Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, RHAPSODY OF THE DEAF MUTE, by EDOUARD JOACHIM CORBIERE



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RHAPSODY OF THE DEAF MUTE, by            
First Line: The expert said: 'all right. You needn't come any more'
Last Line: And nothing can disturb the conversation.
Alternate Author Name(s): Corbiere, Tristan
Subject(s): Deafness; Physical Disabilities; Physicians; Speech Disorders; Handicapped; Handicaps; Physically Challenged; Cripples; Doctors; Stuttering; Muteness


The expert said: "All right. You needn't come any more.
The treatment's over: you're deaf. And on my word
It's a sense well lost; you're better than before."
And he understood too well, not having heard.

Thank you indeed, Doctor, who condescend
To give me a noddle rather like a coffin.
Henceforth to any remark I need not bend
From the legitimate pride I'll carry it off in.

Watch the eye! Watch the jealous eye, taking the place
Of the nailed ear! No.—'Twill but the more try me.
If I have challenged an ass to his face,
Meanly now to my face he can defy me!

Mute mannikin I, with a stupid chain. Tomorrow
In the street a friend may clasp my hand in his two
Saying "Old ass!"—or nothing at all, in his sorrow;
And I shall answer him:—"Not bad! And you?"

If they horn me a word, I'll be angry to hear it,
And if someone is still, will it be out of grace?
So like a conundrum I'll try to get near it
Crosswise. ... No.—They've forgotten my face!

Or else—another horse—some officious soul
Whose thick lip works like a herdsman there,
Thinks he's talking to me. And I torture the whole
With an idiot smile—of intelligent air!

Hood of gray linen over my heart!
And—ass's hoof! Phew! Some good old tart
Once an innkeeper, kind in her fashion,
Can come and dribble her holy compassion
Full blast, full bellowed, right in my horn,
And I cannot even step on her corn!

Clumsy as a virgin, proud as a leper,
I am present yet absent. ... They'll ask, "Is this beaut
A gagged poet, banned heir, or a sauce without pepper?"
Their shrug of the shoulders will mean: a deaf-mute.

Hysterical torment of a Tantalus of sound!
I see words flying by that I cannot nab;
Impotent fly-trap mosquitoes confound,
Free Turk's head any lout may stab.

Oh heavenly music! no more than to be at a
Shellfish's scratching, a razor's hoe,
A knife in a bottle, a verse of the theatre!
A live bone being sawed! A man! A rondeau!

Not a thing. I talk in silence. I fling the free sound
Of words for effect, but they might be Hindoo ...
Or perhaps as a hoax, like the clarinet's round
Some blindman tries playing the wrong end to.

Go, tipsy pendulum, frantic in my head,
Beat your tottering tom-tom, you cracked pot,
That for a woman's voice may sound a bell instead,
Or a cuckoo! or a midge, as like as not. ...

Go put my heart to bed, and beat your wings no more.
In the dark-lantern let no stub be fanged
With light; nor vibrate on some hidden shore—
Dungeon where the bolts have just been clanged.

Be mute for me, O Idol of my thought,
Let us both forget the human aberration
Of speech; you say no word; I'll answer naught ...
And nothing can disturb the conversation.





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