Lines to a Don

By Hilaire Belloc 1870–1953 Hilaire Belloc
Remote and ineffectual Don
That dared attack my Chesterton,   
With that poor weapon, half-impelled,   
Unlearnt, unsteady, hardly held,   
Unworthy for a tilt with men—
Your quavering and corroded pen;   
Don poor at Bed and worse at Table,
Don pinched, Don starved, Don miserable;   
Don stuttering, Don with roving eyes,   
Don nervous, Don of crudities;   
Don clerical, Don ordinary,
Don self-absorbed and solitary;   
Don here-and-there, Don epileptic;   
Don puffed and empty, Don dyspeptic;   
Don middle-class, Don sycophantic,   
Don dull, Don brutish, Don pedantic;
Don hypocritical, Don bad,
Don furtive, Don three-quarters mad;   
Don (since a man must make an end),   
Don that shall never be my friend.

*       *       *

Don different from those regal Dons!   
With hearts of gold and lungs of bronze,   
Who shout and bang and roar and bawl   
The Absolute across the hall,   
Or sail in amply billowing gown   
Enormous through the Sacred Town,   
Bearing from College to their homes   
Deep cargoes of gigantic tomes;   
Dons admirable! Dons of Might!   
Uprising on my inward sight   
Compact of ancient tales, and port   
And sleep—and learning of a sort.   
Dons English, worthy of the land;   
Dons rooted; Dons that understand.   
Good Dons perpetual that remain   
A landmark, walling in the plain—
The horizon of my memories—   
Like large and comfortable trees.

*       *       *

Don very much apart from these,
Thou scapegoat Don, thou Don devoted,   
Don to thine own damnation quoted,   
Perplexed to find thy trivial name   
Reared in my verse to lasting shame.   
Don dreadful, rasping Don and wearing,   
Repulsive Don—Don past all bearing.
Don of the cold and doubtful breath,   
Don despicable, Don of death;   
Don nasty, skimpy, silent, level;   
Don evil; Don that serves the devil.   
Don ugly—that makes fifty lines.   
There is a Canon which confines   
A Rhymed Octosyllabic Curse   
If written in Iambic Verse
To fifty lines. I never cut;
I far prefer to end it—but
Believe me I shall soon return.
My fires are banked, but still they burn   
To write some more about the Don   
That dared attack my Chesterton.

Source: Complete Verse (1970)

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Poet Hilaire Belloc 1870–1953

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Georgian

Subjects Humor & Satire

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Hilaire  Belloc

Biography

Hilaire Belloc is considered one of the most controversial and accomplished men of letters of early 20th-century England. An author whose writings continue to draw either the deep admiration or bitter contempt of readers, he was an outspoken proponent of radical social and economic reforms, all grounded in his vision of Europe as a "Catholic society." Although many critics have attacked Belloc's prescriptive polemical works for . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Humor & Satire

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Georgian

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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