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A poem by A. A. Milne


Title:     Disillusioned
Author: A. A. Milne [More Titles by Milne]

The card was just an ordinary card,
The letter just an ordinary letter.
The letter simply said "Dear Mr. Brown,
I'm asked by Mrs. Phipp to send you this";
The card said, "Mrs. Philby Phipp, At Home,"
And in a corner, "Dancing, 10 p.m.,"
No more--except a date, a hint in French
That a reply would not be deemed offensive,
And, most important, Mrs. Phipp's address.

Destiny, as the poets have observed
(Or will do shortly) is a mighty thing.
It takes us by the ear and lugs us firmly
Down different paths towards one common goal,
Paths pre-appointed, not of our own choosing;
Or sometimes throws two travellers together,
Marches them side by side for half a mile,
Then snatches them apart and hauls them onward.
Thus happened it that Mrs. Phipp and I
Had never met to any great extent,
Had never met, as far as I remembered,
At all.... And yet there must have been a time
When she and I were very near together,
When some one told her, "_That_ is Mr. Brown,"
Or introduced us "_This_ is Mr. Brown,"
Or asked her if she'd heard of Mr. Brown;
I know not what, I only know that now
She stood At Home in need of Mr. Brown,
And I had pledged myself to her assistance.

Behold me on the night, the latest word
In all that separates the gentleman
(And waiters) from the evening-dress-less mob,
And graced, moreover, by the latest word
In waistcoats such as mark one from the waiters.
My shirt, I must not speak about my shirt;
My tie, I cannot dwell upon my tie--
Enough that all was neat, harmonious,
And suitable to Mrs. Philby Phipp.
Behold me, then, complete. A hasty search
To find the card, and reassure myself
That this is certainly the day--(It is)--
And 10 p.m. the hour; "p.m.," not "a.m.,"
Not after breakfast--good; and then outside,
To jump into a cab and take the winds,
The cold east winds of March, with beauty. So.

Let us get on more quickly. Looms ahead
Tragedy. Let us on and have it over.

I hung with men and women on the stairs
And watched the tall white footman take the names,
And heard him shout them out, and there I shaped
My own name ready for him, "Mr. Brown."
And Mrs. Philby Phipp, hearing the name,
Would, I imagined, brighten suddenly
And smile and say, "How _are_ you, Mr. Brown?"
And in an instant I'd remember her,
And where we met, and who was Mr. Phipp,
And all the jolly time at Grindelwald
(If that was where it was); and she and I
Would talk of Art and Politics and things
As we had talked these many years ago....
So "Mr. Brown" I murmured to the man,
And he--the fool!--he took a mighty breath
And shouted, "Mr. BROWNIE!"--Brownie! Yes,
He shouted "Mr. BROWNIE" to the roof.
And Mrs. Philby Phipp, hearing the name,
Brightened up suddenly and smiled and said,
"How _are_ you, Mr. Brownie?"--(Brownie! Lord!)
And, while my mouth was open to protest,
"_How_ do you do?" to some one at the back.
So I was passed along into the crowd
As Brownie!

Who on earth is Mr. Brownie?
Did he, I wonder, he and Mrs. Phipp
Talk Art and Politics at Grindelwald,
Or did one simply point him out to her
With "_That_ is Mr. Brownie?" Were they friends,
Dear friends, or casual acquaintances?
She brightened at his name, some memory
Came back to her that brought a happy smile--Why
surely they were friends! But _I_ am Brown,
A stranger, all unknown to Mrs. Phipp,
As she to me, a common interloper--I
see it now--an uninvited guest,
Whose card was clearly meant for Mr. Brownie.
Soft music fell, and the kaleidoscope
Of lovely woman glided, swayed and turned
Beneath the shaded lights; but Mr. Brownie
(_Ne_ Brown, not Brownie) stood upon one side
And brooded silently. Some spoke to him;
Whether to Brown or Brownie mattered not,
He did not answer, did not notice them,
Just stood and brooded.... Then went home to bed.

[The end]
A. A. Milne's poem: Disillusioned