I recently had the misfortune to be shipwrecked, and marooned for some time on an island in the Indies. No soul was there but I, and every day I looked upon the rotting deep that separated me from my fellow man. The shrike of terns, the clack of crab’s claws, the oozing of whelks - these sounds reminded me constantly of the vast gulf that sundered me from all redeeming humanitas.
In those dispairing days, my sole hope, an ember in the cold hearth of my breast, was POETRY. I knew, Sirs, that somewhere, impossibly far from me, but somewhere, a poet was putting quill to page and letting flow honeyed words, words of beauty and power. So I sat in my storm-wracked hut, murmuring Jonson and Donne to myself and rending the meat from gulls’ legs with my teeth. I lived a wild and barbarous existence, but as long as I had the hope of poetry, I possessed
A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.
I shall not tell you, Sirs, by what nautical arts I effected my escape, nor by what means I induced a passing ship to give me berth home. Suffice to say that when I landed at Gravesend on Christmas Eve, I fairly ran to the nearest bookseller, desiring the latest in the poetical arts.
Of all of the shocks of returning to civilization, none was greater than the moment when the Christmas issue of your ALEMBICK fell into my hands. I rifled through its pages in disbelief. It was a nearNmortal blow, I confess, to realize that our English, the language of Shakespeare’s sonnets, could be tortured into that awful song about St. Nicholas and those two boys. I ask you, Sirs,
What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
I say truly that I would sooner have expired in a tide-pool and been consumed bodily by snails and eels than knowingly return home to that which passes as poetry in your magazine.
I suggest, as the only sensible course of action, that you both book a passage to the Indies and find a convenient moment in which to cast yourselves into the waves. Only when sea-nymphs hourly ring your knell - though I would be inclined to suggest that they spare themselves the trouble - will poetry in English be restored to its rightful stature.
I am, Sirs,
Your humble servant,
I write to express my blank shock and severe dismay upon discovering that you have neglected to publish an Epiphany edition. As a religious man (and paying subscriber!) I expect all major events on the liturgical calendar to be marked with a suitable outpouring of verse, and where can I look but to the divine Alembick, more dear than my hymnal? Have you no respect, no shame, no fear?
I trust that, having realized the severity of your error, n0 further oversights will be made. (“Will you publish dedicated. Transfiguration and Ash Wednesday editions?” he asked, expecting the answer “No.” No help for it, I suppose - a catchall “Shrovetide” must be enough to hold me over through the dark, expectant days of Lent.)
Yours in faith,
I was recentle appraifed of your LITERARY PEERIODICAL, a paper of mofte great renoun. I am, myfelf, fomewhat of a poet, FIR, and do mofte humbly beg admiffion into the efteemed rankes of your publifheef. I prefent, FIR, for your confideration, my POEM,
I Had a fine and fancy Hatt
Which didd fo fuit my headd.
I fat on it and waf fo fad
I Ftayed a week in Bedd.
But when it back on I didd put
To go and poft a letter,
My cheeks had Fo improved its Fhape
That it did fuit me Better.
I looke forward to feeing it, FIR, in your Februre iffue.
I am, FIR,
Your obedient Fervant,