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Poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes
THE Comet! He is on his way, And singing as he flies; The whizzing planets shrink before The spectre of the skies; Ah! well may regal orbs burn blue, And satellites turn pale, Ten million cubic miles of head, Ten billion leagues of tail! On, on by whistling spheres of light He flashes and he flames; He turns not to the left nor right, He asks them not their names; One spurn from his demoniac heel,— Away, away they fly, Where darkness might be bottled up And sold for "Tyrian dye." And what would happen to the land, And how would look the sea, If in the bearded devil's path Our earth should chance to be? Full hot and high the sea would boil, Full red the forests gleam; Methought I saw and heard it all In a dyspeptic dream! I saw a tutor take his tube The Comet's course to spy; I heard a scream,—the gathered rays Had stewed the tutor's eye; I saw a fort,—the soldiers all Were armed with goggles green; Pop cracked the guns! whiz flew the balls! Bang went the magazine! I saw a poet dip a scroll Each moment in a tub, I read upon the warping back, "The Dream of Beelzebub;" He could not see his verses burn, Although his brain was fried, And ever and anon he bent To wet them as they dried. I saw the scalding pitch roll down The crackling, sweating pines, And streams of smoke, like water-spouts, Burst through the rumbling mines; I asked the firemen why they made Such noise about the town; They answered not,—but all the while The brakes went up and down. I saw a roasting pullet sit Upon a baking egg; I saw a cripple scorch his hand Extinguishing his leg; I saw nine geese upon the wing Towards the frozen pole, And every mother's gosling fell Crisped to a crackling coal. I saw the ox that browsed the grass Writhe in the blistering rays, The herbage in his shrinking jaws Was all a fiery blaze; I saw huge fishes, boiled to rags, Bob through the bubbling brine; And thoughts of supper crossed my soul; I had been rash at mine. Strange sights! strange sounds! Oh fearful dream! Its memory haunts me still, The steaming sea, the crimson glare, That wreathed each wooded hill; Stranger! if through thy reeling brain Such midnight visions sweep, Spare, spare, oh, spare thine evening meal, And sweet shall be thy sleep!
Oliver Wendell Holmes
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