THE BALLAD OF EDMUND TUPPENCE
CANTO THE THIRD (PART ONE)
If you missed them
CANTO THE FIRST (PART ONE) here
CANTO THE FIRST (PART TWO) here
CANTO THE SECOND (PART ONE) here
CANTO THE SECOND (PART TWO) here
1st May, 2020
Ah, poets! Mightier than gods, it seems.
To visit space and time like seaside towns,
Take future, past, and ravel up in dreams
The farthest star, the deepest plummet sounds,
To travel round the blessed earth on beams
Of light, but still returning to safe ground.
But what could be less safe - pray, say your part –
Than looking at the landscape of the heart.
Forgive our blasphemies and grand delusions!
We are not gods but mortal, sad to say it.
But mortal with the gift of an illusion.
A secret, mind. I’m not bound to betray it.
But what the cost? What chaos, what confusion!
The bill we can afford. (We never pay it).
We pick up lives as children pick up sticks
And throw them down, and teach themselves new tricks.
What of our lovers? Surely we have not
Lost sight of them or failed to plot their tale.
Or like some children’s plaything, now forgot
Abandoned to a toybox or a sale.
Be not afraid. We have them, never fear
That poets will desert their poems, fail
To guard their muses, fail to tend their fate.
So, back to work! We should elucidate.
We spoke of time, and how we use it much
Like artist oils, musician scale or crochet.
Ah! Bardic problem, technical as such,
To do with rhyme and how we’d better watch it.
Do not clutch straws where no straws lie to clutch.
(We thought the rhyme in two would go and scotch it).
But what of all this chatter, if you please?
We never can resist a little tease.
So, let us hie for Sally Q’s apartment.
We’ll find our paramours in glowing form.
For Sally, well, we all know where her heart went
The moment Edmund T was safe and warm.
I’ll tell you what that nonsense at the start meant.
I play for time, please, be not too alarmed,
But though I stand in Sally Quicklake’s room
I find it empty, empty as a tomb.
The poet never panics! Fine. Now tell that
To all the bards who ever lost their sweethearts.
They’ll tell you straight, they all know very well that
This type of lassitude would strain effete hearts.
And now you hear the tolling of the bell that
Summons judgement that will soon defeat hearts
Doughtier than mine. They’re thinking of some other!
(I do seem to be in a spot of bother).
There is but one known cure. They’ll call us in
Like falconers to falcon, though these be
Hawkers of the mind. Should we put trust in
Our own ephemeral creations? Please be
Patient. This game is not to be out-plussed in,
I hope our paramours look not to tease me.
Now, like the Ouija, watching its glass glide,
I’m getting something from the other side!
The signal’s strong. We move across the city.
A rather moneyed area of town,
Alighting in a street sedate and pretty.
Georgian houses bask as we walk down
The latest of locations for our ditty.
(We haven’t found our lovers yet. We frown
To think we have mislaid them. Where the place?
But wait. That window! That familiar face!)
No need for us to hide. Though omnipresent
The poet is invisible, ethereal.
And as we pass through future, past and present,
To bring our modest verses for our serial,
We trust our poem’s subjects don’t resent
Our presence, though unseen and near-sidereal.
We stand among you. Please don’t be alarmed.
It is our privilege, and we are charmed.
We slip and slide, like kobolds, elves or sprites.
Through keyholes, skylights, chimneys, window cracks,
To join you. You are not alone at nights
But poets sit with you. We have your backs.
You cannot see us. We’d be bang to rights
For breaking, yes, and entering. Our tracks
Cannot be seen. ‘Tis but our words that stay,
The emblems of our guilt, our love, our play.
And so we glide ‘twixt door-jamb, frame and frame,
Hover for a moment then proceed
To climb the stairs (no creaking spoils the game)
And on our mission instantly succeed.
Two well-known voices can be heard, the same
As drew us to the very verse you read.
That’s Sally’s voice, and I will bet you thruppence
The other one belongs to Edmund Tuppence.
Just as before, we enter all invisible
To see a sight that staggers and amazes.
Prepare yourselves; this next scene may seem risible.
‘Tis Sally, Edmund, but that’s not what fazes.
This is a holy trio, indivisible.
We cannot look away, avert our gazes.
