Poem: The Corpse That Won't Lie Still by C.J. Dennis

Aye, call it murder is ye will!
   'Tis not the crime I fear.
If his cold curse would but lie still
   And silent in its bier,
Then would I be indeed content,
And count it folly to repent.

With these two hands I've slain the knave;
   I've watched the red blood drop;
I've rammed him tight into his grave,
   And piled the clods atop,
And tramped them down exultingly....
Now back he comes to grin at me.

Once have I slain him in his bed,
   Twice by the midnight blaze;
Thrice have I looked upon him dead
   All in these seven days.
Yet here, this night, I've seen him stand
And pluck the pen from out my hand.

Nay, never spook nor sprite is he,
   But solid flesh and blood,
Who schemes with deep malignity
   To stint my livelihood.
And he had vowed a vow my name
Shall never grace the scroll of fame.

My name he bears, my garb he wears,
   My pipes he idly smokes;
And, friend-like, he but rarely cares
   To praise my sorry jokes.
He spends my money lavishly
With ne'er a thrifty thought for me.

And when my ready cash is gone
   He runs me into debt.
Stern duty he will harp upon
   When I would fain forget.
But when, through toil, I would be free
He soothes me with rank sophistry.

Whene'er with resolutions stern
   I sit me down to work,
And mighty thoughts within me burn,
   Then forth comes he to lurk
Here at my elbow, where he clings
And whispers of forbidden things.

So when I woo some lofty theme
   Of deep religious tone,
He lures me on to idly dream,
   As we sit there alone.
Of girls I have and have not kissed,
Of favors won and chances missed.

He whispers of that tempting book
   I have no time to read;
"One peep," he pleads: "one hasty look!
   Where is the harm, indeed?"
And when I speak of work, and sigh,
"'Twill do to-morrow!" is his cry.

And oft - too well I know how oft -
   Beneath his subtle spell
I fall, and dream of living soft
   Who know - aye, none so well -
That living soft is but for him
Who earns his ease with labor grim.

Dreams, dreams, and ever idle dreams!
   His glozing art I hate!
Yet pleasant for the hour it seems,
   His soothing opiate.
And, though I slay him, this I dread:
He oftener alive than dead.

Oh, I have to be so very sure,
   No later than last night,
That I had pinned the knave secure,
   And I was free to write
Those mighty masterpieces which
To pen my fingers ever itch.

But, with his slouch and lazy leer,
   Lo, came back he to-day:
With wheedling lips against mine ear
   He tempted me to play
At tennis all the afternoon.
Work and resolve forgot so soon!

Yet, spite his faults, he is, I swear,
   A merry knave withal;
And when I have the time to spare -
   That's seldom, if at all -
I'd roam with him 'mid fields and flow'rs
If he'd be still in business hours.

Each morn I bash him on the head
   And hide him out of sight.
Full, sure, indeed, that he is dead;
   But back he comes each night,
And on the lotus buds we feed
When bread and butter is my need.

Though many ways his death I've planned
   And slain him, as I've said,
He takes a lot of killing and
   He'll never stay long dead.
And, though, each day i cause his death,
I know he'll live while I have breath.

But let me vow the vow again -
   The vow I know by heart -
And, here and now, with hasty pen,
   Stab to some vital part.
And, mocked by his departing laugh,
Rewrite his oft-writ epitaph.

"Here lies the man I should not be
   By all stern rules of life.
The man who's plagued and hampered me
   All through this mundane strife.
A lazy, loafing knave was he....
But, sooth, he was fine company."

First published in The Bulletin, 17 September 1914

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 29, 2007 7:31 AM.

It's THAT Time of the Year was the previous entry in this blog.

Forthcoming Books for 2008 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.23-en