By Sir Osbert Lancaster, who was better known as a political cartoonist than a poet, and who died in 1986.
I think these lines evoke, with amazing vividness, a very particular aspect of the Dublin that I remember from my childhood. Especially in the more decrepit areas of the city centre, there was a powerful atmosphere of stagnation and of decayed grandeur. It seemed to me that Dublin was still living on the glory of a dead past; and the fact that it was a recently dead past (let us take the era of Flann O Brien and Patrick Kavanagh as a reasonable date of expiration) only made it seem more deathly, not less. It was a city haunted by stories of revolutionaries and street characters, pubs filled with smokey photographs of literary luminaries who had died before my father was born, and smog-darkened Georgian facades where this inventor or that artist had been born more than a century ago.
The whole atmosphere depressed me as a child, and it's taken me until now (when it exists mostly in memory) to find a certain piquant appeal to it-- now there's an acquired taste for you. I'm astonished that Lancaster (a Sassenach, to boot) managed to capture it so brilliantly. How did he ever think of such a perfect metaphor as "this drained aquarium"?
As far as I know this is the only correct text of the poem on the internet (I copied and pasted it from an Augustinian site which gets the second line wrong-- it is Ctesiphon, not Cresiphon. Ctesiphon is the name of an ancient, ruined city in Iran. Wikipedia told me that.)
I discovered this poem years ago in a book about James Joyce, and it always stuck with me. I hope you like it.
The distant Seychelles are not so remote
Nor Ctesiphon so ultimately dead
As this damp square round which tired echoes float
Of something brilliant that George Moore once said:
Where, still, in pitch-pine snugs pale poets quote
Verses rejected by the Bodley Head.
For in this drained aquarium no breeze
Deposits pollen from more fertile shores
Or kills the smell of long unopened drawers
That clings forever to these dripping trees.
Where Bloom once wandered, gross and ill-at-ease,
Twice-pensioned heroes of forgotten wars
With misplaced confidence demand applause
Shouting stale slogans over the Liffey quays.