Arthur Conan Doyle
Other Poems

To an Undiscerning Critic
An Alpine Walk
Corrosive Sublimate as a Poison
Slow Arsenic Poisoning
Actions of Liquor Potassoe
Said Rutherford With a Smile
A Rover Chanty
The Passage of the Red Sea
The Wanderers's Irish Tour
The Bugles of Canada
To Carlo - (Died July 1921)
To Ronald Ross
Little Billy
Take Heart
With Either Hand
Epigraph to "The Lost World"
Christmas in Trouble
In Memoriam Upon The Death Of Richard Doyle, The Artist
The rattle of the bicycles
A Student's Dream

  To an Undiscerning Critic1 (28.12.1912)

Sure there are times when one cries with acidity,
'Where are the limits of human stupidity?'
Here is a critic who says as a platitude
That I am guilty because 'in ingratitude
Sherlock, the sleuth-hound, with motives ulterior,
Sneers at Poe's Dupin as very "inferior".'
Have you not learned, my esteemed commentator,
That the created is not the creator?
As the creator I've praised to satiety
Poe's Monsieur Dupin, his skill and variety,
And have admitted that in my detective work
I owe to my model a deal of selective work.
But it is not on the verge of inanity
To put down to me my creation's crude vanity?
He, the created, would scoff and would sneer,
Where I, the creator, would bow and revere.
So please grip this face with your cerebral tentacle:
The doll and its maker are never identical.

The Poe-Doy1e relationship continued to be featured in ironic jibes in periodicals long after Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet condescendingly dismissed Poe's Dupin as a "very inferior fellow" and Gaboriau's Lecoq as l'a miserable bungler." Therefore two bits of verse may be of interest in regard to the Poe-Doyle connection. These verses have apparently attracted no previous notice from Poe scholars. In "Letters to the literati," Life 5 December 1912: 320, the popular comic writer Arthur Guiterman addressed the creator of Holmes:

To Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Gentle Sir Conan, I'll venture that few have been
Half as prodigiously lucky as you have been.
Fortune, the flirt! has been wondrously kind to you.
Ever beneficent, sweet and refined to you.
Doomed to the practise of physic and surgery,
Yet, growing weary of pills and physicianing,
Off to the Arctic you packed, expeditioning.
Roving and dreaming, Ambition, that heady sin,
Gave you a spirit too restless for medicine:
That, I presume, as Romance is the quest of us,
Made you an Author-the same as the rest of us.
Ah, but the rest of us clamor distressfully,
"How do you manage the game so successfully?
Tell us, disclose to us how under Heaven you
Squeeze from the inkpot so splendid a revenue!"
Then, when you'd published your volume that vindicates
England's South African raid (or the Syndicate's),
Pleading that Britain's extreme bellicosity
Wasn't (as most of us think) an atrocity
Straightaway they gave you a cross with a chain to it
(Oh, what an honor! I could not attain to it,
Not if I lived to the age of Methusalem!)
Made you a knight of St. John of Jerusalem!
Faith! as a teller of tales you've the trick with you!
Still there's a bone I've been wanting to pick with you:
Holmes is your hero of drama and serial:
All of us know where you dug the material!
Whence he was moulded-'tis almost a platitude;
Yet your detective, in shameless ingratitude
Sherlock your sleuthhound with motives ulterior
Sneers at Poe's "Dupin" as "very inferior!"
Labels Gaboriau's clever "Lecoq, " indeed,
Merely "a bungler," a creature to mock, indeed!
This, when your plots and your methods in story owe
More than a trifle to Poe and Gaboriau,
Sets all the Muses of Helicon sorrowing.
Borrow, Sir Knight, but in decent borrowing!
Still let us own that your bent is a cheery one,
Little you've written to bore or to weary one,
Plenty that's slovenly, nothing with harm in it,
Give me detective with brains analytical
Rather than weaklings with morals mephitical
Stories of battles and man's intrepidity
Rather than wails of neurotic morbidity!
Give me adventures and fierce dinotheriums
Rather than Hewlett's ecstatic deliriums!
Frankly, Sir Conan, some hours I've eased with you
And, on the whole, I am pretty well pleased with you.

Guiterman's "Letter" was reprinted in London Opinion 14 December 1912: 460, with minor changes in phrasing {e.g., "More than a trifle" becomes "Clearly a trifle"; ''as most of us think" becomes ''as some of us think"). Either Guiterman made the revisions, or Lincoln Springfield, the editor of London Opinion, made them. Whatever the case, Doyle more than likely read Guiterman's verses in London Opinion rather than Life, for his rejoinder appeared in the former periodical 28 December 1912: 521:

    An Alpine Walk (1894)

Underneath the peaks of snow,
On the edge of nature's glacis,
Where the torrent far below
Ever rants, and roars and races,
And a man with just one slip
May come down a thousand paces;
So we walked from Engelberg
With the breeze upon our faces.

