Moral Emblems

Page 03

Two muses like two maiden aunts, The engraving and the singing muse, Follow, through all my favourite haunts, My devious traces in the dews.

To guide and cheer me, each attends; Each speeds my rapid task along; One to my cuts her ardour lends, One breathes her magic in my song.


Alone above the stream it stands, Above the iron hill, The topsy-turvy, tumble-down, Yet habitable mill.

Still as the ringing saws advance To slice the humming deal, All day the pallid miller hears The thunder of the wheel.

He hears the river plunge and roar As roars the angry mob; He feels the solid building quake, The trusty timbers throb.

All night beside the fire he cowers: He hears the rafters jar: O why is he not in a proper house As decent people are!

The floors are all aslant, he sees, The doors are all a-jam; And from the hook above his head All crooked swings the ham.

'Alas,' he cries and shakes his head, 'I see by every sign, There soon all be the deuce to pay, With this estate of mine.'


The first pine to the second said: 'My leaves are black, my branches red; I stand upon this moor of mine, A hoar, unconquerable pine.'

The second sniffed and answered: 'Pooh! I am as good a pine as you.'

'Discourteous tree,' the first replied, 'The tempest in my boughs had cried, The hunter slumbered in my shade, A hundred years ere you were made.'

The second smiled as he returned: 'I shall be here when you are burned.'

So far dissension ruled the pair, Each turned on each a frowning air, When flickering from the bank anigh, A flight of martens met their eye. Sometime their course they watched; and then - They nodded off to sleep again.


Now long enough had day endured, Or King Apollo Palinured, Seaward he steers his panting team, And casts on earth his latest gleam.

But see! the Tramps with jaded eye Their destined provinces espy. Long through the hills their way they took, Long camped beside the mountain brook; 'Tis over; now with rising hope They pause upon the downward slope, And as their aching bones they rest, Their anxious captain scans the west.

So paused Alaric on the Alps And ciphered up the Roman scalps.


The howling desert miles around, The tinkling brook the only sound - Wearied with all his toils and feats, The traveller dines on potted meats; On potted meats and princely wines, Not wisely but too well he dines.

The brindled Tiger loud may roar, High may the hovering Vulture soar; Alas! regardless of them all, Soon shall the empurpled glutton sprawl - Soon, in the desert's hushed repose, Shall trumpet tidings through his nose! Alack, unwise! that nasal song Shall be the Ounce's dinner-gong!

A blemish in the cut appears; Alas! it cost both blood and tears. The glancing graver swerved aside, Fast flowed the artist's vital tide! And now the apologetic bard Demands indulgence for his pard!


The echoing bridge you here may see, The pouring lynn, the waving tree, The eager angler fresh from town - Above, the contumelious clown. The angler plies his line and rod, The clodpole stands with many a nod, - With many a nod and many a grin, He sees him cast his engine in.

'What have you caught?' the peasant cries.

'Nothing as yet,' the Fool replies.



Come, lend me an attentive ear A startling moral tale to hear, Of Pirate Rob and Chemist Ben, And different destinies of men.

Deep in the greenest of the vales That nestle near the coast of Wales, The heaving main but just in view, Robin and Ben together grew, Together worked and played the fool, Together shunned the Sunday school, And pulled each other's youthful noses Around the cots, among the roses.

Together but unlike they grew; Robin was rough, and through and through Bold, inconsiderate, and manly, Like some historic Bruce or Stanley. Ben had a mean and servile soul, He robbed not, though he often stole. He sang on Sunday in the choir, And tamely capped the passing Squire.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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