WERE I some fifteen years, or twenty, less,
Master Gandolfo, I’d unbaptize myself,
On purpose not to be called John. I ne’er
Can do a single thing by way of business,
Nor set out fast enough from my own door,
But half a dozen folk are calling after me;
Though, when I turn, it isn’t me — such crowds
Named John are issuing forth at that same moment;
’Tis downright insult, a real public scandal.
Clergymen, lawyers, pedants — not a soul
But his name’s John. You shall not see a face
Looking like what it is, a simpleton’s —
Barber’s, porkman’s, or tooth-drawer’s — but the fellow
Seems by his look to be a John — and is one!
I do believe that the first man who cried
Boiled apples — yes, or macaroni — was a John;
And so was he who found out roasted chestnuts,
And how to eat cucumber, and new cheese.
By Heaven! I’d rather be a German; nay, a Jew,
And be called Matthew, or Bartholomew,
Or some such beast — or Simon. Really, people
Who christen people ought to pause a little,
And think what they’re about. Oh, you who love me,
Don’t call me John, for God’s sake! Or, at least,
If you must call me so, oh, do it softly!
For, as to mentioning that name out loud,
51 You might as well call to one like a dog,
Whistle, and snap your fingers, and cry, “Here, boy!”
Think of the name upon a title-page!
It damns the book at once, and reasonably;
People no sooner see it than conclude
They’ve read the work before. Oh, I must say
My father made a pretty business of it,
Calling me John — me, faith! his eldest son,
Heir to his poverty! Why, there’s not a writ,
But nine times out of ten is served on John,
And, what still more annoys me, not a bill:
Your promiser to pay is always John.
Some people fondly make the word a compound,
And get some other name to stand its friend,
Christening the hapless wight John-Antony,
John-Peter, or John-Baptist, or John-Charles;
There’s even John-Bernard, John-Martin, and John-Richard.
Oh, ask if t’other name likes such society!
It never does, humor it as you will.
Change it, diminish it, call it Johnny, Jacky,
Jack: ’tis always a sore point — a wound —
Shocking if left alone, and worse if touched.