And we talked of many things
As we tramped through that oasis;
Of republics and of kings,
Of religion and its basis,
Of the patience of the poor,
Of the evil in high places,
So we walked from Engelberg
With the breeze upon our faces.

Then we spoke of England, too,
And the Anglo-Celtic races,
Also of the landlord crew
And our law and its disgraces,
With the selfishness of man
Which has left such evil traces;
So we walked from Engelberg
With the wind upon our faces.

And of grim Carlyle we spoke,
And of Froude's much argued cases,
How about the merest joke
He would pull the longest faces;
And of Madame, too, we talked,
Of her temper and her graces;
So we walked from Engelberg
With the wind upon our faces.

Spoke of Kipling - his command
Over life in all its phases,
How he held within his hand
All the cards from kings to aces.
Passing swift from passion's frown
Back to comedy's grimaces:
So we walked from Engelberg
With the wind upon our faces.

Well, it was a pleasant talk.
And perhaps in duller places
We may recollect that walk,
When with tightly fastened laces,
With our Alpenstocks in hand,
In that air which stirs and braces,
We three came from Engelberg
With the wind upon our faces.


I'll tell you a most serious fact,
That opium dries a mucous tract,
And constipates and causes thirst,
And stimulates the heart at first,
And then allows its strength to fall,
Relaxing the capillary wall.
The cerebrum is first affected,
On tetanus you mustn't bet,
Secretions gone except the sweat.
Lungs and sexuals don't forget.

    Corrosive Sublimate as a Poison

Now the leading effects, without any fiction,
Is a nauseous taste and decided constriction
In stomach and throat leaves a horrible burning
While the doctor will lose little time in discerning
A contracted and white sort of state of the tongue
Which shows that the drug has its action begun.
The vomit and mucus from fauces comes surging,
With pain in the stomach and violent purging
While those who may care to examine the shanty,
Will easily see that the urine is scanty.
There next may be nervous depression already,
The face may be swollen, the pulse may be thready
And then though the doctor may work like a trooper,
Death will set in with convulsion and stupor.


In ears a sound, in eyes a flash,
Vomit, headache, nausea, rash,
Thirst, no hunger, heart goes slower,
Then if he goes and swallows more,
He'll die from cardiac paralysis,
Shown by post mortem analysis.


Stimulates you quickly
Use it when you're sickly,
When pain or cramp prostrates us,
Or even for a flatus,
No remedy is finer
For spasm and angina.

    Slow Arsenic Poisoning

Vomiting - plenty of stools
Pain in the stomach & bowels
Pulse wiry. Forehead feels stuffy
Eyes are red and are puffy,
The last of the symptoms may seem a
Slight one, and that is eczema.

    Actions of Liquor Potassoe

Diuretic - and renders the Stomach more placid
A violent poison and famous antacid,
And I seldom have had the good fortune to see a
Drug act so well in a bad gonorrhoea,
Tis an alternative too, and the crabbiest critic
Would scarce dare to blame such an antilithitic
And Garrod maintains that it's worth any ten
Other drugs in the world to all corpulent men.


Mercury - Now please to understand
It stimulates each gland
Used in induration
And also inflammation.

    Said Rutherford With a Smile

Said Rutherford with a smile,
"It's a mass of solid bile,
And I myself obtained it, what is more,
By a stringent cholagogue
From a vivisected dog,
And I lost it on the Portobello Shore."

["I wrote a students's song which is still sung, I understand,
in which a curious article is picked up on the Portobello
beach and each Professor in turn claims it for his department."]

    A Rover Chanty

A trader sailed from Stepney town -
Wake her up! Shake her up! Try her with the mainsail!
A trader sailed from Stepney town
With a keg full of gold and a velvet gown:
Ho, the bully rover Jack,
Waiting with his yard aback
Out upon the Lowland sea!

The trader he had a daughter fair -
Wake her up! Shake her up! Try her with the foresail!
The trader he had a daughter fair,
She had gold in her ears, and gold in her hair:
All for bully rover Jack,
Waiting with his yard aback,
Out upon the Lowland sea!

"Alas the day, oh daughter mine!" -
Wake her up! Shake her up! Try her with the topsail!
"Alas the day, oh daughter mine!
Yon red, red flag is a fearsome sign!"
Ho, the bully rover Jack,
Reaching on the weather tack,
Out upon the Lowland sea!

