Mary! Mary! I am dying! Prop me up to see the dawn!
Let me watch again Aurora stepping o’er the rosy lawn. .
Not that way now, Mary, d—n you! Don’t you know the east from west?
Oh, I beg your pardon, Mary; but we’re fretful at the best—
Horace said so: good old Horace… Eh? your brother? No, no, no! …
That will do now. Thank you, Mary. Leave me for a little… Go! …
Dear Aurora! see her blushing through her misty morning veil!
She has done me faithful service—though she is a trifle stale;
For the tropes are all exhausted—ah! the poet’s lot is hard
In a world of weary cynics crying for a brand-new bard.
Yes, I thought I was that bard once—thought that sky and earth and sea
Called in beauty, called in wonder, to be written up by me;—
And I wrote them up! I did that—seven epics, thirty odes,
Ballads as the stars in number, lyrics in unnumbered loads!
Toil of genius—whose the profit? Sacred Muse! it wasn’t mine:
Though a foolish generation keeps on asking for a sign.
For a sign! as if I hadn’t painted mine across the heavens.
HERE’S YOUR POET! COME AND BUY HIM! and they came—by six and sevens;
Came to sneer, and growl, and cavil—till I felt that redhot skewers
Would not pierce the blockish skulls of those incompetent reviewers.
So I paid the printers’ bills and wrapped my toga round my soul,
Writing on, and writing ever, with Posterity for goal.
Now I’m dying—poor and friendless—never introduced to Fame;
But I know that Future Ages will do honour to my name…
Mary! Mary! where’s that woman? Oh, you’re there! You might stand by:
Try and soothe my last sad moments, since you know I’m going to die.
Heat some milk, and bring the rum to stop that rattle in my throat:
Let me have a decent drink before I board old Charon’s boat…
There’s the postman coming, Mary; never more he’ll come to me—
Me the editors once used to hob-a-nob with, gay and free;
How my youthful heart would flutter for rejected MSS.—
‘Twas in vain! and now the brutes have all forgotten my address…
But the postman’s stopping, Mary—surely, Mary, that is queer:
Now, by all the bards of Ossian, I believe he’s stopping here!
Off, you gaby! Goodness me, what is the woman waiting for? …
Give them here, you dolt! you duffer! there, you’ve dropped them on the floor…
Three, four, five, six, seven letters—no mistake about the name—
More rum, Mary! I am fainting. Mary! Mary! this is FAME!!
I think I’m better now, Mary: take that wet rag away:
You know I hate my forehead slopped—no, never mind; obey!
Give me the letters here, Mary, and bring the bottle too;
You never mix it strong enough; Mary, you never do.
Aha!—here’s Jones—yes, Jones it is!—“compiling an anthology” …
“Make extracts” . . why, of course he can . . that doesn’t need apology;
And Robinson—dear me, how strange!—is “making a collection,”
And begs the honour to include my “Ode to Vivisection.”
And Bones asks most politely—yes, he asks me: Mary, look!
To add the lustre of my name to grace his little book.
And Simpson wants my autograph—I’ll write it now—and hark!
Here’s Smith desires my portrait for his “Famous Men of Mark;”
And Brown would like “some passages of genius” in a letter;
And Harrison requires my “life,” and “will remain my debtor”!
Fame! fame at last! I knew it would come, though it nearly arrived too late;
But now I am better, now I am well, now I am lord of my fate…
Dying? Who talked about dying? Not I! I could conquer a host;
And I’ll answer these gentlemen now, Mary—and you’ll have to run to the post.
My brain is on fire—no, it isn’t the rum—’tis the genius of ancient delight
Exalts me and thrills me with rapturous bliss, and showers on me images bright.
Quick, give me my dressing-gown, Mary! don’t stand staring there while I write …
Now go—and no noise till I’m finished—or I’ll murder you, Mary, to-night!