Friday, December 22, 2006
The Sciveners' Tale: A Christmas Story
The life of a scrivener is a weary one at the best of times, and when the snow is drifting and the trees pearl with ice it may well appear as near to impossible. Indeed it sometimes seems that the pen that I have in my hand holds no mere ink but human blood, such store do I put in its patterning. And how like my children these wretched little verses seem, sent out too soon into the cruel world, first to battle the weather and the vagaries of the Royal Mail, only to struggle through at last to shiver against the rocks of fashion and opinion. The poor scrivener listens achingly for the rattle of the letter box to nurse these orphans home, always damaged beyond repair.
This morning two such stragglers arrived, turfed out after several months of indenture by the editor of the review ‘The Death Rattle’. It is no consolation to know that the man involved is an ill favoured creature and you can , dear reader, if you have any imagination or experience of life’s all too present cruelties, imagine him even now in his muffler and finger-mitts scribbling below a bare bulb in his crabbed and monkish script “No!” “No stamp!” “No envelope!” “No! No! No!, all the while stamping with his foot on the threadbare rug, then, putting his pen aside, constructing from sheer sense of spiteful self-importance new ways to frustrate honest men, such as keeping their poems an extra three months, or sending them back because they’re interesting. And should you storm these icy heights? Should this misanthrope accept the bounty of a writer’s long labour what should this man gain? Some Christmas cheer, or victuals for his little children? No. Not a single penny. Not even a farthing.
Contrast this, gentle reader, with another man whose letter, by sheer favour of circumstance, arrived at the same time and on the same poor mat as the first, a letter written in a broad and expansive hand tutored by warmth and humanity. This man, after hearty and well shaped felicitations and no few compliments humbly and gratefully received, was glad to accept a sheaf of poems sent only a handful of days since, and promises moreover a comely monetary settlement for the same! How a humble scribe rejoices in the very existence of such men! How he anticipates dancing with his two jolly barefoot children under the holly wreath tonight in sheer exultation of the continued existence of the spirit of reason and humanity in the frozen world! And how we must hope, patient and gracious reader, that the ghost of such exuberance might permeate into the lairs of the cold north to melt, if even a little, the icy hearts of evil men.