To His Book.

A poem by Henry Austin Dobson

(HOR. EP. I., 20.)


For mart and street you seem to pine
With restless glances, Book of mine!
Still craving on some stall to stand,
Fresh pumiced from the binder's hand.
You chafe at locks, and burn to quit
Your modest haunt and audience fit
For hearers less discriminate.
I reared you up for no such fate.
Still, if you must be published, go;
But mind, you can't come back, you know!

"What have I done?" I hear you cry,
And writhe beneath some critic's eye;
"What did I want?"--when, scarce polite,
They do but yawn, and roll you tight.
And yet methinks, if I may guess
(Putting aside your heartlessness
In leaving me and this your home),
You should find favour, too, at Rome.
That is, they'll like you while you're young,
When you are old, you'll pass among
The Great Unwashed,--then thumbed and sped,
Be fretted of slow moths, unread,
Or to Ilerda you'll be sent,
Or Utica, for banishment!
And I, whose counsel you disdain,
At that your lot shall laugh amain,
Wryly, as he who, like a fool,
Thrust o'er the cliff his restive mule.
Nay! there is worse behind. In age
They e'en may take your babbling page
In some remotest "slum" to teach
Mere boys their rudiments of speech!

But go. When on warm days you see
A chance of listeners, speak of me.
Tell them I soared from low estate,
A freedman's son, to higher fate
(That is, make up to me in worth
What you must take in point of birth);
Then tell them that I won renown
In peace and war, and pleased the town;
Paint me as early gray, and one
Little of stature, fond of sun,
Quick-tempered, too,--but nothing more.
Add (if they ask) I'm forty-four,
Or was, the year that over us
Both Lollius ruled and Lepidus.

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