Alec Derwent Hope
I sing of the decline of Henry Clay
Who loved a white girl of uncommon size.
Although a small man in a little way,
He had in him some seed of enterprise.
Each day he caught the seven-thirty train
To work, watered his garden after tea,
Took an umbrella if it looked like rain A
nd was remarkably like you or me.
He had his hair cut once a fortnight, tried
Not to forget the birthday of his wife,
And might have lived unnoticed till he died
Had not ambition entered Henry’s life.
He met her in the lounge of an hotel –
A most unusual place for him to go –
But there he was and there she was as well
Sitting alone. He ordered beers for two.
She was so large a girl that when they came
He gave the waiter twice the usual tip.
She smiled without surprise, told him her name,
And as the name trembled on Henry’s lip,
His parched soul, swelling like a desert root,
Broke out its delicate dream upon the air;
The mountains shook with earthquake under foot;
An angel seized him suddenly by the hair;
The sky was shrill with peril as he passed;
A hurricane crushed his senses with its din;
The wildfire crackled up his reeling mast;
The trumpet of a maelstrom sucked hirn in;
The desert shrivelled and burnt off his feet;
His bones and buttons an enormous snake
Vomited up; still in the shimmering heat
The pygmies showed him their forbidden lake
And then transfixed him with their poison darts;
He married six black virgins in a bunch,
Who, when they had drawn out his manly parts,
Stewed him and ate him lovingly for lunch.
Adventure opened wide its grisly jaws;
Henry looked in and knew the Hero’s doom.
The huge white girl drank on without a pause
And, just at closing time, she asked him home.
The tram they took was full of Roaring Boys
Announcing the world’s ruin and Judgment Day;
The sky blared with its grand orchestral voice
The Gotterdammerung of Henry Clay.
But in her quiet room they were alone.
There, towering over Henry by a head,
She stood and took her clothes off one by one,
And then she stretched herself upon the bed.
Her bulk of beauty, her stupendous grace
Challenged the lion heart in his puny dust.
Proudly his Moment looked him in the face:
He rose to meet it as a hero must;
Climbed the white mountain of unravished snow,
Planted his tiny flag upon the peak.
The smooth drifts, scarcely breathing, lay below.
She did not take the trouble to smile or speak.
And afterwards, it may have been in play,
The enormous girl rolled over and squashed him flat;
And, as she could not send him home that way,
Used him thereafter as a bedside mat.
Speaking at large, I will say this of her: S
he did not spare expense to make him nice.
Tanned on both sides and neatly edged with fur,
The job would have been cheap at any price.
And when, in winter, getting out of bed,
Her large soft feet pressed warmly on the skin,
The two glass eyes would sparkle in his head,
The jaws extend their papier-mache grin.
Good people, for the soul of Henry Clay
Offer your prayers, and view his destiny!
He was the Hero of our Time. He may
With any luck, one day, be you or me.