Phantasmagoria and Other Poems/Melancholetta


With saddest music all day long
She soothed her secret sorrow:
At night she sighed. "I fear 'twas wrong
Such cheerful words to borrow;
Dearest, a sweeter, sadder song
I'll sing to thee to-morrow."

I thanked her, but I could not say
That I was glad to hear it:
I left the house at break of day,
And did not venture near it
Till time, I hoped, had worn away
Her grief, for nought could cheer it!

My dismal sister! Couldst thou know
The wretched home thou keepest!
Thy brother, drowned in daily woe,
Is thankful when thou sleepest;
For if I laugh, however low,
When thou'rt awake, thou weepest!

I took my sister t'other day
(Excuse the slang expression)
To Sadler's Wells to see the play,
In hopes the new impression
Might in her thoughts, from grave to gay,
Effect some slight digression.

I asked three friends of mine from town
To join us in our folly,
Whose mirth, I thought, might serve to drown
My sister's melancholy:
The lively Jones, the sportive Brown,
And Robinson the jolly.

I need not tell of soup and fish
In solemn silence swallowed,
The sobs, that ushered in each dish
And its departure followed,
Nor yet my suicidal wish
To be the cheese I hollowed.

Some desperate attempts were made
To start a conversation;
"Madam," the lively Jones essayed,
"Which kind of recreation,
Hunting or fishing, have you made
Your special occupation?"

Her lips curved downwards instantly,
As if of india-rubber,
"Hounds in full cry I like," said she,
(Oh how I longed to snub her!)
"Of fish, a whale 's the one for me,
It is so full of blubber!"

The night's performance was 'King John:'
"It 's dull," she wept, "and so-so!"
Awhile I let her tears flow on,
She said "they soothed her woe so!"
At length the curtain rose upon
'Bombastes Furioso.'

In vain I roared; in vain I tried
To rouse her into laughter:
Her pensive glances wandered wide
From orchestra to rafter—
"Tier upon tier!" she said, and sighed;
And silence followed after.