A Slim Gilt Soul

Few men are given, ’twixt heaven and hell,
To play one part supremely well.
On all time’s tablets there are few
Who make a first-rate show of two,
While those who perfectly play three
We knew not, until you were he.

For what were lovelier on the lawn
Than you, pearl-naked to the dawn,
Wrapped in a scarlet dressing-gown
Not thirty miles from London town,
The “observed of all observers”—save
That Scotland Yard, serene and suave,
When trouble came, went tramping by;
Closed one, and winked the other eye.

How pleasantly you must have smiled:
“I left them, and I left them wild”:
Though certainly they had abhorred
The task of locking up a lord.
For a more tragic rôle you played
Your master neatly who betrayed.
His shame and torture turned your leer
To a snarl!—your drab’s smile to a sneer, {110}
Quickened, when afterwards your help
He needed, to a currish yelp.

Now—so the wheel of Fortune whirls!—
Your kindly love for little girls
And ardour for the fine old faith
Makes all that past a wisp, a wraith.
You patronise our Sunday schools,
Pronounce on Grammar’s darkest rules,
Rebuke bad taste, irreverence,
Heresy, humbug, and pretence.
Your tepid verses come like boons
To cheer Suburban afternoons;
While Asquith, were he only wise,
Would bid a Board of Morals rise;
Sure no one like yourself can be
Past-Master in Virginity.

Stay! if so well you play the rôles,
Why not enact dramatic scrolls?
You would be welcome on the stage
To amuse and to instruct the age
—A shining light in Opera-Bouffe:
Giton, and Judas, and Tartufe!


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