POETS Main Page INDEX of Poets INDEX of Titles & First Lines "Back page"

Levy Newman Levy

(Parody on the opera Thaïs
by Jules Massenet)

From "Opera Guyed," 1923


One time in Alexandria,
in wicked Alexandria,
where nights were wild with revelry,
and life was but a game,
there lived, so the report is, an
adventuress and courtesan:
The pride of Alexandria,
and Thaïs was her name.

Nearby in peace and piety,
avoiding all society,
there dwelt a band of holy men
who'd built a refuge there.
And in the desert solitude
they spurned all earthly folly to
devote their lives to holy works,
to fasting and to prayer.

Now one monk whom I solely mention
of this group of holy men
was known as Athanael,
he was famous near and far.
At fasting bouts or prayer with him,
none other could compare with him.
At grand and lofty praying
he could do the course in par.

One day while sleeping heavily
(from wrestling with the devil, he
had gone to bed exhausted
while the sun was shining still);
He had a vision Freudian,
and though he was annoyed he an-
alyzed it in the well-known style
of doctors Jung and Brill.

He dreamed of Alexandria,
of wicked Alexandria;
a crowd of men were cheering
in a manner rather rude
at Thaïs who was dancing there;
and Athanael, glancing there,
observed her do the shimmy
in what artists call the nude.

Said he, "This dream fantastical
disturbs my thoughts monastical.
Some unsuppressed desire, I fear,
has found my monkish cell.
I blushed up to the hat o' me
to view that girl's anatomy.
I'll go to Alexandria
and save her soul from Hell."

So, pausing not to wonder where
he'd put his summer underwear,
he quickly packed his evening clothes,
his toothbrush, and a vest.
To guard against exposure, he
threw in some woollen hosiery,
and bidding all the boys good-bye,
he started on his quest.

The monk, though warned and fortified,
was deeply shocked and mortified
to find on his arrival
wild debauchery in sway.
While some lay in a stupor sent
by booze of more that two per cent,
the others were behaving
in a most immoral way.

Said he to Thaïs, "Pardon me,
although this job is hard on me,
I got to put you wise to what
I came down here to tell.
What's all this sousin' gettin' you?
Cut out this pie-eyed retinue.
Let's hit the road together, kid,
and save your soul from Hell."

Although this bold admonishment
caused Thaïs some astonishment,
she coyly answered, "Say
you said a heaping mouthful, Bo.
This burg's a frost, I'm telling you,
the brand of hooch they're selling you
ain't like the stuff we used to get,
so let's pack up and go."

So forth from Alexandria,
from wicked Alexandria,
across the desert sands they go,
beneath the blazing sun;
Till Thaïs, parched and sweltering,
finds refuge in the sheltering
seclusion of a convent
in the habit of a nun.

But now the monk is terrified
to find his fears are verified:
His holy vows of chastity
have cracked beneath the strain.
Like one who has a jag on he
cries out in grief and agony,
"I'd sell my soul to see her
do the shimmy once again."

Alas, his pleadings clamorous,
though passionate and amorous,
have come too late – the courtesan
has danced her final dance.
Says he, "Now that's a joke on me
for that there dame to croak on me,
I hadn't oughter passed her up
the time I had the chance."

Buy Newman Levy's works

POETS Main Page INDEX of Poets INDEX of Titles & First Lines "Back page"