Yes, I am Bluebeard, and my name
Is one that children cannot stand;
Yet once I used to be so tame
I’d eat out of a person’s hand;
So gentle was I wont to be
A Curate might have played with me.
People accord me little praise,
Yet I am not the least alarming;
I can recall, in bygone days,
A maid once said she thought me charming.
She was my friend, — mo more I vow, —
And — she’s in an asylum now.
Girls used to clamour for my hand,
Girls I refused in simple dozens;
I said I’d be their brother, and
They promised they would be my cousins.
(One, I accepted, — more or less —
But I’ve forgotten her address.)
They worried me like anything
By their proposals ev’ry day,
Until at last I had to ring
The bell, and have them cleared away;
(I often pondered on the cost
Of getting them completely lost.)
To share my somewhat lofty rank
Was what they panted for, like mad;
You see my balance at the bank
Was not so small, and, I may add,
A Castle, Gothic and immense,
Is my Official Residence.
It overlooks a many a mile
Of park, of gardens and domains;
I’m staying now in lodgings, while
They’re doing up the — well — the drains, —
For they began to give offence
At my Official Residence.
And, when I entertain at home,
I hardly ever fail to please,
The “upper tens” alone may come
to join in my “recherche” teas;
I am a King in ev’ry sense
At my Official Residence.
My dances, on a parquet floor,
My royal dinners, which consist
Of fifteen courses, sometimes more,
Are things that are not lightly missed;
In fact I do not spare expense
At my Official Residence.
My hospitality to those
Whom I invite to come and stay
Is famed; my wine like water flows,
Exactly like, some people say,
But this is mere impertinence
at my Official Residence.
When through the streets I walk about
My subjects stand and kiss their hands,
And raise a fine metallic shout,
Wave flags and warble tunes on bands,
While bunting hangs on ev’ry front, —
With my commands to let it bunt.
When I come home again, of course,
Retainers are employed to cheer,
My paid domestics get quite hoarse
Acclaiming me, and you can hear
the welkin ringing to the sky, —
Aye, aye, and let it welk, say I!
And yet, in spite of this, there are
Some persons who, at diff’rent times,
— (Because I am so popular) —
accuse me of most awful crimes;
A girl once said I was a flirt!
Oh my! how the expression hurt!
I never flirted in the least,
Never for very long, I mean, —
Ask any lady (now deceased)
Who partner of my life has been;–
Oh well, of course, sometimes, perhaps,
I meet a girl, like other chaps.
And, if I like her very much,
and if she cares for me a bit,
Where is the harm of look or touch
If neither of us mentions it?
It isn’t right, I don’t suppose,
But no one’s hurt if no one knows!
And, if I placed my hand below
Her chin and raised her face an inch,
and then proceeded — well, you know,–
(Excuse the vulgarism) — to clinch;
It would be wrong without a doubt,
That is, if anyone found out.
But then, remember, Life is short
And Woman’s Arts are very long,
And sometimes when one didn’t ought
One knowingly commits a wrong;
Well — speaking for myself, of course,
I almost always feel remorse.
One should not break one’s self too fast
Of little habits of this sort,
Which may be definitely classed
With gambling or a taste for port;
they should be slowly dropped, until
The Heart is subject to the Will.
I knew a man on Seventh Street
Who, at a very slight expense,
By persevering, was complete-
Ly cured of total abstinence;
An altered life he has begun
And takes a horn with anyone.
I knew another man whose wife
Was an invet’rate suicide,
She daily strove to take her life
And (naturally) nearly died;
But some such system she essayed,
And now she’s eighty in the shade.
Ah, the new leaves I try to turn,
But, like so many men in town,
I seem, as with regret I learn,
Merely to turn the corner down;
A habit which I fear, alack!
Makes it more easy to turn back.
I have been criticised a lot;
I venture to enquire what for;
Because, forsooth, I have not got
The instincts of a bachelor!
Just hear my story, you will find
How grossly I have been maligned.
I was unlucky with my wives,
So are most of married men;
Undoubtedly they lost their lives,–
Of course, but even so, what then?
I loved them dearly, understand,
And I can love, to beat the band.
My first was little Emmeline,
More beautiful than day was she;
Her proud, aristocratic mien
Was what at once attracted me.
I naturally did not know
That I should soon dislike her so.
But there it was! And you’ll infer
I had not very long to wait
Before my red-hot love for her
Turned to unutterable hate.
So, when this state of things I found,
I naturally had her drowned.
My next was Sarah, sweet but shy,
And quite inordinately meek;
Yes, even now I wonder why
I had her hanged within the week.
Perhaps I felt a bit upset,
Or else she bored me, I forget.
Then came Evangeline, my third,
And, when I chanced to be away,
She, so subsequently heard,
Was wont (I deeply grieve to say)
With my small retinue to flirt.
I strangled her. I hope it hurt.
Isabel was, I think, my next,–
That is, if I remember right)–
And I was really very vexed
To find her hair come off at night;
To falsehood I could not connive,
And so I had her boiled alive.
Then came Sophia, I believe,
Her coiffure was at least her own,
Alas! she fancied to deceive
Her friends by altering its tone.
She dyed her locks a flaming red!
I suffocated her in bed.
Susannah Maud was number six;
But she did not survive a day;
Poor Sue, she had no parlour tricks
And hardly anything to say.
A little strychnine in her tea
Finished her off, and I was free.
Yet I did not despair, and soon!
In spite of failures, started off
Upon my seventh honeymoon
With Jane; but could not stand her cough.
‘Twas chronic. Kindness was in vain.
I pushed her underneath the train.
Well, after her, I married Kate.
A most unpleasant woman. Oh!
I caught her at the garden gate
Kissing a man I didn’t know;
And, as that didn’t suit me quite,
I blew her up with dynamite.
Most married men, so sorely tried
As this, would have been rather bored.
Not I, but choose another bride
And married Ruth. Alas! she snored!
I served her just the same as Kate,
And so she joined the other eight.
My last was Grace; I am not clear,
I think she didn’t like me much;
She used to scream when I came near,
And shuddered at my lightest touch.
She seemed to wish to keep aloof,
And so I threw her off the roof.
This is the point I wish to make;–
from all the wives for whom I grieve,
Whose lives I had perforce to take,
Not one complaint did I receive;
And no expense was spared to please
My spouses at their obsequies.
My habits, I would have you know,
Are perfect as they’ve always been;
You ask if I am good, and go
To church, and keep my fingers clean?
I do, I mean to say I am,
I have the morals of a lamb.
In my domains there is no sin,
Virtue is rampant all the time,
Since I so thoughtfully brought in
A bill which legalizes crime;
Committing things that are not wrong
Must pall before so very long.
And if what you imagine vice
Is not considered so at all,
Crime doesn’t seem the least bit nice,
There’s no temptation then to fall;
for half the charm of things we do
Is knowing that we oughtn’t to.
Believe me, then, I am not bad,
Though in my youth I had to trek
Because I happened to have had
Some difficulties with a cheque.
What forgery in some might be
Is absentmindedness in me!
I know that I was much abused,
No doubt when I was young and rash,
But I should not have been accused
Of misappropriating cash.
I may have sneaked a silver dish;–
Well, you may search me if you wish!
So, now you see me, more or less,
As I would figure in your thoughts;
A trifle given to excess
And prone perhaps to vice of sorts;
When tempted, rather apt to fall,
But still– a good chap after all!
Graham, Harry (as “Col. D. Streamer”). Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes. New York: R. H. Russell 1901