‘A Prolonged Life, Owed to Dudgeon ’
A Poem by doctors of the London Homeopathic Hospital.
presented by Gill Graham
Excerpted from Lyrica Hospitiii Homeopathicci
This article originally appeared in Simile, June 2022, for The Faculty of Homeopathy. It is reprinted here with permission from The Faculty.
Editor’s note: Robert Ellis Dudgeon MD (1820 – 1904) The first editor of the British Journal of Homeopathy, he held this post for almost forty years until its cessation in 1884.)
Prior to my visit to Francis Treuherz, he sent me a fascinating collection of poems from 1911, called Lyrica Hospitii Homeopathici. The collection consists of about 40 pages of poetry, written by doctors from the London Homeopathic Hospital.
The annual dinner there was instituted in 1897, and became a real occasion to celebrate fellowship and ‘happy associations.’ It was agreed, for the sake of entertainment, that doctors should present verses on ‘points of general medica or topic interest, as contributions to the gaiety (or otherwise) of the evenings.’ The contributors were Dr Dudgeon, Dr Spencer Cox, Dr Leo Rowse, Dr Miller Neatby, Dr C.E Wheeler and Mr Nox Shaw.
Attached is the poem ‘A prolonged life, Owed to Dudgeon. A Book review.’ (I am fairly certain this should be ‘Ode’ or maybe it is a play on words?) Dudgeon’s brilliant, witty reply to his young students follows. – Gill Graham
A Prolonged Life, owed to Dudgeon
“You are old, Robert Dudgeon,” his young colleagues said, “For you tell us you’ve passed your four score, But you still go on writing books out of your head, Do you think you’ve exhausted the store?”
“In my youth,” Robert Dudgeon, replied with a laugh, “I feared writing might injure my brain. But now that I know what is wheat and what is chaff, Why, I’ll do it again and again.”
“You are old,” said his friends, “but your roof is well slated, And you cannot be called very fat : Your eye is undimmed, your force unabated, Pray what is the reason of that?”
“In my youth,” said the sage, as he twinkled his eye, “I soaped myself well with lopha, With subaqueous vision I saw pigs fly, And daily jumped over the sofa.”
“You are old,” someone said, “yet your jaws are still strong, For you’ve managed to share our repast, You began with the soup, and you’ve gorged right along, Let us hope you won’t suffer at last.”
“Since my youth, my dear friends, as my latest book shows, From four poisons I’m always abstaining, Tea, alcohol, coffee and strong tobaccos: But a gorge is occasional training.”
“You are old, Robert Dudgeon, yet facts seem to lie, For your eye is as steady as ever, You drive off a golf ball as straight as a die, What makes you so awfully clever?”
“My old age,” said our hero, “is not all sad, For I always find something to tussle. When I can’t play at golf there are bowls to be had, I use both my brains and my muscle.”
“Though you’re old, will you please answer one question more, Why is it that you don’t wear a beard: You’ve no features to mask, of that we are sure, Is it microbes of which you’re afeared?”
“A clean shaven lip an up to date bliss is, But you may very soon come to rue it: Though it’s awfully nice to give aseptic kisses, I should not advise you do it,”
The Author’s Reply:
I AM old, so you tell me, though I did not know it, But you kindly assure me that I do not show it. I have written a booklet, in which you are told How you may grow older without growing old.
In the course of your poem some questions you ask, But you answer them all, so you spare me that task. You say golf and bowls are my fav’rite diversions, And drinks alcoholic my special aversions.
Our life is like golf, with its outs and its ins, Its hazards and stimies, its foozles and whins: As in golf, we occasion’ly make a good stroke, And the chagrin we feel when we fail, is no joke.
So in bowls we may see a resemblance to life, The effort to conquer requires constant strife: In both, rubs, a victory often deny us, And we cannot succeed if we don’t mind in our bias.
I don’t shave my beard to give aseptic kisses, I leave that amusement to young men and misses. The reason I think that the beard is a stup-Id invention it is that it gets in the soup.
I thank my young friend for the piquant ability Displayed in his verses about my senility: I don’t mind his knocks—pshaw! I’d be a curmudgeon, If I were to take aught he’s written in dudgeon.
Without doing a full analysis of this poem, (which I’m sure you wouldn’t want!) it is enough to say that the young poet is teasing our distinguished doctor about his age: “You have passed your four score, but you still go on writing books out of your head…”
This central theme of youth in old age runs through the poem’s lines, but playfully, congratulating on his strong physique, slim build and lifestyle habits:
“You are old Robert Dudgeon, yet facts seem to lie, For your eye is as steady as ever, You drive a gold ball as straight as a die, What makes you so awfully clever?”
The ‘Author’s reply’ is in the same fun, spirited way, with even more energy and zest I feel! His summary dismissal of old age is perhaps a lesson to us all, and maybe he is educating them as to the effect on health of the ‘removal of the maintaining causes?’
I would say the ‘perfect rhyming’ scheme adds to the allure of the poems. In my opinion, Dudgeon’s response and his words and rhyming abilities prove both his acuity and skill; he way upstages his young admirers!
This is but one poem from a fascinating collection (thanks to Francis Treuherz for sharing with me), collated over 14 years; others may be featured in the future, (let me know what you think?) so we can absorb the mood, words and history surrounding our predecessors.
“Think of them as they’re meant; that though. In their ribald fancies they nothing extenuate, they neither Set down ought in malice.”
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