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Nelson for setting spy-glass to blind eye
And saying . . what was it, — that he could not see
The signal he was bothered ? Ay, indeed!
I'll go beyond: there's a real love of a lie,
Liars find ready-made for lies they make,
As hand for glove, or tongue for sugar-plum.
At best, 't is never pure and full belief;
Those furthest in the quagmire, — don't suppose
They strayed there with no warning, got no chance
Of a filth-speck in their face, which they clenched teeth,
Bent brow against ! Be sure they had their doubts,
And fears, and fairest challenges to try
The floor o' the seeming solid sand! But no!
Their faith was pledged, acquaintance too apprised,
All but the last step ventured, kerchiefs waved,
And Sludge called “pet”: 't was easier marching on
To the promised land; join those who, Thursday next
Meant to meet Shakespeare; better follow Sludge -
Prudent, oh sure! — on the alert, how else ?
But making for the mid-bog, all the same !
To hear your outcries, one would think I caught
Miss Stokes by the scuff o' the neck, and pitched her
Foolish-face-foremost! Hear these simpletons,
That's all I beg, before my work 's begun,
Before I've touched them with my finger-tip!
Thus they await me — do but listen, now!
It's reasoning, this is, — I can't imitate
The baby voice, though — " In so many tales
Must be some truth, truth though a pin-point big,
Yet, some: a single man's deceived, perhaps —
IIardly, a thousand : to suppose one cheat
Can gull all these, were more miraculous far
Than aught we should confess a miracle” —
And so on. Then the Judge sums up — (it's rare) —
Bids you respect the authorities that leap
To the judgment-seat at once, — why, don't you note
The limpid nature, the unblemished life,
The spotless honor, indisputable sense
Of the first upstart with his story? What -
Outrage a boy on whom you ne'er till now
Set eyes, because he finds raps trouble him ?
Fools, these are: ay, and how of their opposites
Who never did, at bottom of their hearts,
Believe for a moment? - Men emasculate,
Blank of belief, who played, as eunuchs use,
With superstition safely, — cold of blood,
Who saw what made for them in the mystery,
Took their occasion, and supported Sludge
- As proselytes ? No, thank you, far too shrewd !
— But promisers of fair play, encouragers
Of the claimant; who in candor needs must hoist
Sludge up on Mars' Hill, get speech out of Sludge
To carry off, criticise, and cant about !
Did n’t Athens treat Saint Paul so ?— at any rate,
It's “ a new thing,” philosophy fumbles at.
Then there's the other picker out of pearl
From dung-heaps, — ay, your literary man,
Who draws on his kid gloves to deal with Sludge
Daintily and discreetly, — shakes a dust
Of the doctrine, flavors thence, he well knows how,
The narrative or the novel, — half-believes,
All for the book's sake, and the public's stare,
And the cash that's God's sole solid in this world !
Look at him! Try to be too bold, too gross
For the master! Not you! He's the man for muck ;
Shovel it forth, full-splash, he 'll smooth your brown
Into artistic richness, never fear!
Find him the crude stuff ; when you recognize
Your lie again, you 'll doff your hat to it,
Dressed out for company! “ For company,”
I say, since there's the relish of success :
Let all pay due respect, call the lie truth,
Save the soft silent smirking gentleman
Who ushered in the stranger : you must sigh
“ How melancholy, he, the only one,
Fails to perceive the bearing of the truth
Himself gave birth to!” — There's the triumph's smack!
That man would choose to see the whole world roll
I'the slime o' the slough, so he might touch the tip
Of his brush with what I call the best of browns —
Tint ghost-tales, spirit-stories, past the power
Of the outworn umber and bistre !
Yet I think
There's a more hateful form of foolery —
The social sage’s, Solomon of saloons
And philosophic diner-out, the fribble
Who wants a doctrine for a chopping-block
To try the edge of his faculty upon,
Prove how much common sense he 'll hack and hew
In the critical minute 'twixt the soup and fish!
These were my patrons : these, and the like of them
Who, rising in my soul now, sicken it, —
These I have injured! Gratitude to these?
The gratitude, forsooth, of a prostitute
To the greenhorn and the bully, — friends of hers,
From the wag that wants the queer jokes for his club,
To the snuff-box-decorator, honest man,
Who just was at his wits' end where to find
So genial a Pasiphae! All and each
Pay, compliment, protect from the police,
And how she hates them for their pains, like me!
So much for my remorse at thanklessness
Toward a deserving public!
But, for God ? Ay, that's a question! Well, sir, since you press — (How you do tease the whole thing out of me! I don't mean you, you know when I say " them”: Hate you, indeed! But that Miss Stokes, that Judge ! Enough, enough — with sugar : thank you, sir!) Now for it, then! Will you believe me though ? You've heard what I confess; I don't unsay A single word : I cheated when I could, Rapped with my toe-joints, set sham hands at work, Wrote down names weak in sympathetic ink, Rubbed odic lights with ends of phosphor-match, And all the rest ; believe that: believe this, By the same token, though it seem to set The crooked straight again, unsay the said, Stick up what I've thrown down: I can't help that: It's truth! I somehow vomit truth tɔ-day.