SHAPES OF CLAY
AUTHOR OF "IN THE MIDST OF LIFE," "CAN SUCH THINGS BE?" "BLACK BEETLES IN AMBER," AND "FANTASTIC FABLES"
WITH PRIDE IN THEIR WORK, FAITH IN THEIR FUTURE AND AFFECTION FOR THEMSELVES, AN OLD WRITER DEDICATES THIS BOOK TO HIS YOUNG FRIENDS AND PUPILS, GEORGE STERLING AND HERMAN SCHEFFAUER. A.B.
Some small part of this book being personally censorious, and in that part the names of real persons being used without their assent, it seems fit that a few words be said of the matter in sober prose. What it seems well to say I have already said with sufficient clarity in the preface of another book, somewhat allied to this by that feature of its character. I quote from "Black Beetles in Amber:"
"Many of the verses in this book are republished, with considerable alterations, from various newspapers. Of my motives in writing and in now republishing I do not care to make either defence or explanation, except with reference to those who since my first censure of them have passed away. To one having only a reader's interest in the matter it may easily seem that the verses relating to those might properly have been omitted from this collection. But if these pieces, or indeed, if any considerable part of my work in literature, have the intrinsic worth which by this attempt to preserve some of it I have assumed, their permanent suppression is impossible, and it is only a question of when and by whom they will be republished. Some one will surely search them out and put them in circulation.
"I conceive it the right of an author to have his fugitive work collected in his lifetime; and this seems to me especially true of one whose work, necessarily engendering animosities, is peculiarly exposed to challenge as unjust. That is a charge that can best be examined before time has effaced the evidence. For the death of a man of whom I have written what I may venture to think worthy to live I am no way responsible; and however sincerely I may regret it, I can hardly consent that it shall affect my literary fortunes. If the satirist who does not accept the remarkable doctrine that, while condemning the sin he should spare the sinner, were bound to let the life of his work be coterminous with that of his subject his were a lot of peculiar hardship.
"Persuaded of the validity of all this I have not hesitated to reprint even certain 'epitaphs' which, once of the living, are now of the dead, as all the others must eventually be. The objection inheres in all forms of applied satire—my understanding of whose laws and liberties is at least derived from reverent study of the masters. That in respect of matters herein mentioned I have but followed their practice can be shown by abundant instance and example."
In arranging these verses for publication I have thought it needless to classify them according to character, as "Serious," "Comic," "Sentimental," "Satirical," and so forth. I do the reader the honor to think that he will readily discern the nature of what he is reading; and I entertain the hope that his mood will accommodate itself without disappointment to that of his author.
THE PASSING SHOW ELIXIR VITAE CONVALESCENT AT THE CLOSE OF THE CANVASS NOVUM ORGANUM GEOTHEOS YORICK A VISION OF DOOM POLITICS POESY IN DEFENSE AN INVOCATION RELIGION A MORNING FANCY VISIONS OF SIN THE TOWN OF DAE AN ANARCHIST AN OFFER OF MARRIAGE ARMA VIRUMQUE ON A PROPOSED CREMATORY A DEMAND THE WEATHER WIGHT T.A.H. MY MONUMENT MAD HOSPITALITY FOR A CERTAIN CRITIC RELIGIOUS PROGRESS MAGNANIMITY TO HER TO A SUMMER POET ARTHUR MCEWEN CHARLES AND PETER CONTEMPLATION CREATION BUSINESS A POSSIBILITY TO A CENSOR THE HESITATING VETERAN A YEAR'S CASUALTIES INSPIRATION TO-DAY AN ALIBI REBUKE J.F.B. THE DYING STATESMAN THE DEATH OF GRANT THE FOUNTAIN REFILLED LAUS LUCIS NANINE TECHNOLOGY A REPLY TO A LETTER TO OSCAR WILDE PRAYER A "BORN LEADER OF MEN" TO THE BARTHOLDI STATUE AN UNMERRY CHRISTMAS BY A DEFEATED LITIGANT AN EPITAPH THE POLITICIAN AN INSCRIPTION FROM VIRGINIA TO PARIS A "MUTE INGLORIOUS MILTON" THE FREE TRADER'S LAMENT SUBTERRANEAN PHANTASIES IN MEMORIAM THE STATESMEN THE BROTHERS THE CYNIC'S BEQUEST CORRECTED NEWS AN EXPLANATION JUSTICE MR. FINK'S DEBATING DONKEY TO MY LAUNDRESS FAME OMNES VANITAS ASPIRATION DEMOCRACY THE NEW "ULALUME" CONSOLATION FATE PHILOSOPHER BIMM REMINDED SALVINI IN AMERICA ANOTHER WAY ART AN ENEMY TO LAW AND ORDER TO ONE ACROSS THE WAY THE DEBTOR ABROAD FORESIGHT A FAIR DIVISION GENESIS LIBERTY THE PASSING OF "BOSS" SHEPHERD TO MAUDE THE BIRTH OF VIRTUE STONEMAN IN HEAVEN THE SCURRIL PRESS STANLEY ONE OF THE UNFAIR SEX THE LORD'S PRAYER ON A COIN A LACKING FACTOR THE ROYAL JESTER A CAREER IN LETTERS THE FOLLOWING PAIR POLITICAL ECONOMY VANISHED AT COCK-CROW THE UNPARDONABLE SIN INDUSTRIAL DISCONTENT TEMPORA MUTANTUR CONTENTMENT THE NEW ENOCH DISAVOWAL AN AVERAGE WOMAN INCURABLE THE PUN A PARTISAN'S PROTEST TO NANINE VICE VERSA A BLACK-LIST A BEQUEST TO MUSIC AUTHORITY THE PSORIAD ONEIROMANCY PEACE THANKSGIVING L'AUDACE THE GOD'S VIEW-POINT THE AESTHETES JULY FOURTH WITH MINE OWN PETARD CONSTANCY SIRES AND SONS A CHALLENGE TWO SHOWS A POET'S HOPE THE WOMAN AND THE DEVIL TWO ROGUES BEECHER NOT GUILTY PRESENTIMENT A STUDY IN GRAY A PARADOX FOR MERIT A BIT OF SCIENCE THE TABLES TURNED TO A DEJECTED POET A FOOL THE HUMORIST MONTEFIORE A WARNING DISCRETION AN EXILE THE DIVISION SUPERINTENDENT PSYCHOGRAPHS TO A PROFESSIONAL EULOGIST FOR WOUNDS ELECTION DAY THE MILITIAMAN A LITERARY METHOD A WELCOME A SERENADE THE WISE AND GOOD THE LOST COLONEL FOR TAT A DILEMMA METEMPSYCHOSIS THE SAINT AND THE MONK THE OPPOSING SEX A WHIPPER-IN JUDGMENT THE FALL OF MISS LARKIN IN HIGH LIFE A BUBBLE A RENDEZVOUS FRANCINE AN EXAMPLE REVENGE THE GENESIS OF EMBARRASSMENT IN CONTUMACIAM RE-EDIFIED A BULLETIN FROM THE MINUTES WOMAN IN POLITICS TO AN ASPIRANT A BALLAD OF PIKEVILLE A BUILDER AN AUGURY LUSUS POLITICUS BEREAVEMENT AN INSCRIPTION A PICKBRAIN CONVALESCENT THE NAVAL CONSTRUCTOR DETECTED BIMETALISM THE RICH TESTATOR TWO METHODS FOUNDATIONS OF THE STATE IN IMPOSTER UNEXPOUNDED FRANCE THE EASTERN QUESTION A GUEST A FALSE PROPHECY TWO TYPES SOME ANTE-MORTEM EPITAPHS A HYMN OF THE MANY ONE MORNING AN ERROR AT THE "NATIONAL ENCAMPMENT" THE KING OF BORES HISTORY THE HERMIT TO A CRITIC OF TENNYSON THE YEARLY LIE CO-OPERATION AN APOLOGUE DIAGNOSIS FALLEN DIES IRAE THE DAY OF WRATH ONE MOOD'S EXPRESSION SOMETHING IN THE PAPERS IN THE BINNACLE HUMILITY ONE PRESIDENT THE BRIDE STRAINED RELATIONS THE MAN BORN BLIND A NIGHTMARE A WET SEASON THE CONFEDERATE FLAGS HAEC FARULA DOCET EXONERATION AZRAEL AGAIN HOMO PODUNKENSIS A SOCIAL CALL
SHAPES OF CLAY
THE PASSING SHOW.
I know not if it was a dream. I viewed A city where the restless multitude, Between the eastern and the western deep Had roared gigantic fabrics, strong and rude.
Colossal palaces crowned every height; Towers from valleys climbed into the light; O'er dwellings at their feet, great golden domes Hung in the blue, barbarically bright.
But now, new-glimmering to-east, the day Touched the black masses with a grace of gray, Dim spires of temples to the nation's God Studding high spaces of the wide survey.
Well did the roofs their solemn secret keep Of life and death stayed by the truce of sleep, Yet whispered of an hour-when sleepers wake, The fool to hope afresh, the wise to weep.
The gardens greened upon the builded hills Above the tethered thunders of the mills With sleeping wheels unstirred to service yet By the tamed torrents and the quickened rills.
A hewn acclivity, reprieved a space, Looked on the builder's blocks about his base And bared his wounded breast in sign to say: "Strike! 't is my destiny to lodge your race.
"'T was but a breath ago the mammoth browsed Upon my slopes, and in my caves I housed Your shaggy fathers in their nakedness, While on their foeman's offal they caroused."
Ships from afar afforested the bay. Within their huge and chambered bodies lay The wealth of continents; and merrily sailed The hardy argosies to far Cathay.
Beside the city of the living spread— Strange fellowship!—the city of the dead; And much I wondered what its humble folk, To see how bravely they were housed, had said.
Noting how firm their habitations stood, Broad-based and free of perishable wood— How deep in granite and how high in brass The names were wrought of eminent and good,
I said: "When gold or power is their aim, The smile of beauty or the wage of shame, Men dwell in cities; to this place they fare When they would conquer an abiding fame."
From the red East the sun—a solemn rite— Crowned with a flame the cross upon a height Above the dead; and then with all his strength Struck the great city all aroar with light!
I know not if it was a dream. I came Unto a land where something seemed the same That I had known as 't were but yesterday, But what it was I could not rightly name.
It was a strange and melancholy land. Silent and desolate. On either hand Lay waters of a sea that seemed as dead, And dead above it seemed the hills to stand,
Grayed all with age, those lonely hills—ah me, How worn and weary they appeared to be! Between their feet long dusty fissures clove The plain in aimless windings to the sea.
