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We must take such as we find them, 'ware their tricks,
Wanting their service. Sir, Sludge tock in you, —
IIow, I can't say, not being there to watch —
Ile was tried, was tempted by your easiness, —
He did not take in me!”.
Thank you for Sludge ! I’m to be grateful to such patrons, eh, When what you hear's my best word?T is a challenge ; “Snap at all strangers, you half-tamed prairie-dog, So you cower duly at your keeper's nod! Cat, show what claws were made for, mufling them Only to me! Cheat others if you can, Me, if you dare !” And, my wise sir, I dared, Did cheat you first, made you cheat others next, And had the help of your vaunted manliness To bully the incredulous. You used me ? Have not I used you, taken full revenge, Persuaded folks they knew not their own name, And straight they ’d own the error! Who was the fool, When, to an awe-struck, wide-eyed, open-mouthed Circle of sages, Sludge would introduce Milton composing baby-rhymes, and Locke Reasoning in gibberish, Homer writing Greek In noughts and crosses, Asaph setting psalms
To crotchet and quaver? I've made a spirit squeak
In sham voice for a minute, then outbroke
Bold in my own, defying the imbeciles, –
Have copied some ghost's pothooks, half a page,
Then ended with my own scrawl undisguised.
“ All right! The ghost was merely using Sludge,
Suiting itself from his imperfect stock!”
Don't talk of gratitude to me! For what ?
For being treated as a showman’s ape,
Encouraged to be wicked and make sport,
Fret or sulk, grin or whimper, any mood
So long as the ape be in it and no man —
Because a nut pays every mood alike.
Curse your superior, superintending sort,
Who, since you hate smoke, send up boys that climb
To cure your chimney, bid a “medium” lie
To sweep you truth down! Curse your women too,
Your insolent wives and daughters, that fire up
Or faint away if a male hand squeeze theirs,
Yet, to encourage Sludge, may play with Sludge
As only a “medium,” only the kind of thing
They must humor, fondle .. 0, to misconceive
Were too preposterous ! But I've paid them out!
They've had their wish, — called for the naked truth,
And in she tripped, sat down and bade them stare :
They had to blush a little and forgive !
“ The fact is, children talk so; in next world
All our conventions are reversed, — perhaps,
Made light of: something like old prints, my dear!
The Judge has one, he brought from Italy,
A metropolis in the background, -o'er a bridge,
A team of trotting roadsters, -- cheerful groups
Of wayside travellers, peasants at their work,
And, full in front, quite unconcerned, why not?
Three nymphs conversing with a cavalier,
And never a rag among them : 'fine, folks cry -
And heavenly manners seem not much unlike!
Let Sludge go on ; we 'll fancy it's in print!"
If such as came for wool, sir, went home shorn,
Where is the wrong I did them ? 'T was their choice;
They tried the adventure, ran the risk, tossed up
And lost, as some one's sure to do in games ;
They fancied I was made to lose, - smoked glass
Useful to spy the sun through, spare their eyes :
And had I proved a red-hot iron plate
They thought to pierce, and, for their pains, grew blind,
Whose were the fault but theirs ? While, as things go,
Their loss amounts to gain, the more 's the shame!
They've had their peep into the spirit-world,
And all this world may know it! They've fed fat
Their self-conceit which else had starved: what chance
Save this, of cackling o'er a golden egg
And compassing distinction from the flock,
Friends of a feather? Well, they paid for it,
And not prodigiously; the price o' the play,
Not counting certain pleasant interludes,
Was scarce a vulgar play's worth. When you buy
The actor's talent, do you dare propose
For his soul beside ? Whereas, my soul you buy!
Sludge acts Macbeth, obliged to be Macbeth,
Or you will not hear his first word! Just go through
That slight formality, swear himself's the Thane,
And thenceforth he may strut and fret his hour,
Spout, spawl, or spin his target, no one cares !
Why had n't I leave to play tricks, Sludge as Sludge ?
Enough of it all! I've wiped out scores with you, —
Vented your fustian, let myself be streaked
Like a tom-fool with your ochre and carmine,
Worn patchwork your respectable fingers sewed
To metamorphose somebody, -yes, I've earned
My wages, swallowed down my bread of shame,
And shake the crumbs off - where but in your face?
As for religion — why, I served it, sir !
I'll stick to that! With my phenomena
I laid the atheist sprawling on his back,
And propped Saint Paul up, or, at least, Swedenborg!
In fact, it 's just the proper way to balk
These troublesome fellows, — liars, one and all,
Are not these sceptics? Well, to baffle them,
No use in being squeamish: lie yourself!
Erect your buttress just as wide o' the line,
Your side, as they've built up the wall on theirs ;
Where both meet, midway, in a point, is truth,
Iligh overhead: so, take your room, pile bricks,
Lie! O, there's titillation in all shame!
What snow may lose in white, it gains in rose :
Miss Stokes turns — Rahab, — nor a bad exchange !
Glory be on her, for the good she wrought,
Breeding belief anew 'neath ribs of death,
Brow-beating now the unabashed before,
Ridding us of their whole life's gathered straws
By a live coal from the altar! Why, of old,
Great men spent years and years in writing books
To prove we've souls, and hardly proved it then:
Miss Stokes with her live coal, for you and me!
Surely, to this good issue, all was fair, —
Not only fondling Sludge, but, even suppose
He let escape some spice of knavery, — well,
In wisely being blind to it! Don't you praise