by Lyle Lofgren
September 11, 1991

[Note:This poem was inspired by a letter to the New York Times Book Review, 8/18/91, from Robert S. Pirie:
... Napoleon's penis was removed from his body by the surgeons attending his death. The penis eventually came onto the market with other relics from the estate of Abbé Ange Paul Vignale, Napoleon's chaplain on St. Helena, and was offered by the Rosenbach Company in a 1924 catalogue where it was Item #9 -- described as a "mummified tendon taken from Napoleon's body during the post-mortem". The penis then found its way into a prominent New Jersey collection and is now owned by a surgeon at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.]


The doctors attending the world's great man
Asked, "What's the secret of his command?
He led his troops with hand in frock,
He held his crook to guide his flock."

With an urge to save the creative gland,
Like Einstein's brain or Tolstoy's hand,
They didn't want his lungs or heart,
But they took the Napoleon bone apart.

His rod, resected, drained, and dried
Tumesced again when mummified.
The doctors knew they'd found the key
To Napoleon's authority.

On velvet cloth in walnut case,
It moved for years from place to place,
And now belongs (or so it's said)
To a junior surgeon at Columbia Med.

On darkest nights, when the moon has fled,
He holds the totem by its head.
"Incarnately incarnadine,
With a charm like this, I'll soon be dean."

But craftsmen use the proper tool;
Suppose the surgeon is a fool,
And the lever to tip the scholastic scale
Comes from a peasant or working-class male.

Why, then his medical future's dim,
With no procedures named for him.
With magic power running out,
Even his tenure's then in doubt.