The Ballad of Success.
Vanity Fair (UK), September 8, 1904
THE hero of the tale I tell
(Demetrius Biddle was his name:
Unhappy man! I knew him well)
Aspired to literary fame.
He’d gladly undertake to sing
On pretty nearly anything.
Day after day the gifted boy
Hawked round his verses in a sack;
But editors, alas! were coy,
And sent his contributions back.
Nipped in the bud were all his hopes
By long, unsightly envelopes.
Week followed week: the months slipped by:
His fortunes did not seem to mend.
He thought it wisest to apply
For counsel to a prudent friend;
A man who’d written with success
Through many seasons on the Press.
“A man who’d earn his bread and cheese
By means of paper, ink, and pen,
Must write,” replied his friend, “to please
The dullards. That is—other men.
This once achieved, he names his price.”
Such was the expert’s sound advice.
When next I called at his address
(Two weeks had sped, or maybe, three)
I saw a sight which I confess
Astonished, even frightened, me:
With ill-concealed dismay I viewed
His most unusual attitude.
He hung, feet upwards from a hook,
Which he had forced into the wall.
He noticed my astounded look;
“Be not,” he said, “alarmed at all:
I’m going to write on ‘How it feels
To be suspended by the heels.’
“I strive no more for lyric fame:
I’m working on another plan;
It has become my dream, my aim,
To interest the common man.
And people tell me I succeed
In writing what he likes to read.
“I have adventures every day:
A week produces half a score:
Men read what I have got to say,
And ask delightedly for more:
Last week I did a racy par
Called, ‘Run down by a motor-car.’
“Before enthusiastic crowds
I’ve looped the loop and circed the circ:
In airships I’ve essayed the clouds;
Hard, but remunerative work.
The trade has dangers, I allow,
But, still, my stuff is taken now.”
• • • • •
Ah well! Demetrius has gone.
(Perhaps a merciful release):
He perished while engaged upon
What would have been his masterpiece,
An article on “How it feels
To swallow arsenic at meals.”
P. G. Wodehouse.