Phantasmagoria and Other Poems/A Double Acrostic


[The Double Acrostic, a form of puzzle which has lately become fashionable, is constructed thus:—Two words are selected having the same number of letters: these are supposed to be written in two parallel columns, and a series of words is then found (their length is immaterial) such that the first column may consist of their initial letters, and the second of their final letters. For instance, if the column-words selected were 'rose' and 'ring,' we might fill up thus:—

r i v e r
o b i
s e v e n
e g g

The two column-words, and the horizontal words, are then described in a series of lines or verses, and the puzzle is complete.

The innumerable specimens of this form of puzzle already published are in every way (if we except the studied insipidity of the separate verses, and their total want of connexion one with another) to be commended. The following attempt, made at the request of some friends who had gone to a ball at an Oxford Commemoration, is printed in the hope of suggesting a possible improvement in the treatment of the subject.]

There was an ancient city, stricken down
With a strange frenzy, and for many a day
They paced from morn to eve the noisy town,
And danced the night away.

I asked the cause : the aged men 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?
x2 + 7x + 53
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 thoughtless 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! Long since the hour is 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 opes his mouth—yet out of it, methinks,
No words of wisdom flow.