The Cynic

On a dismal wet evening, at the close of a wet day, I sat at my table courting inspiration, which is one of the things one has to do to provide copy for the SOCIALIST STANDARD, you know. Presently, without warning, the door opened, and I had a visitor. He was a lank, gaunt man, with greasy, lank locks and a shabby jacket of velveteen.

He came with two lanky strides, and sat on the corner of my table, with his feet dangling before the fire and his elbow threatening the bottle.

“I suppose you remember the Pillman, Boss ?” he queried, and in reply to the silent eloquence of my astonied stare he went on.: “No! Why, there was a little skit in that rag of your people’s : ‘Sugar Coated,’ by ‘The Pillman.’ Don’t remember ? Well, no matter, sir. [sings] Blow, blow, blow, blo-o-o-o-w, thou win-t-r-i-e-e wind. Thou ar-r-rt not so unkind—as ma-a-a-n’a ingra-ti-tude. Christ ! and it was so blarsted sarcastic, too. ‘God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.’ Browning says so, and it’s very cheering to a gentleman who has to get his two pen’orth on the knocker on a wet day with his toes out to the blarsted weather.” He dropped his eyes to his steaming boots and I saw that his figure of speech described them approximately.

“Ah, well !” he went on, tugging some of the stuffing from his various pockets, “God hedges us in in his wondrous way, and I say with Job and other philosophers, what’s it got to do with the end of the ble-e-e-ding world ? Good old sport, Job. I used to wonder how he came to be in the whale’s belly. Thought perhaps he was an insurance man who had been trying to keep the wet out by putting some in, as we death men do when we get the chance [his eyes dreamily resting on the bottle, I silently pushed it toward him] Oh-h ! thanks! didn’t mean that—and knocked at the wrong door—the Ever Open Joor. But our dear brother in God, the Rev. Newton Mar­shall, says in ‘Lloyd’s’ Deccember 7th, that Job longed ‘to see God face to face.’ ‘ Oh, that I knew where I might find him,’ wailed Jobey, ‘that I might come even to his seat!’

And so wailing, Job went whaling
Beyond where the big sprat’s tonsils meet.
Searching and peeking, anxiously seeking,
To find his celestial master’s seat.

We all know what happened, boss.

Jobey when he found he hadn’t got to heaven wept a bit,
And with dolorous echoes made the marble halls roar ;
But the whale wasn’t musical and quickly had enough of it,
And went and spued old Job up on his native foreshore.

“The Rev. Newton H. Marshall, M.A., Ph. D., Baptist Chapel, Heath Street, Hampstead, did the sermon in this issue. It is good for the soul to read it. He asks : ‘How do the limitations of life do us good ?’ and. says ‘a few illustrations will help us to see how God hedges us in to him­self and to duty, and saves us from Satan even by the things that thwart us. God has hedged us in with poverty. Let us thank God for the hedge with which he has encircled us’.

I often think this happy boy would be a most ungrateful hound
If he did not dance with joy to think the Lord has hedged him round,
With three-quarters of a pound a week,
I know the place that I should go to if Old Nick my photo found,
And in it saw my rumty-tum like unto mas­ter’s full and round,
And my god-like front like parson’s—sleek.
But when Beelzebub comes nosing with his wagger in his hand,
Thinking he would catch me dozing in the wine-shops of the Strand,
I laugh and give his nose a tweak,
And shout hoop la ! hi diddle diddle ! as in his face bare toes I twiddle—
And you should watch his cheek.
Then I hups and tells him where some fatter quarry he may find,
Some pious shepherd whom the Lord has hedged about so wondrous kind,
With more of this accursed tin that lets old Nick come sneaking in
Each waking hour than I get in a week.”