One hill there was which, parted from the rest, Stood where the eastern water curved a-west. Silent and passionless it stood. I thought I saw a scar upon its giant breast.
The sun with sullen and portentous gleam Hung like a menace on the sea's extreme; Nor the dead waters, nor the far, bleak bars Of cloud were conscious of his failing beam.
It was a dismal and a dreadful sight, That desert in its cold, uncanny light; No soul but I alone to mark the fear And imminence of everlasting night!
All presages and prophecies of doom Glimmered and babbled in the ghastly gloom, And in the midst of that accursed scene A wolf sat howling on a broken tomb.
Of life's elixir I had writ, when sleep (Pray Heaven it spared him who the writing read!) Sealed upon my senses with so deep A stupefaction that men thought me dead. The centuries stole by with noiseless tread, Like spectres in the twilight of my dream; I saw mankind in dim procession sweep Through life, oblivion at each extreme. Meanwhile my beard, like Barbarossa's growing, Loaded my lap and o'er my knees was flowing.
The generations came with dance and song, And each observed me curiously there. Some asked: "Who was he?" Others in the throng Replied: "A wicked monk who slept at prayer." Some said I was a saint, and some a bear— These all were women. So the young and gay, Visibly wrinkling as they fared along, Doddered at last on failing limbs away; Though some, their footing in my beard entangled, Fell into its abysses and were strangled.
At last a generation came that walked More slowly forward to the common tomb, Then altogether stopped. The women talked Excitedly; the men, with eyes agloom Looked darkly on them with a look of doom; And one cried out: "We are immortal now— How need we these?" And a dread figure stalked, Silent, with gleaming axe and shrouded brow, And all men cried: "Decapitate the women, Or soon there'll be no room to stand or swim in!"
So (in my dream) each lovely head was chopped From its fair shoulders, and but men alone Were left in all the world. Birth being stopped, Enough of room remained in every zone, And Peace ascended Woman's vacant throne. Thus, life's elixir being found (the quacks Their bread-and-butter in it gladly sopped) 'Twas made worth having by the headsman's axe. Seeing which, I gave myself a hearty shaking, And crumbled all to powder in the waking.
What! "Out of danger?" Can the slighted Dame Or canting Pharisee no more defame? Will Treachery caress my hand no more, Nor Hatred He alurk about my door?— Ingratitude, with benefits dismissed, Not close the loaded palm to make a fist? Will Envy henceforth not retaliate For virtues it were vain to emulate? Will Ignorance my knowledge fail to scout, Not understanding what 'tis all about, Yet feeling in its light so mean and small That all his little soul is turned to gall?
What! "Out of danger?" Jealousy disarmed? Greed from exaction magically charmed? Ambition stayed from trampling whom it meets, Like horses fugitive in crowded streets? The Bigot, with his candle, book and bell, Tongue-tied, unlunged and paralyzed as well? The Critic righteously to justice haled, His own ear to the post securely nailed— What most he dreads unable to inflict, And powerless to hawk the faults he's picked? The liar choked upon his choicest lie, And impotent alike to villify Or flatter for the gold of thrifty men Who hate his person but employ his pen— Who love and loathe, respectively, the dirt Belonging to his character and shirt?
What! "Out of danger?"—Nature's minions all, Like hounds returning to the huntsman's call, Obedient to the unwelcome note That stays them from the quarry's bursting throat?— Famine and Pestilence and Earthquake dire, Torrent and Tempest, Lightning, Frost and Fire, The soulless Tiger and the mindless Snake, The noxious Insect from the stagnant lake (Automaton malevolences wrought Out of the substance of Creative Thought)— These from their immemorial prey restrained, Their fury baffled and their power chained?
I'm safe? Is that what the physician said? What! "Out of danger?" Then, by Heaven, I'm dead!
AT THE CLOSE OF THE CANVASS.
'Twas a Venerable Person, whom I met one Sunday morning, All appareled as a prophet of a melancholy sect; And in a jeremaid of objurgatory warning He lifted up his jodel to the following effect:
O ye sanguinary statesmen, intermit your verbal tussles O ye editors and orators, consent to hear my lay! And a little while the digital and maxillary muscles And attend to what a Venerable Person has to say.
Cease your writing, cease your shouting, cease your wild unearthly lying; Cease to bandy such expressions as are never, never found In the letter of a lover; cease "exposing" and "replying"— Let there be abated fury and a decrement of sound.
For to-morrow will be Monday and the fifth day of November— Only day of opportunity before the final rush. Carpe diem! go conciliate each person who's a member Of the other party—do it while you can without a blush.
"Lo! the time is close upon you when the madness of the season Having howled itself to silence, like a Minnesota 'clone, Will at last be superseded by the still, small voice of reason, When the whelpage of your folly you would willingly disown.
"Ah, 'tis mournful to consider what remorses will be thronging, With a consciousness of having been so ghastly indiscreet, When by accident untoward two ex-gentlemen belonging To the opposite political denominations meet!
"Yes, 'tis melancholy, truly, to forecast the fierce, unruly Supersurging of their blushes, like the flushes upon high When Aurora Borealis lights her circumpolar palace And in customary manner sets her banner in the sky.
"Each will think: 'This falsifier knows that I too am a liar. Curse him for a son of Satan, all unholily compound! Curse my leader for another! Curse that pelican, my mother! Would to God that I when little in my victual had been drowned!'"
Then that Venerable Person went away without returning And, the madness of the season having also taken flight, All the people soon were blushing like the skies to crimson burning When Aurora Borealis fires her premises by night.
In Bacon see the culminating prime Of Anglo-Saxon intellect and crime. He dies and Nature, settling his affairs, Parts his endowments among us, his heirs: To every one a pinch of brain for seed, And, to develop it, a pinch of greed. Each thrifty heir, to make the gift suffice, Buries the talent to manure the vice.
As sweet as the look of a lover Saluting the eyes of a maid, That blossom to blue as the maid Is ablush to the glances above her, The sunshine is gilding the glade And lifting the lark out of shade.
Sing therefore high praises, and therefore Sing songs that are ancient as gold, Of Earth in her garments of gold; Nor ask of their meaning, nor wherefore They charm as of yore, for behold! The Earth is as fair as of old.
Sing songs of the pride of the mountains, And songs of the strength of the seas, And the fountains that fall to the seas From the hands of the hills, and the fountains That shine in the temples of trees, In valleys of roses and bees.
Sing songs that are dreamy and tender, Of slender Arabian palms, And shadows that circle the palms, Where caravans, veiled from the splendor, Are kneeling in blossoms and balms, In islands of infinite calms.
Barbaric, O Man, was thy runing When mountains were stained as with wine By the dawning of Time, and as wine Were the seas, yet its echoes are crooning, Achant in the gusty pine And the pulse of the poet's line.
Hard by an excavated street one sat In solitary session on the sand; And ever and anon he spake and spat And spake again—a yellow skull in hand, To which that retrospective Pioneer Addressed the few remarks that follow here:
"Who are you? Did you come 'der blains agross,' Or 'Horn aroundt'? In days o' '49 Did them thar eye-holes see the Southern Cross From the Antarctic Sea git up an' shine? Or did you drive a bull team 'all the way From Pike,' with Mr. Joseph Bowers?—say!
"Was you in Frisco when the water came Up to Montgum'ry street? and do you mind The time when Peters run the faro game— Jim Peters from old Mississip—behind Wells Fargo's, where he subsequent was bust By Sandy, as regards both bank and crust?
"I wonder was you here when Casey shot James King o' William? And did you attend The neck-tie dance ensuin'? I did not, But j'ined the rush to Go Creek with my friend Ed'ard McGowan; for we was resolved In sech diversions not to be involved.
"Maybe I knowed you; seems to me I've seed Your face afore. I don't forget a face, But names I disremember—I'm that breed Of owls. I'm talking some'at into space An' maybe my remarks is too derned free, Seein' yer name is unbeknown to me.
"Ther' was a time, I reckon, when I knowed Nigh onto every dern galoot in town. That was as late as '50. Now she's growed Surprisin'! Yes, me an' my pardner, Brown, Was wide acquainted. If ther' was a cuss We didn't know, the cause was—he knowed us.
"Maybe you had that claim adjoinin' mine Up thar in Calaveras. Was it you To which Long Mary took a mighty shine, An' throwed squar' off on Jake the Kangaroo? I guess if she could see ye now she'd take Her chance o' happiness along o' Jake.
"You ain't so purty now as you was then: Yer eyes is nothin' but two prospect holes, An' women which are hitched to better men Would hardly for sech glances damn their souls, As Lengthie did. By G——! I hope it's you, For" (kicks the skull) "I'm Jake the Kangaroo."
A VISION OF DOOM.
I stood upon a hill. The setting sun Was crimson with a curse and a portent, And scarce his angry ray lit up the land That lay below, whose lurid gloom appeared Freaked with a moving mist, which, reeking up From dim tarns hateful with some horrid ban, Took shapes forbidden and without a name. Gigantic night-birds, rising from the reeds With cries discordant, startled all the air, And bodiless voices babbled in the gloom— The ghosts of blasphemies long ages stilled, And shrieks of women, and men's curses. All These visible shapes, and sounds no mortal ear Had ever heard, some spiritual sense Interpreted, though brokenly; for I Was haunted by a consciousness of crime, Some giant guilt, but whose I knew not. All These things malign, by sight and sound revealed, Were sin-begotten; that I knew—no more— And that but dimly, as in dreadful dreams The sleepy senses babble to the brain Imperfect witness. As I stood a voice, But whence it came I knew not, cried aloud Some words to me in a forgotten tongue, Yet straight I knew me for a ghost forlorn, Returned from the illimited inane. Again, but in a language that I knew, As in reply to something which in me Had shaped itself a thought, but found no words, It spake from the dread mystery about: "Immortal shadow of a mortal soul That perished with eternity, attend. What thou beholdest is as void as thou: The shadow of a poet's dream—himself As thou, his soul as thine, long dead, But not like thine outlasted by its shade. His dreams alone survive eternity As pictures in the unsubstantial void. Excepting thee and me (and we because The poet wove us in his thought) remains Of nature and the universe no part Or vestige but the poet's dreams. This dread, Unspeakable land about thy feet, with all Its desolation and its terrors—lo! 'T is but a phantom world. So long ago That God and all the angels since have died That poet lived—yourself long dead—his mind Filled with the light of a prophetic fire, And standing by the Western sea, above The youngest, fairest city in the world, Named in another tongue than his for one Ensainted, saw its populous domain Plague-smitten with a nameless shame. For there Red-handed murder rioted; and there The people gathered gold, nor cared to loose The assassin's fingers from the victim's throat, But said, each in his vile pursuit engrossed: 'Am I my brother's keeper? Let the Law Look to the matter.' But the Law did not. And there, O pitiful! the babe was slain Within its mother's breast and the same grave Held babe and mother; and the people smiled, Still gathering gold, and said: 'The Law, the Law,' Then the great poet, touched upon the lips With a live coal from Truth's high altar, raised His arms to heaven and sang a song of doom— Sang of the time to be, when God should lean Indignant from the Throne and lift his hand, And that foul city be no more!—a tale, A dream, a desolation and a curse! No vestige of its glory should survive In fact or memory: its people dead, Its site forgotten, and its very name Disputed."
