Friday, 14 November 2008

Clough (A Day Late)

I've just realised that I missed the anniversary of Arthur Hugh Clough's death - it was yesterday, and he died in 1861, at the age of just 42. Clough is one of the strangest, most fascinating and unclassifiable of the Victorian poets. He seems the least English, the least rooted of them - hardly surprising, as he spent his childhood years in Charleston, South Carolina (though he later attended Rugby and came under the Arnold influence). Clough also seems one of the most proto-modern of the Victorians, endlessly experimenting with metres and voices, and most un-Victorian in the frankness of his disenchanted world view. Here (belatedly) is one of his better known lyrics, taken from the rambling, Venetian-set satire Dipsychus. It seems entirely apt for our times - or rather for the times that have just come skidding to a credit-crunched halt....


As I sat at the café, I said to myself,
They may talk as they please about what they call pelf
They may sneer as they like about eating and drinking
But help it I cannot, I cannot help thinking,
How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
How pleasant it is to have money.

I sit at my table en grand seigneur,
And when I have done, throw a crust to the poor;
Not only the pleasure, one’s self, of good living,
But also the pleasure of now and then giving.
So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
So pleasant it is to have money.

It was but last winter I came up to town,
But already I’m getting a little renown;
I make new acquaintance where’er I appear;
I am not too shy, and have nothing to fear.
So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
So pleasant it is to have money.

I drive through the streets, and I care not a d—n;
The people they stare, and they ask who I am;
And if I should chance to run over a cad,
I can pay for the damage if ever so bad.
So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
So pleasant it is to have money.

We stroll to our box and look down on the pit,
And if it weren’t low should be tempted to spit;
We loll and we talk until people look up,
And when it’s half over we go out to sup.
So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
So pleasant it is to have money.

The best of the tables and the best of the fare—
And as for the others, the devil may care;
It isn’t our fault if they dare not afford
To sup like a prince and be drunk as a lord.
So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
So pleasant it is to have money.

We sit at our tables and tipple champagne;
Ere one bottle goes, comes another again;
The waiters they skip and they scuttle about,
And the landlord attends us so civilly out.
So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
So pleasant it is to have money.

It was but last winter I came up to town,
But already I’m getting a little renown;
I get to good houses without much ado,
Am beginning to see the nobility too.
So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
So pleasant it is to have money.

O dear! what a pity they ever should lose it!
For they are the gentry that know how to use it;
So grand and so graceful, such manners, such dinners,
But yet, after all, it is we are the winners.
So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
So pleasant it is to have money.

Thus I sat at my table en grand seigneur,
And when I had done threw a crust to the poor;
Not only the pleasure, one’s self, of good eating.
But also the pleasure of now and then treating,
So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho
So pleasant it is to have money.

They may talk as they please about what they call pelf,
And how one ought never to think of one’s self,
And how pleasures of thought surpass eating and drinking—
My pleasure of thought is the pleasure of thinking
How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
How pleasant it is to have money.

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