Just for a Handful – a Lipogram, in which Browning damns Wordsworth for kowtowing to Victoria, to braid his brow with bardic bays.
Just for a handful of Wonga, that sold us,
Just for a ribbon to stick in his coat,
Found just that gift of which Luck hadn’t told us,
Lost gift on gift, and was bought with a groat!
Gold was for giving, but how parsimonious,
Stinting of Wonga, what skinflints at court!
All our small coins in position to pay him,
Rags of dishonour, wrong colour, wrong sort!
All of us, fans of his, following, honouring,
Living in sight of his glory, oh my,
Words to absorb, lucid phrasing to latch upon,
Took him as our prototypical guy!
Stratford-on-Avon and Milton both fought for us,
Burns and Alastor, all watching from tomb:
Only Will Wordsworth abandons, is nought for us,
Sinks to our back-guard, a flunky of doom!
Onward and upward! but not by his succour;
Songs will inspirit us, — not by his chords;
Actions will flourish, but not from this Makar:
‘Crouch’, and not ‘Climb’: such discouraging words!
Blot out his monica, list a lost soul, and
Log tasks unwrought and a footpath untrod:
Joy diabolical, spirit-birds’ sorrow,
A wrong to mankind and an insult to God!
Night falls upon us, and nobody wants him:
Doubt and hiatus, confusion and pain:
Struggling for plaudits in shadowy twilight,
No happy hoping, no morning again.
Just fighting on, as was taught him: ‘Our jugular!
Go for it now. You shall know our command.’
Finally Wordsworth will twig and await us,
Girt with God’s pardon, upon His right hand!
Copyright © Timothy Adès