Dorothy Parker

A small selection of Parker's verse published by me, Martin Hardcastle. To ask me a question or send me a comment, please read this.

You can obtain recordings of Parker reading some of these poems (and others) or you can can find links to all the poems and a biography. So this page is pretty much redundant!

Go to my poetry page.



Love has gone a-rocketing.
  That is not the worst;
I could do without the thing,
  And not be the first.

Joy has gone the way it came.
  That is nothing new;
I could get along the same ---
  Many people do.

Dig for me the narrow bed,
  Now I am bereft.
All my pretty hates are dead,
  And what have I left?

Unfortunate Coincidence

By the time you swear you're his,
  Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
  Infinite, undying ---
Lady, make a note of this:
  One of you is lying.


Leave me to my lonely pillow.
  Go, and take your silly posies;
Who has vowed to wear the willow
  Looks a fool, tricked out in roses.

Who are you, my lad, to ease me?
  Leave your pretty words unspoken.
Tinkling echoes little please me,
  Now my heart is freshly broken.

Over young are you to guide me,
  And your blood is slow and sleeping.
If you must, then sit beside me...
  Tell me, why have I been weeping?

Prophetic Soul

Because your eyes are slant and slow,
  Because your hair is sweet to touch,
My heart is high again; but oh,
  I doubt if this will get me much.

The Leal

The friends I made have slipped and strayed,
  And who's the one that cares?
A trifling lot and best forgot ---
  And that's my tale, and theirs.

Then if my friendships break and bend,
  There's little need to cry
The while I know that every foe
  Is faithful till I die.

Symptom Recital

I do not like my state of mind;
I'm bitter, querulous, unkind.
I hate my legs, I hate my hands,
I do not yearn for lovelier lands.
I dread the dawn's recurrent light;
I hate to go to bed at night.
I snoot at simple, earnest folk.
I cannot take the simplest joke.
I find no peace in paint or type.
My world is but a lot of tripe.
I'm disillusioned, empty-breasted.
For what I think, I'd be arrested.
I am not sick. I am not well.
My quondam dreams are shot to hell.
My soul is crushed, my spirit sore:
I do not like me any more.
I cavil, quarrel, grumble, grouse.
I ponder on the narrow house.
I shudder at the thought of men.
I'm due to fall in love again.

Fighting Words

Say my love is easy had,
  Say I'm bitten raw with pride,
Say I am too often sad ---
  Still behold me at your side.

Say I'm neither brave nor young,
  Say I woo and coddle care,
Say the devil touched my tongue ---
  Still you have my heart to wear.

But say my verses do not scan,
  And I get me another man!


Always I knew that it could not last
  (Gathering clouds, and the snowflakes flying),
Now it is part of the golden past
  (Darkening skies, and the night-wind sighing);
It is but cowardice to pretend.
  Cover with ashes our love's cold crater ---
Always I've known that it had to end
  Sooner or later.

Always I knew it would come like this
  (Pattering rain, and the grasses springing),
Sweeter to you is a new love's kiss
  (Flickering sunshine, and young birds singing).
Gone are the raptures that once we knew,
  Now you are finding a new joy greater ---
Well, I'll be doing the same thing, too,
  Sooner or later.


Some men break your heart in two,
  Some men fawn and flatter,
Some men never look at you;
  And that clears up the matter.

Reuben's Children

Accursed from their birth they be
Who seek to find monogamy,
Pursuing it from bed to bed ---
I think they would be better dead.


Oh, there once was a lady, and so I've been told,
Whose lover grew weary, whose lover grew cold.
"My child," he remarked, "though our episode ends,
In the manner of men, I suggest we be friends."
And the truest of friends ever after they were ---
Oh, they lied in their teeth when they told me of her!


In the pathway of the sun,
  In the footsteps of the breeze,
Where the world and sky are one,
  He shall ride the silver seas,
    He shall cut the glittering wave.
I shall sit at home, and rock;
Rise, to heed a neighbour's knock;
Brew my tea, and snip my thread;
Bleach the linen for my bed.
    They will call him brave.

The Gentlest Lady

They say He was a serious child,
  And quiet in His ways;
They say the gentlest lady smiled
  To hear the neighbours' praise.

The coffers of her heart would close
  Upon their smallest word.
Yet did they say, "How tall He grows!"
  They thought she had not heard.

They say upon His birthday eve
  She'd rock Him to His rest 
As if she could not have him leave
  The shelter of her breast.

The poor must go in bitter thrift,
  The poor must give in pain,
But ever did she get a gift
  To greet His day again.

They say she'd kiss the Boy awake,
  And hail Him gay and clear,
But oh, her heart was like to break
  To count another year.

The Maid-Servant at the Inn

"It's queer," she said; "I see the light
  As plain as I beheld it then,
All silver-like and calm and bright ---
  We've not had stars like that again!

