To A. S. (J.K.S.)
Birthdays? yes, in a general way;
For the most if not for the best of men:
You were born (I suppose) on a certain day:
So was I: or perhaps in the night: what then?
Only this: or at least, if more,
You must know, not think it, and learn, not speak:
There is truth to be found on the unknown shore,
And many will find where few will seek.
For many are called and few are chosen,
And the few grow many as ages lapse:
But when will the many grow few: what dozen
Is fused into one by Time's hammer-taps?
A bare brown stone in a babbling brook:—
It was wanton to hurl it there, you say:
And the moss, which clung in the sheltered nook
(Yet the stream runs cooler), is washed away.
That begs the question: many a prater
Thinks such a suggestion a sound "stop thief!"
Which, may I ask, do you think the greater,
Sergeant-at-arms or a Robber Chief?
And if it were not so? still you doubt?
Ah! yours is a birthday indeed if so.
That were something to write a poem about,
If one thought a little. I only know.
There's a Me Society down at Cambridge,
Where my works, cum notis variorum,
Are talked about; well, I require the same bridge
That Euclid took toll at as Asinorum:
And, as they have got through several ditties
I thought were as stiff as a brick-built wall,
I've composed the above, and a stiff one it is,
A bridge to stop asses at, once for all.