Obit on Parnassus/F. Scott Fitzgerald/The New Yorker/1937

Death before forty’s no bar. Lo!

These had accomplished their feats;

Chatterton, Burns, and Kit Marlowe,

Byron and Shelley and Keats.

Death, the eventual censor,

Lays for the forties, and so

Took off Jane Austen and Spenser,

Stephenson, Hood, and poor Poe.

You’ll leave a better-lined wallet

By reaching the end of your rope

After fifty, like Shakespeare and Smollett

Thackeray, Dickens, and Pope.

Try for the sixties — but say, boy,

 That’s when the tombstones were built on

Butler and Sheridan, the play boy,

 Arnold and Coleridge and Milton.

Three score and ten — the tides rippling

Over the bar; slip the hawser.

Godspeed to Clemens and Kipling,

Swinburne and Browning and Chaucer.

Some staved the debt off but paid it

At eighty — that’s after the law.

Wordsworth and Tennyson made it,

And Meredith, Hardy, and Shaw.

But, Death, while you make up your quota,

Please note this confession of candor —

That I wouldn’t give an iota

To linger till ninety, like Landor.