Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
From “The Paradise of Birds.” II. Ode—To the Roc
 
William John Courthope (b. 1842)
 
 
O UNHATCH’D Bird, so high preferr’d,
  As porter of the Pole,
Of beakless things, who have no wings,
  Exact no heavy toll.
If this my song its theme should wrong,        5
  The theme itself is sweet;
Let others rhyme the unborn time,
  I sing the Obsolete.
 
And first, I praise the nobler traits
  Of birds preceding Noah,        10
The giant clan, whose meat was Man,
  Dinornis, Apteryx, Moa.
These, by the hints we get from prints
  Of feathers and of feet,
Excell’d in wits the later tits,        15
  And so are obsolete.
 
I sing each race whom we displace
  In their primeval woods,
While Gospel Aid inspires Free-Trade
  To traffic with their goods.        20
With Norman Dukes the still Sioux
  In breeding might compete;
But where men talk the tomahawk
  Will soon grow obsolete.
 
I celebrate each perish’d State;        25
  Great cities plough’d to loam;
Chaldæan kings; the Bulls with wings;
  Dead Greece, and dying Rome.
The Druids’ shrine may shelter swine,
  Or stack the farmer’s peat;        30
’T is thus mean moths treat finest cloths,
  Mean men the obsolete.
 
Shall nought be said of theories dead?
  The Ptolemaic system?
Figure and phrase, that bent all ways        35
  Duns Scotus lik’d to twist ’em?
Averrhoes’ thought? and what was taught
  In Salamanca’s seat?
Sihons and Ogs? and showers of frogs?
  Sea-serpents obsolete?        40
 
Pillion and pack have left their track;
  Dead is “the Tally-ho;”
Steam rails cut down each festive crown
  Of the old world and slow;
Jack-in-the-Green no more is seen.        45
  Nor Maypole in the street;
No mummers play on Christmas-day;
  St. George is obsolete.
 
O fancy, why hast thou let die
  So many a frolic fashion?        50
Doublet and hose, and powder’d beaux?
  Where are thy songs, whose passion
Turn’d thought to fire in knight and squire,
  While hearts of ladies beat?
Where thy sweet style, ours, ours erewhile?        55
  All this is obsolete.
 
In Auvergne low potatoes grow
  Upon volcanoes old;
The moon, they say, had her young day,
  Though now her heart is cold;        60
Even so our earth, sorrow and mirth,
  Seasons of snow and heat,
Check’d by her tides in silence glides
  To become obsolete.
 
The astrolabe of every babe        65
  Reads, in its fatal sky,
“Man’s largest room is the low tomb—
  Ye all are born to die.”
Therefore this theme, O Birds, I deem
  The noblest we may treat;        70
The final cause of Nature’s laws
  Is to grow obsolete.
 

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