"A fearsome flag!" the maiden cried -
Wake her up! Shake her up! Try her with the jibsail!
"A fearsome flag!" the maiden cried,
"But comelier men I never have spied!"
Ho, the bully rover Jack,
Reaching on the weather tack,
Out upon the Lowland sea!

There's a wooden path that the rovers know -
Wake her up! Shake her up! Try her with the headsails!
There's a wooden path that the rovers know,
Where none come back, though many must go:
Ho, the bully rover Jack,
Lying with his yard aback,
Out upon the Lowland sea!

Where is the trader of Stepney town? -
Wake her up! Shake her up! Every stick a-bending!
Where is the trader of Stepney town?
There's gold on the capstan, and blood on the gown:
Ho for bully rover Jack,
Waiting with his yard aback,
Out upon the Lowland sea!

Where is the maiden who knelt at his side? -
Wake her up! Shake her up! Every stitch a-drawing!
Where is the maiden who knelt at his side?
We gowned her in scarlet, and chose her our bride:
Ho, the bully rover Jack,
Reaching on the weather tack,
Right across the Lowland sea!

So it's up and it's over to Stornoway Bay,
Pack it on! Crack it on! Try her with the stunsails!
It's off on a bowline to Stornoway Bay,
Where the liquor is good and the lasses are gay:
Waiting for their bully Jack,
Watching for him sailing back,
Right across the Lowland sea.

    The Passage of the Red Sea

Like to white daisies in a blooming wood,
To round the sea the tents of Israel stood;
To east and west, as far as eye could reach,
The thronging crowds are seen along the beach.

What host is this? Is it some savage band
That bears destruction to a distant land?
Is it some patriot army come to fight -
To save their honour, and their nation's right?

No army this. These girls who throng the plain
Would they e'er follow in an army's train?
Behold these aged men, are their grey locks
Fitted for war? Hark to the bleating flocks! -

Tis but a nomad tribe who seek in flight
Relief from bondage, and from Pharaoh's might.
But lo! what shouts are these? What horrid sound
Which fills the air, and seems to shake the ground?

High on the summit of a mountain crest,
Hard by, a cloud of dust is seen to rest;
And higher still above the dust appears
The sheen of armour, and the gleam of spears!

And further off are heard the deafening peals
Of bugles, and the rush of chariot wheels:
In Israel's camp is frenzy and despair;
The women rave and tear their flowing hair;
The men by grief and disappointment cowed
Around the standard of their leader crowd.

Then Moses spake: - "Behold my wondrous rod -
Think what its power has wrought, and think on God;
And say if He, the mighty God who boasts
To be the Lord of lords, and King of Hosts,
Cannot, although so mighty and so sage,
Free us from Egypt and from Pharaoh's rage."

He spake, and by the shore he took his stand.
And o'er the waters thrice he shook his wand.
Wonder of wonders! lo, the waves divide
And stand in dark green walls on either side!
Right through the midst the roaring sea is reft.
A slippery dismal weedy way is left!

There was no time for thought, no time for fear,
For Egypt's horse already pressed their rear.
On, on, they rush right through the sea, and reach,
Fatigued and tired, the rough opposing beach.

Then back they look and see their daring foe
Still pressing through the yawning gulf below.
Once more did Moses shake his awful wand.
To his command the foaming waves respond.
One horrid shriek! - the tragedy is o'er,
And Pharaoh and his army were no more.

    The Wanderers's Irish Tour

My Stonyhurst lads, just listen awhile,
And I'll sing you a song in right musical style,
A song that will raise on your faces a smile,
Concerning our trip to the Emerald Isles.

A finer team than then went o'er
Was never seen in the world before,
For we had eleven men and more
Who unless they got out might be reckoned to score.

Oh, how can I tell of what fell to their lot,
Of the balls that they hit, and the balls they did not,
How the batsmen were cool and the bowlers were hot,
And the fielders were - well, goodness only knows what.

The Phoenix came out with their heads in the air,
The Phoenix went back in a state of despair,
For Henry's performance it made them all stare,
And we won by an innings and fifty to spare.

And Trinity, oh, but we walloped them well,
To George and the Doctor the honours there fell,
And Hatt's fast expresses dismissed them pell-mell,
And the heat was as great as in - Coromandel.

In conclusion the Leinster their colours have struck,
Where the present composer compiled a round "duck".
There we fought against audience and players and luck,
And pulled off the match by sheer coolness and pluck.

So fill up a bumper to one and to all,
Who handled the willow, the gloves and the ball.
May cricketers ever their prowess recall,
And may Stonyhurst flourish whatever befall.

