Let’s Not Talk About Love

My Man o’ War

The Springtime Cometh

I Get Along Without You Very Well

These Foolish Things

A Fine Romance

The Way You Look Tonight

T’ain’t No Use


I’m Goin’ Fishin’

The Shape of Things



Let’s Not Talk About Love

SHE: Relax for one moment, my Jerry,
Come out of your dark monastery,
While Venus is beaming above,
Darling, let’s talk about love.

Let’s talk about love, that wonderful thing,
Let’s blend the scent of Venice with Paris in spring,
Let’s gaze at that moon and try to believe
We’re Venus and Adonis, Adam and Eve.
Let’s throw away anxiety, let’s quite forget propriety,
Respectable society, the rector and his piety,
And contemplate l’amour in all its infinite variety,
My dear, let’s talk about love.

Pretend you’re Chopin and I’ll be George Sand.
We’re on the Grand Canal and, oh, baby, it’s grand!
Let’s mention Walküries and helmeted knights,
I’m beautiful Brünnhilde, you’re Siegfried in tights,
Let’s curse the asininity of trivial consanguinity,
Let’s praise the masculinity of Dietrich’s new affinity,
Let’s picture Cleopatra saying “Scram” to her virginity.
My dear, let’s talk about love.

The weather’s so warm and you are so cute,
Let’s dream about Tahiti and tropical fruit.
I’ve always said men were simply deevine.
(Did you know that Peggy Joyce was once a pupil of mine?)
Let’s gather miscellanea on Oberon’s Titania,
Or ladies even brainier who’ve moved to Pennsylvania
(Bucks County, so I hear, is just a nest of nymphomania),
My dear. Let’s talk about love.

HE: My buddies all tell me selectees
Are expected by ladies to neck-tease,
I could talk about love and why not?
But believe me, it wouldn’t be so hot,

Let’s talk about frogs, let’s talk about toads,
Let’s try to solve the riddle why chickens cross roads,
Let’s talk about games, let’s talk about sports,
Let’s have a long debate about ladies in shorts.
Let’s question the synonymy of freedom and autonomy,
Let’s delve into astronomy, political economy,
Or if you’re feeling biblical, the book of Deuteronomy,
But let’s not talk about love.

Let’s ride the New Deal, like Senator Glass,
Let’s telephone to Ickes and order more gas,
Let’s curse the Old Guard and Hamilton Fish,
Forgive me, dear, if Fish is your favorite dish.
Let’s heap some hot profanities on Hitler’s inhumanities,
Let’s argue if insanity’s the cause of his inanities,
Let’s weigh the Shubert Follies with the Ear-rl Carroll Vanities,
But let’s not talk above love.

Let’s talk about drugs, let’s talk about dope,
Let’s try to picture Paramount minus Bob Hope,
Let’s start a new dance, let’s try a new step,
Or investigate the cause of Missus Roosevelt’s pep.
Why not discuss, my dee-arie,
The life of Wallace Bee-ery
Or bring a jeroboam on
And write a drunken poem on
Astrology, mythology,
Geology, philogy,
Pathology, psychology,
Spermology, phrenology?
I owe you an apology,
But let’s not talk about love.

Let’s speak of Lamarr, that Hedy so fair,
Why does she let Joan Bennett wear all her old hair?
If you know Garbo, then tell me this news,
Is it a fact the Navy launched all her old shoes?
Let’s check on the veracity
Of Barrymore’s bibacity
And why his drink capacity should get so much publacity,
Let’s even have a huddle over Ha’vard Univassity,
But let’s not talk about love.

Let’s wish him good luck, let’s wish him more pow’r,
That Fiorella fella, my favorite flow’r,
Let’s get some champagne from over the seas,
And drink to Sammy Goldwyn,
Include me out please.
Let’s write a tune that’s playable, a ditty swing-and-swayable
Or say whatever’s sayable about the Tow’r of Ba-abel,
Let’s cheer for the career of itty-bitty Betty Gra-abel,
But let’s not talk about love.

In case you play cards, I’ve got some right here.
So how bout a game o’ gin rummy,
My dear?
Or if you feel warm and bathin’s your whim,
Let’s get in the all-together and enjoy a short swim.
No, honey, ah suspect you-all
Of bein’ intellectual
And so, instead of gushin’ on,
Timidity, stupidity, solidity, frigidity,
Avidity, turbidity, Manhattan, and viscidity,
Fatality, morality, legality, finality,
Neutrality, reality, or Southern hospitality,
Pomposity, verbosity,
You’re losing your velocity,
But let’s not talk about love.

