Genius

A Poem Composed by Mark Twain

Listen: Listen to the Story about Twain's Guitar

While on board the ship America, Mark Twain composed this poem taken from his private journal.

Genius.

Genius, like gold and precious stones,

is chiefly prized because of its rarity.

——-

Geniuses are people who dash of weird, wild,

incomprehensible poems with astonishing facility,

and get booming drunk and sleep in the gutter.

——-

Genius elevates its possessor to ineffable spheres

far above the vulgar world and fills his soul

with regal contempt for the gross and sordid things of earth.

——-

It is probably on account of this

that people who have genius

do not pay their board, as a general thing.

——-

Geniuses are very singular.

——-

If you see a young man who has frowsy hair

and distraught look, and affects eccentricity in dress,

you may set him down for a genius.

——-

If he sings about the degeneracy of a world

which courts vulgar opulence

and neglects brains,

he is undoubtedly a genius.

——-

If he is too proud to accept assistance,

and spurns it with a lordly air

at the very same time

that he knows he can't make a living to save his life,

he is most certainly a genius.

——-

If he hangs on and sticks to poetry,

notwithstanding sawing wood comes handier to him,

he is a true genius.

——-

If he throws away every opportunity in life

and crushes the affection and the patience of his friends

and then protests in sickly rhymes of his hard lot,

and finally persists,

in spite of the sound advice of persons who have got sense

——-

but not any genius,

persists in going up some infamous back alley

dying in rags and dirt,

he is beyond all question a genius.

——-

But above all things,

to deftly throw the incoherent ravings of insanity into verse

and then rush off and get booming drunk,

is the surest of all the different signs

of genius.

——-

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