Lays of Sorrow

No. 1

The day was wet, the rain fell souse
Like jars of strawberry jam,1
sound was heard in the old henhouse,
A beating of a hammer.
Of stalwart form, and visage warm,
Two youths were seen within it,
Splitting up an old tree into perches for their poultry
At a hundred strokes2 a minute.

The work is done, the hen has taken
Possession of her nest and eggs,
Without a thought of eggs and bacon,3
(Or I am very much mistaken)
She turns over each shell,
To be sure that all's well,
Looks into the straw
To see there's no flaw,
Goes once round the house,4
Half afraid of a mouse,
Then sinks calmly to rest
On the top of her nest,
First doubling up each of her legs.
Time rolled away, and so did every shell,
"Small by degrees and beautifully less,"
As the large mother with a powerful spell5
Forced each in turn its contents to express,6
But ah! "imperfect is expression,"
Some poet said, I don't care who,
If you want to know you must go elsewhere,
One fact I can tell, if you're willing to hear,
He never attended a Parliament Session,
For I'm certain that if he had ever been there,
Full quickly would he have changed his ideas,
With the hissings, the hootings, the groans and the cheers.
And as to his name it is pretty clear
That it wasn't me and it wasn't you!

And so it fell upon a day,
(That is, it never rose again)
A chick was found upon the hay,
Its little life had ebbed away.
No longer frolicsome and gay,
No longer could it run or play.
"And must we, chicken, must we part?"
Its master7 cried with bursting heart,
And voice of agony and pain.
So one, whose ticket's marked "Return",8
When to the lonely roadside station
He flies in fear and perturbation,
Thinks of his home--the hissing urn--
Then runs with flying hat and hair,
And, entering, finds to his despair
He's missed the very last train.9

Too long it were to tell of each conjecture
Of chicken suicide, and poultry victim,
The deadly frown, the stern anddreary lecture,
The timid guess, "perhaps some needle pricked him!"
The din of voice, the words both loud and many,
The sob, the tear, the sigh that none could smother,
Till all agreed "a shilling to a penny
It killed itself, and we acquit the mother!"
Scarce was the verdict spoken,
When that still calm was broken,
A childish form hath burst into the throng;
With tears and looks of sadness,
That bring no news of gladness,
But tell too surely something hath gone wrong!
"The sight I have come upon
The stoutest heart10 would sicken,
That nasty hen has been and gone
And killed another chicken!"


Notes

1. I.e. the jam without the jars, Observe the beauty of this rhyme.

2. At the rate of a stroke and two-thirds in a second.

3. Unless the hen was a poacher, which is unlikely.

4. The henhouse.

5. Beak and claw.

6. Press out.

7. Probably one of the two stalwart youths.

8. The system of return tickets is an excellent one. People are conveyed, on particular days, there and back again for one fare.

9. An additional vexation would have been that his "Return" ticket would be of no use the next day.

10. Perhaps even the bursting heart of its master.


Lewis Carroll,1850-1853

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