Here is a poem I wrote for the incomparable Dr. Hal a few years back. For those who haven’t the good fortune to know of this esteemed gentleman, he has for years been a pillar of San Francisco’s, and indeed the world’s, edifice of the other.
A “high priest”, as it were, of the Church of the SubGenius, a truly fine artist and an indefatigable sage, he has graced stage and screen and airwaves for over thirty years. He is a consummate performer and a charming friend.
As every performer knows, all is fair in love and war, as well as with anything that gets people to come to your show. It is therefore a habit of some of us to spur the masses on to action by the threat of imminence in the demise of some experience. The “Fear of Being Left Out” drives most of us in our urbane pursuits to catch that special thing. To have been there when! So it is that, when putting on a performance of uncertain longevity, we employ the technique of announcing the “last chance to see the show!”. We may do this at…well, maybe several, shows (with appropriate space in between, no doubt). I’m fond of the technique myself (don’t tell anybody). And it is such that the good doctor has employed that same technique with his own ever-terminating and interminable Ask Dr. Hal Show, a San Francisco institution of HIGHer learning where the suspicious, the curious or at least the idle can have their queries (any queries) answered at a trice by this monster of mentation. It was at one of these “final” shows that I presented Him with the following paean :
To Hal Robins
By F.W. Price – February, 2007
Being a lament on the finality of this, the occasion of the current last “Ask Dr. Hal Show”
Sapientia odit terminus
And when in callow youth did I,
Unfettered then by beard or woe,
Feign to follow those fathered heads
Whose content true had fathered that
Which bid me quit my fathers house
and mothers ways.
That ripe ferment, that mouldering fruit
From ancient tree did lie foreborne,
With knowledge sweet and redolent,
Spread there before me for to eat.
I thought for all the world that I
would do so.
But my insouciant haste gave rise
To dreams which spawned procrastinate
Of secrets learned and poems sung,
Of libraries which, laid to waste,
I was to leave so plundered by
my want for knowledge.
Alas! It seems that Folly bade
Me think myself so great a man
To rise like those who ’round me strove
With schooléd brow and bookish brawn.
Yet not baring brow, nor brawn, nor book, nor school
so strove I not!
Would that I could those years respend
Again, anon, alone reposed
In studious thought, with book in hand
And mind unclosed to seek the prize
Of Genius unbound! Say I,
But there is one who sits betwixt
My folly and intended course,
Who offers all I ever wished;
Untainted water from its source,
Who answers all the queries cast
toward him to the fore.
This one though sage, yet humble he
Sennightly renders up his wares
With no vain, cold parsimony
To all who come he gladly shares
His Genius inSubordinate.
Its bounty, his largesse.
In gentle, knowing, radient tones
Devoid of ambiguity
He speaks the Truth and quotes from tomes
With sapient perspicuity
That comes as from exhaustive plumb
of aught in its profundity.
No obstacle he knows, it seems,
To that which falls there before him.
For patent strides of prose or reams
Of verse, likewise, we implore him.
And naught will stay his august muse,
so tireless is his wisdom.
How vast can be the mind of one,
Capacious in its faculty?
As many as the doings done
Of mankinds storied sanity.
So vast, then, his and saner still
than those of them before him.
What’s to be done if Providence
Deign to purloin our oracle?
Our succor, solice, sight gone thence
Would leave our minds, so poor sick, all,
To wallow in sad ignorance,
a witless, head-starved lot.
Will come a time when some will scarce
Believe a one so great as he,
In flesh and blood did walk the Earth
But testament to this are we.
Our duty, then, to lionize
and laud this king of sophists.
I could meander so in rhyme
Though patient ears did flank the scowl
Of him who came not me to hear
But Reverend Doctor Howland Owll!
Of him let’s always ask this last:
Would you with us yet linger more?