In Black & White


Title Page
Under the Hill

The Art of the Hoarding
Letters to his Critics
   Pall Mall Budget
   Daily Chronicle
   St. Paul’s
Table Talk
Lines upon Pictures
   St Rose of Lima

The Three Musicians
The Ballad of a Barber
Ave Atque Vale
The Celestial Lover
The Ivory Piece
Prospectus for Volpone

Appendix : Juvenilia
The Valiant
A Ride in an Omnibus
The Confession Album
The Courts of Love
Dante in Exile
Written in Uncertainty
The Morte Darthur

Enoch Soames

Under the Hill

The Ballad of a Barber
The Coiffing
The Coiffing

Here is the tale of Carrousel,
        The barber of Meridian Street.
He cut, and coiffed, and shaved so well,
        That all the world was at his feet.

The King, the Queen, and all the Court,
        To no one else would trust their hair,
And reigning belles of every sort
        Owed their successes to his care.

With carriage and with cabriolet
        Daily Meridian Street was blocked,
Like bees about a bright bouquet
        The beaux about his doorway flocked.

Such was his art he could with ease
        Curl wit into the dullest face;
Or to a goddess of old Greece
        Add a new wonder and a grace.

All powders, paints, and subtle dyes,
                And costliest scents that men distil,
And rare pomades, forgot their price
        And marvelled at his splendid skill.

The curling irons in his hand
        Almost grew quick enough to speak,
The razor was a magic wand
        That understood the softest cheek.

Yet with no pride his heart was moved;
        He was so modest in his ways!
His daily task was all he loved,
        And now and then a little praise.

An equal care he would bestow
        On problems simple or complex;
And nobody had seen him show
        A preference for either sex.

How came it then one summer day,
         Coiffing the daughter of the King,
He lengthened out the least delay
        And loitered in his hairdressing?

The Princess was a pretty child,
        Thirteen years old, or thereabout.
She was as joyous and as wild
        As spring flowers when the sun is out.

Her gold hair fell down to her feet
        And hung about her pretty eyes;
She was as lyrical and sweet
        As one of Schubert’s melodies.

Three times the barber curled a lock,
        And thrice he straightened it again;
And twice the irons scorched her frock,
        And twice he stumbled in her train.

His fingers lost their cunning quite,
        His ivory combs obeyed no more;
Something or other dimmed his sight,
        And moved mysteriously the floor.

He leant upon the toilet table,
        His fingers fumbled in his breast;
He felt as foolish as a fable,
        And feeble as a pointless jest.

He snatched a bottle of Cologne,
        And broke the neck between his hands;
He felt as if he was alone,
        And mighty as a king’s commands.

The Princess gave a little scream,
        Carrousel’s cut was sharp and deep;
He left her softly as a dream
        That leaves a sleeper to his sleep.

He left the room on pointed feet;
        Smiling that things had gone so well.
They hanged him in Meridian Street.
        You pray in vain for Carrousel.

¶ 1896. First published in The Savoy, No.3, July 1896. Originally intended to be printed as an episode of Under the Hill, Beardsley’s poem was adversely criticised by Arthur Symons, the magazine’s literary editor. When he heard of Symons’s reaction, Beardsley wrote facetiously to Leonard Smithers: “I am horrified at what you tell me about ‘the Ballad’. I had no idea it was ‘poor’. For goodness’ sake print the poem under a pseudonym and separately from Under the Hill… What do you think of ‘Symons’ as a nom de plume?”