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John Milton Hayes

(1884-1940 / Lancashire, England)

Biography of John Milton Hayes

John Milton Hayes poet

John Milton Hayes, better known as J. Milton Hayes, was an English actor and poet, best known for his 1911 dramatic monologue The Green Eye of the Yellow God, much parodied by his contemporary Stanley Holloway and later by The Goon Show. He also wrote and performed many other monologues. Curiously little is known about Hayes, save that he was from the north of England (probably Lancashire) and that he knew Alec Waugh when the two were prisoners of war together in Mainz, Germany in 1918. From the fact that he was accommodated alongside Waugh at Mainz, we may assume that Hayes served as an officer in the First World War. In his book My Brother Evelyn and Other Profiles Waugh describes Hayes as 'A North Country man; he was nearly forty; he was brisk, assured, purposeful, with his eye on the main chance. He was the first person I heard analyse success. He gives Hayes's account of the writing of the poem:

I wrote The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God in five hours, but I had it all planned out. It isn't poetry and it does not pretend to be, but it does what it sets out to do. It appeals to the imagination from the start: those colours, green and yellow, create an atmosphere. Then India, everyone has his own idea of India. Don't tell the public too much. Strike chords. It is no use describing a house; the reader will fix the scene in some spot he knows himself. All you've got to say is 'India' and a man sees something. Then play on his susceptibilities.

His name was Mad Carew. You've got the whole man there. The public will fill in the picture for you. And then the mystery. Leave enough unsaid to make paterfamilias pat himself on the back. 'I've spotted it, he can't fool me. I'm up to that dodge. I know where he went.' No need to explain. Then that final ending where you began. It carries people back. You've got a compact whole. 'A broken-hearted woman tends the grave of Mad Carew' They'll weave a whole story round that woman's life. Every man's a novelist at heart. We all tell ourselves stories. That's what you've got to play on.

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PoemHunter.com Updates

The Whitest Man I Know

HE’S acruisin’ in a pearler with a dirty nigger crew,
Abuyin’ pearls and copra for a stingy Spanish Jew,
And his face is tann’d like leather ’neath a blazin’ tropic Sun,
And he’s workin’ out a penance for the things he hasn’t done.
Round the Solomons he runs, tradin’ beads and castoff guns,
Buyin’ pearls from grinnin’ niggers, loadin copra by the ton;
And he’ll bargain and he’ll smile, but he’s thinkin’ all the while
Of the penance that he’s workin’ out for sins he hasn’t done.

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