There’s no question of possible or maybe.
Sally and Edmund seem to have a baby.
The time has come to make a fleet confession.
You do recall us talking about time?
Well, time is not a simple plain procession
Of figures, happenstance and pantomime.
It jumps and flits, a movable concession.
And those of us who deal in line and rhyme
Will often jump ahead. Anticipation
Is like a ticket bought at the wrong station.
You will recall our billing, cooing doves
Were left in circumstances curious.
Ed’s injuries, as fate struck from above.
Remember how we met characters spurious?
And Sally playing nurse, the velvet glove,
(This rhyming would make any poet furious.
But we did not use ‘love’ here as a rhyme.
In terms of poesie, we skipped jail time!)
So, now. As we then left our sainted pair,
Their guardian Royal Mullins had arrived
With case mysterious, laid it on the chair
And was about to open it. Alive
To what it might contain we left them there
And took what turned out to be a long drive
Down time’s highway. But now we have returned,
By art, we’ll learn what Sal and Eddy learned.
You see, when Edmund’s father passed away
(An underhanded tale that will be told
But is a story for another day)
The Tuppence infant was but two years old.
Now, Mullins was… a fam’ly friend, let’s say,
And took the orphaned Edmund from the fold.
His sister Millie Mullins took the boy.
Childless herself, she found young Ed a joy.
There is a moral problem here. We’re sure
You realise Royal Mullins is no saint.
He’s known to you, and also to the law,
He knows the taste of prison food and ain’t
About to go for second helpings. Nor
Would he allow his protégé to taint
His life. He taught him crime, but mark first;
He also kept the young scamp out of Parkhurst.
Of course he taught the boy the underworld
And all its highways, alleyways and mews.
And so the teenage Edmund soon unfurled
His own illegal plans. Could Royal use
A henchman? Royal knew this was no world
For carelessness. That gets you in the news.
And so, although the boy was oft admonished,
His talent for the criminal astonished.
It must be said that Royal did despair
As Ed’s attention wandered to narcotics.
He’d seen enough of casualties there,
Sufficient nutters, madmen and psychotics
To fill a loony-bin. And that was where
They ended up. He knew the symbiotics.
For those that deal in pharmaceuticals
Are often indisposed when duty calls.
And so it was a firm apprenticeship.
No drugs on duty, only once a week.
And no hallucinogenics, or the trip
You take next could be off to see the beak.
Just business, and a sound relationship
Twixt real world and insanity. We speak
Of those who start with habits young and germinal,
But ride the drug train past the final terminal.
As Royal reared the chick in Millie’s nest,
He noticed that the boy was making money.
He took his share, and Eddie kept the rest,
But still it was a land of milk and honey.
For Edward was phenomenally blessed
With charm and personality so sunny
He knew his market and he aimed to please.
The boy could charm the songbirds from the trees.
The tribute Royal took was not for self,
(He paid his sister money for the boy).
The rest? No biscuit-jar open the shelf,
Or simple bank account (a risky ploy
For criminals who wish financial health).
Instead, the mentor took care to employ
A genius accountant and investor.
And not from London. Slightly north of Leicester.
This shrewd financial genii took the cash
From Eddie’s deals and made the money work.
He never made investments which were rash,
Avoided hedge funds (where all perils lurk),
Eschewed the ostentatious and the flash,
And every wally, imbecile and burk
Native to the black financial trade.
You should have seen the money that he made!
Sally did. You should have seen her face,
And how her pretty eyes grew quickly bigger
When Royal showed her what was in his case.
(We’re not at liberty to name the figure).
But let’s just say the money was a taste,
An hors d’oeuvre. She really had to snigger.
She’d never seen such cash in all her life.
She felt, for the first time, a gangster’s wife.
But obviously problems still remained.
What to do with Edmund? How to bring
Him back? He’s like a living doll, restrained
By mental chains. A songbird needs to sing.
Edmund’s faculties must be retrained.
But where to start the process? That’s the thing.
As Sally sits and brushes Edmund’s hair,
She knows he needs a curative. But where?
Mark Gullick is a philosophy PhD from London, England, who went on holiday to Costa Rica four years ago and forgot to go home. He now works there as a musician. He blogs at