Thursday, November 03, 2005

More Lyrics I Like

I quote too many Yip Harburg lyrics, but the song "Napoleon," from Jamaica (music by Harold Arlen) has been going through my head lately. It's not very well-known, perhaps because many of the products it refers to don't exist any more (I don't recognize a lot of them), but it's one of the great comic meditations on the transience of fame and of life itself:

Napoleon's a pastry,
Bismarck is a herring,
Alexander's a creme de cocao mixed with rum,
And Herbie Hoover is a vacuum.
Columbus is a circle and a day off,
Pershing is a square -- what a pay-off!
Julius Caesar is just a salad on a shelf,
So, little brother, get wise to yourself.
Life's a bowl and it's
Full of cherry pits,
Play it big and it throws you for a loop.
That's the way with fate,
Comes today we're great,
Comes tomorrow we're tomato soup.
Napoleon's a pastry,
Get this under your brow:
What once useta be a roosta'
Is just a dusta' now.

Dubarry is a lipstick,
Pompadour's a hairdo,
Good Queen Mary just floats along from pier to pier,
Venus De Milo is a pink brassiere.
Sir Gladstone is a bag -- ain't it shocking?
And the mighty Kaiser, just a stocking.
The Czar of Russia is just a jar of caviar,
And Cleopatra is a black cigar.
Yes, my honey lamb,
Swift is just a ham,
Lincoln's a tunnel, Coolidge is a dam.
Yes, my noble lads,
Comes today we're fads,
Comes tomorrow we're subway ads.
Homer is just a swat,
Get this under your brow:
All these bigwig controversials
Are just commercials now.
Better get your jug of wine and loaf of love
Before that final bow.

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