Monday, 17 May 2021

Perennial pansy, hardiest of blooms

The Playboy of the Demi-World
by William Plomer

Aloft in Heavenly Mansions, Doubleyou One -
Just Mayfair flats, but certainly sublime -
You'll find the abode of D'Arcy Honeybunn,
A rose-red sissy half as old as time.

Peace cannot age him, and no war could kill
The genial tenant of those cosy rooms,
He's lived there always and he lives there still,
Perennial pansy, hardiest of blooms.

There you'll encounter aunts of either sex,
Their jokes equivocal or over-ripe,
Ambiguous couples wearing slacks and specs
And the stout Lesbian knocking out her pipe.

The rooms are crammed with flowers and objets d'art,
A Ganymede still hands the drinks - and plenty!
D'Arcy still keeps a rakish-looking car
And still behaves the way he did at twenty.

A ruby pin is fastened in his tie,
The scent he uses is Adieu Sagesse ,
His shoes are suede, and as the years go by
His tailor's bill's not getting any less.

He cannot whistle, always rises late,
Is good at indoor sports and parlour tricks,
Mauve is his favourite colour, and his gait
Suggests a peahen walking on hot bricks.

He prances forward with his hands outspread
And folds all comers in a gay embrace,
A wavy toupee on his hairless head,
A fixed smile on his often-lifted face.

"My dear!" he lisps, to whom all men are dear,
"How perfectly enchanting of you!"; turns
Towards his guests and twitters, "Look who's here!
Do come and help us fiddle while Rome burns!"

"The kindest man alive," so people say,
"Perpetual youth!" But have you seen his eyes?
The eyes of some old saurian in decay,
That asks no questions and is told no lies.

Under the fribble lurks a worn-out sage
Heavy with disillusion, and alone;
So never say to D'Arcy, "Be your age!" -
He'd shrivel up at once or turn to stone.

Acidly observant; we "perennial pansies" recognise this scenario immediately...

[Thanks, Dinahmow!]

The above poem was, remarkably, published in 1938 - an era when homosexuality in Britain was still very much illegal, yet is surprisingly candid in its description of such an illicit lifestyle. It's a sobering thought that despite the "fight for freedom" against Nazism that was to follow a year after its publication, life for such "perennial pansies" actually got much worse in the post-War period than it evidently was before it, and that it took a further three decades to achieve (partial) decriminalisation of homosexuality ...

On the subject of repression, today is the International Day Against Homophobia - see my regular blog Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle for more on that.


  1. "A thing of beauty is a boy forever"--Carl Van Vechten.

    1. "The true artist never grows old. He is never too old to feel the charm of divine beauty." - Francois Delsarte


  2. Sad, isn't it, that this world is still so hateful?

    1. Indeed. Unfortunately, the legacy of centuries of religion(s), class and political conservativism (with a small "c" - there's been just as much prejudice on the Left as there has on the Right) in all cultures will not easily go away.

      Here's to D'Arcy Honeybunn, and all in his wake! Survivors. Jx

      PS Thanks, once again, for pointing me in the direction of this gem. My favourite line (which I must use some day): "Do come and help us fiddle while Rome burns!"

  3. D'Arcy still keeps a rakish-looking car
    And still behaves the way he did at twenty.

    I can relate... just saying. Kizzes.

    1. I don't have a car, but I can relate nonetheless. Jx

  4. The "proper" majority probably deemed it Fiction or Fancy and promptly filed it far away from the depths of their brains. (They didn't think too much on it.)

    1. The poem certainly never received the type of prurient attention that Radclyffe Hall got, that's for certain. There is, of course, a possibility that it - much like E.M. Forster's Maurice, which didn't go to print until half a century after it was written - was not published until more "enlightened" times... Jx

  5. I love the poem but had no idea that it was written so long ago !


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