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A Cop(y) Out

A Simile

by Matthew Prior

(1664-1721)

Dear Thomas, didst thou never pop

Thy head into a tin-man’s shop?

There, Thomas, didst thou never see

(‘Tis but by way of simile)

A squirrel spend his little rage

In jumping round a rolling cage?

The cage, as either side turn’d up,

Striking a ring of bells a-top?–

Mov’d in the orb, pleas’d with the chimes,

The foolish creature thinks he climbs:

But here or there, turn wood or wire,

He never gets two inches higher.

So fares it with those merry blades,

That frisk it under Pindus’ shades.

In noble songs, and lofty odes,

They tread on stars, and talk with gods;

Still dancing in an airy round,

Still pleas’d with their own verses’ sound;

Brought back, how fast soe’er they go,

Always aspiring, always low.

Terrence, This Is Stupid Stuff

A.E. Houseman

`Terence, this is stupid stuff:

You eat your victuals fast enough;

There’s nothing much amiss, ’tis clear,

To see the rate you drink your beer.

But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,

It gives a chap the belly-ache.

The cow, the old cow, she is dead;

It sleeps well, the horned head:

We poor lads, ’tis our turn now

To hear such tunes as killed the cow.

Pretty friendship ’tis to rhyme

Your friends to death before their time

Moping melancholy mad:

Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.’

Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,

There’s brisker pipes than poetry.

Say, for what were hop-yards meant,

Or why was Burton built on Trent?

Oh many a peer of England brews

Livelier liquor than the Muse,

And malt does more than Milton can

To justify God’s ways to man.

Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink

For fellows whom it hurts to think:

Look into the pewter pot

To see the world as the world’s not.

And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:

The mischief is that ’twill not last.

Oh I have been to Ludlow fair

And left my necktie God knows where,

And carried half way home, or near,

Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:

Then the world seemed none so bad,

And I myself a sterling lad;

And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,

Happy till I woke again.

Then I saw the morning sky:

Heigho, the tale was all a lie;

The world, it was the old world yet,

I was I, my things were wet,

And nothing now remained to do

But begin the game anew.

Therefore, since the world has still

Much good, but much less good than ill,

And while the sun and moon endure

Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,

I’d face it as a wise man would,

And train for ill and not for good.

‘Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale

Is not so brisk a brew as ale:

Out of a stem that scored the hand

I wrung it in a weary land.

But take it: if the smack is sour

The better for the embittered hour;

It will do good to heart and head

When your soul is in my soul’s stead;

And I will friend you, if I may,

In the dark and cloudy day.

There was a king reigned in the East:

There, when kings will sit to feast,

They get their fill before they think

With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.

He gathered all that sprang to birth

From the many-venomed earth;

First a little, thence to more,

He sampled all her killing store;

And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,

Sate the king when healths went round.

They put arsenic in his meat

And stared aghast to watch him eat;

They poured strychnine in his cup

And shook to see him drink it up:

They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:

Them it was their poison hurt.

— I tell the tale that I heard told.

Mithridates, he died old.



The Aged Aged Man


By Lewis Carroll

I’ll tell thee everything I can;

There’s little to relate.

I saw an aged aged man,

A-sitting on a gate.

“Who are you, aged man?” I said,

“And how is it you live?”

And his answer trickled through my head

Like water through a sieve.

He said, “I look for butterflies

That sleep among the wheat:

I make them into mutton-pies,

And sell them in the street.

I sell them unto men,” he said,

“Who sail on stormy seas;

And that’s the way I get my bread—

A trifle; if you please.”

But I was thinking of a plan

To dye one’s whiskers green,

And always use so large a fan

That they could not be seen.

So, having no reply to give

To what the old man said,

I cried, “Come, tell me how you live!”

And thumped him on the head.

His accents mild took up the tale:

He said, “I go my ways,

And when I find a mountain-rill,

I set it in a blaze;

And thence they make a stuff they call

Rowland’s Macassar-Oil—

Yet twopence-halfpenny is all

They give me for my toil.”

But I was thinking of a way

To feed oneself on batter,

And so go on from day to day

Getting a little fatter.

I shook him well from side to side,

Until his face was blue:

“Come, tell me how you live,” I cried,

“And what it is you do!”

He said, “I hunt for haddocks’ eyes

Among the heather bright,

And work them into waistcoat buttons

In the silent night.

And these I do not sell for gold

Or coin of silvery shine,

But for a copper halfpenny,

And that will purchase nine.

“I sometimes dig for buttered rolls,

Or set limed twigs for crabs;

I sometimes search the grassy knolls

For wheels of hansom-cabs.

And that’s the way” (he gave a wink)

“By which I get my wealth—

And very gladly will I drink

Your Honour’s noble health.”

I heard him then, for I had just

Completed my design

To keep the Menai bridge from rust

By boiling it in wine.

I thanked him much for telling me

The way he got his wealth,

But chiefly for his wish that he

Might drink my noble health.

And now, if e’er by chance I put

My fingers into glue,

Or madly squeeze a right-hand foot

Into a left-hand shoe,

Or if I drop upon my toe

A very heavy weight,

I weep, for it reminds me so

Of that old man I used to know—

Whose look was mild, whose speech was slow,

Whose hair was whiter than the snow,

Whose face was very like a crow,

With eyes, like cinders, all aglow,

Who seemed distracted with his woe,

Who rocked his body to and fro,

And muttered mumblingly and low,

As if his mouth were full of dough,

Who snorted like a buffalo—

That summer evening long ago

A-sitting on a gate.

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