The Poet Gnome (An Immorality Tale)
Some time ago, not far from here, there lived a Gnome. He was old, spotty, wrinkled, bearded and wore a tweed cap to cover his baldness. He might have been handsome (for a Gnome) and perhaps even a gentleman once (for a Gnome), but now he was rather ill-tempered and a bit of a bully.
The Gnome thought himself quite dignified and very well-read, because he wrote poetry. He set himself above the other poets because he didn’t care if his poems were popular. He did, however, take care to self-publish many little bound volumes of his work ‘for the sake of Posterity’.
The Gnome had a summer cottage in the woods where he hunted game. Despite his age he was still a good shot and liked to let his friends and acquaintances know it.
In winter he lived in town and hosted little weekly gatherings for other poets. Sometimes he attended a monthly salon where poets, minstrels and bards gave readings. He would look around at all the young scribblers who yearned for advances and publication, then smiled to himself because he was far too dignified for that sort of thing. ‘One should only write for the love of it’, he pronounced, but not many agreed with him.
At the salon there were all manner of folk. There was the young bespectacled Bard who thrilled the room with his wicked warriors; the mad Habadasher who spun whimsical tales for the young at heart; there was the Lightbender who labored over historic epics; the Elf-maid with her dark vision of the troll wars which she recited in a lilting, child-like voice and the waifsh Water Nymph with her solemn hymns to the Lady of the Lake.
The Gnome patiently listened to their stories and then offered his dignified insight. ‘Perhaps this word is too harsh”, he might say, or ‘the tavern’s atmosphere needs more description to clarify the protagonist’s state of mind’.
One night at the salon, the Innkeeper’s Wife read her tales. ‘Silly, amusing stuff’, thought the Gnome, ‘but certainly not literature’. He dutifully offered his dignified critique. She thanked him and, in return, politely complimented his poems.
“What good taste she has,” puffed the Gnome, and so thought more highly of her, particularly her long, lemony hair and ample bosom.
One day the Gnome made the Water Nymph very upset (after harshly criticizing her for not properly following proper meeting protocol) and he got to thinking about how silly females were, except perhaps, for the Innkeeper’s Wife.
As the months passed, he wrote many lusty poems (careful to keep them from Mrs. Gnome) and finally, (with the help of a jug of ale) sent the Innkeeper’s wife a note to her home, recklessly describing his admiration for her, begging for a private ‘dinner’ and assuring his utmost discretion.
When she did not reply, he took her silence as consent and sent a cagily written tale about how they could meet in secret. He endlessly described all the lusty things he thought about, and how Mrs. Gnome would not really mind because they had an ‘understanding’. He took care to mention what a good shot he was. Women loved that sort of thing in a lover, he reasoned.
His heart leapt like a schoolboy’s when a reply finally came. Hands shaking, he opened the note. She wrote, “I will not meet with you. I am happily married. I apologize if you read too much into anything I may have said in passing.”
The Gnome was very put out. “She likes my poems and therefore loves me”, he deduced petulantly. “How fickle and confusing woman are! She probably has a jealous husband and is too afraid to pursue her heart.”
The Innkeeper’s Wife rarely went to the Salon after that, and when she did happen to show up, she didn’t even glance the Gnome’s way. “She is obviously broken-hearted, thought the Gnome, who continued to write angsty love poems to her in secret, though he never sent them.
After a year passed, the Gnome decided that he would take pity on the Innkeeper’s Wife and give her one more chance. He sent a messenger out to remind all the local poets about his weekly gathering, in hopes she would come. When she didn’t, the Gnome sent her a note with a special invitation. In his message he flattered her talent and intellect, having read somewhere it was a surefire way to get a woman. He once more promised his absolute discretion. As an afterthought he also assured he never had migraines.
Her reply arrived some days later. All she wrote was. “Do not send me any more messages.”
Once again, the Gnome was very annoyed and sulked. “Flirt! Tease! Strumpet! She shamelessly led me on!”
As the months passed he wrote many unflattering poems about the Innkeeper’s wife, (One where the word ‘lemon’ was badly rhymed with ‘venom’ ). He carefully self-published them in little bound volumes for Posterity.
One day, he suffered a fatal aneurism while fishing for compliments in the Krymeah River. Mrs. Gnome, his widow and literary executor, methodically burned all his little self-published volumes in the cottage fire pit the following summer.
Posterity had very little to say in the matter.