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Freaks of Fashion
by
Christina Rossetti


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Such a hubbub in the nests,
Such a bustle and squeak!
Nestlings, guiltless of a feather,
Learning just to speak,
Ask - "And how about the fashions?"
From a cavernous beak.

Perched on bushes, perched on hedges,
Perched on firm hahas,
Perched on anything that holds them,
Gay papas and grave mammas
Teach the knowledge-thirsty nestlings:
Hear the gay papas.

Robin says: "A scarlet waistcoat
Will be all the wear,
Snug, and also cheerful-looking
For the frostiest air,
Comfortable for the chest too
When one comes to plume and pair."

"Neat gray hoods will be in vogue,"
Quoth a Jackdaw: "Glossy gray,
Setting close, yet setting easy,
Nothing fly-away;
Suited to our misty mornings,
A la negligée."

Flushing salmon, flushing sulphur,
Haughty Cockatoos
Answer - "Hoods may do for mornings,
But for evenings choose
High head-dresses, curved like crescents,
Such as well-bred persons use."

"Top-knots, yes; yet more essential
Still, a train or tail,"
Screamed the Peacock: "Gemmed and lustrous
Not too stiff, and not too frail;
Those are best which rearrange as
Fans, and spread or trail."

Spoke the Swan, entrenched behind
An inimitable neck:
"After all, there's nothing sweeter
For the lawn or lake
Than simple white, if fine and flaky
And absolutely free from speck."

"Yellow," hinted a Canary,
"Warmer, not less distingué."
"Peach color," put in a Lory,
"Cannot look outré."
"All the colors are in fashion,
And are right," the Parrots say.

"Very well. But do contrast
Tints harmonious,"
Piped a Blackbird, justly proud
Of bill auriferous;
"Half the world may learn a lesson
As to that from us."

Then a Stork took up the word:
"Aim at height and chic:
Not high heels, they're common; somehow,
Stilted legs, not thick,
Nor yet thin:" he just glanced downward
And snapped to his beak.

Here a rustling and a whirring,
As of fans outspread,
Hinted that mammas felt anxious
Lest the next thing said
Might prove less than quite judicious,
Or even underbred.

So a mother Auk resumed
The broken thread of speech:
"Let colors sort themselves, my dears,
Yellow, or red, or peach;
The main points, as it seems to me,
We mothers have to teach,

"Are form and texture, elegance,
An air reserved, sublime;
The mode of wearing what we wear
With due regard to month and clime.
But now, let's all compose ourselves,
It's almost breakfast-time."

A hubbub, a squeak, a bustle!
Who cares to chatter or sing
With delightful breakfast coming?
Yet they whisper under the wing:
"So we may wear whatever we like,
Anything, everything!"

                                           

This poem is in the public domain.

 

Purchase a framed print of this poem.


Christina Rossetti (1830 - 1894) was born in England to a family of great literary and artistic talent. A beauty who frequently modeled for her brother Dante and other respected artists of her day, Christina began writing as a child and published her first poem at eighteen. A kind-hearted woman who spent many years as a charity volunteer, Christina's devout faith was often a central theme in the three books of poetry and four books of devotions she wrote during her life. Though her poems show up consistently in contemporary films, television shows, and musical compositions, her most familiar work is ?In the Bleak Midwinter,” which, when set to music, became a beloved Christmas carol.

 


New comments are closed for now.
Lori Levy:
Entertaining!
Posted 12/18/2015 02:21 PM
Jo:
What a fun poem. I didn't expect to like it so much. Thanks, Jayne.
Posted 12/18/2015 02:16 PM
transitions:
Wonderful! Great poem, great woman.
Posted 12/18/2015 01:17 PM
Wilda Morris:
What fun!
Posted 12/18/2015 08:39 AM
paradea:
I absolutely love this. Thanks, Jayne AND Christina Rossetti!!
Posted 12/18/2015 08:14 AM
Ross Kightly:
As an example of Victorian use of anthropomorphism it's hard to see how this poem could be bettered! Great selection, Jayne.
Posted 12/18/2015 05:52 AM


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