We appreciate Great Novels, especially Great British Novels, but every now and then our attention flags. And this isn’t limited to Great British Novels; there are also Great Russian Novels in which we’ve found our attention wandering. There are even some Great American Novels — OK, let’s admit it, we’re thinking of Henry James — in which we’ve fallen asleep, even though we do admire Henry James. Mostly admire him, anyway. At least we feel obliged to say so whether we do or not. So we were delighted to come across the following poem by Marilyn Robertson.
The Classics So Far
The heroine is choosing the wrong man.
If she were not sitting next to him at the dinner party,
she could see him as we do —
a man in love with his own brains.
Yet the handsome baronet who has made her a gift
of a small yapping dog — is he any better?
Surely, somewhere in the next five hundred pages
there’s a third man: a maker of violins, say, or
the vicar’s second cousin once-removed, who, after
several misadventures of his own, is going to turn up
in that village and change everything.
But I may not last that long if these other two characters —
the fat one in the waistcoat and the churlish earl —
don’t stop debating the principles of land reform,
completely oblivious to how little patience
we have these days for eloquence.