Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mushrooms to Ozonides

   I had been planning to entertain you with several comic poems, such as Nothing to Wear, or some Australian classics, like The Integrated Adjective, or The Spider by the Gwydir. However, it seems some other well-read bloggers have provided the service for me. Instead, I shall quote a poem you probably haven't seen before. It comes from a small book by the Rev. E. L. Mascall, itle Pi in the High, The Faith Press, London, 1959. The footnotes are in the original.

          A False Trail
by E. L. Mascall

With what delight thy leaves we scan,
Encyclopaedia Britann-
Ica, of which the Fourteenth Ed.
Is much the best, so it is said.
It has a transatlantic touch,
But not, like later eds., too much.
Each volume bears, in chaste design,
Its sweet content upon the spine.
Thus I may range with Vol. 19
from Raynal unto Sarreguemines.
Sarsparilla taketh me
(Vol. 20) unto Sorcery.
In 21, dark horrors hinting,
Sordello leads to Textile Printing.
And so I pass, till 24,
Proclaiming knowledge is no more,
Staves off the wearied soul's collapse
With hosts of indices and maps.

But in my woes I chiefly lean
For comfort on sweet Vol. 16,
Which leads me softly by degrees
From Mushrooms to Ozonides.

O Mushrooms to Ozonides!
What grand inspiring words are these
To float upon the salty wind
And echo in each patriot mind!
How few the ills which we endure
That mushrooms cannot kill or cure
(Cure, if benignant fungi they,
But kill, if toadstools claim their prey)!
How subtly, too, the human mid
Is elevated and refined,
How purged of gross and sensual seeds,
By meditating on the deeds
Of noble Greek and Roman chaps,
Immune from any moral lapse 1,

Like Cicero or Socrates
Or, most of all, Ozonides -
Ozonides, who, on the day
When all the ramparts open lay,
And he was offered, to betray
His comrades who had run away,
Six hundred times his normal pay.
Spurned at the sordid lust of pelf
And simply ran away himself.
He then avoided serious harm
By hiding on a mushroom farm,
And kept a long and lonely tryst
Disguised as a mycologist;
Till fortune turned and freedom came,
And he emerged to lasting fame,
While all his friends were sunk in shame.

What coals to Novocastrians are,
To generals what caviare,
To Hecuba what divers he's,
Were mushrooms to Ozonides;
And, while a solemn oath he swore
That mushrooms he would taste no more,
His grateful countrymen decreed,
In token of his deathless deed,
A mighty mushroom, carved in stone,
Should stand, tremendous and alone,
Proclaiming to the tumbling seas
The glory of Ozonides;
And mothers to the end of time,
When bells each day at vespers chime,
Dandling their infants on their knees
Croon 'Mushrooms to Ozonides.'

O Mushrooms to Ozonides!
What lovely, limpid words are these!
Let Orientals stoutly band
To take the road to Samarkand;
Let Highlanders beyond the seas
In dreams behold the Hebrides;
Let blubbered Eskimos patrol;
Let fellahin, with magic ease
Scale Pharaöh's pyrimides; 2
Let Switzers yodel on the Alps;
Let Redskins tell their toll of scalps;
Let Coleridge, that able man,
Seek Xanadu and Kubla Khan;
Let drowsy babes depart each night
For Babylon by candlelight;
With other dreams my temples throb,
For other shores I pant and sob,
Where every lingering autumn breeze
Lisps 'Mushrooms to Ozonides.'

Disillusioned Postscript

Alas, what dreadful tidings these?
Woe, woe, for great Ozonides!
The art., which closes Vol. 16,
As these my weeping eyes have seen,
Was written by a scientist.
Ozonides does not exist,
Though many fact that art. provides
Re substances called Ozonides.

1. perhaps
2. a very highbrow line.