"Was the prophecy fulfilled?" The sullen disc of the declining sun Was crimson with a curse and a portent, And scarce his angry ray lit up the land That lay below, whose lurid gloom appeared Freaked with a moving mist, which, reeking up From dim tarns hateful with a horrid ban, Took shapes forbidden and without a name. Gigantic night-birds, rising from the reeds With cries discordant, startled all the air, And bodiless voices babbled in the gloom. But not to me came any voice again; And, covering my face with thin, dead hands, I wept, and woke, and cried aloud to God!
That land full surely hastens to its end Where public sycophants in homage bend The populace to flatter, and repeat The doubled echoes of its loud conceit. Lowly their attitude but high their aim, They creep to eminence through paths of shame, Till fixed securely in the seats of pow'r, The dupes they flattered they at last devour.
Successive bards pursue Ambition's fire That shines, Oblivion, above thy mire. The latest mounts his predecessor's trunk, And sinks his brother ere himself is sunk. So die ingloriously Fame's elite, But dams of dunces keep the line complete.
You may say, if you please, Johnny Bull, that our girls Are crazy to marry your dukes and your earls; But I've heard that the maids of your own little isle Greet bachelor lords with a favoring smile.
Nay, titles, 'tis said in defense of our fair, Are popular here because popular there; And for them our ladies persistently go Because 'tis exceedingly English, you know.
Whatever the motive, you'll have to confess The effort's attended with easy success; And—pardon the freedom—'tis thought, over here, 'Tis mortification you mask with a sneer.
It's all very well, sir, your scorn to parade Of the high nasal twang of the Yankee maid, But, ah, to my lord when he dares to propose No sound is so sweet as that "Yes" from the nose.
Our ladies, we grant, walk alone in the street (Observe, by-the-by, on what delicate feet!) 'Tis a habit they got here at home, where they say The men from politeness go seldom astray.
Ah, well, if the dukes and the earls and that lot Can stand it (God succor them if they cannot!) Your commoners ought to assent, I am sure, And what they 're not called on to suffer, endure.
"'Tis nothing but money?" "Your nobles are bought?" As to that, I submit, it is commonly thought That England's a country not specially free Of Croesi and (if you'll allow it) Croesae.
You've many a widow and many a girl With money to purchase a duke or an earl. 'Tis a very remarkable thing, you'll agree, When goods import buyers from over the sea.
Alas for the woman of Albion's isle! She may simper; as well as she can she may smile; She may wear pantalettes and an air of repose— But my lord of the future will talk through his nose.
[Read at the Celebration of Independence Day in San Francisco, in 1888.]
Goddess of Liberty! O thou Whose tearless eyes behold the chain, And look unmoved upon the slain, Eternal peace upon thy brow,—
Before thy shrine the races press, Thy perfect favor to implore— The proudest tyrant asks no more, The ironed anarchist no less.
Thine altar-coals that touch the lips Of prophets kindle, too, the brand By Discord flung with wanton hand Among the houses and the ships.
Upon thy tranquil front the star Burns bleak and passionless and white, Its cold inclemency of light More dreadful than the shadows are.
Thy name we do not here invoke Our civic rites to sanctify: Enthroned in thy remoter sky, Thou heedest not our broken yoke.
Thou carest not for such as we: Our millions die to serve the still And secret purpose of thy will. They perish—what is that to thee?
The light that fills the patriot's tomb Is not of thee. The shining crown Compassionately offered down To those who falter in the gloom,
And fall, and call upon thy name, And die desiring—'tis the sign Of a diviner love than thine, Rewarding with a richer fame.
To him alone let freemen cry Who hears alike the victor's shout, The song of faith, the moan of doubt, And bends him from his nearer sky.
God of my country and my race! So greater than the gods of old— So fairer than the prophets told Who dimly saw and feared thy face,—
Who didst but half reveal thy will And gracious ends to their desire, Behind the dawn's advancing fire Thy tender day-beam veiling still,—
To whom the unceasing suns belong, And cause is one with consequence,— To whose divine, inclusive sense The moan is blended with the song,—
Whose laws, imperfect and unjust, Thy just and perfect purpose serve: The needle, howsoe'er it swerve, Still warranting the sailor's trust,—
God, lift thy hand and make us free To crown the work thou hast designed. O, strike away the chains that bind Our souls to one idolatry!
The liberty thy love hath given We thank thee for. We thank thee for Our great dead fathers' holy war Wherein our manacles were riven.
We thank thee for the stronger stroke Ourselves delivered and incurred When—thine incitement half unheard— The chains we riveted we broke.
We thank thee that beyond the sea The people, growing ever wise, Turn to the west their serious eyes And dumbly strive to be as we.
As when the sun's returning flame Upon the Nileside statue shone, And struck from the enchanted stone The music of a mighty fame,
Let Man salute the rising day Of Liberty, but not adore. 'Tis Opportunity—no more— A useful, not a sacred, ray.
It bringeth good, it bringeth ill, As he possessing shall elect. He maketh it of none effect Who walketh not within thy will.
Give thou or more or less, as we Shall serve the right or serve the wrong. Confirm our freedom but so long As we are worthy to be free.
But when (O, distant be the time!) Majorities in passion draw Insurgent swords to murder Law, And all the land is red with crime;
Or—nearer menace!—when the band Of feeble spirits cringe and plead To the gigantic strength of Greed, And fawn upon his iron hand;—
Nay, when the steps to state are worn In hollows by the feet of thieves, And Mammon sits among the sheaves And chuckles while the reapers mourn;
Then stay thy miracle!—replace The broken throne, repair the chain, Restore the interrupted reign And veil again thy patient face.
Lo! here upon the world's extreme We stand with lifted arms and dare By thine eternal name to swear Our country, which so fair we deem—
Upon whose hills, a bannered throng, The spirits of the sun display Their flashing lances day by day And hear the sea's pacific song—
Shall be so ruled in right and grace That men shall say: "O, drive afield The lawless eagle from the shield, And call an angel to the place!"
Hassan Bedreddin, clad in rags, ill-shod, Sought the great temple of the living God. The worshippers arose and drove him forth, And one in power beat him with a rod.
"Allah," he cried, "thou seest what I got; Thy servants bar me from the sacred spot." "Be comforted," the Holy One replied; "It is the only place where I am not."
A MORNING FANCY.
I drifted (or I seemed to) in a boat Upon the surface of a shoreless sea Whereon no ship nor anything did float, Save only the frail bark supporting me; And that—it was so shadowy—seemed to be Almost from out the very vapors wrought Of the great ocean underneath its keel; And all that blue profound appeared as naught But thicker sky, translucent to reveal, Miles down, whatever through its spaces glided, Or at the bottom traveled or abided.
Great cities there I saw—of rich and poor, The palace and the hovel; mountains, vales, Forest and field, the desert and the moor, Tombs of the good and wise who'd lived in jails, And seas of denser fluid, white with sails Pushed at by currents moving here and there And sensible to sight above the flat Of that opaquer deep. Ah, strange and fair The nether world that I was gazing at With beating heart from that exalted level, And—lest I founder—trembling like the devil!
The cities all were populous: men swarmed In public places—chattered, laughed and wept; And savages their shining bodies warmed At fires in primal woods. The wild beast leapt Upon its prey and slew it as it slept. Armies went forth to battle on the plain So far, far down in that unfathomed deep The living seemed as silent as the slain, Nor even the widows could be heard to weep. One might have thought their shaking was but laughter; And, truly, most were married shortly after.
Above the wreckage of that silent fray Strange fishes swam in circles, round and round— Black, double-finned; and once a little way A bubble rose and burst without a sound And a man tumbled out upon the ground. Lord! 'twas an eerie thing to drift apace On that pellucid sea, beneath black skies And o'er the heads of an undrowning race; And when I woke I said—to her surprise Who came with chocolate, for me to drink it: "The atmosphere is deeper than you think it."
VISIONS OF SIN.
KRASLAJORSK, SIBERIA, March 29.
"My eyes are better, and I shall travel slowly toward home." DANENHOWER.
From the regions of the Night, Coming with recovered sight— From the spell of darkness free, What will Danenhower see?
He will see when he arrives, Doctors taking human lives. He will see a learned judge Whose decision will not budge Till both litigants are fleeced And his palm is duly greased. Lawyers he will see who fight Day by day and night by night; Never both upon a side, Though their fees they still divide. Preachers he will see who teach That it is divine to preach— That they fan a sacred fire And are worthy of their hire. He will see a trusted wife
(Pride of some good husband's life) Enter at a certain door And—but he will see no more. He will see Good Templars reel— See a prosecutor steal, And a father beat his child. He'll perhaps see Oscar Wilde.
From the regions of the Night Coming with recovered sight— From the bliss of blindness free, That's what Danenhower'll see.
THE TOWN OF DAE.
Swains and maidens, young and old, You to me this tale have told.
Where the squalid town of Dae Irks the comfortable sea, Spreading webs to gather fish, As for wealth we set a wish, Dwelt a king by right divine, Sprung from Adam's royal line, Town of Dae by the sea, Divers kinds of kings there be.
Name nor fame had Picklepip: Ne'er a soldier nor a ship Bore his banners in the sun; Naught knew he of kingly sport, And he held his royal court Under an inverted tun. Love and roses, ages through, Bloom where cot and trellis stand; Never yet these blossoms grew— Never yet was room for two— In a cask upon the strand.
So it happened, as it ought, That his simple schemes he wrought Through the lagging summer's day In a solitary way. So it happened, as was best, That he took his nightly rest With no dreadful incubus This way eyed and that way tressed, Featured thus, and thus, and thus, Lying lead-like on a breast By cares of State enough oppressed. Yet in dreams his fancies rude Claimed a lordly latitude. Town of Dae by the sea, Dreamers mate above their state And waken back to their degree.
