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Refugees’ Rubaiyat
By Ralph E. Renaud

(Ralph E. Renaud, the author of the following excellent parody, was for many years a well-known San Francisco newspaperman. Less than a year ago he left this city for the larger field of New York. The “Refugees’ Rubaiyat” was written very shortly after the disaster of April 1906, and was published in the Bulletin. Professor Henry Morse Stephens liked it so much that he declared he would embalm it in the pages of his great History of the Earthquake and Fire. But that eagerly awaited offspring of the professor’s mind is still unborn, so the verses might just as well be embalmed in this series.)


Wake! For the Shock which scattered into flight
The sleepers in their underclothes bedight
Has raised the roof and brought the chimneys down
And given Mrs. Grundy such a fright.


Before the glimmer of the flames had died
Methought a Voice within the Tavern cried,
“When all the bottles are set up within,
Why lags the thirsty traveler outside?”


But no cork popped, and those who stood before
The Tavern shouted, “Open, then, the door!”
Yet still the stern policeman barred the way,
And still the thirsty refugees forebore.


Ah, not a drop that from our cups we threw
For earth to drink of but we keenly rue;
To quench this inner, unextinguished fire
What profits ginger ale or iron brew?


Would but this desert of the barroom yield
One glimpse—if dimly, yet indeed revealed!
But posted on the swinging door appears
The Mayor’s proclamation—unrepealed!


Ah, sadly pour the ginger pop which clears
The toper’s eye despite protesting tears.
Tomorrow! Why, tomorrow he may be
In roaring Oakland, throwing dice for beers.


The seismograph but writes, and having writ,
The scientists can’t seem to make it quit,
And yet how comforting these daily quakes
Which soothe the nerves and calm the temper—NIT!


A can of corned beef underneath the bough,
A coffee pot, a loaf of bread—and Thou
Beside me cooking in a vacant lot,
Ah, wilderness were Paradise enow.


A moment’s halt—a momentary taste
Of army rations o’er the camp fire placed,
And then the weary refugee creeps back
The route he took in such unseemly haste.


Think, in the battered caravanserai
They called the Palace no one needs to pay.
Now anyone can run a hotel bill
And pitch his tent where once the clerk got gay.


They say the homeless and the hoboes keep
The courts where Nob Hill gloried and drank deep,
And while the bread line last the millionaire
Rubs elbows with the grimy chimney sweep.


Ah, Love, could you and I with Fate conspire
To wreck this sorry scheme of things entire—
If we would shatter it to bits—why, then
We’d surely choose an earthquake and fire!

Poems About San Francisco
Town Talk The Pacific Weekly
July 20, 1912