Three Poems by Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker

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Ballad of Understandable Ambitions 

Fame and honor and high degree,

Jeweled scepter and throne-room plot —

Yellow primroses, they, to me;

Milder longings are mine, God wot.

Smooth and simple I’d have my lot;

I’d depart on another tack.

At my aim give me just one shot —

All I want is a lot of jack.

Fond communion with field and tree,

Bread and cheese in an ivied cot;

Sweet and clean though the thought may be,

I subscribe to it ne’er a jot.

Other yearnings my heart make hot,

Other cravings my spirit rack.

In my dreams to my goal I trot —

All I want is a lot of jack.

On the pages of history

Ne’er my name shall I sign and blot;

I’ll go down to posterity Neither scholar nor patriot.

Cloaks of Shelley and Keats and Scott

Ne’er will fall on my humble back;

Immortality ask I not —

All I want is a lot of Jack.


Prince, or Rover, or Rex, or Spot,

Ere I die let me take a crack

At the wish which I’ve never got —

All I want is a lot of jack.


(January 27, 1923)


Song of a Contented Heart  

All sullen blares the wintry blast;

Beneath gray ice the waters sleep.

Thick are the dizzying flakes and fast;

The edged air cuts cruel deep.

The stricken trees gaunt limbs extend

Like whining beggars, shrill with woe;

The cynic heavens do but send,

In bitter answer, darts of snow.

Stark lies the earth, in misery,

Beneath grim winter’s dreaded spell—

But I have you, and you have me,

So what the hell, love, what the hell!

The wolf, he crouches at the sill,

And, grinning, bares expectant fangs,

While heavy o’er the house, and chill,

The coming of the landlord hangs.

Each moment, on the shrinking door,

May sound his knocking’s hideous din.

And more and more, and ever more,

The eager bills come trooping in.

The milkman clamors for his due,

The grocer and the cook, as well—

But you have me, and I have you,

So what the hell, love, what the hell!


(February 24, 1923)


Song of the Wilderness  

We’ll go out to the open spaces,

Break the web of the morning mist,

Feel the wind on our upflung faces.

[This, of course, is if you insist.]

We’ll go out in the golden season,

Brave-eyed, gaze at the sun o’erhead.

[Can’t you listen, my love, to reason?

Don’t you know that my nose gets red?]

Where the water falls, always louder,

Deep we’ll dive, in the chuckling foam.

[I’ll go big without rouge and powder!

Why on earth don’t you leave me home?]

We’ll go out where the winds go playing,

Roam the ways of the brilliant West.

[I was never designed for straying;

In a taxi I’m at my best.]

Minds blown clean of the thoughts that rankle,

Far we’ll stray where the grasses swirl.

[I’ll be certain to turn my ankle;

Can’t you dig up another girl?]

We’ll go out where the light comes falling—

Bars of amber and rose and green.

[Go, my love, if the West is calling!

Leave me home with a magazine.]


(March 3, 1923)

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