Summer Portents

A poem by John Kendall

Come, let us quaff the brimming cup
Of sorrow, bitterness, and pain;
For clearly, things are warming up

Observe with what awakened powers
The vulgar Sun resumes the right
Of rising in the hallowed hours
Of night.

Bound to the village water-wheel,
The motive bullock bows his crest,
And signals forth a mute appeal
For rest.

His neck is galled beneath the yoke:
His patient eyes are very dim:
Life is a dismal sort of joke
To him.

Yet one there is, to whom the ox
Is kin; who knows, as habitat,
The cold, unsympathetic box,
Or mat;

Who urges on, with wearied arms,
The punkah's rhythmic, laboured sweep,
Nor dares to contemplate the charms
Of sleep.

Now 'mid a host of lesser things
That pasture through the heaving nights,
The sharp mosquito flaps his wings,
And bites;

With other Anthropophagi,
Such as that microscopic brand
The common Sand-fly (or the fly
Of sand),

Who, with a hideous lust uncurbed
By clappings of the frequent palm,
Devours one's ankles, undisturbed,
And calm.

The scorpion nips one unaware:
The lizard flops upon the head:
And cobras, uninvited, share
One's bed.

Oh, if I only had the luck
To feel the grand Olympic fire
That thrilled the Greater when they struck
The lyre!

When Homer wrote of this and that:
When Dante sang like one possessed:
When Milton groaned and laboured at
His Best!

Had I the swelling rise and fall,
Whereof the Bo'sun's quivering moan
Derives a breezy fragrance all
Its own:

Oh, I would pour such passion out -
Good gracious me! - I would so sing
That you should know the facts about
This thing!

Then w-w-wake, my Lyre! O halting lilt!
O miserable, broken lay!
It may not be: I am not built
That way.

Yet other gifts the gods bestow.
I do not weep, I do not grieve.
Far from it. I shall simply go
On leave.

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