ON RECEIPT OF A RARE PIPE.
I lifted off the lid with anxious care,
Removed the wrappages, stripe after stripe,
And when the hidden contents were laid bare,
My first remark was: "Mercy, what a pipe!"
A pipe of symmetry that matched its size,
Mounted with metal bright,--a sight to see;
With the rich amber hue that smokers prize,
Attesting both its age and pedigree.
A pipe to make the royal Friedrich jealous,
Or the great Teufelsdroeckh with envy gripe!
A man should hold some rank above his fellows
To justify his smoking such a pipe!
What country gave it birth? What blest of cities
Saw it first kindle at the glowing coal?
What happy artist murmured, "Nunc dimittis,"
When he had fashioned this transcendent bowl?
Has it been hoarded in a monarch's treasures?
Was it a gift of peace, or prize of war?
Did the great Khalif in his "House of Pleasures"
Wager and lose it to the good Zaafar?
It may have soothed mild Spenser's melancholy,
While musing o'er traditions of the past,
Or graced the lips of brave Sir Walter Raleigh,
Ere sage King Jamie blew his "_Counterblast_."
Did it, safe hidden in some secret cavern,
Escape that monarch's pipoclastic ken?
Has Shakespeare smoked it at the Mermaid Tavern,
Quaffing a cup of sack with rare old Ben?
Ay, Shakespeare might have watched his vast creations
Loom through its smoke,--the spectre-haunted Thane,
The Sisters at their ghostly invocations,
The jealous Moor, and melancholy Dane.
Round its orbed haze and through its mazy ringlets,
Titania may have led her elfin rout,
Or Ariel fanned it with his gauzy winglets,
Or Puck danced in the bowl to put it out.
Vain are all fancies,--questions bring no answer;
The smokers vanish, but the pipe remains;
He were indeed a subtle necromancer,
Could read their records in its cloudy stains.
Nor this alone. Its destiny may doom it
To outlive e'en its use and history;
Some ploughman of the future may exhume it
From soil now deep beneath the Eastern sea.
And, treasured by soma antiquarian Stultus,
It may to gaping visitors be shown
Labelled: "The symbol of some ancient cultus
Conjecturally Phallic, but unknown."
Why do I thus recall the ancient quarrel
Twixt Man and Time, that marks all earthly things?
Why labor to re-word the hackneyed moral
For this: Some links we forge are never broken;
Some feelings claim exemption from decay;
And Love, of which this pipe is but the token,
Shall last, though pipes and smokers pass away.
Next: MY LITTLE BROWN PIPE.
Previous: ODE TO TOBACCO.