[The stranger was so pleased with the facts as he had stated them that he was moved to go through a few joyous steps upon the hearthrug before proceeding.] Oh, I’m a cynic, you know. But to our parson. ‘Let us take the economic hedge. We would all like to do what we like—to take holidays, to go everywhere and enjoy everything.’ Christ, how close he gets to human nature there ! ‘But God has hedged us in.’ And at the same time edged us out. ‘Suppose this barrier were suddenly removed. Suppose for a year we could all do what we liked live on game and French pastry and strawberries and cream, ride in motor cars and royal trains, wear jewellery, and climb moutitains—at the end of the year the nation would bo bankrupt.’ Of course it would, not only economically bank­rupt but morally bankrupt, too. It’s only not doing what we want to and doing what we do not want to that saves us from the Official Receiver on one hand, and from Satan—himself a sort of official receiver (of bankrupt souls)— on the other.

Old Nick and th’ official receiver,
Were down in the dumps one day, O,
For Bill Bailey had stuck to the lever,
While his boss on the Alps was away, O.
So biz both on earth and in blazes
(They’re different places, you know, O)
Was in that most aggravating of phases
Which men call adjectivally slow, O.

‘:How’s business with you, Satey?’ asked O.R.

‘ Ab-so lute ly rotten. Really, I’m thinking of letting the fires out and clearing out of the business altogether. [You see he is a capitalist Satan, and wants to show a profit.]

‘Sing a song for sixpence, a pocket full of rye,
Five and twenty workmen slaving in a sty ;
What the hell they do it for God Almighty knows:
If they only knew it they’d be better off with I.

‘The secret of good poetry, you know, O.R., is bad grammar.’
‘But even that didn’t keep you solvent in the matter of rhyme. Now listen to me :

”The boss is out in Egypt with ladies frail but sunny,
His Mary’s with her little lamb, trying to catch his money ;
His wife is doing Bond Street, spending pots of cash,
But Bill Bailey keeps on slaving so the show won’t smash.

That’s the position perfectly, both poetically and economically, worse luck.’

O.N. scratched his ear with his tail, sir,
O.R. swore as he would if he could,
But having no tail to his name, sir,
Why he swore as he could if he would.

“The devil made a note in his book, which was playing it low on a pal. ‘What’s that ?’ said O.R. ‘Only a little matter of accountancy, dear,’ was the reply. ‘Oh dear! I had to do it; I couldn’t help it.’ ‘That’s how you all do me,’ grumbled O.N., expunging the record.

‘Oh, the parson was right when he said in his wisdom,
It’s not doing the things that they should do
That saves them from me and the fires that blist’r’em
But not doing the things that they would do.’

‘That’s not bad,’ said the O.R. ‘Now I’ll have a try. For the parson also told me what saves the boss from me.

If Bill Bailee would only flee
From work to the Alps and French pastree,
You’d soon be frizzling Bill Bailee,
And I’d soon have his boss in bankruptcee.’

‘Gosh, you wouldn’t!’ said O.N. ‘I’d get ’em both!’

‘How’s that, sir ?’ screamed the O.R.

‘Why I’d get Bill bacause he’d have broken through God’s hedges and was doing what he would like to do, and then I’d get the boss be­cause he also would have broken through God’s hedges and would bo doing what he eould like to do now, if only God would let him.’

‘What’s that, Satey ?’

‘Why, working, of course.’

‘Ha, ha ! would he ? Did the parson tell you that ?’

‘No, he forgot; but the boss did when I took hold of his ear while he was eating French pastry on the Swiss mountains. I said :

Come along with me, you jolly little man,
You’re doing just what you would like to do ;
I’ll find you a seat in the frying pan,
Where your blisters will bust with a juicey shoo ! Shoo! ‘

‘Well, did you get him, Nickey ?’ asked O.R. ‘ Na-a-a-w. He snivelled :

O, Nickey, you dear, I am not you’re man,
I’d sooner be slaving like a nig, bo-oo,
I’d rather be sweating till the sweat drops ran.
Go away, you naughty old pig, shoo ! Shoo !’

‘You mug, Satey, he didn’t mean his sweat drops. Didn’t it strike you who he’d rather be sweating ? I’ve had a lot of them through my hands, and I know something about it.’

