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No Orchids for Miss Blandish: A Prehistoric Painter’s Lament


Can knowledge have no bound, but must advance

So far, to make us wish for ignorance?

And rather in the dark to grope our way

Than led by a false guide to err by day?


--John Denham, Cooper’s Hill (1641)



Though a mere Magdalenian draught

smaid’s work, my subterranean craft

will in due time a vapid world amaze,

ignorant that once were better days.


Ten thousand moons ere Denham wrote,

the song I sing here in the dark, who dote

on eagles, kites, and vultures in the air

bedazzled in a pine torchlight’s flare,


and horse and bison on the Paleolithic plain,

would make e’en famous Seamus think again,

who, could he but hear it in his pub,

would no more for the media grub.


The singers of this latter time

are in truth no patch on mine.

They’ll pay for their sacrilegious diction.

Vers libre wasn’t meant for fiction.


There’ll be no orchids for Miss Blandish then.

Great [What-Name] will teach the docents to say, “When!”

and Helicon’s paladins-to-be avenge the Word,

As has not incorrectly been observed:

The vulture is a patient bird.




Tip o’ the tablet to James Hadley Chase (1906-85), author of No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939) and The Vulture Is a Patient Bird (1969).

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