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James Kenneth Stephen

Of F.W.H.M. to One that Smokes

Spare us the hint of slightest desecration,
Spotless preserve us an untainted shrine;
Not for thy sake, oh goddess of creation,
Not for thy sake, oh woman, but for mine.

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The Philosopher and the Philanthropist

Searching an infinite Where,
Probing a bottomless When,
Dreamfully wandering,
Ceaselessly pondering,
What is the Wherefore of men:
Bartering life for a There,
Selling his soul for a Then,
Baffling obscurity,
Conning futurity,
Usefulest, wisest of men!
Grasping the Present of Life,
Seizing a definite Now,
Labouring thornfully,
Banishing scornfully
Doubts of his Whither and How:
Spending his substance in Strife,
Working a practical How,
Letting obscurity
Rest on futurity,
Usefuler, wiser, I trow.

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Wordsworth

Two voices are there: one is of the deep;
It learns the storm cloud's thunderous melody,
Now roars, now murmurs with the changing sea,
Now birdlike pipes, now closes soft in sleep;
And one is of an old half-witted sheep
Who bleats articulate monotony,
And indicates that two and one are three,
That grass is green, lakes damp, and mountains steep:
And, Wordsworth, both are thine: at certain times,
Forth from the heart of thy melodious rhymes
The form and pressure of high thoughts will burst;
At other times--good Lord! I'd rather be
Quite unacquainted with the A, B, C,
Than write such hopeless rubbish as thy worst.

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4th July 1882, Malines. Midnight

Belgian, with cumbrous tread and iron boots,
Who in the murky middle of the night,
Designing to renew the foul pursuits
In which thy life is passed, ill-favoured wight,
And wishing on the platform to alight
Where thou couldst mingle with thy fellow brutes,
Didst walk the carriage floor (a leprous sight),
As o'er the sky some baleful meteor shoots:
Upon my slippered foot thou didst descend,
Didst rouse me from my slumbers mad with pain,
And laughedst loud for several minutes' space.
Oh may'st thou suffer tortures without end:
May fiends with glowing pincers rend thy brain,
And beetles batten on thy blackened face!

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A Sonnet (Two Voices Are There)

Two voices are there: one is of the deep;
It learns the storm-cloud's thunderous melody,
Now roars, now murmurs with the changing sea,
Now bird-like pipes, now closes soft in sleep:
And one is of an old half-witted sheep
Which bleats articulate monotony,
And indicates that two and one are three,
That grass is green, lakes damp, and mountains steep:
And, Wordsworth, both are thine: at certain times
Forth from the heart of thy melodious rhymes,
The form and pressure of high thoughts will burst:
At other times -- good Lord! I'd rather be
Quite unacquainted with the A.B.C.
Than write such hopeless rubbish as thy worst.

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A Sonnet

Two voices are there: one is of the deep;
It learns the storm-cloud's thunderous melody,
Now roars, now murmurs with the changing sea,
Now bird-like pipes, now closes soft in sleep:
And one is of an old half-witted sheep
Which bleats articulate monotony,
And indicates that two and one are three,
That grass is green, lakes damp, and mountains steep:
And, Wordsworth, both are thine: at certain times
Forth from the heart of thy melodious rhymes,
The form and pressure of high thoughts will burst:
At other times -- good Lord! I'd rather be
Quite unacquainted with the A.B.C.
Than write such hopeless rubbish as thy worst.

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My Education

At school I sometimes read a book,
And learned a lot of lessons;
Some small amount of pains I took,
And showed much acquiescence
In what my masters said, good men!
Yet after all I quite
Forgot the most of it: but then
I learned to write.

At Lincoln's Inn I'd read a brief,
Abstract a title, study
Great paper-piles, beyond belief
Inelegant and muddy:
The whole of these as time went by
I soon forgot: indeed
I tried to: yes: but by and by
I learned to read.

By help of Latin, Greek and Law
I now can write and read too:

[...] Read more

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To R. K.

As long I dwell on some stupendous
And tremendous (Heaven defend us!)
Monstr'-inform'-ingens-horrendous
Demoniaco-seraphic
Penman's latest piece of graphic.
BROWNING.
Will there never come a season
Which shall rid us from the curse
Of a prose which knows no reason
And an unmelodious verse:
When the world shall cease to wonder
At the genius of an Ass,
And a boy's eccentric blunder
Shall not bring success to pass:
When mankind shall be delivered
From the clash of magazines,
And the inkstand shall be shivered
Into countless smithereens:
When there stands a muzzled stripling,
Mute, beside a muzzled bore:

[...] Read more

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A Parodist's Apology

If I've dared laugh at you, Robert Browning,
'Tis with eyes that with you have often wept:
You have oftener left me smiling or frowning,
Than any beside, one bard except.

But once you spoke to me, storm-tongued poet,
A trivial word in an idle hour;
But thrice I looked on your face and the glow it
Bore from the flame of the inward power.

But you'd many a friend you never knew of,
Your words lie hid in a hundred hearts,
And thousands of hands that you've grasped but few of
Would be raised to shield you from slander's darts.

For you lived in the sight of the land that owned you,
You faced the trial, and stood the test:
They have piled you a cairn that would fain have stoned you:
You have spoken your message and earned your rest.

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Drinking Song

There are people, I know, to be found,
Who say, and apparently think,
That sorrow and care may be drowned
By a timely consumption of drink.

Does not man, these enthusiasts ask,
Most nearly approach the divine,
When engaged in the soul-stirring task
Of filling his body with wine?

Have not beggars been frequently known,
When satisfied, soaked, and replete,
To imagine their bench was a throne
And the civilised world at their feet?

Lord Byron has finely described
The remarkably soothing effect
Of liquor, profusely imbibed,
On a soul that is shattered and wrecked.

[...] Read more

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