Eugene Field

(2 September 1850 - 4 November 1895 / St Louis / Missouri / United States)

Twin Idols - Poem by Eugene Field

There are two phrases, you must know,
So potent (yet so small)
That wheresoe'er a man may go
He needs none else at all;
No servile guide to lead the way
Nor lackey at his heel,
If he be learned enough to say
"Comme bien" and "Wie viel."

The sleek, pomaded Parleyvoo
Will air his sweetest airs
And quote the highest rates when you
"Comme bien" for his wares;
And, though the German stolid be,
His so-called heart of steel
Becomes as soft as wax when he
Detects the words "Wie viel."

Go, search the boulevards and rues
From Havre to Marseilles--
You'll find all eloquence you use
Except "Comme bien" fails;
Or in the country auf der Rhine
Essay a business deal
And all your art is good fuhr nein
Beyond the point--"Wie viel."

It matters not what game or prey
Attracts your greedy eyes--
You must pursue the good old way
If you would win the prize;
It is to get a titled mate
All run down at the heel,
If you inquire of stock effete,
"Comme bien" or "Wie viel."

So he is wise who envieth not
A wealth of foreign speech,
Since with two phrases may be got
Whatever's in his reach;
For Europe is a soulless shrine
In which all classes kneel
Before twin idols, deemed divine--
"Comme bien" and "Wie viel."


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004



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