There was an ancient City, stricken down

   With a strange frenzy, and for many a day

They paced from morn to eve the crowded town,

         And danced the night away.

I asked the cause: the aged man grew sad:

   They pointed to a building gray and tall,

And hoarsely answered “Step inside, my lad,

         And then you’ll see it all.”


Yet what are all such gaieties to me

   Whose thoughts are full of indices and surds?

x 2 + 7x + 53 = 11/3

But something whispered “It will soon be done:

   Bands cannot always play, nor ladies smile:

Endure with patience the distasteful fun

         For just a little while!”

A change came o’er my Vision—it was night:

   We clove a pathway through a frantic throng:

The steeds, wild-plunging, filled us with affright:

         The chariots whirled along.

Within a marble hall a river ran—

   A living tide, half muslin and half cloth:

And here one mourned a broken wreath or fan,

         Yet swallowed down her wrath;

And here one offered to a thirsty fair

   (His words half-drowned amid those thunders tuneful)

Some frozen viand (there were many there),

         A tooth-ache in each spoonful.

There comes a happy pause, for human strength

   Will not endure to dance without cessation;

And every one must reach the point at length

         Of absolute prostration.

At such a moment ladies learn to give,

   To partners who would urge them over-much,

A flat and yet decided negative—

         Photographers love such.

There comes a welcome summons—hope revives,

   And fading eyes grow bright, and pulses quicken:

Incessant pop the corks, and busy knives

         Dispense the tongue and chicken.

Flushed with new life, the crowd flows back again:

   And all is tangled talk and mazy motion—

Much like a waving field of golden grain,

         Or a tempestuous ocean.

And thus they give the time, that Nature meant

   For peaceful sleep and meditative snores,

To ceaseless din and mindless merriment

         And waste of shoes and floors.

And One (we name him not) that flies the flowers,

   That dreads the dances, and that shuns the salads,

They doom to pass in solitude the hours,

         Writing acrostic-ballads.

How late it grows!  The hour is surely past

   That should have warned us with its double knock?

The twilight wanes, and morning comes at last—

         “Oh, Uncle, what’s o’clock?”

The Uncle gravely nods, and wisely winks.

   It may mean much, but how is one to know?

He opens his mouth—yet out of it, methinks,

         No words of wisdom flow.

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