THE LOTUS EATERS.
Punch, December 17, 1902
[“I went over Dartmoor Prison a few weeks ago, and I quite envied the convict his happy, peaceful home there. So much food do they get (of the wrong kind for strength and energy) that they do not walk, they waddle; and this is not to be wondered at, as they get 32 oz. of farinaceous food a day—six times more than really necessary. Then the nice cells, good beds, plenty of magazines and books, soap, yes, and even tooth-brushes.”—Dr. Yorke-Davies in “The Gentleman’s Magazine.”]
William, my friend in days gone by,
It always makes my pulse beat faster,
When I recall how you and I
“Ragged” side by side the self-same master,
Shared, without strife, a common key,
Pursued harmoniously the leather,
Brewed in our study mutual tea—
In short, were boys at school together.
And sad it is that two such friends
(I loved you, William, as a brother)
In after life should strive for ends
Dissimilar to one another.
And sadder still, that of the pair
While one (that’s you) has prospered greatly,
The other should be doomed to fare
Upon the whole but moderately.
’Tis mine to woo the fickle brief,
To turn my brain to courts and sessions.
To you the calling of a thief
Appeared the noblest of professions.
No lack of skill your efforts marred,
Your work was silent, clean, and thorough;
They dreaded you at Scotland Yard,
They idolised you in the Borough.
For years you bore away the palm;
And now, unless the tale’s unfounded,
You live a life of fatted calm,
By every luxury surrounded.
With scented soap you idly toy,
Nor e’en the dental brush eschewed is.
Your toilet over, you enjoy
The latest novel, fresh from Mudie’s.
If to the trencher turns your mood,
A silver bell the meal announces.
You call for farinaceous food,
They bring you two-and-thirty ounces.
Such almost Eastern pomp recalls
That master of the lyric art, Moore.
No wonder men within these walls
Extol thy charms so highly, Dartmoor.
On prison life, it seems to me
The sentimentalists talk twaddle.
Does it depress a man when he
Forgets to walk and learns to waddle?
No! Fortunate I count that man;
Yea, deem him happiest of mortals,
Who passes in a prison van
Triumphant through those fairy portals.
William, I hate my daily toil,
I weary of the constant striving,
The cares that vex, the traps that foil,
The difficulty of “arriving.”
For ease with dignity I sigh,
For rest and peace I long with fervour—
To-morrow I go out to buy
A jemmy and a life-preserver.
Unsigned verse as printed; not credited to anyone in the Index to Vol. 123 of Punch. Entered by PGW in “Money Received for Literary Work.”
Charles Edward Mudie was founder of Mudie’s Lending Library and Mudie’s Subscription Library.
Dr. Yorke-Davies: See “The Stout Blue Line”
Moore: Thomas Moore (1779–1852), Irish poet, author of Lalla Rookh, a popular “Oriental” romance
jemmy: a burglar’s pry bar
life-preserver: as used here, a blackjack or cosh, a short club for knocking someone unconscious