Sunday, 16 March 2008

Down Aspidistra Street with Harold Monro

The poet and bookseller Harold Monro shuffled off his mortal coil on this very day 76years ago. Like George Orwell, author of the period novel 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying', it was tuberculosis that brought about Monro's all too premature end.
Poet-in-Residence is today pleased to pay a poetic tribute to the poet and founder of the Poetry Bookshop in London. The following appears to have been composed on a rainy day in Manchester. It reminds Poet-in-Residence of his own sad days in what are euphemistically known as lodgings. The aspidistra is a pretentious plant that requires little more than the passing flick of a landlady's duster. It is invariably placed in the parlour window.

Aspidistra Street

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.

H E Monro (1879 - 1932)


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