They may change the old College in whole or in part,
They may add a new wing, and a frontage so smart,
But in spite of all labours and science and art,
The place of the past is the place of my heart.

And I just may remark at the end of my song
That the practical test is the best, and as long
As they turn out a breed as loyal and strong
As the boys of the past - they won't do very wrong.


There is a better thing, dear heart,
Than youthful flush or girlish grace.
There is the faith that never fails,
The courage in the danger place,
The duty seen, and duty done,
The heart that yearns for all in need,
The lady soul which could not stoop
To selfish thought or lowly deed.
All that we ever dreamed, dear wife,
Seems drab and common by the truth,
The sweet sad mellow things of life
Are more than golden dreams of youth.


You can read their names in the list of games
In the school of long ago.
Henderson A. and Wilson J.
And Marriott W. O.

They ragged and fought as schoolboys ought,
And learned to play the game.
You can act the fool at an English school,
But it builds you all the same.
Verses you plan which fail to scan
And your French is none too good,
But you learn to shape as a gentleman,
And to do as a Briton should.

For there's something there, in the sober air,
And the reek of the mellow place,
Which seems to hold the instincts old,
And the soul of an ancient race.
Where Latin and Greek are far to seek
There is home-made lore for you,
The thing that's fair, and the thing that's square,
And the thing no chap can do.

Gothic and grim, in the transept dim
Of the chapel grey and old
There's a marbled shrine where line on line
The dead boys's names are scrolled.
They gave their dreams of what might be
For the sake of the things that are,
When the joyous strife of their glad young life
Had changed to the strife of war.

But there they be, the comrades three,
As in the long ago,
Henderson A. and Wilson J.
And Marriott W. O.

    The Bugles of Canada

[In war time a Canadian Division was encamped near my
house. I used to fashion their bugle calls into the names of their distant land. Hence these verses.]

The Farmer in the morning
Stood with slanted head,
In the wintry dawning
By the milking-shed;
From the camp behind the hill
He could hear the bugles shrill,
"We are here! We are here!
Soldiers all!
Good cheer! We are near!
Ontario! Ontario!
Toronto! Montreal!"

Petherick, the Huntsman grey,
Rheumatic, bent and blind,
Wheezed his joy as far away
He heard it in the wind.
"Hark the Hounds! Hark the Hounds!"
Nay, it is the bugle sounds,
"We are here! We are here!
Soldiers all!
Good cheer! We are near!
Ontario! Ontario!
Toronto! Montreal!"

Lonely folk and fearful
Rose above their fears;
Mothers, sad and tearful,
Were smiling through their tears;
'Neath the cloudy English sky
They heard the cheering bugles cry,
"We are here! We are here!
Soldiers all!
We are near! Good cheer!
Ontario! Ontario!
Toronto! Montreal!"

When the dusk was falling,
And the lamps alight,
You could hear them calling
In the misty night.
And old Sussex heard and blessed
The kindly greeting from the west,
"We are here! We are here!
Soldiers all!
We are near! Good cheer!
Ontario! Ontario!
Toronto! Montreal!"

    To Carlo
(Died July 1921)

No truer, kinder soul
Was ever sped than thine.
You lived without a growl,
You died without a whine.

    To Ronald Ross

[Who was torpedoed in the Gulf of Corinth in 1917, and was
thus enabled to visit Parnassus.]

I've read of many poets, Latin, Greek,
And bards of Tarragona or Toledo,
But you, dear Ross, are surely quite unique,
Blown to Parnassus by a Boche torpedo.

    Little Billy

The Doctor came at half-past one,
Little Billy saw him from the window.
The Doctor he was short and fat,
He hid a trumpet in his hat,
And spoke with his ear. You may all doubt that,
But Little Billy saw it from the window.

The Doctor left at half-past four,
Little Billy saw him from the window.
The Doctor's head was white and bare,
Like an ostrich egg in a nest of hair,
The marble bounced right up in the air
When little Billy dropped it from the window.

The Doctor came with a small black bag,
Little Billy saw it from the window.
And what do you think he had in that?
Why, a great big howling, yowling brat,
With a voice like a discontented cat.
Little Billy heard it from the window.

And that's how the new brother came,
While little Billy waited at the window.
"Who would have thought that Brother Jack
Would yell like that! They ought to pack
Him into the bag and send him back,"
Said angry little Billy at the window.

    Take Heart

When our souls are filled with fear,
When the path is dull and drear,
When the wind is chill and strong,
When the way is rough and long,
Take heart!

When vague terror fills our breast,
When forebodings break our rest,
When we search for any light
In the black encircling night,
Take heart!

