To Mrs. B

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The sumptuous board of you know who
Was rich with unaccustomed splendour:
The host, a gallant man and true,
Beamed like a newly polished fender:
And more than one important guest
With visible delight was swelling:
But that which I remember best
Is just a phrase:—"How's Helen?"

I sat, a melancholy man,
Beside a newly-married lady,
And wondered how, if I began,
To shun the trivial, dull and shady;
When through the dinner-din I caught
A question I remember well, in
My hours of retrospective thought:
My neighbour said:—"How's Helen?"

I do not know how Helen was:
—She's almost always doing fairly—:
Nor do I greatly care, because
The question, which was asked so squarely,
Produced an excellent effect
Both then and since: it's truth I'm telling;
And that is why I recollect
The simple phrase: "How's Helen?"

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.