Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
By Henry B. Fuller
  WHEN Albert F. McComb
Died in his native Dodgetown
At the age of sixty-odd,
People said—the few who said anything at all—
That he had lived a futile life,        5
And that Europe was to blame:
His continual hankering after the Old World
Had made him a failure in the New.
  At seventeen he was reading In Dickens-land, just out,
And Ruskin’s Stones of Venice,        10
And Maudle’s Life of Raphael;
And he was never the same afterward.
He decided on romance.
Romance, with Albert, was always a good bit back,
And some distance away—        15
Least of all in booming Dodgetown,
In the year of grace eighteen-seventy-three.
There was Shelley poetizing in Pisa
(Thirty-five years before Albert was born);
And there was Byron with his countess        20
In that conspiratorial old palace at Ravenna
(Four thousand wide miles from Main Street,
Or more). Et cetera.
  At twenty-one Albert “took a position”,
But he never put his heart into the work.        25
At twenty-five he might have bought a share in the business;
But, “No,” he said, “I may cross over soon;
Let me be foot-free, and fancy-free—no entanglements here.”
  When he was twenty-six
Adelaide Waters, tired of waiting,        30
Married an ambitious young hardware-dealer,
And on the whole did well.
But Albert cared little:
“She” was waiting on the other side.
  Early he became a boarder,        35
And a boarder he continued to be.
“Why tie myself up with property?” he asked;
“The time will come, and I must be without constraint.”
  Thus, without constraint, without career, without estate,
Without home and family,        40
He waited for the great hour,
Living on slick steel-engravings,
And flushed, mendacious chromo-lithographs,
And ecstatic travel-books penned by forlorn English spinsters.
  In the new West others wooed Fortune and won her;        45
But Albert was spending fortune on fortune abroad
Before he had fairly learned to pay his way at home.
He lived in a palace on the Lung’ Arno:
He saw the yellow river plainly enough
From the back window of the two-story frame on Ninth Street.        50
He went to the office in a plum-colored coat,
Of the cut of the early ’twenties,
And a voluminous stock—
Though others might see but “mixed goods”
And a four-in-hand.        55
Some damsel, principessa or contadina,
Hung on his lips, or carelessly betrayed his heart;
And he, the young poet—
Though he had never written a line
(Such stuff as this having not yet been invented)—        60
Lay down in dreamless slumber beside Keats,
Close to the walls of Rome.
  Some years passed by,
But Albert never budged from home.
Savings grew slowly; no kindly patron appeared; no rich relation died.        65
But less and less did Albert live
In terms of Dodgetown and of Caldwell County.
It was all Lambeth and Lincoln’s Inn and Bridgewater House;
The Schwarzwald and the Forest of Arden;
The cypresses of Verona, the cascades of Tivoli,        70
And the Pincian Hill.
  At forty Albert was getting a lukewarm salary for lukewarm work;
And some small five-and-a-half per-cent investments
Brought in three hundred and thirty dollars extra per annum.
“In two or three years I shall risk going,” he would say;        75
“And then…!”
  But if Albert stayed single, all his sisters did not;
And if he himself kept on living, several of his adult relatives died;
And when he was fifty-two a bunch of grand-nieces
Asked him to help on their grocery bills,        80
And to see that their mortgage-interest got paid on time.
Other things of like nature happened,
And Albert presently perceived that not every single man
Can escape the obligations and responsibilities of the married state.
“Well, I must wait,” he said;        85
And he began to collect views of the Dolomites.
  Albert prosed along past sixty,
As our muse indicated at the start.
His young relatives grew up,
And some of them married;        90
And those who remained single
Were cared for by their sisters’ husbands.
And one day Albert got word
That a wealthy cousin, twice removed,
Who had made millions out of the Michigan forests,        95
And had multiplied them into tens of millions on the stock exchange,
And whom he had not heard from for twenty years,
Had “crossed,” as Albert liked to say,
And had left him a fortune indeed.
  Albert sent for steamship folders;        100
But a dubious July
Was followed by a frenetic August.
The ancient world,
So grandiose and so romantic
To Albert’s steadfast eyes,        105
Went mad.
“‘Man marks the earth with ruin,’” he mused;
“But ‘his control—Stops with the….’”
Yet the sea itself was become a shambles,
And the realm of faery, beyond,        110
A trampled mire of blood and wreckage.
  Albert stood on the brink of things, as ever.
But the earth heaved beneath his feet,
And the fabric reared through forty years fell in ruin on his head.
“There will be no peace in my time,” he murmured;        115
“Nor any salve in generations.
For me there is no world at all—
What is my million, here?”
  Albert retired.
He studied the stripes in the wall-paper        120
And considered his weak old hands on the counterpane.
His eyes were become too dim to see the Here and Now,
Or to divine the local glories Just About to Be.
In a negative way he had been a good enough man;
And, “Heaven will do,” he sighed;        125
“But—has it a Val d’Arno, a Villa d’Este,
But you, kind friend and reader,
Shall have the last word here;
And mind you choose it well.        130

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