When with feeble hands we grope
For some faint elusive hope,
When we wander hand in hand,
Through the gloomy twilight land,
Take heart!

Courage, comrade! Courage still!
We will breast the weary hill!
Hand in hand we scale the height,
Till we reach the golden light.
Take heart!

    With Either Hand

God's own best will bide the test,
And God's own worst will fall;
But, best or worst or last or first,
He ordereth it all.

For all is good, if understood,
(Ah, could we understand!)
And right and ill are tools of skill
Held in His either hand.

The harlot and the anchorite,
The martyr and the rake,
Deftly He fashions each aright,
Its vital part to take.

Wisdom He makes to guide the sap
Where the high blossoms be;
And Lust to kill the weaker branch.
And Drink to trim the tree.

And Holiness that so the bole
Be solid at the core;
And Plague and Fever, that the whole
Be changing evermore.

He strews the microbes in the lung,
The blood-clot in the brain;
With test and test He picks the best,
Then tests them once again.

He tests the body and the mind,
He rings them o'er and o'er;
And if they crack, He throws them back,
And fashions them once more.

He chokes the infant throat with slime,
He sets the ferment free;
He builds the tiny tube of lime
That blocks the artery.

He lets the youthful dreamer store
Great projects in his brain,
Until he drops the fungus spore
That smears them out again.

He stores the milk that feeds the babe,
He dulls the tortured nerve;
He gives a hundred joys of sense
Where few or none might serve.

And still He trains the branch of good
Where the high blossoms be,
And wieldeth still the shears of ill
To prune and prune His tree.

So read I this - and as I try
To write it clear again,
I feel a second finger lie
Above mine on the pen.

Dim are these peering eyes of mine,
And dark what I have seen;
But be I wrong, the wrong is Thine,
Else had it never been.

[As printed in "The Stark Munro Letters"]

    Epigraph to "The Lost World"

I have wrought my simple plan
If I bring an hour of joy
To the boy who's half a man
Or the man who's half a boy.

    Christmas in Trouble


Cheer oh, comrades! we can bide the blast
And face the gloom until it shall grow lighter.
What though one Christmas should be overcast,
If duty done makes all the others brighter.

The Last Lap

We seldom were quick off the mark,
And sprinting was never our game;
But when it's insistence and hold-for-the distance,
We've never been beat at that same.

The first lap was all to the Hun,
At the second we still saw his back;
But we knew how to wait and to spurt down the straight,
Til we left him dead-beat on the track.

He's a bluffer for all he is worth,
But he's winded and done to the core,
So the last lap is here, with the tape very near,
And the old colours well to the fore.


Not merry! No - the words would grate,
With gaps at every table-side,
But chastened, thankful, calm, sedate,
Be your victorious Christmas-tide.


"Now for Peace and now for plenty!"
So we said in 1920.
Alas there followed fire and flood,
1920 proved a dud.

But we were not to be done,
"Stand by now for '21!"
Economic strife and bother!
It was dudder than the other.

Well we raise our peckers still,
'22 may fill the bill,
When old Ireland troubles not,
And the Trotskys cease to trot.

We hope so - and we wear meanwhile
Our patent shock-absorbing smile,
But whatever fate may do,
We send our greeting out to you.

    In Memoriam Upon The Death Of Richard Doyle, The Artist.

His body was conveyed to his studio – where it lay surrounded
by his pictures, most of which represented fairy subjects.

The little elves upon the walls
Cried, “What is this before us?
“Why should the Master lie so still,
“And why should he ignore us?
“Oh what is this, and why is this?”
They whispered in a chorus.

And one behind a heather ball,
A gentle nymph and slender
Said, “What if we have made him cross,
And I be the offender!”
“Nay, nay” they cried “he will not chide
“The Master’s heart is tender”.

    The rattle of the bicycles

'The rattle of the bicycles
The cosy village tea
The walking up the long long hills
Which seemed too short to me ...
Pink ribbons in a lady's hat,
A roadside violet,
The little things in life are oft
The hardest to forget'.

    A Student's Dream

[A Student's Dream is a poem written by Arthur Conan Doyle (aged 11) in a letter to his mother Mary Doyle on 31 october 1870 when he was at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire.]

The Student he lay on his narrow bed
he dreamt not of the morrow
confused thoughts they filled his head
and he dreamt of his home with sorrow

The Student he lay on his narrow bed
all round dark was the night
the stars they twinkled above his head
and the moon it shone quite bright

He thought of the birch's stinging stroke
and he thought with fear on the morrow
he wriggled and tumbled and nearly awoke
and again he sighed with sorrow


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