Ballade of a Great Weariness

There’s little to have but the things I had,
    There’s little to bear but the things I bore.
There’s nothing to carry and naught to add,
    And glory to Heaven, I paid the score.
There’s little to do but I did before,
    There’s little to learn but the things I know;
And this is the sum of a lasting lore:
    Scratch a lover, and find a foe.

And couldn’t it be I was young and mad
    If ever my heart on my sleeve I wore?
There’s many to claw at a heart unclad,
    And little the wonder it ripped and tore.
There’s one that’ll join in their push and roar,
    With stories to jabber, and stones to throw;
He’ll fetch you a lesson that costs you sore
    Scratch a lover, and find a foe.

So little I’ll offer to you, my lad;
    It’s little in loving I set my store.
There’s many a maid would be flushed and glad,
    And better you’ll knock at a kindlier door.
I’ll dig at my lettuce, and sweep my floor
    Forever, forever I’m done with woe
And happen I’ll whistle about my chore,
    “Scratch a lover, and find a foe.”


Oh, beggar or prince, no more, no more!
    Be off and away with your strut and show.
The sweeter the apple, the blacker the core
    Scratch a lover, and find a foe!

From Enough Rope (Boni & Liveright, 1926) by Dorothy Parker. This poem is in the public domain.