In vain we fondly strive to trace
The soul's reflection in the face;
In vain we dwell on lines and crosses,
Crooked mouth or short proboscis;
Boobies have looked as wise and bright
As Plato or the Stagirite:
And many a sage and learned skull
Has peeped through windows dark and dull.
Since then, though art do all it can,
We ne'er can reach the inward man,
Nor (howsoe'er "learned Thebans" doubt)
The inward woman, from without,
Methinks 'twere well if nature could
(And Nature could, if Nature would)
Some pithy, short descriptions write
On tablets large, in black and white,
Which she might hang about our throttles,
Like labels upon physic-bottles;
And where all men might read--but stay--
As dialectic sages say,
The argument most apt and ample
For common use is the example.
For instance, then, if Nature's care
Had not portrayed, in lines so fair,
The inward soul of Lucy Lindon.
This is the label she'd have pinned on.
Within this form there lies enshrined
The purest, brightest gem of mind.
Though Feeling's hand may sometimes throw
Upon its charms the shade of woe,
The lustre of the gem, when veiled,
Shall be but mellowed, not concealed.
* * * * *
Now, sirs, imagine, if you're able,
That Nature wrote a second label,
They're her own words--at least suppose so--
And boldly pin it on Pomposo.
When I composed the fustian brain
Of this redoubted Captain Vain.
I had at hand but few ingredients,
And so was forced to use expedients.
I put therein some small discerning,
A grain of sense, a grain of learning;
And when I saw the void behind,
I filled it up with--froth and wind!