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Monday, April 1, 2013

Guessing Game

When was the poem below written?

Life today is hectic.
Our world is running away.
Only the wise can recognize
The process of decay.
All our dialectic
Is quite unable to say
Whether we’re on the beam or not,
Whether we’ll rise supreme or not,
Whether this new regime or not
Is leading us astray.

We all have Frigidaires, radios,
Television and movie shows
To shield us from the ultimate abyss.
We have our daily bread neatly cut,
Every modern convenience but
The question that confronts us all is this:

What’s going to happen to the children
When there aren’t any more grown-ups?
Having been injected with some rather peculiar glands
Darling Mum’s gone platinum
And dances to all the rumba bands.
The songs that she sings at twilight
Would certainly be the highlight
For some of those claques that Elsa Maxwell
Takes around in yachts.
Rockabye, rockabye, rockabye my darlings,
Mother requires a few more shots.
Does it amuse the tiny mites
To see their parents high as kites?
What’s, what’s, what’s going to happen to the tots?

Life today’s neurotic, a ceaseless battle we wage;
Millions are spent to circumvent
The march of middle age.
The fact that we grab each new narcotic
Can only prove in the end

Whether our hormones gel or not
Whether our cells rebel or not,
Whether we’re blown to hell or not,
We’ll all be round the bend
From taking Benzedrine, Dexamyl,
Every possible sleeping pill
To knock us out or knock us into shape.
We all have shots for this, shots for that,
Shots for making us thin or fat,
But there’s one problem that we can’t escape.

What’s going to happen to the children
When there aren’t any more grown-ups?
Thanks to plastic surgery and uncle’s abrupt demise,
Dear Aunt Rose has changed her nose
But doesn’t appear to realize
The pleasures that once were heaven
Look silly at sixty-seven,
And youthful allure you can’t procure
In terms of perms and pots.
So lullaby, lullaby, lullaby my darlings,
Try not to scratch those large red spots,
Think of the shock when mummie’s face
Is lifted from its proper place,
What’s, what’s, what’s going to happen to the tots?

What’s going to happen to the children
When there aren’t any more grown-ups?
It’s bizarre when grandmamma, without getting out of breath
Starts to jive at eighty-five and frightens the little ones to death.
The police had to send a squad car
When daddy got fried on vodka
And tied a tweed coat round mummie’s throat
In several sailor’s knots.
Hushabye, hushabye, hushabye my darlings,
Try not to fret and wet your cots.
One day you’ll clench your tiny fists
And murder your psychiatrists.
What’s, what’s, what’s going to happen to the tots?

Answer below the fold. But make your guess(es) first!

Answer: "What’s Going to Happen to the Tots?" (1927) by Noel Coward (hat tip to FreeThinke).


  1. This Be the Verse
    By Philip Larkin

    They f*** you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were f***ed up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

    Much more concise

  2. Duck,
    Yes, more concise. But angrier as well.

    No parents are perfect. Clearly, however, some are worse than others.

    I was lucky -- very lucky -- with the parents I had. Part of the reason: Mom was 36 when I was born, and Dad was almost 41. They had developed a lot of sense before they embarked on having their only child.

    I miss Mom and Dad every day. They were my best friends -- once I had reached adulthood, that is.

  3. Duck cited:

    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    My parents had a grand total of two fights that I know of: once when I was about 16 and again when they moved (the only time they ever moved) when I was about 35.

    Neither Mom nor Dad was much interested in alcohol.

  4. I guessed it was written in the fifties.

    It must be true the the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  5. Guess before I read the answer (or comments): 1960's. Though it could fit well for today, the reference to drugs makes me think that.

    Upon reading: '27? Would never have guessed that long ago, if only because I didn't know they had all that tech back then (I am ignorant, I know). The Roaring Twenties, though, does fit the bill socially.

    Time repeats itself it seems, over and over again. Will be interesting to see the answers! Though it may also be sickening to see how many time-frames fit...


  6. Wildstar,
    Remember F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Baby Party"?

  7. Wildstar,
    BTW, Mr. AOW first guessed the 1960s. He said that the part about the television is what fooled him the most.

  8. It could have been written today. Very interesting.

    Right Truth

  9. Oh well. My poor eyesight read "Who," not "When." Okay. guessing late 1950s?

  10. Duck blames the parents...

    In doing so, he's only half right....

    ...as usual.

  11. @ Joe ... yeah, it's all part of the leftist tendency to shift responsibility elsewhere. We've all known for a while that Nostradumbass requires the attention of mental health professionals. Let's just hope that with all his anger, he isn't another leftist carrying a gun.

    @ AOW, I guessed in the 1920s ... Noel Coward was a piece of work, wasn't he? I suspect he and the duck have a lot in common--if you know what I mean.

  12. Yes AOW, Larkin is often bitter but I wonder if there isn't quite a bit of irony in his work.
    He often tries to manage that disappointment. The Whitsun Weddings is a good example,beautiful poem. The guy had a hell of an ear.

    The Whitsun Wedings

  13. Sorry Warren, I'm quite straight.

    But I suggest that someone who gets off dressing up in powdered wigs take stock of things.

  14. Duck,

    Sam and Warren are two different individuals. In real life, I mean.

  15. Our ducky has a depressing predilection for interpreting whatever subject arises in the bitterest, dreariest, most humorless and discouraging manner he could possibly dredge out of the jakes that fill the bottom of his mind.

    Philip Larkin is a good poet, in spite of his succumbing to the all-too prevalent temptation to use The F-Word. But the horridly "mod" spirit of Larkin's poem is in no way comparable to the sparkle and the sizzle of Noel Coward's witty commentary on alarming social phenomena.

    Noel Coward was a master of wry, comic-satirical verse -- and astonishingly touching high romance as well. He was also a great British patriot, and did much to aid Civilization's defense during World War Two. He wrote with uncommon elegance. The brittle, sometimes flippant manner for which he was so well known was -- as it has been for many of our more gifted satirists -- a mask covering the wistfulness, disenchantment and compassion that comprise a great heart.

  16. Didn't we see this item at FreeThinke's blog just a day or two ago? He even gave us the music that goes along with it sung by Noel Coward, himself.

    Wagmore Barkless

  17. Well FT, after a day when many religious professed sch an intense fear of death I feel safe saying that life is organized around loss and sorrow and our task is to be productive in spite of it.


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