Once to cask himself away He prepared at close of day. As he tugged with swelling throat At a most unkingly coat— Not to get it off, but on, For the serving sun was gone— Passed a silk-appareled sprite Toward her castle on the height, Seized and set the garment right. Turned the startled Picklepip— Splendid crimson cheek and lip! Turned again to sneak away,
But she bade the villain stay, Bade him thank her, which he did With a speech that slipped and slid, Sprawled and stumbled in its gait As a dancer tries to skate. Town of Dae by the sea, In the face of silk and lace Rags too bold should never be.
Lady Minnow cocked her head: "Mister Picklepip," she said, "Do you ever think to wed?" Town of Dae by the sea, No fair lady ever made a Wicked speech like that to me!
Wretched little Picklepip Said he hadn't any ship, Any flocks at his command, Nor to feed them any land; Said he never in his life Owned a mine to keep a wife. But the guilty stammer so That his meaning wouldn't flow; So he thought his aim to reach By some figurative speech: Said his Fate had been unkind Had pursued him from behind (How the mischief could it else?)
Came upon him unaware, Caught him by the collar—there Gushed the little lady's glee Like a gush of golden bells: "Picklepip, why, that is me!" Town of Dae by the sea, Grammar's for great scholars—she Loved the summer and the lea.
Stupid little Picklepip Allowed the subtle hint to slip— Maundered on about the ship That he did not chance to own; Told this grievance o'er and o'er, Knowing that she knew before; Told her how he dwelt alone. Lady Minnow, for reply, Cut him off with "So do I!" But she reddened at the fib; Servitors had she, ad lib. Town of Dae by the sea, In her youth who speaks no truth Ne'er shall young and honest be.
Witless little Picklepip Manned again his mental ship And veered her with a sudden shift. Painted to the lady's thought How he wrestled and he wrought
Stoutly with the swimming drift By the kindly river brought From the mountain to the sea, Fuel for the town of Dae. Tedious tale for lady's ear: From her castle on the height, She had watched her water-knight Through the seasons of a year, Challenge more than met his view And conquer better than he knew. Now she shook her pretty pate And stamped her foot—'t was growing late: "Mister Picklepip, when I Drifting seaward pass you by; When the waves my forehead kiss And my tresses float above— Dead and drowned for lack of love— You'll be sorry, sir, for this!" And the silly creature cried— Feared, perchance, the rising tide. Town of Dae by the sea, Madam Adam, when she had 'em, May have been as bad as she.
Fiat lux! Love's lumination Fell in floods of revelation! Blinded brain by world aglare, Sense of pulses in the air,
Sense of swooning and the beating Of a voice somewhere repeating Something indistinctly heard! And the soul of Picklepip Sprang upon his trembling lip, But he spake no further word Of the wealth he did not own; In that moment had outgrown Ship and mine and flock and land— Even his cask upon the strand. Dropped a stricken star to earth, Type of wealth and worldly worth. Clomb the moon into the sky, Type of love's immensity! Shaking silver seemed the sea, Throne of God the town of Dae! Town of Dae by the sea, From above there cometh love, Blessing all good souls that be.
False to his art and to the high command God laid upon him, Markham's rebel hand Beats all in vain the harp he touched before: It yields a jingle and it yields no more. No more the strings beneath his finger-tips Sing harmonies divine. No more his lips, Touched with a living coal from sacred fires, Lead the sweet chorus of the golden wires. The voice is raucous and the phrases squeak; They labor, they complain, they sweat, they reek! The more the wayward, disobedient song Errs from the right to celebrate the wrong, More diligently still the singer strums, To drown the horrid sound, with all his thumbs. Gods, what a spectacle! The angels lean Out of high Heaven to view the sorry scene, And Israfel, "whose heart-strings are a lute," Though now compassion makes their music mute, Among the weeping company appears, Pearls in his eyes and cotton in his ears.
AN OFFER OF MARRIAGE.
Once I "dipt into the future far as human eye could see," And saw—it was not Sandow, nor John Sullivan, but she— The Emancipated Woman, who was weeping as she ran Here and there for the discovery of Expurgated Man. But the sun of Evolution ever rose and ever set, And that tardiest of mortals hadn't evoluted yet. Hence the tears that she cascaded, hence the sighs that tore apart All the tendinous connections of her indurated heart. Cried Emancipated Woman, as she wearied of the search: "In Advancing I have left myself distinctly in the lurch! Seeking still a worthy partner, from the land of brutes and dudes I have penetrated rashly into manless solitudes. Now without a mate of any kind where am I?—that's to say, Where shall I be to-morrow?—where exert my rightful sway And the purifying strength of my emancipated mind? Can solitude be lifted up, vacuity refined? Calling, calling from the shadows in the rear of my Advance— From the Region of Unprogress in the Dark Domain of Chance— Long I heard the Unevolvable beseeching my return To share the degradation he's reluctant to unlearn. But I fancy I detected—though I pray it wasn't that— A low reverberation, like an echo in a hat. So I've held my way regardless, evoluting year by year, Till I'm what you now behold me—or would if you were here— A condensed Emancipation and a Purifier proud An Independent Entity appropriately loud! Independent? Yes, in spirit, but (O, woful, woful state!) Doomed to premature extinction by privation of a mate— To extinction or reversion, for Unexpurgated Man Still awaits me in the backward if I sicken of the van. O the horrible dilemma!—to be odiously linked With an Undeveloped Species, or become a Type Extinct!"
As Emancipated Woman wailed her sorrow to the air, Stalking out of desolation came a being strange and rare— Plato's Man!—bipedal, featherless from mandible to rump, Its wings two quilless flippers and its tail a plumeless stump. First it scratched and then it clucked, as if in hospitable terms It invited her to banquet on imaginary worms. Then it strutted up before her with a lifting of the head, And in accents of affection and of sympathy it said: "My estate is some 'at 'umble, but I'm qualified to draw Near the hymeneal altar and whack up my heart and claw To Emancipated Anything as walks upon the earth; And them things is at your service for whatever they are worth. I'm sure to be congenial, marm, nor e'er deserve a scowl— I'm Emancipated Rooster, I am Expurgated Fowl!"
From the future and its wonders I withdrew my gaze, and then Wrote this wild unfestive prophecy about the Coming Hen.
"Ours is a Christian Army"; so he said A regiment of bangomen who led. "And ours a Christian Navy," added he Who sailed a thunder-junk upon the sea. Better they know than men unwarlike do What is an army and a navy, too. Pray God there may be sent them by-and-by The knowledge what a Christian is, and why. For somewhat lamely the conception runs Of a brass-buttoned Jesus firing guns.
ON A PROPOSED CREMATORY.
When a fair bridge is builded o'er the gulf Between two cities, some ambitious fool, Hot for distinction, pleads for earliest leave To push his clumsy feet upon the span, That men in after years may single him, Saying: "Behold the fool who first went o'er!" So be it when, as now the promise is, Next summer sees the edifice complete Which some do name a crematorium, Within the vantage of whose greater maw's Quicker digestion we shall cheat the worm And circumvent the handed mole who loves, With tunnel, adit, drift and roomy stope, To mine our mortal parts in all their dips And spurs and angles. Let the fool stand forth To link his name with this fair enterprise, As first decarcassed by the flame. And if With rival greedings for the fiery fame They push in clamoring multitudes, or if With unaccustomed modesty they all Hold off, being something loth to qualify, Let me select the fittest for the rite. By heaven! I'll make so warrantable, wise And excellent censure of their true deserts, And such a searching canvass of their claims, That none shall bait the ballot. I'll spread my choice Upon the main and general of those Who, moved of holy impulse, pulpit-born, Protested 'twere a sacrilege to burn God's gracious images, designed to rot, And bellowed for the right of way for each Distempered carrion through the water pipes. With such a sturdy, boisterous exclaim They did discharge themselves from their own throats Against the splintered gates of audience 'Twere wholesomer to take them in at mouth Than ear. These shall burn first: their ignible And seasoned substances—trunks, legs and arms, Blent indistinguishable in a mass, Like winter-woven serpents in a pit— None vantaged of his fellow-fools in point Of precedence, and all alive—shall serve As fueling to fervor the retort For after cineration of true men.
You promised to paint me a picture, Dear Mat, And I was to pay you in rhyme. Although I am loth to inflict your Most easy of consciences, I'm Of opinion that fibbing is awful, And breaking a contract unlawful, Indictable, too, as a crime, A slight and all that.
If, Lady Unbountiful, any Of that By mortals called pity has part In your obdurate soul—if a penny You care for the health of my heart, By performing your undertaking You'll succor that organ from breaking— And spare it for some new smart, As puss does a rat.
Do you think it is very becoming, Dear Mat, To deny me my rights evermore And—bless you! if I begin summing Your sins they will make a long score! You never were generous, madam, If you had been Eve and I Adam You'd have given me naught but the core, And little of that.
Had I been content with a Titian, A cat By Landseer, a meadow by Claude, No doubt I'd have had your permission To take it—by purchase abroad. But why should I sail o'er the ocean For Landseers and Claudes? I've a notion All's bad that the critics belaud. I wanted a Mat.
Presumption's a sin, and I suffer For that: But still you did say that sometime, If I'd pay you enough (here's enougher— That's more than enough) of rhyme You'd paint me a picture. I pay you Hereby in advance; and I pray you Condone, while you can, your crime, And send me a Mat.
But if you don't do it I warn you, Dear Mat, I'll raise such a clamor and cry On Parnassus the Muses will scorn you As mocker of poets and fly With bitter complaints to Apollo: "Her spirit is proud, her heart hollow, Her beauty"—they'll hardly deny, On second thought, that!
THE WEATHER WIGHT.
The way was long, the hill was steep, My footing scarcely I could keep.
The night enshrouded me in gloom, I heard the ocean's distant boom—
The trampling of the surges vast Was borne upon the rising blast.
"God help the mariner," I cried, "Whose ship to-morrow braves the tide!"
Then from the impenetrable dark A solemn voice made this remark:
"For this locality—warm, bright; Barometer unchanged; breeze light."
"Unseen consoler-man," I cried, "Whoe'er you are, where'er abide,
"Thanks—but my care is somewhat less For Jack's, than for my own, distress.
"Could I but find a friendly roof, Small odds what weather were aloof.
"For he whose comfort is secure Another's woes can well endure."
"The latch-string's out," the voice replied, "And so's the door—jes' step inside."
Then through the darkness I discerned A hovel, into which I turned.
