3 December 2013

The Melancholy Aspidistra

Harold Monro (1879-1932), "Aspidistra Street," Strange Meetings (London: The Poetry Bookshop, 1917), p. 42:
Go along that road, and look at sorrow.
Every window grumbles.
All day long the drizzle fills the puddles,
Trickles in the runnels and the gutters,
Drips and drops and dripples, and drops and dribbles,
While the melancholy aspidistra
Frowns between the parlour curtains.

Uniformity, dull Master! -
Birth and marriage, middle-age and death;
Rain and gossip: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday...

Sure, the lovely fools who made Utopia
Planned it without any aspidistra.
There will be a heaven on earth, but first
We must banish from the parlour
Plush and poker-work and paper flowers,
Brackets, staring photographs and what-nots,
Serviettes, frills and etageres,
Anti-macassars, vases, chiffoniers;

And the gloomy apidistra
Glowering through the window-pane,
Meditating heavy maxims,
Moralising to the rain.
I wonder if this poem inspired George Orwell's novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying. Orwell would have been about 15 when it was published.

Mark Gertler, Still Life with Aspidistra (1926)