THE BALLAD OF EDMUND TUPPENCE

 

CANTO THE THIRD (PART ONE)

CANTO THE FIRST PART ONE here if you missed it
CANTO THE FIRST PART TWO here if you missed it

CANTO THE SECOND PART ONE here if you missed it

CANTO THE SECOND PART TWO here if you missed it

MARK GULLICK 

May 1st, 2020

Commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=832356

 

I

 

 

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.

 

 

II

 

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.

 

 

III

 

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.

 

 

IV

 

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.

 

 

V

 

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.

 

 

VI

 

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).

 

 

VII

 

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!

 

 

VIII

 

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!)

 

 

IX

 

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.

 

 

X

 

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.

 

 

XI

 

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.

 

 

XII

 

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.

 

 

XIII

 

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.

 

 

XIV

 

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!)

 

 

XV

 

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.

 

 

XVI

 

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.

 

 

XVII

 

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.

 

 

XVIII

 

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.

 

 

XIX

 

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.

 

 

XX

 

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.

 

 

XXI

 

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.

 

 

XXII

 

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.

 

 

XXIII

 

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!

 

 

XXIV

 

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.

 

 

XXV

 

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 https://postcardsfromtraumaville.blogspot.com/

Online Magazine of Ideas | British Intelligence | The Life of the Mind | Politics and Arts

©2019 by British Intelligence. Proudly created with Wix.com