In the first taxi he was alone tra-la,
No extras on the clock. He tipped ninepence
But the cabby, while he thanked him, looked askance
As though to suggest someone had bummed a ride.
In the second taxi he was alone tra-la
But the clock showed sixpence extra; he tipped according
And the cabby from out his muffler said: ‘Make sure
You have left nothing behind tra-la between you’.
In the third taxi he was alone tra-la
But the tip-up seats were down
and there was an extra
Charge of one-and-sixpence and an odd
Scent that reminded him of a trip to Cannes.
As for the fourth taxi, he was alone
Tra-la when he hailed it but the cabby looked
Through him and said: ‘I can’t tra-la well take
So many people, not to speak of the dog.’
from The Collected Poems of Louis MacNeice, edited by E.R. Dodds
London: Faber & Faber, 1966.
Paul Muldoon writes:
Though this is the centenary of his birth in 1907, Louis MacNeice has not had anything like the readership in the United States that he’s enjoyed in Britain and Ireland. Even then he’s often been seen as a mere Irishman in Britain, a Britisher in Ireland. “The Taxis” is from his final volume, The Burning Perch, published only a few weeks after his death in 1963. It’s a poem which falls into the category MacNeice himself described as ‘thumbnail nightmare’ and, while it may be traced back partly to the ‘crazy’ poems of Yeats, it’s a poem that has also been deeply influential on successive generations of Northern Irish poets.