‘Well, a gentleman has to take a gentleman’s word, you know. But he put me onto a good thing, for he told me :

There’s a chap down Staffordshire way,
Who preaches and prays for his pay,
He wrestled with sin on the vestry floor
Till his shirt was wet and his knees were sore,
Ah ! but he liked to do it—and—therefore
The bishop has taken his breeches away.

Like the bishop’s cheek to interfere with my business, but I went down to see about it and it was all right. Well, ta-ta, I think I smell Sonny burning.’

Having dismissed his puppets, my friend the stranger returned to his newspaper. “Or take the moral hedge. Supposing God had not given us a conscience. Conscience, remember, is the unseen policeman, judge, preacher, guar­dian angel that every man has with him. Sup­pose suddenly the moral hedge that hedges us in were removed—suppose [Suppose, suppose, sup­pose—what a rotten style some of these M.A.’s have !] suddenly conscience refused to act, or was withdrawn. The result would be hell upon earth.’

“O, Lord of these Arcadian shores,
Where peace and plenty reign supreme,
Where folk are full up to the jaws
With milk and honey and ice-cream,
Where weekly wages twice a week
Are paid by cherubimic bosses
Who give their workers all they seek,
And gladly pocket all the losses ;
O, Lord of these Arcadian shores,
Hear this my prayer !

I ask, O Lord, on bended knees,
That thou wilt keep my private pleese—
Man wide awake and to his duty ;
Likewise my inward parson (he’s ,
A lazy sween) and if you please,
Buck up that ever sleeping beauty—
My guardian angel.
And kindly give my unseen judge
In his solar plexus a ten-ton nudge,
And ask him to keep his eye skinned ;
For I’m feeling rather reckless, Lord,
And should I sling my conscience overboard
I fear I shan’t stop till I’ve sinned
Something awful.
I think I should crack a crib or two
‘Neath the nose of the visible man in blue.
I’m not sure I shouldn’t murder
My mother if she wasn’t dead already ;
And if I really got what toffs call ‘heady,’
I might go a little bit furder.

“And heaven knows, boss, what would hap­pen if the masters’ conscience went on strike.

They might adulterate our wittles,
And knock our wages down like skittles,
And then proceed to rub it in
Unto the tune of Dub-er-lin.

“Which isn’t hell on earth, boss. I’m a pericynic. Here’s some more : ‘When we are shut in we cannot wander over the field outside, but we can do spade-work in the little garden.’

“Though some of us are rueing it, yet every­body’s doing it,
Spade-work in the garden of the Lord ;
But the funny thing about it is how many strange appliances
A helping hand in spade-work may afford.
The porter is a-steamiug hot beneath his porter’s shoulder knot,
The blacksmith is a digging with a hammer,
The parson wish his chloroform cuts the pace out werry warm,
And the navvy is a trenching with a rammer.
The policeman with tha plates of meat, who does his work so very neat,
With his baton turns the green sod over,
While the soldier with his bag-o-net will give the Lord his little bit,
Perhaps before the Dublin strike is over.
But whate’er the blooming tool may be, you never will such spade-work see
Or such profuse perspiring outside Hades,
As when master at the party calls out ‘nap’ so bluff and hearty,
And does it with the blooming ace of spades.

Isn’t it blarsted sarcastic ? It’s the mood, you know. Gas going, boss ?”

He was gone when I had fed the hungry metre, and I noticed that the bottle was empty—which was perhaps why a mellow voice on the staircase trilled:

“Does anyone want to put a penny on the baby ?
A-e-o-i e-o-o;
Does anyone want to put a tanner on his lady?
In the midst of life we’re in death, you know.
Come rain, come hail, come frost, come snow,
Come heav’n above, come hell below,
Come coughs, colds, corns, croup, chicken-pock, measles, biliousness, depression of spirits, headache, heartache, St. Vitus’s dance, the bleeding gripes, or any other distressing disorder consequent upon the blarsted capitalist system of so-so,
On the knock knock knocker I Tango,


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