Cole Porter (1891–1964)


My Man o’ War

I got myself a military man
And now I’m almost in hysterics.
He has me living on the army plan,
You’d think my parlour was a barracks.
It’s so peaceful when he’s gone,
But when he’s home, the war is on.

My flat looks more like an armory,
Takes out his bugle when he sees me,
At night he’s drilling me constantly,
He’s my man o’ war.

When he advances, can’t keep him back,
So systematic in his attack,
All my resistance is bound to crack,
For he’s my man o’ war.

He never misses when he brings up
His big artillery.
Bullets like kisses that hit the mark
With such rapidity.
His operations always increase,
It seems his movements will never cease,
At night he always disturbs the peace.
He’s my man o’ war.

I’m always bearing the battle’s brunt,
Crazy for action, he’s on the hunt,
You’re sure to find him right at the front,
He’s my man o’ war.

He storms my trench and he’s not dead,
His bayonet makes me cry for aid,
Oh, how he handles his hand grenade,
He’s my man o’ war.

If I’m retreatin’ he goes around
And gets me in the rear.
He keeps repeatin’ a flank attack
’Till victory is near.
Now when he turns his machine gun loose,
Then I surrender, for there’s no use,
He makes me put up my flag of truce,
He’s my man o’war.

Andy Razaf (1895–1973)


The Springtime Cometh

The Springtime cometh,
Hummingbird hummeth,
Little brook rusheth,
Merry maiden blusheth,
Ice man goeth,
For thy beauty bloweth
Spring to me.

The bright world shineth,
Tender arm twineth,
Starry eye gloweth,
For they knoweth
That without thee
Spring could never be.

Daffodil… he can’t stand still,
Cap he flingeth,
Cane he swingeth,
Song he singeth,
Ding dong day…
Which is to say
The Springtime cometh,
Hummingbird hummeth,
Sugar plum plummeth,
Heart, it humpty-dummeth,
And to summeth up,
The Springtime cometh for the love of thee.

Lad and lass
In tall green grass
Gaily skippeth,
Nylon rippeth,
Zipper zippeth,
Ding dong day …
Which is to say
The Springtime cometh,
Hummingbird hummeth,
Bubble gum gummeth,
And the Springtime cometh for the love of thee.

Yip Harburg (1896–1981)


I Get Along Without You Very Well

I get along without you very well,
Of course I do,
Except when soft rains fall
And drip from leaves,
Then I recall
The thrill of being sheltered in your arms,
Of course I do.
But I get along without you very well.

I’ve forgotten you, just like I should.
Of course I have.
Except to hear your name
Or someone’s laugh that is the same,
But I’ve forgotten you just like I should.

What a guy!
What a fool am I
To think my breaking heart could kid the moon.
What’s in store?
Should I ’phone once more?
No, it’s best that I stick to my tune.

I get along without you very well,
Of course I do.
Except perhaps in Spring.
But I should never think of Spring,
For that would surely break my heart in two.

Hoagy Carmichael (1899–1981)


These Foolish Things

Oh! will you never let me be?
Oh! will you never set me free?
The ties that bound us
Are still around us,
There’s no escape that I can see.
And still those little things remain,
That bring me happiness or pain.

A cigarette that bears a lipstick’s traces,
An airline ticket to romantic places,
And still my heart has wings.
These foolish things
Remind me of you.

A tinkling piano in the next apartment,
Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant,
A fairground’s painted swings,
These foolish things
Remind me of you.

You came, you saw, you conquer’d me;
When you did that to me,
I knew somehow this had to be.

The winds of March that make my heart a dancer,
A telephone that rings, but who’s to answer?
Oh, how the ghost of you clings!
These foolish things
Remind me of you.

First daffodils and long excited cables,
And candle light on little corner tables,
And still my heart has wings.
These foolish things
Remind me of you.

The park at evening when the bell has sounded,
The “Ile de France” with all the gulls around it,
The beauty which is Spring’s,
These foolish things
Remind me of you.

How strange, how sweet,
To find you still;
These things are dear to me.
They seem to bring you near to me.

The sigh of midnight trains in empty stations,
Silk stockings thrown aside, dance invitations.
Oh how the ghost of you clings!
These foolish things
Remind me of you.

Gardenia perfume ling’ring on a pillow,
Wild strawb’ries only seven francs a kilo,
And still my heart has wings.
These foolish things
Remind me of you.

The smile of Garbo and the scent of roses,
The waiters whistling as the last bar closes,
The song that Crosby sings,
These foolish things
Remind me of you.

How strange, how sweet,
To find you still;
These things are dear to me.
They seem to bring you near to me.

