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      Don Marquis (1878-1937)

          The Genius of the Vague

    SHE came at twilight yestere'en,
        With eyes profound and sad,
    And murmured, "You must choose between
        The Shadow and the Shad!"

    "What mean you, cryptic visitor,
        Who come to me uncalled?"
    She answered, "Ned and Isidor
        And Thomas, too are bald!"

    "I know they are," I said, "but why
        Should that so sadden you?"
    She wiped a wan and wistful eye
        And smelled a sprig of rue.

    "Oh, sounds," she said, "oh, sounds and scents!
        And, oh! forgotten years"—
    Beneather her shrouding filaments
        She shed, I think, some tears.

    "But what are you," I asked of her,
        "Who waver through the gloom
    As cheerful as a sepulcher,
        As genial as a tomb?"

    "I am," she said, "the friend of Potes;
        And sometimes I'm the plague
    Who gets their gay, Parnassian goats:
        The Genius of the Vague!

    "Vers libre, or straight old-fashioned rime,
        Ode, sonnet, song, ballade,
    I've saved from failure many a time
        With nonsense quaint and odd;

    "When feeling fails, or thought or trope,
        When meaning peaks and pines,
    Do not, therefore, abandon hope,
        But pull some mystic lines—

    "Oh, seas and shores," she said, "and dreams,
        Echo and Afterwhile!
    And souls and sorrows, gulls and gleams!"—
        She smiled a pensive smile—

    "Oh, you must choose between," she said,
        "The Filbert and the Fly!"—
    I looked, and she had vanishèd;
        She left behind a Sigh.


The above can be found in:
  • Marquis, Don. Noah an' Jonah an' Cap'n John Smith. A Book of Humorous Verse. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1921.