Groping about beneath its thatch, I struck my head and then a match.
A candle by that gleam betrayed Soon lent paraffinaceous aid.
A pallid, bald and thin old man I saw, who this complaint began:
"Through summer suns and winter snows I sets observin' of my toes.
"I rambles with increasin' pain The path of duty, but in vain.
"Rewards and honors pass me by— No Congress hears this raven cry!"
Filled with astonishment, I spoke: "Thou ancient raven, why this croak?
"With observation of your toes What Congress has to do, Heaven knows!
"And swallow me if e'er I knew That one could sit and ramble too!"
To answer me that ancient swain Took up his parable again:
"Through winter snows and summer suns A Weather Bureau here I runs.
"I calls the turn, and can declare Jes' when she'll storm and when she'll fair.
"Three times a day I sings out clear The probs to all which wants to hear.
"Some weather stations run with light Frivolity is seldom right.
"A scientist from times remote, In Scienceville my birth is wrote.
"And when I h'ist the 'rainy' sign Jes' take your clo'es in off the line."
"Not mine, O marvelous old man, The methods of your art to scan,
"Yet here no instruments there be— Nor 'ometer nor 'scope I see.
"Did you (if questions you permit) At the asylum leave your kit?"
That strange old man with motion rude Grew to surprising altitude.
"Tools (and sarcazzems too) I scorns— I tells the weather by my corns.
"No doors and windows here you see— The wind and m'isture enters free.
"No fires nor lights, no wool nor fur Here falsifies the tempercher.
"My corns unleathered I expose To feel the rain's foretellin' throes.
"No stockin' from their ears keeps out The comin' tempest's warnin' shout.
"Sich delicacy some has got They know next summer's to be hot.
"This here one says (for that he's best): 'Storm center passin' to the west.'
"This feller's vitals is transfixed With frost for Janawary sixt'.
"One chap jes' now is occy'pied In fig'rin on next Fridy's tide.
"I've shaved this cuss so thin and true He'll spot a fog in South Peru.
"Sech are my tools, which ne'er a swell Observatory can excel.
"By long a-studyin' their throbs I catches onto all the probs."
Much more, no doubt, he would have said, But suddenly he turned and fled;
For in mine eye's indignant green Lay storms that he had not foreseen,
Till all at once, with silent squeals, His toes "caught on" and told his heels.
Yes, he was that, or that, as you prefer— Did so and so, though, faith, it wasn't all; Lived like a fool, or a philosopher. And had whatever's needful for a fall. As rough inflections on a planet merge In the true bend of the gigantic sphere, Nor mar the perfect circle of its verge, So in the survey of his worth the small Asperities of spirit disappear, Lost in the grander curves of character. He lately was hit hard: none knew but I The strength and terror of that ghastly stroke— Not even herself. He uttered not a cry, But set his teeth and made a revelry; Drank like a devil—staining sometimes red The goblet's edge; diced with his conscience; spread, Like Sisyphus, a feast for Death, and spoke His welcome in a tongue so long forgot That even his ancient guest remembered not What race had cursed him in it. Thus my friend Still conjugating with each failing sense The verb "to die" in every mood and tense, Pursued his awful humor to the end. When like a stormy dawn the crimson broke From his white lips he smiled and mutely bled, And, having meanly lived, is grandly dead.
It is pleasant to think, as I'm watching my ink A-drying along my paper, That a monument fine will surely be mine When death has extinguished my taper.
From each rhyming scribe of the journalist tribe Purged clean of all sentiments narrow, A pebble will mark his respect for the stark Stiff body that's under the barrow.
By fellow-bards thrown, thus stone upon stone Will make my celebrity deathless. O, I wish I could think, as I gaze at my ink, They'd wait till my carcass is breathless.
O ye who push and fight To hear a wanton sing— Who utter the delight That has the bogus ring,—
O men mature in years, In understanding young, The membranes of whose ears She tickles with her tongue,—
O wives and daughters sweet, Who call it love of art To kiss a woman's feet That crush a woman's heart,—
O prudent dams and sires, Your docile young who bring To see how man admires A sinner if she sing,—
O husbands who impart To each assenting spouse The lesson that shall start The buds upon your brows,—
All whose applauding hands Assist to rear the fame That throws o'er all the lands The shadow of its shame,—
Go drag her car!—the mud Through which its axle rolls Is partly human blood And partly human souls.
Mad, mad!—your senses whirl Like devils dancing free, Because a strolling girl Can hold the note high C.
For this the avenging rod Of Heaven ye dare defy, And tear the law that God Thundered from Sinai!
Why ask me, Gastrogogue, to dine (Unless to praise your rascal wine) Yet never ask some luckless sinner Who needs, as I do not, a dinner?
FOR A CERTAIN CRITIC.
Let lowly themes engage my humble pen— Stupidities of critics, not of men. Be it mine once more the maunderings to trace Of the expounders' self-directed race— Their wire-drawn fancies, finically fine, Of diligent vacuity the sign. Let them in jargon of their trade rehearse The moral meaning of the random verse That runs spontaneous from the poet's pen To be half-blotted by ambitious men Who hope with his their meaner names to link By writing o'er it in another ink The thoughts unreal which they think they think, Until the mental eye in vain inspects The hateful palimpsest to find the text.
The lark ascending heavenward, loud and long Sings to the dawning day his wanton song. The moaning dove, attentive to the sound, Its hidden meaning hastens to expound: Explains its principles, design—in brief, Pronounces it a parable of grief!
The bee, just pausing ere he daubs his thigh With pollen from a hollyhock near by, Declares he never heard in terms so just The labor problem thoughtfully discussed! The browsing ass looks up and clears his whistle To say: "A monologue upon the thistle!" Meanwhile the lark, descending, folds his wing And innocently asks: "What!—did I sing?"
O literary parasites! who thrive Upon the fame of better men, derive Your sustenance by suction, like a leech, And, for you preach of them, think masters preach,— Who find it half is profit, half delight, To write about what you could never write,— Consider, pray, how sharp had been the throes Of famine and discomfiture in those You write of if they had been critics, too, And doomed to write of nothing but of you!
Lo! where the gaping crowd throngs yonder tent, To see the lion resolutely bent! The prosing showman who the beast displays Grows rich and richer daily in its praise. But how if, to attract the curious yeoman, The lion owned the show and showed the showman?
Every religion is important. When men rise above existing conditions a new religion comes in, and it is better than the old one.—Professor Howison.
Professor dear, I think it queer That all these good religions ('Twixt you and me, some two or three Are schemes for plucking pigeons)—
I mean 'tis strange that every change Our poor minds to unfetter Entails a new religion—true As t' other one, and better.
From each in turn the truth we learn, That wood or flesh or spirit May justly boast it rules the roast Until we cease to fear it.
Nay, once upon a time long gone Man worshipped Cat and Lizard: His God he'd find in any kind Of beast, from a to izzard.
When risen above his early love Of dirt and blood and slumber, He pulled down these vain deities, And made one out of lumber.
"Far better that than even a cat," The Howisons all shouted; "When God is wood religion's good!" But one poor cynic doubted.
"A timber God—that's very odd!" Said Progress, and invented The simple plan to worship Man, Who, kindly soul! consented.
But soon our eye we lift asky, Our vows all unregarded, And find (at least so says the priest) The Truth—and Man's discarded.
Along our line of march recline Dead gods devoid of feeling; And thick about each sun-cracked lout Dried Howisons are kneeling.
"To the will of the people we loyally bow!" That's the minority shibboleth now. O noble antagonists, answer me flat— What would you do if you didn't do that?
O, Sinner A, to me unknown Be such a conscience as your own! To ease it you to Sinner B Confess the sins of Sinner C.
TO A SUMMER POET.
Yes, the Summer girl is flirting on the beach, With a him. And the damboy is a-climbing for the peach, On the limb; Yes, the bullfrog is a-croaking And the dudelet is a-smoking Cigarettes; And the hackman is a-hacking And the showman is a-cracking Up his pets; Yes, the Jersey 'skeeter flits along the shore And the snapdog—we have heard it o'er and o'er; Yes, my poet, Well we know it— Know the spooners how they spoon In the bright Dollar light Of the country tavern moon; Yes, the caterpillars fall From the trees (we know it all), And with beetles all the shelves Are alive.
Please unbuttonhole us—O, Have the grace to let us go, For we know How you Summer poets thrive, By the recapitulation And insistent iteration Of the wondrous doings incident to Life Among Ourselves! So, I pray you stop the fervor and the fuss. For you, poor human linnet, There's a half a living in it, But there's not a copper cent in it for us!
Posterity with all its eyes Will come and view him where he lies. Then, turning from the scene away With a concerted shrug, will say: "H'm, Scarabaeus Sisyphus— What interest has that to us? We can't admire at all, at all, A tumble-bug without its ball." And then a sage will rise and say: "Good friends, you err—turn back, I pray: This freak that you unwisely shun Is bug and ball rolled into one."
CHARLES AND PETER.
Ere Gabriel's note to silence died All graves of men were gaping wide.
Then Charles A. Dana, of "The Sun," Rose slowly from the deepest one.
"The dead in Christ rise first, 't is writ," Quoth he—"ick, bick, ban, doe,—I'm It!"
(His headstone, footstone, counted slow, Were "ick" and "bick," he "ban" and "doe":
Of beating Nick the subtle art Was part of his immortal part.)
Then straight to Heaven he took his flight, Arriving at the Gates of Light.
There Warden Peter, in the throes Of sleep, lay roaring in the nose.
"Get up, you sluggard!" Dana cried— "I've an engagement there inside."
The Saint arose and scratched his head. "I recollect your face," he said.
"(And, pardon me, 't is rather hard), But——" Dana handed him a card.
"Ah, yes, I now remember—bless My soul, how dull I am I—yes, yes,
"We've nothing better here than bliss. Walk in. But I must tell you this:
"We've rest and comfort, though, and peace." "H'm—puddles," Dana said, "for geese.
"Have you in Heaven no Hell?" "Why, no," Said Peter, "nor, in truth, below.
"'T is not included in our scheme— 'T is but a preacher's idle dream."
The great man slowly moved away. "I'll call," he said, "another day.
"On earth I played it, o'er and o'er, And Heaven without it were a bore."
"O, stuff!—come in. You'll make," said Pete, "A hell where'er you set your feet."
I muse upon the distant town In many a dreamy mood. Above my head the sunbeams crown The graveyard's giant rood. The lupin blooms among the tombs. The quail recalls her brood.
