How to Beg (Like the Bon Ton) by Craig Kurtz
ALLUDING TO CHARACTERS FROM HONORÉ DE BALZAC’S LA COMÉDIE HUMAINE
AND WITH APOLOGIES TO ANDERS CARLSON-WEE
Excusez-moi, monsieur, good day —
I impetrate your arete;
aghast to be importunate,
I find I’m short of cash a bit.
I’m sure it need not be explained,
appearances must be maintained;
like Soulas, wooing his heiress,
a lion must have decent dress.¹
And, well you know, as Paris men,
one tumbles for a courtesan;
a Valerie can really dent
the coffers of a proper gent.²
No doubt you’ve faced, sequent of game,
some downturns which I needn’t name;
like Maxime de Trailles, that fop,³
one’s dénouement is the pawn-shop.
And, then, something you know, of course —
a speculation on the Bourse;
you think you’ve hit it big, and then
you’re swindled by a Nucingen.⁴
I trust you can appreciate
that debts might catch a man up late;
assist a fellow rake, will you —
a thousand francs, or less, will do.
©2019 Craig Kurtz
1. Amedee-Sylvain de Soulas, from Albert Savarus, a provincial dandy, also called a ‘lion,’ who could barely afford his fancy attire with which he impressed the locals and attempted to marry the Baronne de Watteville’s financially-desirable daughter.
2. Valerie Marneffe, from La Cousine Bette, dissipated and scheming courtesan, whose expensive tastes induced Baron Hulot d’Ervy, after depleting his family’s fortunes, to defalcate the War Department.
3. Maxime de Trailles, from Gobseck, celebrated ladies’ man, epicure, gambler and scoundrel — “a brilliant link between the hulks and the best society.”
4. Le baron Frédéric de Nucingen, from La Maison Nucingen, venerated and detested banker-capitalist, who defrauded, legally, a fortune from stock investors.