CANTO VI Dyscomfyture

As one who strives a hill to climb,
      Who never climbed before:
Who finds it, in a little time,
Grow every moment less sublime,
      And votes the thing a bore:

Yet, having once begun to try,

      Dares not desert his quest,

But, climbing, ever keeps his eye

On one small hut against the sky

      Wherein he hopes to rest:

Who climbs till nerve and force are spent,

      With many a puff and pant:

Who still, as rises the ascent,

In language grows more violent,

      Although in breath more scant:

Who, climbing, gains at length the place

      That crowns the upward track.

And, entering with unsteady pace,

Receives a buffet in the face

      That lands him on his back:

And feels himself, like one in sleep,

      Glide swiftly down again,

A helpless weight, from steep to steep,

Till, with a headlong giddy sweep,

      He drops upon the plain—

So I, that had resolved to bring

      Conviction to a ghost,

And found it quite a different thing

From any human arguing,

      Yet dared not quit my post

But, keeping still the end in view

      To which I hoped to come,

I strove to prove the matter true

By putting everything I knew

      Into an axiom:

Commencing every single phrase

      With ‘therefore’ or ‘because,’

I blindly reeled, a hundred ways,

About the syllogistic maze,

      Unconscious where I was.

Quoth he “That’s regular clap-trap:

      Don’t bluster any more.

Now do be cool and take a nap!

Such a ridiculous old chap

      Was never seen before!

“You’re like a man I used to meet,

      Who got one day so furious

In arguing, the simple heat

Scorched both his slippers off his feet!”

      I said “That’s very curious!”

“Well, it is curious, I agree,

      And sounds perhaps like fibs:

But still it’s true as true can be—

As sure as your name’s Tibbs,” said he.

      I said “My name’s not Tibbs.”

Not Tibbs!” he cried—his tone became

      A shade or two less hearty—

“Why, no,” said I.  “My proper name

Is Tibbets—”  “Tibbets?”  “Aye, the same.”

      “Why, then YOU’RE NOT THE PARTY!”

With that he struck the board a blow

      That shivered half the glasses.

“Why couldn’t you have told me so

Three quarters of an hour ago,

      You prince of all the asses?

“To walk four miles through mud and rain,

      To spend the night in smoking,

And then to find that it’s in vain—

And I’ve to do it all again—

      It’s really too provoking!

“Don’t talk!” he cried, as I began

      To mutter some excuse.

“Who can have patience with a man

That’s got no more discretion than

      An idiotic goose?

“To keep me waiting here, instead

      Of telling me at once

That this was not the house!” he said.

“There, that’ll do—be off to bed!

      Don’t gape like that, you dunce!”

“It’s very fine to throw the blame

      On me in such a fashion!

Why didn’t you enquire my name

The very minute that you came?”

      I answered in a passion.

“Of course it worries you a bit

      To come so far on foot—

But how was I to blame for it?”

“Well, well!” said he.  “I must admit

      That isn’t badly put.

“And certainly you’ve given me

      The best of wine and victual—

Excuse my violence,” said he,

“But accidents like this, you see,

      They put one out a little.

“’Twas my fault after all, I find—

      Shake hands, old Turnip-top!”

The name was hardly to my mind,

But, as no doubt he meant it kind,

      I let the matter drop.

“Good-night, old Turnip-top, good-night!

      When I am gone, perhaps

They’ll send you some inferior Sprite,

Who’ll keep you in a constant fright

      And spoil your soundest naps.

“Tell him you’ll stand no sort of trick;

      Then, if he leers and chuckles,

You just be handy with a stick

(Mind that it’s pretty hard and thick)

      And rap him on the knuckles!

“Then carelessly remark ‘Old coon!

      Perhaps you’re not aware

That, if you don’t behave, you’ll soon

Be chuckling to another tune—

      And so you’d best take care!’

“That’s the right way to cure a Sprite

      Of such like goings-on—

But gracious me!  It’s getting light!

Good-night, old Turnip-top, good-night!”

      A nod, and he was gone.

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