This creature fills its mouth with venum
And walks upon its duodenum.
He who attempts to tease the cobra
Is soon a sadder he, and sobra.
Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man
It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even
every Bachelor of Arts,
That all sin is divided into two parts.
One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is
And it is what you are doing when you are doing some
thing you ortant,
And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a
sin of omission and is equally bad in the eyes of all
right - thinking people, from Billy Sunday to Buddha,
And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.
I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds
of sin as long as, in a way, against each other we are
And that is, don't bother your head about sins of commission
because however sinful, they must at least
be fun or else you wouldn't be committing them.
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you get really painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven't taken out and the checks
you haven't added up the stubs of and the appointments
you haven't kept and the bills you haven't
paid and the letters you haven't written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly
painful lack of beauty,
Namely, it isn't as though it had been a riotous redletter day or night
every time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn't get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forgot to pay a bill;
You didn't slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let's all fail to write just one more letter before we go home,
and this round of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of the things you haven't done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn't do give you a
lot more trouble than the unsuitable things you did.
The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all,
but if some kind of sin you must be pursuing,
Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.
Very Like a Whale
One thing that literature would be greatly the better for
Would be a more restricted employment by authors of simile and metaphor.
Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts,
Can't seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but have to go out
of their way to say that it is like something else.
What does it mean when we are told
That the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold?
In the first place, George Gordon Byron had had enough experience
To know that it probably wasn't just one Assyrian, it
was a lot of Assyrians.
However, as too many arguments are apt to induce
apoplexy and thus hinder longevity,
We'll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of
Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose
coorts were gleaming in purple and gold,
Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down
like a wolf on the fold?
In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our
philosophy there are a great many things,
But I don't imagine that among them there is a wolf
and gold cohorts or purple and gold anythings.
No, no, Lord Byron, before I'll believe that this
Assyrian was actually like a wolf I must have some kind
Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail
a big red mouth and big white teeth and did he
say Woof woof?
Frankly I think it very unlikely, and all you were
enitled to say, at the very most,
Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of
Assyrian cohorts about to destroy the Hebrew host.
But that wasn't fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear
me no he had to invent a lot of figures of speech
and then interpolate them,
With the result that whenever you mention Old Testa
ment soldiers to people they say Oh yes, they're
the ones that a lot of wolves dressed up in gold
and purple ate them.
That's the kind of thing that's being done all the time
by poets, from Homer to Tennyson;
They're always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to
And they always say things like that the snow is a
blanket after a winter storm.
Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a
blanket of snow and I'll sleep under a half-inch
blanket of unpoetical blanket material and we'll
see which one keeps warm,
And after that maybe you'll begin to comprehend dimly
What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.
I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist.
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
"You mean," he said, "a crocodile."
People expect old men to die,
They do not really mourn old men.
Old men are different. People look
At them with eyes that wonder when . . .
People watch with unshocked eyes;
But the old men know when an old man dies.