Neil Harding McAlister
The English “country house” genre of poetry from the 18th century is beyond revival in modern times – but it remains a great subject for parody. In this case, we have a parody of a parody, Mary Leapor’s “Crumble Hall”, published in 1751.
When Snow or Sleet impede a Driver’s Way,
Or foggy Vapours dim the Light of Day;
When by the Roadside hulking Moose appear;
Then, sore with Back Pain and an aching Rear,
Oppress’d with Migraine and eternal Woe,
Sad Neil again to Kirkland Lake doth goe.
He swears that he will drive there one last Time,
Take his Farewells, and thence depart, in Rhyme.
But see (more charming than a Desk Clerk’s Wiles)
The Sun returns, the weary Traveler smiles:
Then in a Trice his Resolutions fly;
(And who so frolicks as the Muse and I?)
We sing once more, obedient to her Whim;
Once more we sing; and ‘tis of Crumble Inn;
That Crumble Inn whose hospitable Door
Hath welcomed Strangers (if they were not poor);
Whose dingy Corridors, whose slippery Stairs
Were known of old to Salesmen flogging Wares
In good ol’ Kirkland Lake, that northern Town
With shining Mile of Gold of World Renown.
There Orange Juice, Coffee, Tea and Milk were found,
And Muffins dwelt within her spacious Bound.
Toast, Butter, Corn Flakes and Strawberry Jam
(Though nary to be seen were Eggs with Ham.)
With Water cold her Taps were wont to flow,
Though seldom drunk by People in the know.
The Guests flopped down upon the well-used Chairs,
And watched the Weather Channel with blank Stares.
Of this fair Palace might a Poet sing
From cold Thanksgiving ‘til returning Spring;
Tell how two Wings extend on either Hand,
And Workers just outside the Portal stand
Whose glowing Cigarettes emit such Fumes
That Visitors will hurry to their Rooms.
Then step within – there stands a modest Stack
Of Newspapers upon an old, pine Rack.
It matters little what their Headlines say:
These Papers are the News from Yesterday.
Inside the Foyer, Ceiling Tiles so high
That Cobwebs can evade the Cleaner’s Eye.
We leave the Spiders to their peaceful Loom,
So they may toil untroubled in the Gloom.
The Concierge behind his Desk now stands,
Computer, Printer, Telephone at Hand;
And several anxious Minutes it will cost
If it should hap your Reservation’s lost.
Down yon dark Passage now the Guest must run,
Where dull Light Bulbs stand in for absent Sun,
Past Pop Machine and open Laundry Door
To reach the Staircase to the second Floor.
Down yet another Passage in the Gloom
The Guest must creep until he finds his Room.
He strives to slide the Pass Card into Place,
For if it fails, his Steps he must retrace.
Would you go farther? – Stay a little then:
And ope the Door to take a Peek within.
Inside this Room a Heater’s steady Roar
Drowns out the Neighbour’s Noises from Next Door --
Behold what Joys the Boob Tube shows Today:
Sportscasters talking Hockey en francais?
So one by one the weary Minutes creep
Until ‘tis Time for Guests to go to Sleep.
While worn-out Neil doth rest his heavy Head
Dust Bunnies dream in Safety ‘neath the Bed.
But hark! What Scream the wond’ring Ear invades!
A Spirit of Renewal now pervades:
Come Spring, the Inn intends to renovate
The ruined Parking Lot that nearly ate
My Car; where Pot-holes big as Swimming Pools
Destroyed Suspensions of the hapless Fools
Who wheeled into the Entrance much too fast,
With leaden Foot depress’d upon the Gas.
Then haste, Contractor! Haste with willing Hand.
This Inn -- but not its Parking Lot -- may stand.
© 2009, NHMcA