The Ballad[e] Of Imitation

Austin Dobson

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If they hint, O Musician, the piece that you played
Is nought but a copy of Chopin or Spohr;
That the ballad you sing is but merely "conveyed"
From the stock of the Arnes and the Purcells of yore;
That there's nothing, in short, in the words or the score
That is not as out-worn as the "Wandering Jew,"
Make answer--Beethoven could scarcely do more--
That the man who plants cabbages imitates, too!

If they tell you, Sir Artist, your light and your shade
Are simply "adapted" from other men's lore;
That--plainly to speak of a "spade" as a "spade"--
You've "stolen" your grouping from three or from four;
That (however the writer the truth may deplore),
'Twas Gainsborough painted your "Little Boy Blue";
Smile only serenely--though cut to the core--
For the man who plants cabbages imitates, too!

And you too, my Poet, be never dismayed
If they whisper your Epic--"Sir Eperon d'Or"--
Is nothing but Tennyson thinly arrayed
In a tissue that's taken from Morris's store;
That no one, in fact, but a child could ignore
That you "lift" or "accommodate" all that you do;
Take heart--though your Pegasus' withers be sore--
For the man who plants cabbages imitates, too!

POSTSCRIPTUM--And you, whom we all so adore,
Dear Critics, whose verdicts are always so new!--
One word in your ear. There were Critics before . . .
And the man who plants cabbages imitates, too!

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