DECEMBER 15, 1874
I SUPPOSE it’s myself that you’re making allusion to
And bringing the sense of dismay and confusion to.
Of course some must speak,–they are always selected to,
But pray what’s the reason that I am expected to?
I’m not fond of wasting my breath as those fellows do;
That want to be blowing forever as bellows do;
Their legs are uneasy, but why will you jog any
That long to stay quiet beneath the mahogany?
Why, why call me up with your battery of flatteries?
You say “He writes poetry,”–that ‘s what the matter is
“It costs him no trouble–a pen full of ink or two
And the poem is done in the time of a wink or two;
As for thoughts–never mind–take the ones that lie uppermost,
And the rhymes used by Milton and Byron and Tupper most;
The lines come so easy! at one end he jingles ’em,
At the other with capital letters he shingles ’em,–
Why, the thing writes itself, and before he’s half done with it
He hates to stop writing, he has such good fun with it!”
Ah, that is the way in which simple ones go about
And draw a fine picture of things they don’t know about!
We all know a kitten, but come to a catamount
The beast is a stranger when grown up to that amount,
(A stranger we rather prefer should n’t visit us,
A _felis_ whose advent is far from felicitous.)
The boy who can boast that his trap has just got a mouse
Must n’t draw it and write underneath “hippopotamus”;
Or say unveraciously, “This is an elephant,”–
Don’t think, let me beg, these examples irrelevant,–
What they mean is just this–that a thing to be painted well
Should always be something with which we’re acquainted well.
You call on your victim for “things he has plenty of,–
Those copies of verses no doubt at least twenty of;
His desk is crammed full, for he always keeps writing ’em
And reading to friends as his way of delighting ’em!”
I tell you this writing of verses means business,–
It makes the brain whirl in a vortex of dizziness
You think they are scrawled in the languor of laziness–
I tell you they’re squeezed by a spasm of craziness,
A fit half as bad as the staggering vertigos
That seize a poor fellow and down in the dirt he goes!
And therefore it chimes with the word’s etytology
That the sons of Apollo are great on apology,
For the writing of verse is a struggle mysterious
And the gayest of rhymes is a matter that’s serious.
For myself, I’m relied on by friends in extremities,
And I don’t mind so much if a comfort to them it is;
‘T is a pleasure to please, and the straw that can tickle us
Is a source of enjoyment though slightly ridiculous.
I am up for a–something–and since I ‘ve begun with it,
I must give you a toast now before I have done with it.
Let me pump at my wits as they pumped the Cochituate
That moistened–it may be–the very last bit you ate:
Success to our publishers, authors and editors
To our debtors good luck,–pleasant dreams to our creditors;
May the monthly grow yearly, till all we are groping for
Has reached the fulfilment we’re all of us hoping for;
Till the bore through the tunnel–it makes me let off a sigh
To think it may possibly ruin my prophecy–
Has been punned on so often ‘t will never provoke again
One mild adolescent to make the old joke again;
Till abstinent, all-go-to-meeting society
Has forgotten the sense of the word inebriety;
Till the work that poor Hannah and Bridget and Phillis do
The humanized, civilized female gorillas do;
Till the roughs, as we call them, grown loving and dutiful,
Shall worship the true and the pure and the beautiful,
And, preying no longer as tiger and vulture do,
All read the “Atlantic” as persons of culture do!
(Oliver Wendell Holmes)
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