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Nero's Fiddle


by Walt Mason

We have often roasted Nero that he played the violin,
while his native Rome was burning and the firemen raised a din;
There he sat and played "Bedelia," heedless of the fiery storm,
while the fire chief pranced and sweated in his neat red uniform.
And I often think that Nero had a pretty level head;
Would the fire have been extinguished had he fussed around instead?
Would the fire insurance folks have loosened up a sheckle more,
had old Nero squirted water on some grocer's cellar door?
When there comes a big disaster, people straightway lose their wits;
They go round with hands a-wringing, sweating blood and throwing fits;
But the wise man sits and fiddles, plays a tune from end to end,
for it never pays to worry over things you cannot mend.
It is good to offer battle when catastrophes advance,
it is well to keep on scrapping while a fellow has a chance,
but when failure is as certain as the coming of the dusk,
then it's wise to take your fiddle and fall back on "Money Musk.

"from Uncle Walt by Walt Mason, The Poet Philsopher. Chicago: George Matthew Adams, 1910. [Note: The poem was printed on the page in prose format rather than in lines as above.]