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AN ORIENTAL APOLOGUE

I.

SOMEWHERE in India, upon a time (Read it not Injah, or you spoil the verse),

There dwelt two saints whose privilege sublime It was to sit and watch the world grow worse,

Their only care (in that delicious clime)
At proper intervals to pray and curse;

Pracrit the dialect each prudent brother
Used for himself, Damnonian for the other,

II.

One half the time of each was spent in praying For blessings on his own unworthy head,

The other half in fearfully portraying Where certain folks would go when they were dead

This system of exchanges-there's no saying
To what more solid barter 'twould have led,

But that a river, vext with boils and swellings
At rainy times, kept peace between their dwellings.

III.

So they two played at wordy battledore And kept a curse forever in the air,

Flying this way or that from shore to shore; No other labour did this holy pair,

Clothed and supported from the lavish store Which crowds lanigerous brought with daily care;

They toiled not neither did they spin ; their bias Was tow'rd the harder task of being pious.

IV.

Each from his hut rushed six score times a day,
Like a great canon of the Church full-rammed

With cartridge theologic (so to say),
Touched himself off, and then, recoiling, slammed

His hovel's door behind him in a way
That to his foe said plainly-you'll be damned;

And so like Potts and Wainwright, shrill and strong
The two D-D'd each other all day long.

V.
One was a dancing Dervise, a Mohammedan,
The other was a Hindoo, a gymnosophist;

One kept his whatd’yecallit and his Ramadan,
Laughing to scorn the sacred rites and laws of his

Transfluvial riva vho, in turn, called Ahmed an
Old top, and, as a clincher, shook across a fist

With nails six inches long, yet lifted not
His eyes from off his navel's mystic knot.

VI.

" Who whirls not round six thousand times an hour Will go,” screamed Ahmed, “to the evil place;

May be eat dirt, and may the dog and Giaour Defile the graves of him and all his race;

Allah loves faithful souls and gives them power To spin till they are purple in the face;

Some folks get you know what, but he that pure is Earns Paradise and ninety thousand houries.”

VII.

“Upon the silver mountain, South by East, Sits Brahma fed upon the sacred bean;

He loves those men whose nails are still increased, Who all their lives keep ugly, foul and lean;

'Tis of his grace that not a bird or beast Adorned with claws like mine was ever seen;

The suns and stars are Brahma's thoughts divine
Even as these trees I seem to see are mine."

VIII.

“Thou seem'st to see, indeed !” roared Ahmed back, “Were I but once across this plaguy stream,

With a stout sapling in my hand, one whack
On those lank ribs would rid thee of that Dream !

Thy Brahma-blasphemy is ipecac
To my soul's stomach ; could'st thou grasp the scheme

Of true redemption, thou would'st know that Deity
Whirls by a kind of blessed spontaneity.

IX.

“And this it is which keeps our earth here going With all the stars.”—“O, vile ! but there's a place

Prepared for such; to think of Brahma throwing Worlds like a juggler's balls up into Space!

Why, not so much as a smooth lotos blowing Is e'er allowed that silence to efface

Which broods around Brahma, and our earth, 'tis known, Rests on a tortoise, moveless as this stone."

X.

So they kept up their banning amebean, When suddenly came floating down the stream

A youth whose face like an incarnate pæan Glowed, 'twas so full of grandeur and of gleam;

“If there be gods, then, doubtless this must be onc," Thought both at once, and then began to scream,

Surely, whate'er immortals know, thou knowest, Decide between us twain before thou goest!”

The youth was drifting in a slim canoe
Most like a huge white waterlily's petal,

But neither of our theologians knew
Whereof 'twas made; whether of heavenly metal

Unknown, or of a vast pearl split in two
And hollowed, was a point they could not settle;

'Twas good debate-seed, though, and bore large fruit,
In after years of many a tart dispute.

XII.

There were no wings upon the stranger's shoulders, And yet he seemed so capable of rising

That, had he soared like thistledown, beholders Had thought the circumstance noways surprising;

Enough that he remained, and, when the scolders
Hailed him as umpire in their vocal prize-ring,

The painter of his boat he lightly threw
Around a lotos-stem, and brought her to.

XIII.

The strange youth had a look as if he might Have trod far planets where the atmosphere

(Of nobler temper) steeps the face with light, Just as our skins are tanned and freckled here ;

His hair was that of a cosmopolite
In the wide universe from sphere to sphere;

Perhaps he was (his face had such grave beauty)
An officer of Saturn's guards off duty.

XIV.

Both saints began to unfold their tales at once, Both wished their tales, like simial ones, prehensile,

That they might seize his ear; fool! knave! and dunce ! Flew zigzag back and forth, like strokes of pencil

In a child's fingers ; voluble as duns,
They jabbered like the stones on that immense hill

In the Arabian Nights; until the stranger
Began to think his ear-drums in some danger.

XV.

In general those who nothing have to say
Contrive to spend the longest time in doing it;

They turn and vary it in every way,
Hashing it, stewing it, mincing it, ragouting it;

Sometimes they keep it purposely at bay,
Then let it slip to be again pursuing it;

They drone it, groan it, whisper it and shout it,
Refute it, flout it, swear to't, prove it, doubt it.

XVI

Our saints had practised for some thirty years ; Their talk, beginning with a single stem,

Spread like a banyan, sending down live piers, Colonies of digression, and, in them,

Germs of yet new migrations; once by the ears,
They could convey damnation in a hem,

And blow the pinch of premise-priming off
Long syllogistic batteries, with a cough.

XVII.

Each had a theory that the human ear
A providential tunnel was, which led

To a huge vacuum (and surely here
They showed some knowledge of the general head),

For cant to be decanted througn, a mere
Auricular canal or raceway to be fed

All day and night, in sunshine and in shower,
From their vast heads of milk-and-water power.

XVIII,

The present being a peculiar case,
Each with unwonted zeal the other scouted,

Put his spurred hobby through its very pace,
Pished, pshawed, poohed, horribled, bahed, jeered, sneered,

flouted,
Sniffed, nonsensed, infideled, fudged, with his face
Looked scorn too nicely shaded to be shouted,

And, with each inch of person and of vesture,
Contrived to hint some most disdainful gesture.

XIX.

At length, when their breath's end was come about,
And both could, now and then, just gasp "impostor!"

Holding their heads thrust menacingly out,
As staggering cocks keep up their fighting posture,

The stranger smiled and said, “Beyond a doubt 'Tis fortunate, my friends, that you have lost your

United parts of speech, or it had been
Impossible for me to get between.

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