paris and helen

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By Don Marquis
From “Sonnets to a Red-Haired Lady (By a Gentleman with a Blue Beard), and Famous Love Affairs,” 1922

Paris was a pretty gent, 
His lamps were quite hypnotic; 
He used the most expensive scent; 
His tastes were … well, erotic. 

Helen was a timid skirt, 
All she asked was quiet … 
But, if simps will try to flirt, 
Can ladies start a riot? 

Now should a frail, or wise, or coy, 
Or innocent of folly, 
Scream because some Honey Boy 
Hands her out a jolly? 

This Paris had a black mus tache , 
I think I ought to mention … 
Once Helen drooped a blonde eyelash: 
It drooped without intention … 

But he pretended for to think 
She drooped it of election: — 
“Ah, ha!” he cried, “you wink! you wink! 
Then buss me, Greek confection!” 

Which took the lady by surprise, 
And striving to expound it, 
She winked again, with both her eyes — 
And bussed him too, confound it! 

She slapped him then, and told the guy, 
“Villain, you unhand me!” 
And he looked grieved and made reply, 
“You misunderstand me!” 

“O, prithee, do not think,” she cried, 
“That I kiss gent’men chronic!” 
“I know — trust me” — returned the Snide, 
“Your buss was but Platonic!” 

With smooth remarks like that he laid 
Her natural suspicion … 
It was a devil’s part he played! 
Nor did he feel contrition. 

He’d take her to see shows as hot 
As if they had been peppered; 
She’d blush … he never changed a spot: 
He was a Moral Leopard! 

And oft, with blushes that would make 
Her brow and cheek and chin burn, 
She’d listen while this Subtile Snake 
Lisped her the Pomes of Swinburne. 

Now Helen’s husband saw them kiss … 
A sandy man, well gingered … 
And after several years of this, 
Says he, “I think I’m injured!” 

This husband was a man of strength … 
Few characters were finer … 
And when she left her home at length, 
Traced her to Asia Minor. 

Bill Homer’s told the rest, I think … 
Fights and fires and phrases … 
What started out with Helen’s wink 
Wound up with Hell n’ blazes! 

The moral of the tale is this: 
That mayhem, death and arson 
Have followed many a thoughtless kiss 
Not sanctioned by a parson!

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