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THE BALLAD OF A BARBER

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The Database of Ornament

                        HERE is the tale of Carrousel,
                        The barber of Meridian Street.
                        He cut, and coiffed, and shaved so well,
                        That all the world was at his feet.

                        The King, the Queen, and all the Court,
                        To no one else would trust their hair,
                        And reigning belles of every sort
                        Owed their successes to his care.

                        With carriage and with cabriolet
                        Daily Meridian Street was blocked,
                        Like bees about a bright bouquet
                        The beaux about his doorway flocked.

                        Such was his art he could with ease
                        Curl wit into the dullest face ;
                        Or to a goddess of old Greece
                        Add a new wonder and a grace.

                        All powders, paints, and subtle dyes,
                        And costliest scents that men distil,
                        And rare pomades, forgot their price
                        And marvelled at his splendid skill.

                        The curling irons in his hand
                        Almost grew quick enough to speak,
                        The razor was a magic wand
                        That understood the softest cheek.

92                              THE SAVOY

                        Yet with no pride his heart was moved ;
                        He was so modest in his ways !
                        His daily task was all he loved,
                        And now and then a little praise.

                        An equal care he would bestow
                        On problems simple or complex ;
                        And nobody had seen him show
                        A preference for either sex.

                        How came it then one summer day,
                        Coiffing the daughter of the King,
                        He lengthened out the least delay
                        And loitered in his hairdressing ?

                        The Princess was a pretty child,
                        Thirteen years old, or thereabout.
                        She was as joyous and as wild
                        As spring flowers when the sun is out.

                        Her gold hair fell down to her feet
                        And hung about her pretty eyes ;
                        She was as lyrical and sweet
                        As one of Schubert’s melodies.

                        Three times the barber curled a lock,
                        And thrice he straightened it again ;
                        And twice the irons scorched her frock,
                        And twice he stumbled in her train.

                        His fingers lost their cunning quite,
                        His ivory combs obeyed no more ;
                        Something or other dimmed his sight,
                        And moved mysteriously the floor.

                        He leant upon the toilet table,
                        His fingers fumbled in his breast ;
                        He felt as foolish as a fable,
                        And feeble as a pointless jest.

                           THE BALLAD OF A BARBER                                    93

                        He snatched a bottle of Cologne,
                        And broke the neck between his hands ;
                        He felt as if he was alone,
                        And mighty as a king’s commands.

                        The Princess gave a little scream,
                        Carrousel’s cut was sharp and deep ;
                        He left her softly as a dream
                        That leaves a sleeper to his sleep.

                        He left the room on pointed feet ;
                        Smiling that things had gone so well.
                        They hanged him in Meridian Street.
                        You pray in vain for Carrousel.

                                                                             AUBREY BEARDSLEY

MLA citation:

Beardsley, Aubrey. “The Ballad of a Barber.” The Savoy, vol. 3 April 1896, pp. 187-196. Savoy Digital Edition, edited by Christopher Keep and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://1890s.ca/savoyv3-beardsley-barber/