Golden Armor

Once, to the house where I live, in London,
There came a man called Pyestock,
An American.
He was a perpetual student here in Europe,
Living the life of the perpetual poor.
But Pyestock was not poor.
First he had been a perpetual student in Paris.
What he had studied there, nobody could discover;
In England he studied nothing.
It was very cheap living in France, Pyestock said;
You could manage very well in a small hotel
On two thousand bucks a year.
But all the same he found the French too tough,
So he came to England,
And found the English tougher still.
In France at least they had cafés
Where a man could sit and talk to his neighbors.
In English cafés nobody talked at all.
A friend of mine took Pyestock to a pub,
Where he could drink and talk to the English people;
All of them friends, and friends of friends of friends.
But Pyestock proved to have nothing much to say.
After two drinks he said to my friend and his friends:
Let us go someplace else.
What he was driving at they could not imagine.
They stared at him and said: There is nowhere else;
We are here.
Pyestock was lonely. He used to come up
To my room, to talk to the English people;
But I was always busy.
He could not endure the solitude and the silence.
But the life of the poor would be full of solitude and silence
But for the fact that they work.
He said to me: Why do you not go to Spain?
I know a nice rich American, driving to Spain;
He would take you along.
I told him I had no use for the rich,
Even if they were Americans;
Nice or not nice, they were beyond my means.
We were all sorry for Pyestock. He should, of course,
Have restricted his quest to the Tower and Tussaud’s and the Louvre,
Like everyone else.
He could have done the Uffizi and the Prado,
Scanning the souls of the Italian and Spanish peoples
Without meeting a single one.
He could have spent his two thousand bucks in Bond Street,
Or the Rue de la Paix, or the Reeperbahn if he chose,
And still had enough left to live on.

He could even have studied something at the Sorbonne,
And enjoyed himself with the Dutch and Danish and Spanish
And Canadian students.

Or he could have lived in London, and met
The Greeks, the Nigerians, the Australians, and the Serbs,
Who are all friendly people.
He could have done this and done wisely.
He would have made hundreds of international friends
All over the world.
But through some incredible quirk of temperament
He wanted to live in England and meet the English people,
Or in France and meet the French.
And this was a thing, of course, he could not do.
The English people and Pyestock were as unrelated
As green and Tuesday.
The only way of meeting the people
Is to live among them for a very long time.
And even then it is difficult.
So Pyestock was like a master of arts at midday
Demanding to be made a certificated plumber
By three in the afternoon.
You can be dubbed a knight in half a second,
Or become a hero, a coward, or a corpse in three or four,
But to become a plumber takes time.
And to meet the English people, with all those bucks about his person,
Was like trying to swim the English Channel
In a suit of golden armor.
And nothing’s more certain in the world than this:
A man who once gets into a suit of golden armor
Never willingly takes it off.
Unless, of course, he’s a saint or a goddamn poet,
Neither of which Pyestock would claim to be,
Another fact to his credit.
So much for poor old Pyestock. We told him
He ought to go quietly back to Massachusetts.
But all he said to that was, he hated Massachusetts.