Now it was clear to every Shade
That some great wonder was before them,
As Tom upon the palisade
Emptied, as fast as Lulu bore them,
The flasks upon the ocean wagon.
And clear it was when Tom had cleaned
The liquor from the hundredth flagon,
The Shades then saw Hell’s darkest fiend,—
A sea-cat with an awful jag-on.
Up to this time, he did not see
Upon the wide expanse of grey
A single thing approach his way
Which he might call his enemy.
He spent the hours upon the rim,
Leaping, dancing, rarely sitting,
Always grinning, always spitting,
Waiting for a foe to swim
Within his range, but through the night
Not a walrus offered fight,—
A most unusual night for him.
But with the hundredth flagon drink,
He spat at his inactive fate,
And moving closer to the brink,
Began more madly to gyrate.
Upon his face, ironic, grim,
A resolution was ingrained,
If fish would not come unto him
To offer battle, what remained
But that his fighting blood would freeze
Unless he were allowed to go,
Ranging at will upon the seas,
To fight and conquer every foe?
With that, into the cavernous deep
He took a ghastly, flying leap.
Gaping, breathless, every Shade
Watched the course of the wild-cat’s raid;
And never was an errand run
With means and end so much at one.
For from his birth he was imbued
With hatred of his racial kind;
A more inveterate, blasting feud
Within the world one could not find.
His stock were traitors to the sea,
Had somehow learned the ways of earth,
The need of air, the mystery
Of things warm-blooded, and of birth.
To avenge this shameful derogation,
He had, upon his final flask,
Resolved to carry out his task,—
To wit:— the full extermination,
First, of his nearest order, male
And female, then the breed cetacean;
Grampus, porpoise, dolphin, whale,—
Humpback, Rorqual, Black and White;
Then the walrus, lion, hood,
Seals of all orders; these he would
Just as they came, in single fight,
Or in the fortunes of mêlée,
Challenge as his lawful prey.
I never knew an ocean steed
Develop such demonic speed.
Sir Isaac Newton:
How he maintains that lightning rate,
Now in air and now in water,
And carries on such heavy slaughter,
Is more than I can formulate.
The tiger, though in stretch of limb
And heft of bone is larger; still,
For straight uxoricidal will
Is but a lamb compared to him.
What humour is it makes him flail
His tawny quarters with that tail?
Did any electrician mark
The explosive nature of that spark?
I did in truth, but cannot quite
See, on the basis of my kite,
How such a flame should always sit
Upon a wild-cat’s caudal tip.
Or what blind fury makes him whip
His smoking sides to capture it—
An ignis fatuus that eludes
The cat’s most sanguinary moods.
The reasons for the circles lie
Within the nature of the thing;
This cat must run around a ring
If he would catch his tail. But why
So bloodily he chaseth it
Is past the compass of my wit.
Just why this wild-cat should revolve,
Leaving his nether tip uncaught,
And spend his energy for naught,
The denser Shades will never solve;
But (granting that the speed is quicker)
All we discerning spirits know
It’s just the way a man would go,
Grant the night and grant the liquor.
If I had known that such mad brutes
Had found, before the world began,
A place within the cosmic plan,
They would have dished my Institutes.