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Danno, An Oxford Story

by Raymond “Beppo” Paretzky.

’Tis known, at both The White Horse and The Trout,
Among all Trin’ty grads of every nation,
That when MCR Gaudy comes about,
The Byronists imbibe their recreation;
Eschewing repentance, and growing stout,
However high their rank, or low their station,
They celebrate with quaffing and with rhyming,
Their classmates suffering iambic sliming.

Of all the places where the Bacchanal
Was boist’rously indulged in days of yore,
With dance, and song, and Trinity’s June ball,
A glut of cheap champagne of lib’ral pour,
And voices loud at bloody rival’s wall;
’Twas Oxford fame ’bove every city bore,
And at the moment when I fix my story,
That river city was in all her glory.

Didst ever see the Oxford crafts? I fear
They’re not well suited to most fancy stunts;
A box at front, uncovered well at rear,
The gown’ed scholars quaintly call them Punts.
The helmsman thrusts his steely pole to steer,
The same for dainty Filsner as vile Fluntz.
Aboard I’ve known so many happy days;
All know, what happens punting, there it stays.

But to my story.—’Twas some years ago,
It may be twenty, thirty, more or less,
The Byronists were at their height, and so
Were all kinds of Buffoonery and dress;
A Certain Lady had married her beau,
Her real name I know not, nor can guess,
And so we’ll call her Karen, if you please,
Because it slips into my verse with ease.

She was a married woman; ’tis convenient,
Because in Swiss cantons it is a rule
To view Wives’ little slips with eyes more lenient;
Whereas if single ladies play the fool
(Unless within the period intervenient
A well-timed wedding makes the scandal cool),
There’s no way they can get away with it,
Once they’ve allowed a man to play with it.

Her husband was as dorky as a Spaniard,
Sunburnt with travel, yet a portly figure;
His name was Danno, his verse in the vanguard,
He was a person both of sense and vigor—
A better Poet never yet did turn bard,
E’en if his rumored thesis lacked some rigor.
And though he filled his days with wine and song,
In Karen’s eyes could Danno do no wrong.

But then, one day some years since they’d first met;
Some people thought the flame was lost, and some
That he had somehow blunder’d into debt,
And did not like the thought of steering home;
Whate’er the cause, from Lake Z’s shore he set,
To annoy the world through perpetual roam.
’Tis said that their last parting was pathetic;
While Karen cried, her Danno waxed poetic.

Then Karen wailed long, and blasphemed a little,
And cursed her faithless Man, as well she might;
She lost almost all appetite for vittle,
And could not sleep with ease alone at night;
Lake Zurich teemed with bitter tears and spittle.
But many years of this, she’d look a fright…
And so she thought it prudent to connect her,
With secondary husband to protect her

’Til Danno should return from his long cruise,
And bid once more her faithful heart rejoice.
To Oxford went she to find a new muse;
And while perplexing some might find her choice—
The man was rumored Sheep to oft abuse—
Acclaimed was the Doge by the Public voice;
A man possessed of every quality,
A connoisseur of Vice, and jollity!

No wonder such accomplishments should turn
Fair Karen’s head, however sage and steady—
With scarce a hope that Danno would return;
In law he was almost as good as dead, he
Nor texted, e-mailed, wrote, or sent a fern,
And she had waited several years already;
And really if a Man won’t let us know
That he’s alive, he’s Dead, or should be so.

The Doge and Karen made their new arrangement,
Which lasted, as these things will sometimes do,
For half a dozen years without estrangement;
And while they had their little quarrels, too,
These catty tiffs, they never any change meant.
He cut his nights with Sheep to just a few;
She learned to tolerate his peccadillos,
And found that Tide cleans greasy stains off pillows.

Then came a day the pair were punting fast,
The Doge’s pole a-skimming o’er the tide,
Discussing all the friends from storied past;
The Coughlans, and the Hoey, too, beside.
And valiant, proud Paretzk’, of handsome cast.
As to Cherwell Boathouse the rowers glide,
Brave Karen sitting with her Dogy Schnorrer,
When lo! A mask’ed man was there before her!

“Sir!” said the Doge, with brow exceeding grave,
“The danger you do threaten here will make
It necessary for myself to save
Fair Karen... but I fear that’s a mistake;
In truth, you know, I’m not what you’d call brave;
Can’t we all get along – let’s bake a cake!
Meet me in five in Trin’ty Dining Hall.”
“Wait,” quoth the Man, “you’ve gone and dropped the ball:

That Lady is my Wife!” Much wonder paints
The Lady’s charming cheek, as well it might,
But where an English lass may feign a faint,
A Welsh-born female won’t do so outright;
She’ll hem and haw, and ask, “’Tis true? It ain’t!”
And then come to herself, almost or quite.
What saves much smelling salts, and sprinkling faces,
Are well-told Fibs, the usual in such cases.

“Danno!” said she; “that beard becomes you not;
It shall be shaved before you’re a day older;
How’d you get so fat? Oh! I had forgot—
Long years a-punt to fester and molder.
But worry not; the Doge, you know’s a sot,
No threat to you, just my carefree hand holder.
Let’s all agree no fault to you or us,
And I’ll take you back to my Bed, no fuss.”

And so, although some wives would have despised him
By His he was embraced, allowed to stay;
Off came the tatty weeds that had disguised him,
He wrote some dismal verse to mark the day.
The Byronists the more for absence prized him,
As now he’d ample funds to make them gay,
At dinners, where his tales became the laugh of them;
Though none, of course, believed the half of them.

Whate’er his Youth had suffered, his old Age
With buying rounds he made him some amends;
The Doge, as well, embarked on a new stage,
As with a pretty Ewe he next made friends.
But now I’ve reached the bottom of a page,
And so it’s here our little story ends;
’Tis to be wished it had been sooner done,
But Stories somehow lengthen when begun.