Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MISS NOBODY'S CHRISTMAS DINNER, by WILLIAM ALLEN BUTLER



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MISS NOBODY'S CHRISTMAS DINNER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: One might travel this wide world over & over
Last Line: An emblem too true of this make-believe world.
Subject(s): Christmas; Dinners & Dining; Guests; Hospitality; Parties; Nativity, The; Visiting


ONE might travel this wide world over and over,
And a house like Miss Nobody's nowhere discover;
It could never be seen from highway or hill,
At each turn of the road 'twas invisible still,
People said, who in vain had endeavored to view it,
No driveway nor path could be found leading to it,
Yet had these same people but once been inside
What marvellous things they would then have descried!
Things past all description, beyond fancy's flight,
Or, in modern vernacular, quite "out of sight,"
Including the owner, of whom all agree
That only herself can her parallel be.

A grand Christmas feast did this fine lady plan
To gather together the Nobody clan,
For the family chart when fairly unfurled
Reached out beyond sea and all over the world.
It really became an Herculean task
To select from the many the few she would ask;
Representative men they must certainly be,
And the answers which came to her "R. S. V. P."
Made it clear in advance she would surely be able
To greet the best Nobody blood at her table.

Half-past six was the hour, but at dinners of state
The more honored the guest the more he comes late,
And here as the guests, in their own estimation,
Were among the most eminent men of the Nation,
You may fancy the struggle in being the latest
As the practical test of who was the greatest.
Each followed the other, all taking good care
When the actual dinner was served to be there,
And when round her board she saw them assemble
Her startling success made Miss Nobody tremble;
If you choose to believe me, it was an array
Of greatness and genius not seen every day,
As your mind's eye may test by surveying the group
Just here in advance of the oysters and soup.
At the head the fair hostess herself may be seen
In an ideal gown of invisible green,
Trimmed with softest illusion and jewels as rare
As Fairy Tale princesses once used to wear;
At her right the real family head, Father Nil,
In spite of reverses quite jovial still;
On her left General Cypher, with star on each shoulder,
As a non-fighting Brigadier no one was bolder;
Then the Right Reverend Vox-et-preterea-nihil,
Whose name to surmount is like climbing a high hill;
That stout German Baron, the head of his house,
Universally known as Von Nichts-kom-heraus.
From England young Nonsuch, an earl's seventh son,
Who sailed for the "States" with hat-box and gun.
Equipped for wild sport in the Rockies he came,
For buffaloes, bison, and other small game;
From France, Prince de Rien, Parisian true,
And with him his nephew, young Count Pas-de-tout;
A real Roman Prince, Don Nessuno Niente,
His purse rather slim, but his ancestors plenty.
Two Irish O'Noughts were there in full force,
With valor unflinching attacking each course;
While more marked, as it seemed, than bishop or hero
Was that cynical scientist, old Doctor Zero,
An open agnostic whose teaching all tends
To engender a coolness between the best friends,
And who with his sharp pessimistic persistence
Would freeze out the life from all things in existence.

Some connections by marriage your glance will comprise:
Mr. Unit, for instance, whose family ties
With the Cyphers have led to large fortunes and made
Great names in the markets of finance and trade.
Mr. Sham, the political boss, by whose grace
Some Nobodies crawl into high power and place;
Doctor Minus, the head of a world-renowned college,
Whose four walls encompass all manner of knowledge;
Mr. Bubble, the railway contractor, whose schemes
For girdling the earth are the wildest of dreams,
Whose career is a paradox past understanding,
Because while contracting he still is expanding,
And Mr. Anonymous, whom you may guess,
As elsewhere, so here, represented the Press;
Occasions like this were the height of his glories,
With their unending gossip, incredible stories,
State secrets which no one more deftly could handle,
And last, but not least, inexhaustible scandal.

When coffee was served it was proper that each
Of the prominent guests should make a short speech;
If your mind's eye could see, so your mind's ear of course
Can hear every word of the brilliant discourse,
As each speaker vied with the others to raise
His glass and his voice in the fair hostess' praise.
Father Nil, through meanderings more or less dark,
Traced the Nobody pedigree back to Noah's Ark,
And claimed as their own, in the family name,
All who starting with nothing reached fortune and fame;
Bishop Vox-et-preterea-nihil was prouder
Than ever before in his life and spoke louder,
Proclaiming the fact that in spite of low birth
The Nobodies yet should possess the whole earth;
Then the elder O'Nought, without quitting his chair,
Said he sprang to his feet to demand a full share
For the poor Irish branch whom all could behold
In himself quite destroyed by starvation and cold.
General Cypher proposed the good health of the Queen,
And of all the crowned heads whose subjects were seen
Round Miss Nobody's board in the sweep of his glance,
Including our Sister Republic of France.
This pleased the whole party, while Monsieur Rien
And polite Pas-de-tout smiled and said, "Tres bien!"
And young Nonsuch whispered his neighbor quite low,
"The Queen would be greatly obliged, don't you know."
So, with clinking of glasses, 'midst general applause
The toast was tossed off; then after a pause
Who should rise but old Zero to cast such a chill
As threatened the ending of poor Father Nil,
Who shivered and shook, and would surely have died
But for sundry hot potions with which he was plied.
All the same Doctor Zero his climaxes wrought,
And sent the whole universe whirling to nought.
Could Miss Nobody's gentle response have been heard
The depths of each heart had surely been stirred;
Inaudible whispers, a voiceless good-night,
She breathed to her guests and vanished from sight.
Then the men settled down to the sociable weed,
And to tell their old stories and jokes did proceed;
And when the clock sounded its last midnight stroke,
Like all famous dinners, this ended in smoke;
Round faces and foreheads the dim vapors curled,
An emblem too true of this make-believe world.





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