The Spoilsport

Robert Graves - 1895-1985
My familiar ghost again
    Comes to see what he can see,
Critic, son of Conscious Brain,
    Spying on our privacy.
 
Slam the window, bolt the door,
    Yet he'll enter in and stay;
In to-morrow's book he'll score
    Indiscretions of to-day.
 
Whispered love and muttered fears,
    How their echoes fly about!
None escape his watchful ears,
    Every sigh might be a shout.
 
No kind words nor angry cries
    Turn away this grim spoilsport;
No fine lady's pleading eyes,
    Neither love, nor hate, nor...port.
 
Critic wears no smile of fun,
    Speaks no word of blame nor praise,
Counts our kisses one by one,
    Notes each gesture, every phrase.
 
My familiar ghost again
    Stands or squats where suits him best;
Critic, son of Conscious Brain,
    Listens, watches, takes no rest.

More by Robert Graves

The Shivering Beggar

Near Clapham village, where fields began,  
Saint Edward met a beggar man.  
It was Christmas morning, the church bells tolled,  
The old man trembled for the fierce cold.  
  
Saint Edward cried, "It is monstrous sin
A beggar to lie in rags so thin!  
An old gray-beard and the frost so keen:  
I shall give him my fur-lined gaberdine."  
  
He stripped off his gaberdine of scarlet  
And wrapped it round the aged varlet,  
Who clutched at the folds with a muttered curse,  
Quaking and chattering seven times worse.  
  
Said Edward, "Sir, it would seem you freeze  
Most bitter at your extremities.  
Here are gloves and shoes and stockings also,
That warm upon your way you may go."  
  
The man took stocking and shoe and glove,  
Blaspheming Christ our Saviour’s love,  
Yet seemed to find but little relief,  
Shaking and shivering like a leaf.  
  
Said the saint again, "I have no great riches,  
Yet take this tunic, take these breeches,  
My shirt and my vest, take everything,  
And give due thanks to Jesus the King."  
  
The saint stood naked upon the snow  
Long miles from where he was lodged at Bowe,  
Praying, "O God! my faith, it grows faint!  
This would try the temper of any saint.  
  
"Make clean my heart, Almighty, I pray,  
And drive these sinful thoughts away.    
Make clean my heart if it be Thy will,  
This damned old rascal’s shivering still!"  
  
He stooped, he touched the beggar man’s shoulder;  
He asked him did the frost nip colder?  
"Frost!" said the beggar, "no, stupid lad!
’Tis the palsy makes me shiver so bad."

Related Poems

Critic and Poet

An Apologue

No man had ever heard a nightingale,
When once a keen-eyed naturalist was stirred
To study and define—what is a bird,
To classify by rote and book, nor fail
To mark its structure and to note the scale
Whereon its song might possibly be heard.
Thus far, no farther;—so he spake the word.
When of a sudden,—hark, the nightingale!

Oh deeper, higher than he could divine
That all-unearthly, untaught strain! He saw
The plain, brown warbler, unabashed. "Not mine"
(He cried) "the error of this fatal flaw.
No bird is this, it soars beyond my line,
Were it a bird, 'twould answer to my law."