It little profits that, an idle man,
On this worn arch, in sight of wasted halls,
I mope, a solitary pelican,
And glower and glower for ever on Saint Paul's:—
Will no soft-hearted mortal be so very
Obliging as to row me o'er the ferry?
Here three-and-thirty years* I've stood estranged,
A dream of ruin all around me stretching;
And centuries shall see me yet unchanged,
Ever in act to sketch, but nothing sketching;
Mutely immutable, constrain'dly still,
With nought to stand against, except my will.
A wondrous lot is mine; ye bide your doom
Till men say Vixit: mine begins ere birth;
A lonely ghost projected from the womb
Of Time-to-come, I linger now on earth.
Ye vertebrates date back, while I commence
My weary present in the future tense.
A weird eidolon; a born paradox;
A fixture framed of incorporeal particles;
Yet dropped in many an Editorial box,
Blown thence in squibs, or hurled in Leading Articles;
A Nomad, though my permanent address is
In Volume Second of Macaulay's Essays.
I was not born of woman (see Macduff—
Nor stare to hear my lore so far extends;
The sire who bore me trafficked in such stuff,
And had his Shakespeare at his finger-ends:
The quitch is in the blood—such blood as ghost has;
I know as much as he; at least, almost as).
I was not born of woman; gave no pain;
Through no preliminary stage did pass;
But sprang, a Pallas, from Macaulay's brain,
Though not like her, with spear and helm of brass;
My spear, a pencil of Queensland plumbago;
My casque, a felt one—latest from Otago.
And therein lies the sting of all I bear—
That after brooding ages on mine arch,
And treasuring what the centuries prepare,
And noting what ye proudly term the March
Of Progress, and assimilating all
“The long result of Time,” see “Locksley-hall;”—
That after seeing all that mortal can,
That after learning all that man can learn,
This forecast shade, already more than man,
Must go and be a baby in its turn!
I've got to go and be a little kid,
When old perhaps as Cheops' Pyramid!
I've got to wear a little purfled cap;
Pass through, perchance, some brutal mode of swaddling;
To gather tissue from a bowl of pap;
To undergo no end of molly-coddling;
To be brought up by hand, or, worse and worse,
To be a parasite upon a nurse.
And in due course this cultured soul of mine
Must learn its Catechism by easy stages;
And sundry rods shall yet be steeped in brine,
To stimulate the heir of all the ages;
And men shall file away with prose and rhyme
To sharpen me, the foremost file of time.
I pray you, purist, faint not at the word;
For in the distant day whereof I speak,
Your chastened phrases shall be held absurd;
What you call slang shall be our Attic Greek;
And every man be file, or bloke, or cove;
And bloods make oath by Gum, instead of Jove!
For standing here, immovable and dumb,
An arch-Stylites, birth, not death, awaiting,
Faint inklings reach me of the time to come,
Beneath the loud To-day reverberating;
And I could tell of things so strange and wild,
Your wisest don would feel himself a child;—
Could show up many a now-belauded quackery;
Could play the deuce with half your saints and sages;
Could settle for you whether Boz or Thackeray
Shall be the admiration of the ages;
And whether Morris, Swinburne, and Rossetti
Shall number with the great, or with the petty;—
Could tell how empire shall have changed its place,
But must not “blow,” although an Australasian;
Could tell you which shall be the ruling race,
But may not shock the orthodox Caucasian,
Nor dare your curiosity assuage,
Lest I should make half-castes become the rage;—
Could tell you quite a fairy tale of science,
And wonders in Political Economy,
That set your time-worn statutes at defiance,
And hold them out of date as Deuteronomy:
The darky, boss; the trashy white, a “brudder;”
Man at the prow, and woman at the rudder;—
How all shall go by natural selection;
No man allowed to live unless good-looking;
How love shall vent itself in vivisection,
And charms be rated subsequent to cooking;
How girls instead of knitting sofa-covers,
Shall spend their leisure in tattooing lovers;
And how magnetic belts with dazzling hues
Shall draw unwilling arms around the waist;
How damsels to enhance their lips shall use
Odyllic force condensed into a paste;
And woo the bashful from his slow simplicity
With cakes of desiccated electricity; —
How education, as a general rule,
Shall be conducted by familiar spirits;
How “circles” shall be formed in every school,
And rappings shall reward superior merits;
And how the spectroscope, applied to spectres,
Shall re-enact all history, on reflectors; —
And how your vaunted patents and inventions
Shall be for playthings to the great hereafter
And all your philosophical pretensions
Be themes of inextinguishable laughter
Your engineering form for future times
The droll machinery of pantomimes.
Your steam—your boast! What is it but a vapour?
Or what more fleeting simile will do:
'Twill be effete as—let me see—what paper?
Eureka!—say, the “Saturday Review!”
Whose name, indeed, shall live—simply because
These lines give token such a paper was.
For there be those whose memory shall rot,
And pass, and be as it had never been;
Of such my famed progenitor's is not;
Valhalla holds him in the high serene:—
My Prospero! Oh may he prosper where he is,
Untouched by that unenviable caries!
For though I dumbly execrate the day
When first he chained me here, a lorn eidolon,
To be a literary popinjay,
And market-stock for every sucking Solon,
Be Hyperborean calm his long reward!
I'm proud of him; you know, he was a lord.
Mundanes, I say Good-bye, as on ye march;
I fain would shake your hands, but can't get at you,—
My prison-ruin waiting in the arch,
As in the marble waits the future statue.
I hate you, London-bridge! And if Saint Paul is
A name I loathe, the fault is Lord Macaulay's.
Witlings, a word: bring me no more to book;
And take not any more my name in vain;
Cast, if ye will, one final, loving look,
As upon one ye ne'er shall see again.
Behold me—let it be the last occasion—
Served up in verses for “The Australasian.”
* Macaulay's New Zealander dates from 1840.