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Forgotten, as the foliage of thy youth.
While thus through all the stages thou hast pushed 60
Of treeship-first a seedling, hid in grass;
Then twig; then sapling; and, as century rolled
Slow after century, a giant bulk
Of girth enormous, with moss-cushioned root
Upheaved above the soil, and sides embossed
With prominent wens globose; till at the last
The rottenness, which time is charged to inflict
On other mighty ones, found also thee.
What exhibitions various hathe the world
Witnessed, of mutability in all
That we account most durable below!
Change is the diet on which all subsist,
Created changeable, and change at last
Destroys them-skies uncertain, now the heat
Transmitting cloudless, and the solar beam
75 Now quenching in a boundless sea of cloudsCalm and alternate storm, moisture, and drought, Invigorate by turns the springs of life In all that live, plant, animal, and man, *And in conclusion mar them. Nature's threads,
80 Fine passing thought, e'en in her coarsest works, Delight in agitation, yet sustain The force that agitates not unimpaired; But worn by frequent impulse, to the cause Of their best tone their dissolution owe.
85 Thought cannot spend itself, comparing still The great and little of thy lot, thy growth From almost nullity into a state Of matchless grandeur, and declension thence, Slow, into such magnificent decay.
90 Time was when, settling on thy leaf, a fly Could shake thee to the root-and time has been When tempests could not. At thy firmest age Thou hadst within thy bole solid contents That might have ribbed the sides and planked the deck Of some flagged admiral; and tortuous arms,
The shipwright's darling treasure, didst present
To the four-quartered winds, robust and bold,
Warped into tough knee-timber, many a load !
But the axe spared thee. In those thriftier days
Oaks fell not, hewn by thousands, to supply
The bottomless demands of contest waged
For senatorial honours. Thus to Time
The task was left to whittle thee away
With his sly scythe, whose ever-nibbling edge,
Noiseless, an atom, and an atom more,
Disjoining from the rest, has unobserved,
Achieved a labour which had, far and wide,
By man performed, made all the forest ring.
Embowelled now, and of thy ancient self
Possessing naught but the scooped rind that seems
A huge throat calling to the clouds for drink,
Which it would give in rivulets to thy root,
Thou temptest none, but rather much forbiddest
The feller's toil which thou couldst ill requite.
Yet is thy root sincere, sound as the rock,
A quarry of stout spurs and knotted fangs,
Which, crooked into a thousand whimsies, clasp
The stubborn soil, and hold thee still erect.
So stands a kingdom, whose foundation yet
Fails not, in virtue and in wisdom laid,
Though all the superstructure, by the tooth
Pulverized of venality, a shell
Stands now, and semblance only of itself!
Thine arms have left thee. Winds have rent them off 125
Long since, and rovers of the forest wild
With bow and shaft have burnt them. Some have left
A splintered stump bleached to a snowy white;
And some memorial none where once they grew.
Yet Life still lingers in thee, and puts forth
130 Proof not contemptible of what she can, Even where Death predominates. The spring Finds thee not less alive to her sweet force Than yonder upstarts of the neighbouring wood,
So much thy juniors, who their birth received
Half a millennium since the date of thine.
But since, although well qualified by age
To teach, no Spirit dwells in thee, nor voice
May be expected from thee, seated here
On thy distorted root, with hearers none,
Or prompter, save the scene, I will perform
Myself the oracle, and will discourse
In my own ear such matter as I
One man alone, the father of us all,
Drew not his life from woman; never gazed,
With mute unconsciousness of what he saw,
On all around him; learned not by degrees,
Nor owed articulation to his ear;
But moulded by his Maker into man
At once, upstood intelligent, surveyed
All creatures, with precision understood
Their purport, uses, properties, resigned
To each his name significant, and filled
With love and wisdom, rendered back to Heaven
In praise harmonious the first air he drew.
He was excused the penalties of dull
Minority. No tutor charged his hand
With the thought-tracing quill, or tasked his mind
With problems. History, not wanted yet,
Leaned on her elbow, watching Time, whose course
Eventful, should supply her with a theme; ..
A POET's cat, sedate and grave
As poet well could wish to have,
Was much addicted to inquire
For nooks to which she might retire,
And where, secure as mouse in chink,
She might repose, or sit and think.
I know not where she caught the trick
Nature perhaps herself had cast her
In such a mould philosophique,
Or else she learned it of her master.
Sometimes ascending, debonair,
An apple tree, or lofty pear,
Lodged with convenience in the fork,
She watched the gardener at his work;
Sometimes her ease and solace sought
In an old empty watering pot;
There, wanting nothing save a fan,
To seem some nymph in her sedan
Apparelled in exactest sort,
And ready to be borne to court.
But love of change, it seems, has place,
Not only in our wiser race;
Cats also feel, as well as we,
That passion's force, and so did she.
Her climbing, she began to find,
Exposed her too much to the wind,
And the old utensil of tin
Was cold and comfortless within :
She therefore wished instead of those
Some place of more serene repose,
Where neither cold might come, nor air
Too rudely wanton with her hair,
And sought it in the likeliest mode
Within her master's snug abode.
A drawer, it chanced, at bottom lined
With linen of the softest kind,
With such as merchants introduce
From India, for the ladies' use,
A drawer impending o'er the rest,
Half open in the topmost chest,
Of depth enough, and none to spare,
Invited her to slumber there;
Puss with delight beyond expression
Surveyed the scene, and took possession.
Recumbent at her ease, ere long,
And lulled by her own humdrum song,
She left the cares of life behind,
And slept as she would sleep her last,
When in came, housewifely inclined,
The chambermaid, and shut it fast;
50 By no malignity impelled, But all unconscious whom it held.
Awakened by the shock (cried Puss) "Was ever cat attended thus ? 'The open drawer was left, I see,
55 Merely to prove a nest for me, 'For soon as I was well composed, 'Then came the maid, and it was closed, ‘How smooth these 'kerchiefs, and how sweet! Oh what a delicate retreat!
60 'I will resign myself to rest 'Till Sol, declining in the west, ‘Shall call to supper, when, no doubt, Susan will come and let me out.'
The evening came, the sun descended,
And Puss remained still unattended.
The night rolled tardily away,
(With her indeed 'twas never day),
The sprightly morn her course renewed,
The evening gray again ensued,
And puss came into mind no more
Than if entombed the day before.
With hunger pinched, and pinched for room,
She now presaged approaching doom,
Nor slept a single wink, or purred,
75 Conscious of jeopardy incurred.
That night, by chance, the poet watching,
Heard an inexplicable scratching;
His noble heart went pit-a-pat,
And to himself he said-What's that?'
80 He drew the curtain at his side, And forth he peeped, but nothing spied.