The scent of smold’ring leaves, the wail of steamers,
Two lovers on the street who walk like dreamers,
Oh, how the ghost of you clings!
These foolish things
Remind me of you.

Eric Maschwitz (1901–1969)


A Fine Romance

A fine romance, with no kisses!
A fine romance, my friend, this is!
We should be like a couple of hot tomatoes,
But you’re as cold as yesterday’s mashed potatoes.
A fine romance! You won’t nestle!
A fine romance! You won’t wrestle!
I might as well play bridge with my old maid aunts.
This is a fine romance.

A fine romance, my good fellow!
You take romance! I’ll take Jell-O!
You’re calmer than the seals in the Arctic Ocean,
At least they flap their fins to express emotion.
A fine romance! With no quarrels!
With no insults, and all morals!
I’ve never mussed the crease in your blue serge pants,
I never got the chance.
This is a fine romance.

A fine romance, with no kisses!
A fine romance, my friend, this is!
We two should be like clams in a dish of chowder,
But we just fizz like parts of a Seidlitz powder.
A fine romance, with no clinches!
A fine romance, with no pinches!
You’re just as hard to land as the “Ile de France,”
I haven’t got a chance,
This is a fine romance!

A fine romance, my dear Duchess!
Two old fogies who need crutches!
True love should be like the thrills that a healthy crime has!
We don’t have half the thrills that the “March of Time” has!
A fine romance, my good woman!
My strong “aged-in-the-wood” woman!
You never give the orchids I send a glance!
No! you like cactus plants.
This is a fine romance.

Dorothy Fields (1905–1974)


The Way You Look Tonight

Some day,
When I’m awf’ly low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you,
And the way you look tonight.

Oh, but you’re lovely
With your smile so warm,
And your cheek so soft,
There is nothing for me but to love you,
Just the way you look tonight.

With each word your tenderness grows,
Tearing my fear apart.
And that laugh that wrinkles your nose
Touches my foolish heart.

Never, never change,
Keep that breathless charm.
Won’t you please arrange it,
‘Cause I love you,
Just the way you look tonight,
Mm mm mm mm
Just the way you look tonight.

Dorothy Fields (1905–1974)


T’ain’t No Use

He walked out and left me flat.
He was right and that is that.
Let it rain and let it pour
Cause it don’t matter no more.

T’ain’t no use,
T’ain’t no use,
Cooked my goose,
T’ain’t no use.
Played it fast,
Played it loose,
Couldn’t last,
T’ain’t no use.
Here am I,
High and dry,
My, oh my,
He didn’t even say good-bye.

T’ain’t no use,
T’ain’t no use,
T’ain’t no use,
No more love,
T’ain’t no use.
I’ve got pains,
Got no brains,
Woe is me.
Why did I
Let him go?
Why, oh why,
I’m just a no good so and so.

T’ain’t no use,
T’ain’t no use
Cooked my goose,
T’ain’t no use.

Herb Magidson (1906–1987)



Glow, little glow-worm, fly of fire,
Glow like an incandescent wire,
Glow for the female of the specie,
Turn on the A-C and the D-C.
This night could use a little brightnin’
Light up, you li’l ol’ bug of lightnin’.
When you gotta glow, you gotta glow.
Glow little glow-worm, glow.

Glow, little glow-worm, glow and glimmer,
Swim through the sea of night, little swimmer,
Thou aer-o-nau-tic-al boll weevil,
Il-lu-mi-nate yon woods primeval.
See how the shadows deep and darken,
You and your chick should get to sparkin’.
I got a girl that I love so,
Glow, little glow-worm, glow.

Glow, little glow-worm, turn the key on,
You are equipped with tailgate neon,
You got a cute vest-pocket Mazda,
Which you can make both slow or “Fazda”:
I don’t know who you took a shine to,
Or who you’re out to make a sign to,
I got a girl that I love so,
Glow, little glow-worm, glow.

Johnny Mercer (1909–1976)


I’m Gonna Go Fishin’

Woke up this mornin’,
Wanted to cry
Then I remembered—
Yes, I knew why.
He’s a real good one
For havin’ his cake,
I’m gonna go fishin’
Or jump in the lake!
I’m goin’ fishin’,
That’s what I’ll do.
Think about nothin’,
Not even you.
Catch a real big one,
A big speckled trout
Snappin’ at the water,
I’ll pull him on out,
Sweet-talkin’ liar,
Spin me a yarn,
Tell me a story
Big as a barn.
Gonna stop list’nin’
I won’t hear you out,
I’m gonna go fishin’
And catch me a trout!
If a man is a liar,
A man is a fool,
Playin’ for keepers
And breakin’ the rule.
He’ll be the loser,
Yes, he’ll find out,
I’m gonna go fishin’
And catch me a trout!
Here in the water,
Look at him shine,
There goes a big one,
That one is mine!
Cast off the reel now,
I’ve got the feel now,
Snap! Goes the fine fly rod,
I’ll catch me a trout!
Sweet-talkin’ liar,
You’re in for a fall,
You tell me a story,
You talk to the wall!
Gonna go my way
On down the highway.
I’m gonna go fishin’
And catch me a trout!

