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    Jetsom

    by Arthur Quiller-Couch
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    Where Gerennius' beacon stands
    High above Pendower sands;
    Where, about the windy Nare,
    Foxes breed and falcons pair;
    Where the gannet dries a wing
    Wet with fishy harvesting,
    And the cormorants resort,
    Flapping slowly from their sport
    With the fat Atlantic shoal,
    Homeward to Tregeagle's Hole--
    Walking there, the other day,
    In a bight within a bay,
    I espied amid the rocks,
    Bruis'd and jamm'd, the daintiest box,
    That the waves had flung and left
    High upon an ivied cleft.
    Striped it was with white and red,
    Satin-lined and carpeted,
    Hung with bells, and shaped withal
    Like the queer, fantastical
    Chinese temples you'll have seen
    Pictured upon white Nankin,
    Where, assembled in effective
    Head-dresses and odd perspective,
    Tiny dames and mandarins
    Expiate their egg-shell sins
    By reclining on their drumsticks,
    Waving fans and burning gum-sticks.
    Land of poppy and pekoe!
    Could thy sacred artists know--
    Could they distantly conjecture
    How we use their architecture,
    Ousting the indignant Joss
    For a pampered Flirt or Floss,
    Poodle, Blenheim, Skye, Maltese,
    Lapped in purple and proud ease--
    They might read their god's reproof
    Here on blister'd wall and roof;
    Scaling lacquer, dinted bells,
    Floor befoul'd of weed and shells,
    Where, as erst the tabid Curse
    Brooded over Pelops' hearse,
    Squats the sea-cow, keeping house,
    Sibylline, gelatinous.

    Where is Carlo? Tell, O tell,
    Echo, from this fluted shell,
    In whose concave ear the tides
    Murmur what the main confides
    Of his compass'd treacheries!
    What of Carlo? Did the breeze
    Madden to a gale while he,
    Curl'd and cushion'd cosily,
    Mixed in dreams its angry breathings
    With the tinkle of the tea-things
    In his mistress' cabin laid?
    --Nor dyspeptic, nor dismay'd,
    Drowning in a gentle snore
    All the menace of the shore
    Thunder'd from the surf a-lee.
    Near and nearer horribly,--
    Scamper of affrighted feet,
    Voices cursing sail and sheet,
    While the tall ship shook in irons--
    All the peril that environs
    Vessels 'twixt the wind and rock
    Clawing--driving? Did the shock,
    As the sunk reef split her back,
    First arouse him? Did the crack
    Widen swiftly and deposit
    Him in homeless night?

    Or was it,
    Not when wave or wind assail'd,
    But in waters dumb and veil'd,
    That a looming shape uprist
    Sudden from the Channel mist,
    And with crashing, rending bows
    Woke him, in his padded house,
    To a world of alter'd features?
    Were these panic-ridden creatures
    They who, but an hour agone,
    Ran with biscuit, ran with bone,
    Ran with meats in lordly dishes,
    To anticipate his wishes?
    But an hour agone! And now how
    Vain his once compelling bow-wow!
    Little dogs are highly treasured,
    Petted, patted, pamper'd, pleasured:
    But when ships go down in fogs,
    No one thinks of little dogs.

    Ah, but how dost fare, I wonder,
    Now thine Argo splits asunder,
    Pouring on the wasteful sea
    All her precious bales, and thee?
    Little use is now to rave,
    Calling god or saint to save;
    Little use, if choked with salt, a
    Prayer to holy John of Malta.
    Patron John, he hears thee not.
    Or, perchance, in dusky grot
    Pale Persephone, repining
    For the fields that still are shining,
    Shining in her sleepless brain,
    Calling "Back! come back again!"
    Fain of playmate, fain of pet--
    Any drug to slay regret,
    Hath from hell upcast an eye
    On thy fatal symmetry;
    And beguiled her sooty lord
    With his brother to accord
    For this black betrayal.
    Else Nereus in his car of shells
    Long ago had cleft the waters
    With his natatory daughters
    To the rescue: or Poseidon
    Sent a fish for thee to ride on--
    Such a steed as erst Arion
    Reached the mainland high and dry on.
    Steed appeareth none, nor pilot!
    Little dog, if it be thy lot
    To essay the dismal track
    Where Odysseus half hung back,
    How wilt thou conciliate
    That grim mastiff by the gate?
    Sure, 'twill puzzle thee to fawn
    On his muzzles three that yawn
    Antrous; or to find, poor dunce,
    Grace in his six eyes at once--
    Those red eyes of Cerberus.

    Daughters of Oceanus,
    Save our darling from this hap!
    Arethusa, spread thy lap,
    Catch him, and with pinky hands
    Bear him to the coral sands,
    Where thy sisters sit in school
    Carding the Milesian wool:--
    Clio, Spio, Beroe,
    Opis and Phyllodoce,--
    Pass by these, and also pass
    Yellow-haired Lycorias;
    Pass Ligea, shrill of song--
    All the dear surrounding throng;
    Lay him at Cyrene's feet
    There, where all the rivers meet:
    In their waters crystalline
    Bathe him clean of weed and brine,
    Comb him, wipe his pretty eyes,
    Then to Zeus who rules the skies
    Call, assembling in a round
    Every fish that can be found--
    Whale and merman, lobster, cod,
    Tittlebat and demigod:--
    "Lord of all the Universe,
    We, thy finny pensioners,
    Sue thee for the little life
    Hurried hence by Hades' wife.
    Sooner than she call him her dog,
    Change, O change him to a mer-dog!
    Re-inspire the vital spark;
    Bid him wag his tail and bark,
    Bark for joy to wag a tail
    Bright with many a flashing scale;
    Bid his locks refulgent twine,
    Hyacinthian, hyaline;
    Bid him gambol, bid him follow
    Blithely to the mermen's 'holloa!'
    When they call the deep-sea calves
    Home with wreathed univalves.
    Softly shall he sleep to-night,
    Curled on couch of stalagmite,
    Soft and sound, if slightly moister
    Than the shell-protected oyster.
    Grant us this, Omnipotent,
    And to Hera shall be sent
    One black pearl, but of a size
    That shall turn her rivals' eyes
    Greener than the greenest snake
    Fed in meadow-grass, and make
    All Olympus run agog--
    Grant for this our darling dog!"

    Musing thus, the other day,
    In a bight within a bay,
    I'd a sudden thought that yet some
    Purpose for this piece of jetsom
    Might be found; and straight supplied it.
    On the turf I knelt beside it,
    Disengaged it from the boulders,
    Hoisted it upon my shoulders,
    Bore it home, and, with a few
    Tin-tacks and a pot of glue,
    Mended it, affix'd a ledge;
    Set it by the elder-hedge;
    And in May, with horn and kettle,
    Coax'd a swarm of bees to settle.
    Here around me now they hum;
    And in autumn should you come
    Westward to my Cornish home,
    There'll be honey in the comb--
    Honey that, with clotted cream
    (Though I win not your esteem
    As a bard), will prove me wise,
    In that, of the double prize
    Sent by Hermes from the sea, I've
    Sold the song and kept the bee-hive.

    * * * * *
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