Fables For The Holy Alliance. Fable Vii. The Extinguishers.

A poem by Thomas Moore


Tho' soldiers are the true supports,
The natural allies of Courts,
Woe to the Monarch, who depends
Too much on his red-coated friends;
For even soldiers sometimes think--
Nay, Colonels have been known to reason,--

And reasoners, whether clad in pink
Or red or blue, are on the brink
(Nine cases out of ten) of treason

Not many soldiers, I believe, are
As fond of liberty as Mina;
Else--woe to Kings! when Freedom's fever
Once turns into a Scarletina!
For then--but hold--'tis best to veil
My meaning in the following tale:--


A Lord of Persia, rich and great,
Just come into a large estate,
Was shockt to find he had, for neighbors,
Close to his gate, some rascal Ghebers,
Whose fires, beneath his very nose,
In heretic combustion rose.
But Lords of Persia can, no doubt,
Do what they will--so, one fine morning,
He turned the rascal Ghebers out,
First giving a few kicks for warning.
Then, thanking Heaven most piously,
He knockt their Temple to the ground,
Blessing himself for joy to see
Such Pagan ruins strewed around.
But much it vext my Lord to find,
That, while all else obeyed his will,
The Fire these Ghebers left behind,
Do what he would, kept burning still.
Fiercely he stormed, as if his frown
Could scare the bright insurgent down;
But, no--such fires are headstrong things,
And care not much for Lords or Kings.
Scarce could his Lordship well contrive
The flashes in one place to smother,
Before--hey presto!--all alive,
They sprung up freshly in another.

At length when, spite of prayers and damns,
'Twas found the sturdy flame defied him,
His stewards came, with low salams,
Offering, by contract, to provide him
Some large Extinguishers, (a plan,
Much used, they said, at Ispahan,
Vienna, Petersburg--in short,
Wherever Light's forbid at court),
Machines no Lord should be without,
Which would at once put promptly out
All kinds of fires,--from staring, stark
Volcanoes to the tiniest spark;
Till all things slept as dull and dark,
As in a great Lord's neighborhood
'Twas right and fitting all things should.

Accordingly, some large supplies
Of these Extinguishers were furnisht
(All of the true Imperial size),
And there, in rows, stood black and burnisht,
Ready, where'er a gleam but shone
Of light or fire, to be clapt on.

But ah! how lordly wisdom errs,
In trusting to extinguishers!
One day, when he had left all sure,
(At least, so thought he) dark, secure--
The flame, at all its exits, entries,
Obstructed to his heart's content,
And black extinguishers, like sentries,
Placed over every dangerous vent--
Ye Gods, imagine his amaze,
His wrath, his rage, when, on returning,
He found not only the old blaze,
Brisk as before, crackling and burning,--
Not only new, young conflagrations,
Popping up round in various stations--
But still more awful, strange and dire,
The Extinguishers themselves on fire!![1]
They, they--those trusty, blind machines
His Lordship had so long been praising,
As, under Providence, the means
Of keeping down all lawless blazing,
Were now, themselves--alas, too true,
The shameful fact--turned blazers too,
And by a change as odd as cruel
Instead of dampers, served for fuel!
Thus, of his only hope bereft,
"What," said the great man, "must be done?"--
All that, in scrapes like this, is left
To great men is--to cut and run.
So run he did; while to their grounds,
The banisht Ghebers blest returned;
And, tho' their Fire had broke its bounds,
And all abroad now wildly burned,
Yet well could they, who loved the flame,
Its wandering, its excess reclaim;
And soon another, fairer Dome
Arose to be its sacred home,
Where, cherisht, guarded, not confined,
The living glory dwelt inshrined,
And, shedding lustre strong, but even,
Tho' born of earth, grew worthy heaven.


The moral hence my Muse infers
Is, that such Lords are simple elves,
In trusting to Extinguishers,
That are combustible themselves.

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