Hasbrouck and the Rose
Hasbrouck was there and so were Bill
And Smollet Smith the poet, and Ames was there.
After his thirteenth drink, the burning Smith,
Raising his fourteenth trembling in the air,
Said, ‘Drink with me, Bill, drink up to the Rose.’
But Hasbrouck laughed like old men in a myth,
Inquiring, ‘Smollet, are you drunk? What rose?’
And Smollet said, ‘I drunk? It may be so;
Which comes from brooding on the flower, the flower
I mean toward which mad hour by hour
I travel brokenly; and I shall know,
With Hermes and the alchemists—but, hell,
What use is it talking that way to you?
Hard-boiled, unbroken egg, what can you care
For the enfolded passion of the Rose?’
Then Hasbrouck’s voice rang like an icy bell:
‘Arcane romantic flower, meaning what?
Do you know what it meant? Do I?
We do not know.
Unfolding pungent Rose, the glowing bath
Of ecstasy and clear forgetfulness;
Closing and secret bud one might achieve
By long debauchery—
Except that I have eaten it, and so
There is no call for further lunacy.
In Springfield, Massachusetts, I devoured
The mystic, the improbable, the Rose.
For two nights and a day, rose and rosette
And petal after petal and the heart,
I had my banquet by the beams
Of four electric stars which shone
Weakly into my room, for there,
Drowning their light and gleaming at my side,
Was the incarnate star
Whose body bore the stigma of the Rose.
And that is all I know about the flower;
I have eaten it—it has disappeared.
There is no Rose.’
Young Smollet Smith let fall his glass; he said,
‘O Jesus, Hasbrouck, am I drunk or dead?’
By Phelps Putnam, from The Oxford Book of American Verse, Oxford University Press, New York (third printing, 1952).
DG found this poem, one of his favourites, at a lovely blog site called Recently Banned Literature by William Michaelian.