Canto VI


AS one who strives a hill to climb,
 Who never climbed before:
Who find it, in a little time,
Grow every moment less sublime,
 And votes the thing a bore:

Yet, having once begun to try,
 Dares not desert his quest,
But, climbing, ever keeps his eye
On one small hut against the sky
 Wherein he hopes to rest:

Who climbs till nerve and force are spent,
 With many a puff and pant:
Who still, as rises the ascent,
In language grows more violent,
 Although in breath more scant:

Who, climbing, gains at last the place
 That crowns the upward track:
And, entering with unsteady pace,
Receives a buffet in the face
 That lands him on his back:

And, feels himself, like one in sleep,
 Glide swiftly down again,
A helpless weight, from steep to steep,
Till, with a headlong giddy sweep,
 He drops upon the plain---

So I, that had resolved to bring
 Conviction to a ghost,
And found it quite a different thing
From any human arguing,
 Yet dared not quit my post.

But, keeping still the end in view
 To which I hoped to come,
I strove to put the matter true
By putting everything I knew
 Into an axiom:

Commencing every single phrase
 With "therefore" or "because,"
I blindly reeled, a hundred ways,
About the syllogistic maze,
 Unconscious where I was.

Quoth he "That's regular clap-trap:
 Don't bluster any more.
Now do be cool and take a nap!
Such a ridiculous old chap
 Was never seen before!

"You're like a man I used to meet,
 Who got one day so furious
In arguing, the simple heat
Scorched both his slippers off his feet!"
 I said "That's very curious!"

"Well, it is curious, I agree,
 And sounds perhaps like fibs:
But still it's true as true can be---
As sure as your name's Tibbs," said he.
 I said "My name's not Tibbs."

"Not Tibbs!" he cried---his tone became
 A shade or two less hearty---
"Why, no," said I. "My proper name
Is Tibbets---" "Tibbets?" "Aye, the same."
 "Why, then YOU'RE NOT THE PARTY!"

With that he struck the board a blow
 That shivered half the glasses.
"Why couldn't you have told me so
Three quarters of an hour ago,
 You prince of all the asses?

"To walk four miles through mud and rain,
 To spend the night in smoking,
And then to find that it's in vain---
And I've to do it all again---
 It's really too provoking!

"Don't talk!" he cried, as I began
 To mutter some excuse.
"Who can have patience with a man
That's got no more discretion than
 An idiotic goose?

"To keep me waiting here, instead
 Of telling me at once
That this was not the house!" he said.
"There, that'll do---be off to bed!
 Don't gape like that, you dunce!"

"It's very fine to throw the blame
 On me in such a fashion
Why didn't you enquire my name
The very minute that you came?"
 I answered in a passion.

"Of course it worries you a bit
 To come so far on foot---
But how was I to blame for it?"
"Well, well!" said he. "I must admit
 That isn't badly put.

"And certainly you've given me
 The best of wine and victual---
Excuse my violence," said he,
"But accidents like this, you see,
 They put one out a little.

"'Twas my fault after all, I find---
 Shake hands, old Turnip-top!"
The name was hardly to my mind,
But, as no doubt he meant it kind,
 I let the matter drop.

"Good-night, old Turnip-top, good-night!
 When I am gone, perhaps
They'll send you some inferior Sprite,
Who'll keep you in a constant fright
 And spoil your soundest naps.

"Tell him you'll stand for no sort of trick;
 Then, if he leers and chuckles,
You just be handy with a stick
(Mind that it's pretty hard and thick)
 And rap him on the knuckles!

"Then carelessly remark 'Old coon!
 Perhaps you're not aware
That, if you don't behave, you'll soon
Be chuckling to another tune---
 And so you'd best take care!'

"That's the right way to cure a Sprite
 Of such-like goings on---
But gracious me! It's getting light!
Good-night, old Turnip-top, good-night!"
 A nod, and he was gone.

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Stefan Bilaniuk, Department of Mathematics, Trent University
Maintained by Stefan Bilaniuk. Last updated 1998.08.22.