Hadrian the Seventh


“How exquisitely horrible”
—Frederick Rolfe, Baron Corvo, 
Hadrian the Seventh

It was truly exquisitely horrible—
That salient trait in my character

For so long the desire not to be—
Ungracious when dished by creeps

My readiness to be unselfish—
And self-sacrificing to cognoscenti

It had done me incalculable injury—
The world infested with greedy creeps

Uncultivated mediocrities with nothing—
Better to do than harass and bother me

Out of courtesy, out of kindness—
I used to always give way but surely

I tenaciously knew I had to cling to my—
Own original purpose, delay the enemy

I would invariably stand aside and let—
Myself be delayed and now it was too late


I rolled another cigarette and smoked it—
Gazing into garret-guttered iron fireplace

Above the fireplace mantel I’d pinned—
Sketches of Hermes of Herculaneum

The terra-cotta Sebastian of Kensington—
Donatello’s liparose David & Verrocchio too

A wax model of Cellini’s Perseys and an—
Unknown Rugger XV, rare feline slinky pose


Picture postcards presenting youth like—
Andrea del Sarto’s young St. John and

Alessandro Filipepi’s Primavera plus a—
Page from a Salon catalog with wrestlers

An old Harper’s Magazine showing—
Olive-skinned black-haired Pancratius

Some literary agent visiting cards—
A cast of Cardinal Andrea della Valle’s seal


Some bottles of ink, pipes, morocco case—
A pair of glasses in a chagreen case

An old drawing-board of a large size—
Resting on my knees to write on

The board tilted with a stack of sheets—
Pages scrawled with my archaic scribbles

But tonight my mind was empty, blank—
Irritated by Hadrian-esque hauntings


I cultivated the art of looking—
As though I were about to say No

You always can say Yes after No—
But if you begin with Yes

Like I usually did, it prevented—
Me from ever saying No.

That’s why everyone swindled me—
I’d been too anxious to give it away


I had to butch it and be ugly—
Ugly as my so—called colleagues

I had to pull myself together and—
Be neither vulgar nor common-place

I looked around the room seeking—
Something to read, something, anything


Nothing too recent in my memory—
So I picked up one of my rejected novels

I remembered how dejected I’d felt—
My self-conscious pose and romanticism

It was a copy of THE YOUNG GONDOLIER—
My sense of beauty much more acute then

I suppose I had this gay predilection for—
Young lithe muscular gondolier studs


Reticent young gondolier lasciviousness—
Indelicate modesty desiring satisfaction

Once satisfied, the door to his favor open—
That was the way with the Venetian youth

Yet such a book as mine didn’t sell well—
Tens of thousands of copies my fervent hope

But the world feared and ignored my novel—
There wasn’t enough delicate male modesty


I looked at my work and looked at my love—
The manner of my portrayal of youth

I deliberately set myself to dissect and—
Analyze the way I wrote about Venetian love

The normal type of European youth—
At Oxford and Eton simply disgusted me

Pater and Hopkins and the other queens—
Dithering away with Uranian closetries


Their inadequacy and superficiality—
Making the young male tres omnipresent

Worshipping them mentally no differently—
Than pretentious gadflies worshipping Women

While my gondolier boyfriends were real—
They were quite used to being sucked off

It’s doubtful the Uranians even knew—
Anything beyond virgin little choir boys


I was struck with sheer annoyance—
Such elitist British cloying closetry

While my Hadrian-esque pertinacity—
Obliged me to persevere despite them

Oftentimes the influence of Venice—
Obliged me to pause and laugh

After long years of writing I’d realized—
Feline vigorous untainted Venice youth


Didn’t need any such thing as a novel—
A rolled cigarette, some money would do

Meanwhile I counted the split infinities—
In the latest boring Pall Mall Gazette

I languished at my predicament—
God had made me fairly intelligent

But impotent and inactive as a writer—
Should I do travelogues not novels?