"And she was such a gentle thing
  To birth a baby in the cold.
The barn was dark and frightening ---
  This new one's better than the old.

"I mind my eyes were full of tears,
  For I was young, and quick distressed
But she was less than me in years
  That held a son against her breast.

"I never saw a sweeter child ---
  The little one, the darling one! ---
I mind I told her, when he smiled
  You'd know he was his mother's son.

"It's queer that I should see them so ---
  The time they came to Bethlehem
Was more than thirty years ago;
  I've prayed that all is well with them."

Second Love

"So surely is she mine," you say, and turn
Your quick and steady mind to harder things ---
To bills and bonds and talk of what men earn ---
And whistle up the stair, of evenings.
And do you see a dream behind my eyes,
Or ask a simple question twice of me ---
"Thus women are," you say; for men are wise
And tolerant, in their security.

How shall I count the midnights I have known
When calm you turn to me, nor feel me start,
To find my easy lips upon your own
And know my breast beneath your rhythmic heart.
Your god defer the day I tell you this:
My lad, my lad, it is not you I kiss!


If I were mild, and I were sweet,
And laid my heart before your feet,
And took my dearest thoughts to you,
And hailed your easy lies as true;
Were I to murmur "Yes," and then
"How true, my dear," and "Yes," again,
And wear my eyes discreetly down,
And tremble whitely at your frown,
And keep my words unquestioning ---
My love, you'd run like anything!

Should I be frail, and I be mad,
And share my heart with every lad,
But beat my head against the floor
What times you wandered past my door;
Were I to doubt, and I to sneer,
And shriek "Farewell!" and still be here,
And break your joy, and quench your trust ---
I should not see you for the dust!


Into love, and out again,
  Thus I went, and thus I go.
Spare your voice, and hold your pen ---
  Well and bitterly I know
All the songs were ever sung,
  All the words were ever said;
Could it be, when I was young,
  Some one dropped me on my head?

Superfluous Advice

Should they whisper false of you,
  Never trouble to deny;
Should the words they say be true,
  Weep and storm and swear they lie.

The Last Question

New love, new love, where are you to lead me?
  All along a narrow way that marks a crooked line.
How are you to slake me, and how are you to feed me?
  With bitter yellow berries, and a sharp new wine.

New love, new love, shall I be forsaken?
  One shall go a-wandering, and one of us must sigh.
Sweet it is to slumber, but how shall we awaken ---
  Whose will be the broken heart, when dawn comes by?


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?

Iseult of Brittany

So delicate my hands, and long,
  They might have been my pride.
And there were those to make them song
  Who for their touch had died.

Too frail to cup a heart within,
  Too soft to hold the free ---
How long these lovely hands have been
  A bitterness to me!

Prayer for a New Mother

The things she knew, let her forget again ---
  The voices in the sky, the fear, the cold,
The gaping shepherds, and the queer old men
  Piling their clumsy gifts of foreign gold.

Let her have laughter with her little one;
  Teach her the endless, tuneless songs to sing,
Grant her her right to whisper to her son
  The foolish names one dare not call a king.

Keep from her dreams the rumble of a crowd,
  The smell of rough-cut wood, the trail of red,
The thick and chilly whiteness of the shroud
  That wraps the strange new body of the dead.

Ah, let her go, kind Lord, where mothers go
  And boast his pretty words and ways, and plan
The proud and happy years that they shall know
  Together, when her son is grown a man.


To-night my love is sleeping cold
  Where none may see and none shall pass.
The daisies quicken in the mould,
  And richer fares the meadow grass.

The warding cypress pleads the skies,
  The mound goes level in the rain.
My love all cold and silent lies ---
  Pray God it will not rise again!


Her mind lives in a quiet room,
A narrow room, and tall,
With pretty lamps to quench the gloom
And mottoes on the wall.

There all the things are waxen neat,
And set in decorous lines,
And there are posies, round and sweet,
And little, straightened vines.

Her mind lives tidily, apart
From cold and noise and pain,
And bolts the door against her heart,
Out wailing in the rain.


Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
And I am Marie of Roumania.

After a Spanish Proverb

Oh, mercifullest one of all,
Oh, generous as dear,
None lived so lowly, none so small,
Thou couldst withhold thy tear.

How swift, in pure compassion,
How meek, in charity,
To offer friendship to the one
Who begged but love of thee!

Oh, gentle word, and sweetest said!
Oh, gentle hand, and first
To hold the warm delicious bread
To lips burned black of thirst.

One Perfect Rose

A single flow'r he sent me, since we met.
  All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet --
  One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret:
  `My fragile leaves,' it said, `his heart enclose'.
Love long has taken for his amulet
  One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
  One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it's always just my luck to get
  One perfect rose.


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.