"Ille terrarum mihi præter omnes
--Hor. ii. 6.
It was an elm-tree root of yore,
With lordly trunk, before they lopped it,
And weighty, said those five who bore
Its bulk across the lawn, and dropped it
Not once or twice, before it lay.
With two young pear-trees to protect it,
Safe where the Poet hoped some day
The curious pilgrim would inspect it.
He saw him with his Poet's eye,
The stately Maori, turned from etching
The ruin of St. Paul's, to try
Some object better worth the sketching:--
He saw him, and it nerved his strength
What time he hacked and hewed and scraped it,
Until the monster grew at length
The Master-piece to which he shaped it.
To wit--a goodly garden seat,
And fit alike for Shah or Sophy,
With shelf for cigarettes complete,
And one, but lower down, for coffee;
He planted pansies 'round its foot,--
"Pansies for thoughts!" and rose and arum;
The Motto (that he meant to put)
Was "Ille angulus terrarum."
But "Oh! the change" (as Milton sings)--
"The heavy change!" When May departed,
When June with its "delightful things"
Had come and gone, the rough bark started,--
Began to lose its sylvan brown,
Grew parched, and powdery, and spotted;
And, though the Poet nailed it down,
It still flapped up, and dropped, and rotted.
Nor was this all. 'Twas next the scene
Of vague (and viscous) vegetations;
Queer fissures gaped, with oozings green,
And moist, unsavoury exhalations,--
Faint wafts of wood decayed and sick,
Till, where he meant to carve his Motto,
Strange leathery fungi sprouted thick,
And made it like an oyster grotto.
Briefly, it grew a seat of scorn,
Bare,--shameless,--till, for fresh disaster,
From end to end, one April morn,
'Twas riddled like a pepper caster,--
Drilled like a vellum of old time;
And musing on this final mystery,
The Poet left off scribbling rhyme,
And took to studying Natural History.
This was the turning of the tide;
His five-act play is still unwritten;
The dreams that now his soul divide
Are more of Lubbock than of Lytton;
"Ballades" are "verses vain" to him
Whose first ambition is to lecture
(So much is man the sport of whim!)
On "Insects and their Architecture."