Novels must be done by writers—
But writers needed readers, publishers

The Uranians hid their scribbled poems—
Scuttling perfidiously, deceitfully faithlessly

Disguising their fawning fickle love—
Crying courage but we have to suffer

Like bashful bishops condescending—
Believe me, trust me, be closety


Yet down here in Venice there’s—
Room for indulgence & urbanity

The British sun lacks splendor—
While Mediterranean men are nude

Do I merit exile as a writer—
To be called a sinner, vile, shameful

While Oxford Uranians toil beneath—
The suffering Cross of Closetry?


Yes, I dream of certain luxuries—
Wealth, cleanness, whiteness, freshness

But is that any kind of reward for the—
Luxury of young sexy Italian loinchops?

Should I simply enjoy my happiness—
And vigorous serenity all in secret?

All unostentatiously enjoying the only—
Success I’ll ever have silently, wistfully?


Why use success as a writer for myself—
And not share it with all the others?

To be all-denuded of the power of love—
Loving anybody, being loved by any?

Must I be self-contained and detached—
Apart from the world of publishing?

Isn’t loving handsome young gondoliers—
Enough reward for having escaped here?


How often I’ve been told by them—
That I was wasting my talent writing

Such stolid stupidity forces me to pose—
As strange recondite haughty foolish

Gawd, I know what a sham I am—
How silly if feel begging for some love

But I lost all sense of modesty, my dears—
A long, long time ago in these fetid lagoons


I worship, loathe as I please knowing—
A certain superb hard violent pitiless terror

They frighten me but I can’t avoid it—
They provide an image that I can worship

Therefore I pose for them whether it—
Pleases, displeases or strikes awe

Generally they never loathe it—
There’s nothing wrong earning a lira or two


It’s not wrong, very wrong anyway—
But what can I do but take them to bed?

Unmistakably and distinctly they tell me—
They tell me what I must do and I do them

I take them to bed and we make love—
There’s no rosary in their trouser pockets

That’s where I find the Lord in his Temple—
And then that’s where we fall asleep


If they are meditating mischief like—
Some athletic and quarrelsome ones do

With an eye like a basilisk and a mouth—
Full of torrential Italian trumps to play

Mischief? What nonsense—
They habitually engage in mischief 

It’s a way of life, a tinge of destain—
For faggy foreigners greedy like me


But I can’t resist the young devils—
Going downstairs at once seeing him flee

I simply must confess I’m not perfect—
I don’t do things out of muddle-mindedness 

Nor out of vicious wanton cruelty—
But rather out of pride in my own powers

My powers of penetration and perception—
Or perhaps out of mere culpable frivolity


I confess I’ve been wanting in love—
Love, patience, sincerity, neighborliness 

Selfishness, self-will and a rather fatuous—
Desire to be distinct from other people

These desires nearly always unconscious—
I seldom deliberate on what I say or write

I suppose I have a bitter tongue and pen—
I make jibes at my publishers and critics


I’m impatient with mental natural weakness—
Unless of course it’s attached to a gondolier

I am insincere but sinfully not criminally—
I delight in bewildering others by posing

Sometimes as a font of complex erudition—
Other times playing the silly simpleton

I confess telling improper stories—
Not of the ordinary rather revolting kind


But those which are exquisite or witty—
Or koprolalian-esquely recondite & smutty

I’ve never been prompt resisting temptation—
My desire for knowledge leads me to appreciation

I study the male nude, gondolier anatomy—
I never have found male beauty shameful

Ugly, yes, sometimes the uglier the better—
Especially the uncut rather large ones


Do I love my neighbor, hardly my dear—
Most people are repulsive to me because

They are ugly in person and even more so—
They’re ugly in manner and mind as well

Do I love myself, hardly my dear—
But I don’t think it really matters much

I suppose I’m clever enough but—
Not half as clever as I’m supposed to be


I’m rather more a stupid ignoramus—
But as for myself, I despise myself 

I’m not very interesting to anyone else—
I simply despise myself, body, mind & soul

I’m just an irresponsible human imbecile—
Posing as simply and innocuously as possible

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