Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

Celebrated author. Brilliant wit. Tender heart. 
Desperately unhappy liberal, but I love her.


There’s little in taking or giving,
There’s little in water or wine;
This living, this living, this living
Was never a project of mine.
Oh, hard is the struggle, and sparse is
The gain of the one at the top,
For art is a form of catharsis,
And love is a permanent flop,
And work is the province of cattle,
And rest’s for a clam in a shell,
So I’m thinking of throwing the battle—
Would you kindly direct me to hell?

~ Dorothy Parker 

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live. 
~ Dorothy Parker 

Live and laugh and love and lie.
Dance the reeling midnight through,
For tomorrow we may die,
But, Alas! we never do!

~ Dorothy Parker


  1. Not about Parker's words....

    I couldn't help but notice that lamp in the first photo. I remember when lamps such as that one were the fashion, and my favorite aunt had a similar one. Nostalgia for me!

  2. Of the three poems posted, I think that I like "Resumé" the best.

    Life is full of bad things, but we might as well live. Until living becomes intolerable, that is.

  3. Saw "Gatsby" last night. Deplorable film. Made me think of you, though. ;)

  4. Sounds like she had a disappointing love life.

    Someone probably piped her full of the BS that we can have it all and be happy all the time, and she believed it.

    I like her poetry. Straightforward and accessible to the common man. You don't see that too nowadays.

  5. Parker is best known for wry humor, biting sarcasm, and brittle, satirical wit, yet few realized, though seemingly At War With Life, underneath it all she was very tenderhearted, and capable of great depth of feeling and subtlety. I've read just about every piece of verse she ever wrote, and believe me taken altogether her work reveals a highly complex and most engaging character quite unlike the super-sophisticated, cruelly critical image that outlived her.

    Take this, for instance:

    On a Woman, Who Died Young

    If she had been beautiful, even
    Or wiser than women about her
    Or had moved with a certain defiance
    If she had had sons at her sides
    And she with her hands on their shoulders
    Sons, to make troubled the Gods
    But where was there wonder in her?
    What had she, better or eviler
    Whose days were a pattering of peas
    From the pod to the bowl in her lap?

    That the pine tree is blasted by lightning
    And the bowlder split raw from the mountain
    And the river dried short in its rushing
    That I can know, and be humble
    But that They who have trodden the stars
    Should turn from Their echoing highway
    To trample a daisy, unnoticed
    In a meadow of small, open flowers
    Where is Their triumph in that?
    Where is Their pride, and Their vengeance?

    ~ Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

    Who could she possibly mean, when she refers to "Their" triumph, "Their" pride, "Their" vengeance?

  6. The powerful oppress the weak. Why?

  7. If they don't, the week will opress them (by government).

  8. Ducky,

    Give it a rest. Who cares if she was a commie? So is Pete Seeger, and I admire the hell out of him.

    The great Protesta singers and trovadores of Latin America were almost all leftists, and I love their music and have been privileged to meet a few of them.

    It's art, so lighten up. We put up with enough political bullshit as it is...

    FT: "They," I think are powerful people. In this case, I imagine she is thinking of men who go out and do great things and are lionized for their heroics, benevolence, etc, but who mindlessly step on the "flowers" around them at home (Wife, children...)

  9. "The powerful oppress the weak. Why?"

    I feel some Nietzsche coming on...


  10. ________ Verse For a Certain Dog _________

    Such glorious faith as fills your limpid eyes,
    Dear little friend of mine, I never knew.
    All-innocent are you, and yet all-wise.
    (For Heaven's sake, stop worrying that shoe!)
    You look about, and all you see is fair;
    This mighty globe was made for you alone.
    Of all the thunderous ages, you're the heir.
    (Get off the pillow with that dirty bone!)

    A skeptic world you face with steady gaze;
    High in young pride you hold your noble head,
    Gayly you meet the rush of roaring days.
    (Must you eat puppy biscuit on the bed?)
    Lancelike your courage, gleaming swift and strong,
    Yours the white rapture of a winged soul,
    Yours is a spirit like a Mayday song.
    (God help you, if you break the goldfish bowl!)

    "Whatever is, is good" - your gracious creed.
    You wear your joy of living like a crown.
    Love lights your simplest act, your every deed.
    (Drop it, I tell you- put that kitten down!)
    You are God's kindliest gift of all - a friend.
    Your shining loyalty unflecked by doubt,
    You ask but leave to follow to the end.
    (Couldn't you wait until I took you out?)

    ~ Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

    That, of course, is the REAL Dorothy Parker, an incredibly brilliant, rather dear soul who hid her true self behind a fusillade of brittle repartée -- because in truth she was tremendously vulnerable -- and knew it -- poor dear!

  11. She does remind me of Philip Larkin but doesn't quite have his ear.

  12. FT,
    I love "Verse For a Certain Dog"!

    Did she write one about a cat?

  13. I love to read and hear about anybody in that old Round Table bunch...wonderful stuff; wit like we don't see anymore.
    thanks, FT

  14. Ducky, why does her being a communist matter?

    FT...I think the "their" (and that's an excellent question) could be the women who died young...and who weren't beautiful or wise...who spent days shelling peas, raising sons, then dying young. What for?, we might ask? Did they only leave a trampled daisy behind?...a flower left smashed to the ground under these womens' weight, metaphorically? Is that all they left behind? ??

  15. It matters because mr. ducky believes in affirmative action for communists, and derision and ridicule for all others.

    In other words, it's the ONLY thing that matters.

  16. Victor Jara... memeber of the communist party of Child.

  17. True Art is NEVER political or polemical.

    Dorothy Parker, whatever her ethnic, philosophical, religious or political persuasions, was a true artist. She made a unique contribution to the American culture of her day, but her work transcends the limitations of a particular era. She never seems dated, though few today are equipped with enough perspective and sophistication to appreciate her, because of the "dumbing-down process" to which we've been subjected for the past half century or so.

    She published two slim volumes of poetry; one called "Sunset Gun" the other "Death and Taxes."

    They should be required reading in order to qualify for high school graduation. She had what-I-can-only-call a marvelous mind.

  18. Ducky's favorite tactic most of the time is to CHANGE the SUBJECT with irrelevant, deliberately distracting catcalls.

    Please don't oblige him by following suit.

    Ducky is no Pied Piper -- at least not at THIS site.



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