Punch and Judy.

Nor can ye with your statutes' musty store
Seal up the fountains of man's mirth for ever;
Somehow the buoyant spirits will rush o'er,
Mocking the politician's dull endeavour
To bar their progress; nay, perchance the more
In lands and times least happy: — then, oh, never
Consult alone the noble's over-niceness,
The pleader's phlegm, or puritan's preciseness!

Besides — forgive th' apparent contradiction,
With most, I fear, this show of weighty sense,
This search of abstract good, is but a fiction:
If not hypocrisy, at least pretence:
And if it be so, without dereliction
Of truth and candour, we may gather hence,
That the world's sageness is one-half cajolery,
And has a lurking love for fun and drollery.

For, hide it as they may, the mass of men
Shrink from the pain and trouble of deep thought;
Hug ignorance;— or wish, nine out often,
To know, without the plague of being taught:—
The speculations of a serious pen,
High principles on sound foundations wrought,
These would they to the chariot-wheels of Folly tie,
In heart by nature lovers of frivolity.

They take grave theories as a medicine,
Where health, and not the palate, is in question;
And gulp them with wry faces, I opine,
To aid the process of the mind's digestion:
But sportive pleasantries they sip like wine;
And love as Alexander loved Hephoestion,
And men in general love the pert despiser
Of wisdom — not the man who makes them wiser.

Some intellectual rail-road they require,
To slide to science without toil or stay;
And even should they find it, soon will tire
Of such a journey by the easiest way.
Yet seek they not, with ever-new desire,
The giddy, the fantastical, the gay?
And therefore, though the truth be melancholy,
I say again, the world's a world of folly.

The learned lady, who affects geology,
Will read a novel, when no friend is nigh.
As for myself, though bred in school and college, I
Confess I found the Stagyrite too dry.
E'en you, oh Senators, without apology,
Rushed forth to see the new balloon pass by,
Leaving the speaker — as a host their trenches, —
Without a house, amid the empty benches.

Oh then, ye grave and reverend scribes, beware,
In this our age's weakness and depravity,
Of stiff sententious dulness. I declare,
And though I now may laugh, 'tis not in suavity,
But in the merriment of mere despair,
Myself have suffered deeply from my gravity.
Wisdom must have a spice of wit to flavour it,
And thus is Punch with me, with all, a favourite.

 

 

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