Ah, good it is to sit and trace The shadow of the cross; It moves so still from place to place O'er marble, bronze and moss; With graves to mark upon its arc Our time's eternal loss.
And sweet it is to watch the bee That reve's in the rose, And sense the fragrance floating free On every breeze that blows O'er many a mound, where, safe and sound, Mine enemies repose.
God dreamed—the suns sprang flaming into place, And sailing worlds with many a venturous race! He woke—His smile alone illumined space.
Two villains of the highest rank Set out one night to rob a bank. They found the building, looked it o'er, Each window noted, tried each door, Scanned carefully the lidded hole For minstrels to cascade the coal— In short, examined five-and-twenty Good paths from poverty to plenty. But all were sealed, they saw full soon, Against the minions of the moon. "Enough," said one: "I'm satisfied." The other, smiling fair and wide, Said: "I'm as highly pleased as you: No burglar ever can get through. Fate surely prospers our design— The booty all is yours and mine." So, full of hope, the following day To the exchange they took their way And bought, with manner free and frank, Some stock of that devoted bank; And they became, inside the year, One President and one Cashier.
Their crime I can no further trace— The means of safety to embrace, I overdrew and left the place.
If the wicked gods were willing (Pray it never may be true!) That a universal chilling Should ensue Of the sentiment of loving,— If they made a great undoing Of the plan of turtle-doving, Then farewell all poet-lore, Evermore. If there were no more of billing There would be no more of cooing And we all should be but owls— Lonely fowls Blinking wonderfully wise, With our great round eyes— Sitting singly in the gloaming and no longer two and two, As unwilling to be wedded as unpracticed how to woo; With regard to being mated, Asking still with aggravated Ungrammatical acerbity: "To who? To who?"
TO A CENSOR.
"The delay granted by the weakness and good nature of our judges is responsible for half the murders."—Daily Newspaper.
Delay responsible? Why, then; my friend, Impeach Delay and you will make an end. Thrust vile Delay in jail and let it rot For doing all the things that it should not. Put not good-natured judges under bond, But make Delay in damages respond. Minos, Aeacus, Rhadamanthus, rolled Into one pitiless, unsmiling scold— Unsparing censor, be your thongs uncurled To "lash the rascals naked through the world." The rascals? Nay, Rascality's the thing Above whose back your knotted scourges sing. Your satire, truly, like a razor keen, "Wounds with a touch that's neither felt nor seen;" For naught that you assail with falchion free Has either nerves to feel or eyes to see. Against abstractions evermore you charge You hack no helmet and you need no targe. That wickedness is wrong and sin a vice, That wrong's not right and foulness never nice, Fearless affirm. All consequences dare: Smite the offense and the offender spare. When Ananias and Sapphira lied Falsehood, had you been there, had surely died. When money-changers in the Temple sat, At money-changing you'd have whirled the "cat" (That John-the-Baptist of the modern pen) And all the brokers would have cried amen!
Good friend, if any judge deserve your blame Have you no courage, or has he no name? Upon his method will you wreak your wrath, Himself all unmolested in his path? Fall to! fall to!—your club no longer draw To beat the air or flail a man of straw. Scorn to do justice like the Saxon thrall Who cuffed the offender's shadow on a wall. Let rascals in the flesh attest your zeal— Knocked on the mazzard or tripped up at heel!
We know that judges are corrupt. We know That crimes are lively and that laws are slow. We know that lawyers lie and doctors slay; That priests and preachers are but birds of pray; That merchants cheat and journalists for gold Flatter the vicious while at vice they scold. 'Tis all familiar as the simple lore That two policemen and two thieves make four.
But since, while some are wicked, some are good, (As trees may differ though they all are wood) Names, here and there, to show whose head is hit, The bad would sentence and the good acquit. In sparing everybody none you spare: Rebukes most personal are least unfair. To fire at random if you still prefer, And swear at Dog but never kick a cur, Permit me yet one ultimate appeal To something that you understand and feel: Let thrift and vanity your heart persuade— You might be read if you would learn your trade.
Good brother cynics (you have doubtless guessed Not one of you but all are here addressed) Remember this: the shaft that seeks a heart Draws all eyes after it; an idle dart Shot at some shadow flutters o'er the green, Its flight unheeded and its fall unseen.
THE HESITATING VETERAN.
When I was young and full of faith And other fads that youngsters cherish A cry rose as of one that saith With unction: "Help me or I perish!" 'Twas heard in all the land, and men The sound were each to each repeating. It made my heart beat faster then Than any heart can now be beating.
For the world is old and the world is gray— Grown prudent and, I guess, more witty. She's cut her wisdom teeth, they say, And doesn't now go in for Pity. Besides, the melancholy cry Was that of one, 'tis now conceded, Whose plight no one beneath the sky Felt half so poignantly as he did.
Moreover, he was black. And yet That sentimental generation With an austere compassion set Its face and faith to the occasion. Then there were hate and strife to spare, And various hard knocks a-plenty; And I ('twas more than my true share, I must confess) took five-and-twenty.
That all is over now—the reign Of love and trade stills all dissensions, And the clear heavens arch again Above a land of peace and pensions. The black chap—at the last we gave Him everything that he had cried for, Though many white chaps in the grave 'Twould puzzle to say what they died for.
I hope he's better off—I trust That his society and his master's Are worth the price we paid, and must Continue paying, in disasters; But sometimes doubts press thronging round ('Tis mostly when my hurts are aching) If war for union was a sound And profitable undertaking.
'Tis said they mean to take away The Negro's vote for he's unlettered. 'Tis true he sits in darkness day And night, as formerly, when fettered; But pray observe—howe'er he vote To whatsoever party turning, He'll be with gentlemen of note And wealth and consequence and learning. With Hales and Morgans on each side, How could a fool through lack of knowledge, Vote wrong? If learning is no guide Why ought one to have been in college? O Son of Day, O Son of Night! What are your preferences made of? I know not which of you is right, Nor which to be the more afraid of.
The world is old and the world is bad, And creaks and grinds upon its axis; And man's an ape and the gods are mad!— There's nothing sure, not even our taxes. No mortal man can Truth restore, Or say where she is to be sought for. I know what uniform I wore— O, that I knew which side I fought for!
A YEAR'S CASUALTIES.
Slain as they lay by the secret, slow, Pitiless hand of an unseen foe, Two score thousand old soldiers have crossed The river to join the loved and lost. In the space of a year their spirits fled, Silent and white, to the camp of the dead.
One after one, they fall asleep And the pension agents awake to weep, And orphaned statesmen are loud in their wail As the souls flit by on the evening gale. O Father of Battles, pray give us release From the horrors of peace, the horrors of peace!
O hoary sculptor, stay thy hand: I fain would view the lettered stone. What carvest thou?—perchance some grand And solemn fancy all thine own. For oft to know the fitting word Some humble worker God permits. "Jain Ann Meginnis, Agid 3rd. He givith His beluved fits."
I saw a man who knelt in prayer, And heard him say: "I'll lay my inmost spirit bare To-day.
"Lord, for to-morrow and its need I do not pray; Let me upon my neighbor feed To-day.
"Let me my duty duly shirk And run away From any form or phase of work To-day.
"From Thy commands exempted still Let me obey The promptings of my private will To-day.
"Let me no word profane, no lie Unthinking say If anyone is standing by To-day.
"My secret sins and vices grave Let none betray; The scoffer's jeers I do not crave To-day.
"And if to-day my fortune all Should ebb away, Help me on other men's to fall To-day.
"So, for to-morrow and its mite I do not pray; Just give me everything in sight To-day."
I cried: "Amen!" He rose and ran Like oil away. I said: "I've seen an honest man To-day."
A famous journalist, who long Had told the great unheaded throng Whate'er they thought, by day or night. Was true as Holy Writ, and right, Was caught in—well, on second thought, It is enough that he was caught, And being thrown in jail became The fuel of a public flame.
"Vox populi vox Dei," said The jailer. Inxling bent his head Without remark: that motto good In bold-faced type had always stood Above the columns where his pen Had rioted in praise of men And all they said—provided he Was sure they mostly did agree. Meanwhile a sharp and bitter strife To take, or save, the culprit's life Or liberty (which, I suppose, Was much the same to him) arose Outside. The journal that his pen Adorned denounced his crime—but then Its editor in secret tried To have the indictment set aside. The opposition papers swore His father was a rogue before, And all his wife's relations were Like him and similar to her. They begged their readers to subscribe A dollar each to make a bribe That any Judge would feel was large Enough to prove the gravest charge— Unless, it might be, the defense Put up superior evidence. The law's traditional delay Was all too short: the trial day Dawned red and menacing. The Judge Sat on the Bench and wouldn't budge, And all the motions counsel made Could not move him—and there he stayed. "The case must now proceed," he said, "While I am just in heart and head, It happens—as, indeed, it ought— Both sides with equal sums have bought My favor: I can try the cause Impartially." (Prolonged applause.)
The prisoner was now arraigned And said that he was greatly pained To be suspected—he, whose pen Had charged so many other men With crimes and misdemeanors! "Why," He said, a tear in either eye, "If men who live by crying out 'Stop thief!' are not themselves from doubt Of their integrity exempt, Let all forego the vain attempt To make a reputation! Sir, I'm innocent, and I demur." Whereat a thousand voices cried Amain he manifestly lied— Vox populi as loudly roared As bull by picadores gored, In his own coin receiving pay To make a Spanish holiday.
The jury—twelve good men and true— Were then sworn in to see it through, And each made solemn oath that he As any babe unborn was free From prejudice, opinion, thought, Respectability, brains—aught That could disqualify; and some Explained that they were deaf and dumb. A better twelve, his Honor said, Was rare, except among the dead. The witnesses were called and sworn. The tales they told made angels mourn, And the Good Book they'd kissed became Red with the consciousness of shame.
Whenever one of them approached The truth, "That witness wasn't coached, Your Honor!" cried the lawyers both. "Strike out his testimony," quoth The learned judge: "This Court denies Its ear to stories which surprise. I hold that witnesses exempt From coaching all are in contempt." Both Prosecution and Defense Applauded the judicial sense, And the spectators all averred Such wisdom they had never heard: 'Twas plain the prisoner would be Found guilty in the first degree. Meanwhile that wight's pale cheek confessed The nameless terrors in his breast. He felt remorseful, too, because He wasn't half they said he was. "If I'd been such a rogue," he mused On opportunities unused, "I might have easily become As wealthy as Methusalum." This journalist adorned, alas, The middle, not the Bible, class.
