The Ballad[e] Of Imitation / Austin Dobson

The Ballad[e] Of Imitation

 

If they hint, O Musician, the piece that you played
Is nought but a copy of Chopin or Spohr;
That the ballad you sing is but merely “conveyed”
From the stock of the Arnes and the Purcells of yore;
That there’s nothing, in short, in the words or the score
That is not as out-worn as the “Wandering Jew,”
Make answer—Beethoven could scarcely do more—
That the man who plants cabbages imitates, too!

If they tell you, Sir Artist, your light and your shade
Are simply “adapted” from other men’s lore;
That—plainly to speak of a “spade” as a “spade”—
You’ve “stolen” your grouping from three or from four;
That (however the writer the truth may deplore),
‘Twas Gainsborough painted your “Little Boy Blue”;
Smile only serenely—though cut to the core—
For the man who plants cabbages imitates, too!

And you too, my Poet, be never dismayed
If they whisper your Epic—”Sir Eperon d’Or”—
Is nothing but Tennyson thinly arrayed
In a tissue that’s taken from Morris’s store;
That no one, in fact, but a child could ignore
That you “lift” or “accommodate” all that you do;
Take heart—though your Pegasus’ withers be sore—
For the man who plants cabbages imitates, too!

POSTSCRIPTUM—And you, whom we all so adore,
Dear Critics, whose verdicts are always so new!—
One word in your ear. There were Critics before . . .
And the man who plants cabbages imitates, too!

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Filed under Austin Dobson, Poetry

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