical details http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hecht/life.htm