With equal skill the lawyers' pleas Attested their divided fees. Each gave the other one the lie, Then helped him frame a sharp reply.
Good Lord! it was a bitter fight, And lasted all the day and night. When once or oftener the roar Had silenced the judicial snore The speaker suffered for the sport By fining for contempt of court. Twelve jurors' noses good and true Unceasing sang the trial through, And even vox populi was spent In rattles through a nasal vent. Clerk, bailiff, constables and all Heard Morpheus sound the trumpet call To arms—his arms—and all fell in Save counsel for the Man of Sin. That thaumaturgist stood and swayed The wand their faculties obeyed— That magic wand which, like a flame. Leapt, wavered, quivered and became A wonder-worker—known among The ignoble vulgar as a Tongue.
How long, O Lord, how long my verse Runs on for better or for worse In meter which o'ermasters me, Octosyllabically free!— A meter which, the poets say, No power of restraint can stay;— A hard-mouthed meter, suited well To him who, having naught to tell, Must hold attention as a trout Is held, by paying out and out The slender line which else would break Should one attempt the fish to take. Thus tavern guides who've naught to show But some adjacent curio By devious trails their patrons lead And make them think 't is far indeed. Where was I?
While the lawyer talked The rogue took up his feet and walked: While all about him, roaring, slept, Into the street he calmly stepped. In very truth, the man who thought The people's voice from heaven had caught God's inspiration took a change Of venue—it was passing strange! Straight to his editor he went And that ingenious person sent A Negro to impersonate The fugitive. In adequate Disguise he took his vacant place And buried in his arms his face. When all was done the lawyer stopped And silence like a bombshell dropped Upon the Court: judge, jury, all Within that venerable hall (Except the deaf and dumb, indeed, And one or two whom death had freed) Awoke and tried to look as though Slumber was all they did not know.
And now that tireless lawyer-man Took breath, and then again began: "Your Honor, if you did attend To what I've urged (my learned friend Nodded concurrence) to support The motion I have made, this court May soon adjourn. With your assent I've shown abundant precedent For introducing now, though late, New evidence to exculpate My client. So, if you'll allow, I'll prove an alibi!" "What?—how?" Stammered the judge. "Well, yes, I can't Deny your showing, and I grant The motion. Do I understand You undertake to prove—good land!— That when the crime—you mean to show Your client wasn't there?" "O, no, I cannot quite do that, I find: My alibi's another kind Of alibi,—I'll make it clear, Your Honor, that he isn't here." The Darky here upreared his head, Tranquillity affrighted fled And consternation reigned instead!
When Admonition's hand essays Our greed to curse, Its lifted finger oft displays Our missing purse.
How well this man unfolded to our view The world's beliefs of Death and Heaven and Hell— This man whose own convictions none could tell, Nor if his maze of reason had a clew. Dogmas he wrote for daily bread, but knew The fair philosophies of doubt so well That while we listened to his words there fell Some that were strangely comforting, though true. Marking how wise we grew upon his doubt, We said: "If so, by groping in the night, He can proclaim some certain paths of trust, How great our profit if he saw about His feet the highways leading to the light." Now he sees all. Ah, Christ! his mouth is dust!
THE DYING STATESMAN.
It is a politician man— He draweth near his end, And friends weep round that partisan, Of every man the friend.
Between the Known and the Unknown He lieth on the strand; The light upon the sea is thrown That lay upon the land.
It shineth in his glazing eye, It burneth on his face; God send that when we come to die We know that sign of grace!
Upon his lips his blessed sprite Poiseth her joyous wing. "How is it with thee, child of light? Dost hear the angels sing?"
"The song I hear, the crown I see, And know that God is love. Farewell, dark world—I go to be A postmaster above!"
For him no monumental arch, But, O, 'tis good and brave To see the Grand Old Party march To office o'er his grave!
THE DEATH OF GRANT.
Father! whose hard and cruel law Is part of thy compassion's plan, Thy works presumptuously we scan For what the prophets say they saw.
Unbidden still the awful slope Walling us in we climb to gain Assurance of the shining plain That faith has certified to hope.
In vain!—beyond the circling hill The shadow and the cloud abide. Subdue the doubt, our spirits guide To trust the Record and be still.
To trust it loyally as he Who, heedful of his high design, Ne'er raised a seeking eye to thine, But wrought thy will unconsciously,
Disputing not of chance or fate, Nor questioning of cause or creed; For anything but duty's deed Too simply wise, too humbly great.
The cannon syllabled his name; His shadow shifted o'er the land, Portentous, as at his command Successive cities sprang to flame!
He fringed the continent with fire, The rivers ran in lines of light! Thy will be done on earth—if right Or wrong he cared not to inquire.
His was the heavy hand, and his The service of the despot blade; His the soft answer that allayed War's giant animosities.
Let us have peace: our clouded eyes, Fill, Father, with another light, That we may see with clearer sight Thy servant's soul in Paradise.
THE FOUNTAIN REFILLED.
Of Hans Pietro Shanahan (Who was a most ingenious man) The Muse of History records That he'd get drunk as twenty lords.
He'd get so truly drunk that men Stood by to marvel at him when His slow advance along the street Was but a vain cycloidal feat.
And when 'twas fated that he fall With a wide geographical sprawl, They signified assent by sounds Heard (faintly) at its utmost bounds.
And yet this Mr. Shanahan (Who was a most ingenious man) Cast not on wine his thirsty eyes When it was red or otherwise.
All malt, or spirituous, tope He loathed as cats dissent from soap; And cider, if it touched his lip, Evoked a groan at every sip.
But still, as heretofore explained, He not infrequently was grained. (I'm not of those who call it "corned." Coarse speech I've always duly scorned.)
Though truth to say, and that's but right, Strong drink (it hath an adder's bite!) Was what had put him in the mud, The only kind he used was blood!
Alas, that an immortal soul Addicted to the flowing bowl, The emptied flagon should again Replenish from a neighbor's vein.
But, Mr. Shanahan was so Constructed, and his taste that low. Nor more deplorable was he In kind of thirst than in degree;
For sometimes fifty souls would pay The debt of nature in a day To free him from the shame and pain Of dread Sobriety's misreign.
His native land, proud of its sense Of his unique inabstinence, Abated something of its pride At thought of his unfilled inside.
And some the boldness had to say 'Twere well if he were called away To slake his thirst forevermore In oceans of celestial gore.
But Hans Pietro Shanahan (Who was a most ingenious man) Knew that his thirst was mortal; so Remained unsainted here below—
Unsainted and unsaintly, for He neither went to glory nor To abdicate his power deigned Where, under Providence, he reigned,
But kept his Boss's power accurst To serve his wild uncommon thirst. Which now had grown so truly great It was a drain upon the State.
Soon, soon there came a time, alas! When he turned down an empty glass— All practicable means were vain His special wassail to obtain.
In vain poor Decimation tried To furnish forth the needful tide; And Civil War as vainly shed Her niggard offering of red.
Poor Shanahan! his thirst increased Until he wished himself deceased, Invoked the firearm and the knife, But could not die to save his life!
He was so dry his own veins made No answer to the seeking blade; So parched that when he would have passed Away he could not breathe his last.
'Twas then, when almost in despair, (Unlaced his shoon, unkempt his hair) He saw as in a dream a way To wet afresh his mortal clay.
Yes, Hans Pietro Shanahan (Who was a most ingenious man) Saw freedom, and with joy and pride "Thalassa! (or Thalatta!)" cried.
Straight to the Aldermen went he, With many a "pull" and many a fee, And many a most corrupt "combine" (The Press for twenty cents a line
Held out and fought him—O, God, bless Forevermore the holy Press!) Till he had franchises complete For trolley lines on every street!
The cars were builded and, they say, Were run on rails laid every way— Rhomboidal roads, and circular, And oval—everywhere a car—
Square, dodecagonal (in great Esteem the shape called Figure 8) And many other kinds of shapes As various as tails of apes.
No other group of men's abodes E'er had such odd electric roads, That winding in and winding out, Began and ended all about.
No city had, unless in Mars, That city's wealth of trolley cars. They ran by day, they flew by night, And O, the sorry, sorry sight!
And Hans Pietro Shanahan (Who was a most ingenious man) Incessantly, the Muse records, Lay drunk as twenty thousand lords!
Theosophists are about to build a "Temple for the revival of the Mysteries of Antiquity."—Vide the Newspapers, passim.
Each to his taste: some men prefer to play At mystery, as others at piquet. Some sit in mystic meditation; some Parade the street with tambourine and drum. One studies to decipher ancient lore Which, proving stuff, he studies all the more; Another swears that learning is but good To darken things already understood, Then writes upon Simplicity so well That none agree on what he wants to tell, And future ages will declare his pen Inspired by gods with messages to men. To found an ancient order those devote Their time—with ritual, regalia, goat, Blankets for tossing, chairs of little ease And all the modern inconveniences; These, saner, frown upon unmeaning rites And go to church for rational delights. So all are suited, shallow and profound, The prophets prosper and the world goes round. For me—unread in the occult, I'm fain To damn all mysteries alike as vain, Spurn the obscure and base my faith upon The Revelations of the good St. John.
We heard a song-bird trilling— 'T was but a night ago. Such rapture he was rilling As only we could know.
This morning he is flinging His music from the tree, But something in the singing Is not the same to me.
His inspiration fails him, Or he has lost his skill. Nanine, Nanine, what ails him That he should sing so ill?
Nanine is not replying— She hears no earthly song. The sun and bird are lying And the night is, O, so long!
'Twas a serious person with locks of gray And a figure like a crescent; His gravity, clearly, had come to stay, But his smile was evanescent.
He stood and conversed with a neighbor, and With (likewise) a high falsetto; And he stabbed his forefinger into his hand As if it had been a stiletto.
His words, like the notes of a tenor drum, Came out of his head unblended, And the wonderful altitude of some Was exceptionally splendid.
While executing a shake of the head, With the hand, as it were, of a master, This agonizing old gentleman said: "'Twas a truly sad disaster!
"Four hundred and ten longs and shorts in all, Went down"—he paused and snuffled. A single tear was observed to fall, And the old man's drum was muffled.
"A very calamitous year," he said. And again his head-piece hoary He shook, and another pearl he shed, As if he wept con amore.
"O lacrymose person," I cried, "pray why Should these failures so affect you? With speculators in stocks no eye That's normal would ever connect you."
He focused his orbs upon mine and smiled In a sinister sort of manner. "Young man," he said, "your words are wild: I spoke of the steamship 'Hanner.'
