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Mark Twain's Guitar
Produced by Noah Adams and Bob Boilen

  • Listen to this program with RealAudio in 14.4 or 28.8 flavors. (20:20)
  • Read the fascinating story of Mark Twain's Journey.

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


    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.

    Edited by Hank Risan

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    Copyright 1999 The Kitchen Sisters