Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Poetry of Sherlock Holmes

Portland Place by John Joseph Bellman

This post is simply a place to collect poems inspired by or related to Sherlock Holmes which have some artistic merit.

Internet searches are, thus far, revealing much versifying that is mediocre and I should appreciate suggestions for additions from those more knowledgeable than I.

Here are five I feel add to our appreciation of Arthur Conan Doyle's creation.

Vincent Starrett's Sonnet "221b".

Here dwell together still two men of note
Who never lived and so can never die:
How very near they seem, yet how remote
That age before the world went all awry.
But still the game's afoot for those with ears
Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:
England is England yet, for all our fears—
Only those things the heart believes are true.

A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane
As night descends upon this fabled street:
A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,
The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.
Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always eighteen ninety-five.

William B. Schweickert's  "A Long Evening with Holmes".

When the world closes in with its worries and cares
And my problems and headaches are coming in pairs
I just climb in my mind those seventeen stairs
And spend a long evening with Holmes.
The good Doctor greets me and motions me in
Holmes grasps my hand and lays down his violin
Then we sit by the fire and sip a tall gin
When I spend a long evening with Holmes.
And while we're discussing his cases galore
If I'm lucky there comes a loud knock on the door
In stumbles a client, head splattered with gore
When I spend a long evening with Holmes.
Watson binds up the client's poor face
While Holmes soon extracts all the facts of the case
Then off in a hansom to Brixton we race
When I spend a long evening with Holmes. 

The Adventure is solved, Holmes makes it all right
So back to the lodgings by dawn's early light
And a breakfast by Hudson to wind up the night
When I spend a long evening with Holmes.
So the modern rat race can't keep me in a cage
I have a passport to a far better age
As close as my bookcase, as near as a page
I can spend a long evening with Holmes. 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Empire 1902".

  They said that it had feet of clay,
 That its fall was sure and quick.
 In the flames of yesterday
 All the clay was burned to brick.

 When they carved our epitaph
 And marked us doomed beyond recall,
 "We are," we answered, with a laugh,
 "The Empire that declines to fall."
T. S. Eliot's "Macavity"
Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw--
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there's no on like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air--
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!

Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly doomed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square--
But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there!

He's outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard's.
And when the larder's looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke's been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair--
Ay, there's the wonder of the thing! Macavity's not there!

And when the Foreign Office finds a Treaty's gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scap of paper in the hall or on the stair--
But it's useless of investigate--Macavity's not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
"It must have been Macavity!"--but he's a mile away.
You'll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macacity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibit, or one or two to spare:
And whatever time the deed took place--MACAVITY WASN'T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!
Alan Olding's "In Memoriam Moriarty".

Somewhere in the Great Hereafter,
His tall, lank figure clothed in black,
Stands the world's most evil grafter,
Soaking wet, from Reichenbach.

Holmes it was went forth to meet him,
On that narrow Alpine ledge;
Used baritsu to defeat him,
Hurled him o'er the fatal edge.

Into the dreadful cauldron steaming,
Lined with crags and wet with slime,
Down went Moriarty, screaming,
Die! Napoleon of crime.

Air of London may be sweeter,
Cleansed of Moriarty's blot.
Lock up your valuables, Saint Peter,
Or bad old Jim might steal the lot.

Somewhere in the Great Hereafter,
His tall lank figure clothed in black,
Stands the world's most evil grafter,
Soaking wet, from Reichenbach.

 A fun collection of witty, cleverly devised poems by various contributors may be found at "The Unofficial WelcomeHolmes Page" :

5.Jan 2013 added:

On the death of Sherlockian Vincent Starrett, 39 yrs ago today, Jeffrey L. Michelman wrote a 9 stanza poem for the Devon County Chronicle...extract:-

'Even the Master in Sussex
Gathering honey
From the hive
Would I’m sure admit
With Vincent Starrett gone,
It’s no longer 1895.'

(with thanks to Matt Laffey of @always1895 for noting this in his Blog)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1912 (source Life).

10 February,  2013 added:

"To an Undiscerning Critic" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
published in London Opinion, December 28, 1912.

"Have you not learned, my esteemed commentator,
That the created is not the creator?

He, the created, the puppet of fiction,
Would not brook rivals, or stand contradiction.

He, the created, would scoff and would sneer,
Where I , the Creator, would bow and revere."

22 April, 2013 added:

Back to his Native Strand by P.G.Wodehouse.
                    Punch May 27, 1903 (on 'The Return')

[unearthed by WellReadSherlockian, @LeahGuinn]

Oh, Sherlock Holmes lay hidden more than half a dozen years.
He left his loving London in a whirl of doubts and fears.
For we thought a wicked party
Of the name of Moriarty
Had dispatched him (in a manner fit to freeze one).
They grappled on a cliff-top, on a ledge six inches wide;
We deemed his chances flimsy when he vanished o’er the side.
But the very latest news is

That he merely got some bruises.
If there is a man hard to kill, why he’s one.
Oh Sherlock, Sherlock, he’s in town again,
That prince of perspicacity, that monument of brain.
It seems he was not hurt at all
By tumbling down the waterfall.
That sort of thing is fun to Sherlock.
When Sherlock left his native Strand, such groans were seldom heard;
With sobs the Public’s frame was rent: with tears its eye was blurred.
But the optimists reflected

That he might be resurrected:
It formed our only theme of conversation.
We asked each other, would he be? And if so, How and where?
We went about our duties with a less dejected air.
And they say that a suggestion
Of a Parliamentary question
Was received with marked approval by the nation.
And Sherlock, Sherlock, he’s in town again,
Sir Conan has discovered him, and offers to explain.
The explanation may be thin,
But bless you! We don’t care a pin,

If he’ll but give us back our Sherlock.
The burglar groans and lays aside his jemmy, keys, and drill;
The enterprising murderer proceeds to make his will;
The fraud-promoting jobber
Feels convinced that those who rob err;
The felon finds no balm in his employment.
The forger and the swindler start up shrieking in their sleep;
No longer on his mother does the coster gaily leap;
The Mile-End sportsman ceases
To kick passers-by to pieces,
Or does it with diminishing enjoyment.

For Sherlock, Sherlock, he’s in town again,
That prince of perspicacity, that monument of brain.
The world of crime has got the blues,
For Sherlock’s out and after clues,
And everything’s a clue to Sherlock.

~~~ The End ~~~

Two Acrostic Sonnets.

 by Belden Wigglesworth & Bliss Austin 1946...I found these via Google Books in an online extract from Philip A. Shreffler's "Sherlock Holmes by Gaslamp:Highlights from the First Four Decades of the 'Baker Street Journal'. Please click HERE to go to the Google Book page (copyright Fordham Univ Press).

1 comment:

  1. I'm always surprised at how much Sherlockian poetry (or poetry composed by Sherlockians about Sherlock Holmes, Victorian/Edwardian times, etc.) appears in the early days of the BSI/BSJ (c.late-40s/50s).

    By way of example, the current BSJ issue (Summer 2012 - Vol.62, No.2) contains exactly zero (0) lines of poetry, and zero (0) lines of text about poetry.

    On the other hand, precisely 50 years ago in the BSJ (Vol.12, No.2), we find a page-length poem 'What Doth the Bee' by one Charles E. Lauterbach (cited as "the Poet Laureate of The Baker Street Irregulars" in his obituary) called . Also in this issue is an extensive piece on T.S. Eliot's work, partially by noted Eliot scholar Grover Smith.