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First Line: Wake! For the hack can scatter into flight
Last Line: There'd be a world's best literature indeed!
Alternate Author Name(s): Burgess, Gelett
Subject(s): Books; Critics & Criticism; Love; Reading

WAKE! for the Hack can scatter into flight
Shakespeare and Dante in a single Night!
The Penny-a-Liner is Abroad, and strikes
Our Modern Literature with blithering Blight.

Before Historical Romances died,
Methought a Voice from Art's Olympus cried,
"When all Dumas and Scott is still for Sale,
Why nod o'er drowsy Tales, by Tyros tried?"

A Book of Limericks -- Nonsense, anyhow --
Alice in Wonderland, the Purple Cow
Beside me singing on Fifth Avenue --
Ah, this were Modern Literature enow!

Ah, my Beloved, write the Book that clears
To-DAY of dreary Debt and sad Arrears;
To-morrow! -- Why, To-Morrow I may see
My Nonsense popular as Edward Lear's.

And we, that now within the Editor's Room
Make merry while we have our little Boom,
Ourselves must we give way to next month's Set --
Girls with Three Names, who know not Who from Whom!

As then the Poet for his morning Sup
Fills with a Metaphor his mental Cup,
Do you devoutly read your Manuscripts
That Someone may, before you burn them up!

And if the Bosh you write, the Trash you read,
End in the Garbage-Barrel -- take no Heed;
Think that you are no worse than other Scribes,
Who scribble Stuff to meet the Public Need.

So, when WHO'S-WHO records your silly Name,
You'll think that you have found the Road to Fame;
And though ten thousand other Names are there,
You'll fancy you're a Genius, just the Same!

Why, if an Author can fling Art aside,
And in a Book of Balderdash take pride,
Were't not a Shame -- were't not a Shame for him
A Conscientious Novel to have tried?

And fear not, if the Editor refuse
Your work. he has no more from which to choose;
The Literary Microbe shall bring forth
Millions of Manuscripts too bad to use.

The Woman's Touch runs through our Magazines;
For her the Home, and Mother-Tale, and Scenes
Of Love-and-Action, Happy at the End --
The same old Plots, the same old Ways and Means.

But if, in spite of this, you build a Plot
Which these immortal Elements has not,
You gaze TO-DAY upon a Slip, which reads,
"The Editor Regrets" -- and such-like Rot.

Waste not your Ink, and don't attempt to use
That subtle Touch which Editors refuse;
Better be jocund at two cents a word,
Than, starving, court an ill-requited Muse!

Strange -- is it not? -- that of the Authors who
Publish in England, such a mighty Few
Make a Success, though here they score a Hit?
The British Public knows a Thing or Two!

The Scribe no question makes of Verse or Prose,
But what the Editor demands, he shows;
And he who buys three thousand words of Drool,
He knows what People want -- you Bet He knows!

Would but some winged Angel bring the News
Of Critic who reads Books that he Reviews,
And make the stern Reviewer do as well
Himself, before he Meed of Praise refuse!

Ah, Love, could you and I perchance succeed
In boiling down the Million Books we read
Into One Book, and edit that a Bit --
There'd be a WORLD'S BEST LITERATURE indeed!

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