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The prolific poet Berton Braley (1882-1966) was born and raised in Wisconsin. He worked in magazine publishing in the early years of his career and worked as a war correspondent in England and France during World War I. His work appeared in popular periodicals too numerous to name. His poetry was unapologetically conventional and covered myriad subjects, often related to political and social issues of the day. Also a successful writer of stories and non-fiction prose, he published more than 20 books throughout his long career.
A fragment of Berton Braley's "Mencken, Nathan, and God" on the bookshop door
Reprinted from the New York Sun (date unknown), this poem satirizes the powerful magazine editors H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan, who co-edited the magazine the Smart Set and in 1924 co-founded the American Mercury. It also includes a gentle dig at novelist Theodore Dreiser. In its entirety, it reads as follows:
There were three that sailed away one night
Far from the maddening throng;
And two of the three were always right
And everyone else was wrong
But they took another along, these two
To bear them company,
For he was the only One who ever knew
Why the other two should be;
And so they sailed away, these three
And the two they talked of the aims of Art,
Which they alone understood;
And they quite agreed from the start
That nothing was any good
Except some novels that Dreiser wrote
And some plays from Germany.
When God objected they rocked the boat
And dropped him into the sea,
"For you have no critical facultee,"
The two came cheerfully sailing home
Over the surging tide.
And trod once more on their native loam
And the little group that calls them great
Welcomed them fawningly,
Though why the rest of us tolerate
This precious pair must be
Something nobody else can see