Peggy Lee (1920–2002)


The Shape of Things

Completely round is the perfect pearl
The oyster manufactures.
Completely round is the steering wheel
That leads to compound fractures.
Completely round is the golden fruit
That hangs in the orange tree.
Yes, the circle shape is quite renowned,
And sad to say, it can be found
In the dirty low-down runaround
My true love gave to me,
Yes, my true love gave to me.

Completely square is the velvet box
He said my ring would be in.
Completely square is the envelope
He wrote farewell to me in.
Completely square is the handkerchief
I flourish constantly,
As it dries my eyes of the tears I’ve shed
And blows my nose ‘til it turns bright red
For a perfect square is my true love’s head.
He will not marry me,
No, he will not marry me.

Rectangular is the hotel door
My true love tried to sneak through.
Rectangular is the transom
Over which I had to peek through.
Rectangular is the hotel room
I entered angrily
Now, rectangular is the wooden box
Where lies my love ’neath the grazing flocks.
They said he died of the chicken pox,
In part I must agree;
One chick too many had he.

Triangular is the piece of pie
I eat to ease my sorrow.
Triangular is the hatchet blade
I plan to hide tomorrow.
Triangular is the relationship
That now has ceased to be.
And the selfsame shape is a garment thin,
That fastens on with a safety pin
To a prize I had no wish to win;
It’s a lasting memory
That my true love gave to me.

Sheldon Harnick (1924–



Of course it wasn’t just Broadway. It was Broadway, and Hollywood, and Harlem, and London’s West End. But Broadway was where so much began or arrived.

I have gone again through my copy of Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball’s wonderful Reading Lyrics (Pantheon 2000), described on the front of the jacket as:

More than a thousand of the finest lyrics fron 1900 to 1975. A celebration of our greatest songwriters, a rediscovery of forgotten masters, and an appreciation of an extreaordinary, popular art form.

There are all manner of delights in there, and blues and work-songs (not included) would have required a volume to themselves. But it was curiously difficult to find poems to set beside the free-standing French and German cabaret-type poems.

A lot of the American and British lyrics are song lyrics, their metrics and changes of pace inextricably bound up with, and given emotional body by, the music (not provided here, but of course it’s impossible to shut out one’s aural memories). A lyric like Ira Gershwin’s “Oh, Lady, Be Good” simply goes flat on the cold page. Often, too, what you’ve retained in memory as the song is just the refrain, or refrain units. I’ve lacked the chutzpah, at least for now, to excise here and paste there and construct my own lyrics.

And while there’s delicious melancholy, yearning, nostalgia, regret, there isn’t, for the most part tragedy, failure, poverty, and the general intractability of life. For those you must go to the blues.

The French and German songs, coming literally or figuratively out of a tradition of singers performing to bohemian/proletarian audiences in raffish drinking places, and with an anti-bourgeois bias, could deal with socio-political realities that everyone in the audience was aware of. “Broadway” songs, in contrast, were mostly articulated by characters in musical-comedy plots in which everything, mostly for well-heeled characters, turned out all right in the end. A shared background, too, made it easier in “cabaret” to do narrative, tell coherent stories. Whereas a recurring “Broadway” mode was the list, which had the advantage, among other things, of making it easier to drop or add or otherwise adapt items in performance.

But of course the rhyming verve of Porter and others is to die for, and there are gems of line-clusters throughout, and this is the great storehouse of 20th-century American love poetry.

The totality of the here-and-now feelings no doubt had in it at times something of the homosexual consciousness of an Other that was essentially the same as the self, rather than privately engaged, however tacitly, in scenarios in which wedding rings, and nests, and sweet-smelling babies figured. I wonder, too, how many young couples visiting Paris in the post-war Forties were maybe a little conscious that their own experiencings there were not quite those of “These Foolish Things.”

But oh, what splendour, what enchanting possibilities, what romance. As Scott Fitzgerald knew when he gave us The Great Gatsby, still the greatest twentieth-century American novel. And what muscularity and conviction Sinatra would bring to the enactment of the great songs away from the screen.