Scottish Poetry Selection
- Our Guest

Walter Wingate was a prominent member of "The Glasgow Ballad Club" - a collection of poets who met on a regular basis to provide encouragement to one another. While the poem below is written as if by a guest from North America, it was actually written by Walter Wingate himself - though it could (almost) be seen as an "off the cuff" address to the club. It is subtitled "At an ordinary meeting of the club".

Our Guest

I'm over here from Texas, on a visit to a friend;
He's trotted me around a bit, and treated me no end;
Last night he took me to a club - 'twas up a marble stair,
But, bein' took in cabs and sech, I kaint jest tell ye where.

Now, as for me myself, I ain't a poet wuth a cent;
But this same club is, every man's a literary gent;
Why, all of them - or leastways most - a book is to his name,
And some of them have dropped a good few dollars on the same.

It is the most exclusive club as ever I hear tell:
If Roosevelt were to apply, they'd send him off to - well,
I mean they'd set on him awhile, and let him softly down,
And pin "Declined with thanks" on him, and show him out of town.

Unless some Doc. will certify that you have had the muse,
And broken out in rhymes and sech, ye needn't try no ruse;
A small committee takes you out and makes you show your skin,
And if you haven't got the thing, why, then you can't get in.

Now many folk have been mistook about this same disease -
Like diagnosing measles when the case was only fleas;
But if the small committee thinks you've got it genuine,
Why, they're as proud of you as if they'd struck a diamond mine!

The members stand around until the chairman gives the wink,
And then the scribe he rings the bell, and orders up the drink;
Not that it mounts to much: begosh, were I to run a bar,
I'd like a thirstier lot around than these same poets are.

And when they've sampled every man his ginger and his port,
The scribe he reads the minutes, which he cuts them mighty short;
And then the chairman coughs and calls for reader number one,-
Some feller fumbles in his vest - and now the show's begun.

A nice benevolent-looking gent, he lets some lyrics out,
And Sue and Jane and roses he scatters all about;
So sweet and melancholious too about them gals he read,
I dropped a tear on my cigar, and wondered which was dead.

And then a long-haired coon lets out, and makes a feller squirm;
And gosh but he was eloquent, and all about a worm.
I don't take stock in worms, myself, - not yet, you understand -
But how he stretched that cutter out-I tell you it was grand.

This wasn't all the game, you bet: two solid hours of rhyme
Would be a sickening sort of feed - like honey all the time;
The chairman held them well in hand - each feller there in turn
Has got to stand and do his piece, and tell his freshest yarn.

I can't go through with the menu; some others took the floor,-
And as I heard there oughter have bin several epics more;
But when you order up a bird, and tip the wink to sing,
You've got to take the chances that he won't do no sech thing.

And then he whispers to my friend, my friend he nods along,
And, great Jehoshaphat, he ups and names me for a song!
I ain't no nightingale, I guess, but rose when I was bid
Perhaps I didn't tickle 'em, - perhaps, again, I did.

Next, when the waiter had brought in another stack o' beers,
He raps his table once again and calls for volunteers;
Which means, if any feller has got something on his chest,
He's free to cough it up on them exceptin' he's a guest.

My 'twas a most emusin' sight to see them poets there,
Each with his papers in his hand, all lookin' t'wards the chair;
But they wos diddled every man, - there came a gentle knock,
A waiter shoves his head inside and whispers, "Ten o'clock."

It is the most amazin' club as ever I did see;
If any nigger in the West had tried that game on me -
I mean, to put the gag on me, when I was up to talk
I guess he'd think that he had struck a paralytic shock.

But these same poets only sighed and put their papers back,
And finished off their beer, and took their tiles from off the rack,
And filed right down the marble stair, and parted at the door,
And not a feller raised a gun, and not a feller swore.

I tell you I was right down mad: we jest was going prime
When that there waiter knocked us out by hollerin' the time.
That's all; I'm through; there ain't no more; jest kicked out from the pub -
That's how we ended up the night at that there Ballad Club.

Return to the Index of Walter Wingate Poems or the General Index of Scottish Poetry

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