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Poems by Frank Harris

The first two poems here were printed in Frank Harris in Black & White by Tobin and Gertz. Harris gave up writing poetry early in his life - a decision which was well-justified on this evidence. Tobin and Gertz describe the remainder of Harris' poetic output, printed, much later, in Pearson's, as 'doggerel'. The final poem here is an example of that category, taken from E M Root's Frank Harris (p.256-7) (originally published in Pearson's of April, 1920. Root says it 'shows his own best singing strength': Root - in my opinion - was demented.

My grateful thanks are extended to Edgar M. Ross for his written permission to reproduce these copyrighted works.

Here I lie dead at last at rest
With a crucifix upon my breast
And candles burning at head and feet
And I cannot see the flowers so sweet
I cannot smell and I cannot weep
And I cannot wake and I cannot sleep.
For I who laughed and loved am dead,
And laid out on my cold white bed,
With my jaw tied up lest it give offence
And my eyelids closed with a couple of pence.
But for all I am blind I know the tread
Of the friends that crowded round my bed
And I know what they meant by the words they said.
The woman I loved for her golden hair
Who was just as false as she was fair
Cried till her eyes were no longer blue
And said she was sorry, and meant it too.
The girl I wronged had a kindly word
And kissed and forgave me and hoped I heard
And said 'after all if the truth were confessed'
That I was 'better by far than all the rest'.
And the man I helped tho' he takes my place
Cried like a child and kissed my face
And said tho' I passed as a cynic 'mongst men
I had a heart of gold and a brilliant pen,
The strength of seven and the wit of ten
And they would never look on my like again,
And altho' they are only hysterical fools
Fit for asylums and for schools
And I hated death and loved to live
And had lived a life that was sensitive,
It is well worth while to lie here at rest
With a crucifix upon my breast
And candles burning at my head
To hear the kindly things they said.
And yet it makes one long to live
To make amends and to forgive
And yet I'm glad to lie here dead
And rest these tired hands and head
When these poor hands have had to do
Work that they never could get through
In sixty weeks of sixty years
When they might work for these poor dears
Who now can do no more than cry-
It seems a senseless thing to die!

Love's Enemy

Sweet, if I praise you,
Count it but a folly;
Nor let amaze you
All the melancholy
  Lays you have earned.

Say when I twine you
In a wreath of song,
'Tis a design you
Weary of ere long -
  Mine you've still spurned.

Do I beseech you
For one little boon?
Prayers cannot reach you,
Grief of mine would soon
  Teach you new mirth.

Love never kissed you
On those proud-curved lips;
Through no sweet mist you
Watch love's freighted ships
  Wist you their worth?

Calm waters bound you,
Yet his fleets sail by ;
Long since he found you
Cold as those that lie
  Round your fair shore.

Clear skies above you ;
No kind haven nigh ;
From your heart drove you
Love's best gift - and I
  Love you no more.

Frank Harris's Confession

This Friday is my birthday.
If you want to know my age,
  You can work the following problem
On the margin of the page.

I'm nineteen when I'm happy
And ninety when I'm sad;
  I'm forty when I'm sensible
And nothing when I'm mad.

I'm seven in the country
And a thousand in the towns,
  And as old and young as all the earth
When I am on the Downs.

I'm green in love and grey in thought -
That's all you need to know,
  Never you mind how old I am
As Februaries go.