Vanity Fair, October 1919

For One Night Only



I MET him in a crowd:
 As if with care ’twas weighted,
His shapely back was bowed,
 His brow was corrugated.
I asked him “Why so pale?
 What grief your soul has cankered?”
And gleaned his painful tale
 Over a friendly tankard.

ONCE,” the sad wight began,
 “I knew not what the blues meant:
I was a genial man,
 And never shirked amusement.
I shot, I rode, I rinked,
 I trod the mazy measure:
My life, to be succinct,
 Was one long round of pleasure.

IN those delightful days,
 I do not mind confessing,
That, if I had a craze,
 It was for perfect dressing.
One night—it serves to show
 How labor omnia vincit
I tied a perfect bow:
 I’ve not been happy since it.

I WORKED with watchful eye,
 With fingers swift but wary:
It seemed a decent tie,
 But not extraordinary.
But when at length I gazed,
 To put the final clip in,
I staggered back, amazed,
 Ejaculating ‘Rippin’!’.

OH, had I but the pen
 That serves the inspired poet,
I’d try to picture, then,
 (With proper force and glow,) it.
The billowy waves of white . . .
 The folds . . . The spick-and-span knot . . .
Were I a bard, I might;
 But, as it is, I cannot.

SUFFICE it to observe
 That on minute inspection
It showed in every curve
 The hall-mark of perfection.
The sort of tie which you
 When wrapped in sweetest sleep oc-
Casionally view;
 A tie to mark an epoch.

THAT night no peer I owned,
 I carried all before me.
Society”—he moaned—
 “United to adore me.
Whenever I passed by,
 Men stopped their conversation,
Drank in that Perfect Tie
 In silent adoration.

SINCE then the striking feat
 (Such dreams th’ ambitious male lure)
I’ve striven to repeat:
 Result: completest failure.
Though toiling, as I say,
 As much as blood and flesh ’ll,
The bows I tie today
 Are good, but nothing special.

SO now my fellow-man
 I shun, no matter who ’tis:
As far as mortal can,
 I cut my social duties.
I seldom eat or rest,
 I’m gloomy, haggard, mirthless.
To one who’s known the best,
 All other things are worthless.”




Reprinted from Punch, June 10, 1903, with one changed word and minor changes in punctuation.

Labor omnia vincit improbus, from Virgil, means essentially ‘hard work conquers all.”

John Dawson