And was going to ask Wimpy if he had bought any spinach.
The poem introduces Wimpy, another character from the Popeye series. The Sea Hag wants to ask Wimpy if he bought any spinach. For these characters, spinach is the essential vacation food.
Wimpy is a chubby, jolly man who wears a suit and hat and absolutely loves hamburgers. Popeye's official website, which we're beginning to suspect is a tad tongue-in-cheek, lists Wimpy's birthplace as "a hamburger joint in Ocean Park Pier, Calif." and his weight as "300 hamburgers."
Today, and it shall be as you wish."
Before the Sea Hag can ask her question, Wimpy seems to read her mind. His answer, in roundabout terms, is yes, he did get the darned spinach.
The poem gives us a little cartoon gossip. Are Wimpy and the Sea Hag...an item? If not, why does he call her "M'love"?
Wimpy takes note of the thunder on the "plains" – the flat countryside – and replies, basically, "Your wish is my command."
He scratched The part of his head under his hat. The apartment Seemed to grow smaller. "But what if no pleasant Inspiration plunge us now to the stars? For this is my country."
Hehe. Wimpy's hat makes us laugh. It has the shape of a thimble (check it out here). Wimpy scratches the part of his head under the hat.
On a seemingly unrelated note, the already small apartment seems to get smaller. The tiny apartment contrasts with the large, wide, thunder-filled plains somewhere in the distance.
Speaking of small, the cartoon characters seem to live surprisingly small, average lives. What happened to the explosions, the giant mallets, the people being tied to train tracks? They have been reduced to your average, run-of-the-mill American city dwellers.
Wimpy is a very articulate and well-spoken fellow, but he's also dissatisfied. He puts his discontent into words. He worries that maybe there won't be a "pleasant inspiration" to take him to the "stars." Then he makes a cryptic reference: "For this is my country."
We think Ashbery is quoting a patriotic song from 1940s, "This is My Country". The song goes: "I pledge thee my allegiance, America, the bold,/ For this is my country to have and to hold."
The use of such a patriotic lyric might be a hint from Ashbery that Wimpy's dissatisfaction is a typically American dissatisfaction. Ashbery seems to be saying that Americans have got everything they need – food, housing, good company – but still want something more, some kind of magic to feel inspired.
Come to think of it, cartoons are often associated with a kind of American magic (think: Walt Disney). Hearing a cartoon character worry about being uninspired is ridiculous – and, perhaps, a sign of how plain and boring things have gotten.