To An Elephant On His Tonic Qualities

A poem by John Kendall

Solace of mine hours of anguish,
Peace-imparting View, when I,
Sick of Hindo-Sturm-und-Drang, wish
I could lay me down and die,

Very present help in trouble,
Never-failing anodyne
For the blows that knock us double,
Here's towards thee, Hathi mine!

As, 'tis said, the dolorous Jack Tar
Turns to view the watery Vast,
When he mourns his frail charĂ c-tar,
Or deplores his jagged Past,

Climbs a cliff, and breathes his sighs on
That appalling breast until,
Borne from off the far horizon,
Voices whisper, 'Cheer up, Bill!'

So when evil chance or dark as-
persions crush the bosom's lord,
When discomfort rends the car-cass,
When we're sorry, sick, or bored,

When the year is at its hottest,
And our life with sorrow crowned,
Gazing thee-wards, where thou blottest
Out the landscape, pulls us round,

Gives us peace, some nameless modi-
cum of cheer to mind and eye:
Something that can soothe a body
Like a blessed lullaby.

Sweet it is to watch thee, Hathi,
Through the stertorous afternoons,
Wond'ring why so stout a party
Wears such baggy pantaloons:

Sweet, again, to steal a-nigh and
Watch thee, ere thy meals begin,
Deftly weigh th' unleavened viand,
Lest thou be deceived therein:

Sweet to mark thee gravely dining:
Grand, when day has nearly gone,
'Tis to view yon Orb declining
Down behind thee, broadside on:

Ay! and when thy vassals tub thee,
And thou writhest 'neath the brick
Wherewithal they take and scrub thee,
'Twere a sight to heal the sick!

Not a pose but serves to ward off
Pangs that had of yore prevailed;
E'en the stab of being scored off
Owns the charm, old Double-Tailed!

But, O Thou that giv'st the flabby
Strength, and stingo'st up the weak:-
Restful as a grand old Abbey -
Bracing as a Mountain Peak: -

All the bonds of Age were slackened,
And my years were out of sight,
When I burst upon thy back end
As thou kneeled'st yesternight!

Head and frame were hidden. Only
Loomed a black, colossal Seat,
Taut, magnificent, and lonely,
O'er a pair of suppliant feet

To th' astounded mind conveying
Dreams from which my manhood shrank,
Of a very fat man praying,
Whom a boy would love to spank.

And I felt my fingers twitching,
And my sinews turned to wire,
And my palm was itching, itching,
With the old, unhallowed fire.

While the twofold voice within me
Urged their long-forgotten feud,
One to do thee shame would win me, -
One that whispered, 'Don't be rude!'

Till, by heaven! thy pleading beauty
Drove those carnal thoughts away,
And the friend that came to scruti-
nise was left behind to pray: -

For I shamed thee not, nor spanked thee;
But to rearward, on the plain,
Hathi, on my knees I thanked thee
That I felt a boy again!

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