Friday, December 11, 2015

They're 'Bout What Everybody Knows

Hard Luck
by Edgar Guest


Ain’t no use as I can see
In sittin’ underneath a tree
An’ growlin’ that your luck is bad,
An’ that your life is extry sad;
Your life ain’t sadder than your neighbor’s
Nor any harder are your labors;
It rains on him the same as you,
An’ he has work he hates to do;
An’ he gits tired an’ he gits cross,
An’ he has trouble with the boss;
You take his whole life, through an’ through,
Why, he’s no better off than you.

If whinin’ brushed the clouds away
I wouldn’t have a word to say;
If it made good friends out o’ foes
I’d whine a bit, too, I suppose;
But when I look around an’ see
A lot o’ men resemblin’ me,
An’ see ’em sad, an’ see ’em gay
With work t’ do most every day,
Some full o’ fun, some bent with care,
Some havin’ troubles hard to bear,
I reckon, as I count my woes,
They’re ’bout what everybody knows.

The day I find a man who’ll say
He’s never known a rainy day,
Who’ll raise his right hand up an’ swear
In forty years he’s had no care,
Has never had a single blow,
An’ never known one touch o’ woe,
Has never seen a loved one die,
Has never wept or heaved a sigh,
Has never had a plan go wrong,
But allas laughed his way along;
Then I’ll sit down an’ start to whine
That all the hard luck here is mine.

One of the reasons for all the Guest poems recently is that Edgar Guest is sharply criticized by Lemony Snicket, especially in The Grim Grotto, who describes him as "a writer of limited skill, who wrote awkward, tedious poetry on hopelessly sentimental topics", and in which the villains wear Edgar Guest badges. But it's only in reading him a bit more recently that I've realized how many optimistic poems Guest has -- I've only posted a handful -- which, of course, cuts entirely against the melancholy pessimism of the Lemony Snicket persona. He certainly wouldn't say that the misfortunes of the Baudelaire orphas are "'bout what everybody knows"! So it's perhaps not surprising that Lemony Snicket hates Edgar Albert Guest.

But he makes a good poet for times of grading!

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