The Song Against Songs

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This song comes from The Flying Inn, and is worth reading with some surrounding context:

Humphrey Pump plunged down again into the sunken nest, and began to broach the cask of rum in his own secret style, saying-- "We can get something else somehow tomorrow. For tonight we can eat cheese and drink rum, especially as there's water on tap, so to speak. And now, Captain, sing us the Song Against Songs."

Patrick Dalroy drank a little rum out of a small medicine glass which the generally unaccountable Mr. Pump unaccountably produced from his waistcoat pocket; but Patrick's colour had risen, his brow was almost as red as his hair; and he was evidently reluctant.

"I don't see why I should sing all the songs," he said. "Why the divil don't you sing a song yourself? And now I come to think of it," he cried, with an accumulating brogue, not, perhaps, wholly unaffected by the rum, which he had not, in fact, drunk for years, "and now I come to think of it, what about that song of yours? All me youth's coming back in this blest and cursed place; and I remember that song of yours, that never existed nor ever will. Don't ye remember now, Humphrey Pump, that night when I sang ye no less than seventeen songs of me own composition?"

"I remember it very well," answered the Englishman, with restraint.

"And don't ye remember," went on the exhilarated Irishman, with solemnity, "that unless ye could produce a poetic lyric of your own, written and sung by yourself, I threatened to . . ."

"To sing again," said the impenetrable Pump. "Yes, I know."

He calmly proceeded to take out of his pockets, which were, alas, more like those of a poacher than an innkeeper, a folded and faded piece of paper.

"I wrote it when you asked me," he said simply. "I have never tried to sing it. But I'll sing it myself, when you've sung your song, against anybody singing at all."

"All right," cried the somewhat excited Captain, "to hear a song from you--why, I'll sing anything. This is the Song Against Songs, Hump."

And again he let his voice out like a bellow against the evening silence.

"The song of the sorrow of Melisande is a weary song and a dreary song,
The glory of Mariana's grange had got into great decay,
The song of the Raven Never More has never been called a cheery song,
And the brightest things in Baudelaire are anything else but gay.
But who will write us a riding song,
Or a hunting song or a drinking song,
Fit for them that arose and rode,
When day and the wine were red?
But bring me a quart of claret out,
And I will write you a clinking song,
A song of war and a song of wine,
And a song to wake the dead.

"The song of the fury of Fragolette is a florid song and a torrid song,
The song of the sorrow of Tara is sung to a harp unstrung,
The song of the cheerful Shropshire Kid I consider a perfectly horrid song,
And the song of the happy Futurist is a song that can't be sung.
But who will write us a riding song,
Or a fighting song or a drinking song,
Fit for the fathers of you and me,
That knew how to think and thrive?
But the song of Beauty and Art and Love
Is simply an utterly stinking song,
To double you up and drag you down,
And damn your soul alive.

"Take some more rum," concluded the Irish officer, affably, "and let's hear your song at last."