Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Neither a waver nor a drowner be

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him
his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

— Stevie Smith
"Not Waving But Drowning" 
As far as I can determine, I am still alive, but have certainly been too far out all my life. Not waving, not drowning, just being an outsider. Not a capitalized Outsider — that would make me part of a special group. I've been outside the Outsiders.

Every now and again, I fantasize about being Accepted. Part of the Inner Circle, a Peer Group, the Invisible Government. At such times, bursting through the reality barrier, I envision myself on the cusp of being admitted to the ultimate sanctum sanctorum of this world: an exclusive club on Pall Mall in London.

club 4
My London digs. (In my dreams.)

My Sponsor is ready to put me up for membership. He assures the Members that I am a sound fellow.

"I say." "Hear, hear." "That's the spirit." "Sounds like one of us, old boy."

Sponsor: "Can trace his ancestry back to when his forebears emerged from the sea onto land."

"Should hope so." "Very good, that." "I trust that was English land, or at least one of the colonies." "But which side in the Wars of the Roses?" "Oh, come along, Reg, if I've said it once I've said it a dozen times, we need to let bygones be bygones." "Mmm, a bit new on the scene, I should say, but one mustn't be an old fuddy-duddy."

Sponsor: "Mr. Darby is known as a Traditional Conservative."

"Quite." "Quite." "Quite." "Quite." "Quite."

club 5

I can feel it. I'm almost in. A sound fellow at last.

Sponsor: "Another of his ancestors was elected to the Royal Academy of Bison Art for a drawing he did in the cave at Altamira."

"What? Altamira? That's in Spain, man." "Really, Sir Giles, it was 25,000 years ago." "Yes, old boy, but the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." "Couldn't agree more, Sir Giles. Never had any time for the Spaniards. Steal the cream from your coffee."

"Where is his hunting estate?"

My Sponsor: "Lord Swallow, old boy, he says he doesn't like hunting."

Dead silence, punctuated only by a discreet cough. Finally Sir Quincy Fleet-Mothkin manages to mutter, "I say." Getting no response, he adds, "I say."

My Sponsor: "He doesn't enjoy shooting animals."

"How extraordinary!" "Doesn't enjoy shooting?" "Jolly odd, what!" "Well I'm, what do the young people say, gobsmacked." "You are having us on a bit, old boy?"

I can see where this is going. Or rather, isn't. Yes, still too far out. Not waving. Not drowning. But not shooting animals for sport, either. That's how it is.

1 comment:

Abigail S said...

I love that poem! When in college, I had to write a paper on it.

You don't shoot animals? I say... quite... good!