When Leonardo was a lad there was a certain set
Who snubbed him most outrageously – in fact, they snub him yet
He wasn’t in the fashion, so he wasn’t in the fold;
Before his death he was too new, and now he grows too old.
Because his art was new to them the snobs of Florence laughed;
And now, because he isn’t new, the moderns scorn his craft.
‘Da Vinci? Don’t be crude, my dear! Call him an artist? Pshaw!
Why that old anachronism, so they say, knew how to draw!’
They have wandered thro’ the ages, mouthing cliches as they go.
At first nights, and private views, ‘mid the people ‘one should know.’
But the artist goes on laughing as thro’ every age he’s laughed
At snobs who patronise the ‘Arts,’ but boggle at the craft.
When Shakespeare sought draw the crowds and please the taste of town
And watched box office takings with a worn and worried frown,
Kit Marlowe knew, Ben Jonson knew what stuff was in the lad;
But the dilettanti voted him quite definitely bad.
The fellow simply stole his plots, they said with lofty sneers,
And served them up most vulgarly to tickle groundling’s ears.
‘Will Shakespeare? That cheap showman!
Why the man’s quite gauche, my dear!
I prefer them cultivated like dear Bacon and de Vere. ‘
So reputations surge and sink as lifts and ebbs the tide,
Now wallowing within the trough, now on the crest they ride.
But the snobs are ever with us, snobs of art, of place, of pelf.
And reading this, I rather think I might be one myself.