Butler in Montreal

Psalm of Montreal

Stowed away in a Montreal lumber-room
The Discobolus standeth and turneth his face to the wall,
Dusty, cobweb-covered, maimed and set at naught,
Beauty crieth in an attic, and no man regardeth.
O God, O Montreal!

Beautiful by night and day, beautiful in summer and winter,
Whole or maimed, always and alike beautiful,
He preacheth gospel of grace to the skins of owls,
And to one who seasoneth the skins of Canadian owls!
O God, O Montreal!

When I saw him I was wroth, and I said: "O Discobolus,
Beautiful Discobolus, a prince both among gods and men,
What dost thou here, how camest thou here, Discobolus,
Preaching gospel in vain to the skins of owls?
O God, O Montreal!

I turned to the man of skins, and said to him: "O thou man of skins,
Wherefore hast thou done this, to shame the beauty of the Discobolus?"
But the Lord had hardened the heart of the man of skins,
And he answered: "My brother-in-law is haberdasher to Mr. Spurgeon."
O God, O Montreal!

"The Discobolus is put here because he is vulgar,
He hath neither vest nor pants with which to cover his limbs;
I, sir, am a person of most respectable connections,
My brother-in-law is haberdasher to Mr. Spurgeon."
O God, O Montreal!

Then I said: "O brother-in-law to Mr. Spurgeon’s haberdasher,
Who seasonest also the skins of Canadian owls,
Thou callest trousers ‘pants,’ whereas I call them ‘trousers,’
Therefore thou art in hell-fire, and may the Lord pity thee!
O God, O Montreal!

Preferest thou the gospel of Montreal to the gospel of Hellas,
gospel of thy connection with Mr. Spurgeon’s haberdasher to the gospel of the Discobolus?"
Yet none the less blasphemed he beauty, saying: "The Discobolus hath no gospel,
But my brother-in-law is haberdasher to Mr. Spurgeon."

- Samuel Butler, 1878

2 thoughts on “Butler in Montreal”

  1. I Wonder How Many People in This City by Leonard Cohen
    from “The Spice-Box of Earth”

    I wonder how many people in this city
    live in furnished rooms.
    Late at night when i look out at the buildings
    I swear I see a face in every window
    looking back at me
    and when I turn away
    I wonder how many go back to their desks
    and write this down.

    1. Like other cities, Montreal takes different visages for different people, at different times. Yet it’s funny to notice Victorian vibes through different epochs of the city’s history. It’s not the most stable portion, but it’s there for those who need it, even for disparagement purposes.

Leave a Reply