"For she has went down in a howlin' squall, And my heart is nigh to breakin'— Four hundred and ten longs and shorts in all Will never need undertakin'!
"I'm in the business myself," said he, "And you've mistook my expression; For I uses the technical terms, you see, Employed in my perfession."
That old undertaker has joined the throng On the other side of the River, But I'm still unhappy to think I'm a "long," And a tape-line makes me shiver.
A REPLY TO A LETTER.
O nonsense, parson—tell me not they thrive And jubilate who follow your dictation. The good are the unhappiest lot alive— I know they are from careful observation. If freedom from the terrors of damnation Lengthens the visage like a telescope, And lacrymation is a sign of hope, Then I'll continue, in my dreadful plight, To tread the dusky paths of sin, and grope Contentedly without your lantern's light; And though in many a bog beslubbered quite, Refuse to flay me with ecclesiastic soap.
You say 'tis a sad world, seeing I'm condemned, With many a million others of my kidney. Each continent's Hammed, Japheted and Shemmed With sinners—worldlings like Sir Philip Sidney And scoffers like Voltaire, who thought it bliss To simulate respect for Genesis— Who bent the mental knee as if in prayer, But mocked at Moses underneath his hair, And like an angry gander bowed his head to hiss.
Seeing such as these, who die without contrition, Must go to—beg your pardon, sir—perdition, The sons of light, you tell me, can't be gay, But count it sin of the sort called omission The groan to smother or the tear to stay Or fail to—what is that they live by?—pray. So down they flop, and the whole serious race is Put by divine compassion on a praying basis.
Well, if you take it so to heart, while yet Our own hearts are so light with nature's leaven, You'll weep indeed when we in Hades sweat, And you look down upon us out of Heaven. In fancy, lo! I see your wailing shades Thronging the crystal battlements. Cascades Of tears spring singing from each golden spout, Run roaring from the verge with hoarser sound, Dash downward through the glimmering profound, Quench the tormenting flame and put the Devil out!
Presumptuous ass! to you no power belongs To pitchfork me to Heaven upon the prongs Of a bad pen, whose disobedient sputter, With less of ink than incoherence fraught Befits the folly that it tries to utter. Brains, I observe, as well as tongues, can stutter: You suffer from impediment of thought.
When next you "point the way to Heaven," take care: Your fingers all being thumbs, point, Heaven knows where! Farewell, poor dunce! your letter though I blame, Bears witness how my anger I can tame: I've called you everything except your hateful name!
TO OSCAR WILDE.
Because from Folly's lips you got Some babbled mandate to subdue The realm of Common Sense, and you Made promise and considered not—
Because you strike a random blow At what you do not understand, And beckon with a friendly hand To something that you do not know,
I hold no speech of your desert, Nor answer with porrected shield The wooden weapon that you wield, But meet you with a cast of dirt.
Dispute with such a thing as you— Twin show to the two-headed calf? Why, sir, if I repress my laugh, 'T is more than half the world can do.
Fear not in any tongue to call Upon the Lord—He's skilled in all. But if He answereth my plea He speaketh one unknown to me.
A "BORN LEADER OF MEN."
Tuckerton Tamerlane Morey Mahosh Is a statesman of world-wide fame, With a notable knack at rhetorical bosh To glorify somebody's name— Somebody chosen by Tuckerton's masters To succor the country from divers disasters Portentous to Mr. Mahosh.
Percy O'Halloran Tarpy Cabee Is in the political swim. He cares not a button for men, not he: Great principles captivate him— Principles cleverly cut out and fitted To Percy's capacity, duly submitted, And fought for by Mr. Cabee.
Drusus Turn Swinnerton Porfer Fitzurse Holds office the most of his life. For men nor for principles cares he a curse, But much for his neighbor's wife. The Ship of State leaks, but he doesn't pump any, Messrs. Mahosh, Cabee & Company Pump for good Mr. Fitzurse.
TO THE BARTHOLDI STATUE.
O Liberty, God-gifted— Young and immortal maid— In your high hand uplifted; The torch declares your trade.
Its crimson menace, flaming Upon the sea and shore, Is, trumpet-like, proclaiming That Law shall be no more.
Austere incendiary, We're blinking in the light; Where is your customary Grenade of dynamite?
Where are your staves and switches For men of gentle birth? Your mask and dirk for riches? Your chains for wit and worth?
Perhaps, you've brought the halters You used in the old days, When round religion's altars You stabled Cromwell's bays?
Behind you, unsuspected, Have you the axe, fair wench, Wherewith you once collected A poll-tax from the French?
America salutes you— Preparing to disgorge. Take everything that suits you, And marry Henry George.
AN UNMERRY CHRISTMAS.
Christmas, you tell me, comes but once a year. One place it never comes, and that is here. Here, in these pages no good wishes spring, No well-worn greetings tediously ring— For Christmas greetings are like pots of ore: The hollower they are they ring the more. Here shall no holly cast a spiny shade, Nor mistletoe my solitude invade, No trinket-laden vegetable come, No jorum steam with Sheolate of rum. No shrilling children shall their voices rear. Hurrah for Christmas without Christmas cheer!
No presents, if you please—I know too well What Herbert Spencer, if he didn't tell (I know not if he did) yet might have told Of present-giving in the days of old, When Early Man with gifts propitiated The chiefs whom most he doubted, feared and hated, Or tendered them in hope to reap some rude Advantage from the taker's gratitude. Since thus the Gift its origin derives (How much of its first character survives You know as well as I) my stocking's tied, My pocket buttoned—with my soul inside. I save my money and I save my pride.
Dinner? Yes; thank you—just a human body Done to a nutty brown, and a tear toddy To give me appetite; and as for drink, About a half a jug of blood, I think, Will do; for still I love the red, red wine, Coagulating well, with wrinkles fine Fretting the satin surface of its flood. O tope of kings—divine Falernian—blood!
Duse take the shouting fowls upon the limb, The kneeling cattle and the rising hymn! Has not a pagan rights to be regarded— His heart assaulted and his ear bombarded With sentiments and sounds that good old Pan Even in his demonium would ban?
No, friends—no Christmas here, for I have sworn To keep my heart hard and my knees unworn. Enough you have of jester, player, priest: I as the skeleton attend your feast, In the mad revelry to make a lull With shaken finger and with bobbing skull. However you my services may flout, Philosophy disdain and reason doubt, I mean to hold in customary state, My dismal revelry and celebrate My yearly rite until the crack o' doom, Ignore the cheerful season's warmth and bloom And cultivate an oasis of gloom.
BY A DEFEATED LITIGANT.
Liars for witnesses; for lawyers brutes Who lose their tempers to retrieve their suits; Cowards for jurors; and for judge a clown Who ne'er took up the law, yet lays it down; Justice denied, authority abused, And the one honest person the accused— Thy courts, my country, all these awful years, Move fools to laughter and the wise to tears.
Here lies Greer Harrison, a well cracked louse— So small a tenant of so big a house! He joyed in fighting with his eyes (his fist Prudently pendent from a peaceful wrist) And loved to loll on the Parnassian mount, His pen to suck and all his thumbs to count,— What poetry he'd written but for lack Of skill, when he had counted, to count back! Alas, no more he'll climb the sacred steep To wake the lyre and put the world to sleep! To his rapt lip his soul no longer springs And like a jaybird from a knot-hole sings. No more the clubmen, pickled with his wine, Spread wide their ears and hiccough "That's divine!" The genius of his purse no longer draws The pleasing thunders of a paid applause. All silent now, nor sound nor sense remains, Though riddances of worms improve his brains. All his no talents to the earth revert, And Fame concludes the record: "Dirt to dirt!"
"Let Glory's sons manipulate The tiller of the Ship of State. Be mine the humble, useful toil To work the tiller of the soil."
For a Proposed Monument in Washington to Him who Made it Beautiful.
Erected to "Boss" Shepherd by the dear Good folk he lived and moved among in peace— Guarded on either hand by the police, With soldiers in his front and in his rear.
FROM VIRGINIA TO PARIS.
The polecat, sovereign of its native wood, Dashes damnation upon bad and good; The health of all the upas trees impairs By exhalations deadlier than theirs; Poisons the rattlesnake and warts the toad— The creeks go rotten and the rocks corrode! She shakes o'er breathless hill and shrinking dale The horrid aspergillus of her tail! From every saturated hair, till dry, The spargent fragrances divergent fly, Deafen the earth and scream along the sky!
Removed to alien scenes, amid the strife Of urban odors to ungladden life— Where gas and sewers and dead dogs conspire The flesh to torture and the soul to fire— Where all the "well defined and several stinks" Known to mankind hold revel and high jinks— Humbled in spirit, smitten with a sense Of lost distinction, leveled eminence, She suddenly resigns her baleful trust, Nor ever lays again our mortal dust. Her powers atrophied, her vigor sunk, She lives deodorized, a sweeter skunk.
A "MUTE INGLORIOUS MILTON."
"O, I'm the Unaverage Man, But you never have heard of me, For my brother, the Average Man, outran My fame with rapiditee, And I'm sunk in Oblivion's sea, But my bully big brother the world can span With his wide notorietee. I do everything that I can To make 'em attend to me, But the papers ignore the Unaverage Man With a weird uniformitee."
So sang with a dolorous note A voice that I heard from the beach; On the sable waters it seemed to float Like a mortal part of speech. The sea was Oblivion's sea, And I cried as I plunged to swim: "The Unaverage Man shall reside with me." But he didn't—I stayed with him!
THE FREE TRADER'S LAMENT.
Oft from a trading-boat I purchased spice And shells and corals, brought for my inspection From the fair tropics—paid a Christian price And was content in my fool's paradise, Where never had been heard the word "Protection."
'T was my sole island; there I dwelt alone— No customs-house, collector nor collection, But a man came, who, in a pious tone Condoled with me that I had never known The manifest advantage of Protection.
So, when the trading-boat arrived one day, He threw a stink-pot into its mid-section. The traders paddled for their lives away, Nor came again into that haunted bay, The blessed home thereafter of Protection.
Then down he sat, that philanthropic man, And spat upon some mud of his selection, And worked it, with his knuckles in a pan, To shapes of shells and coral things, and span A thread of song in glory of Protection.
He baked them in the sun. His air devout Enchanted me. I made a genuflexion: "God help you, gentle sir," I said. "No doubt," He answered gravely, "I'll get on without Assistance now that we have got Protection."
Thenceforth I bought his wares—at what a price For shells and corals of such imperfection! "Ah, now," said he, "your lot is truly nice." But still in all that isle there was no spice To season to my taste that dish, Protection.