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Robert Louis Stevenson

(1850-1894 / Edinburgh / Scotland)

In Lupum


BEYOND the gates thou gav'st a field to till;
I have a larger on my window-sill.
A farm, d'ye say? Is this a farm to you,
Where for all woods I spay one tuft of rue,
And that so rusty, and so small a thing,
One shrill cicada hides it with a wing;
Where one cucumber covers all the plain;
And where one serpent rings himself in vain
To enter wholly; and a single snail
Eats all and exit fasting to the pool?
Here shall my gardener be the dusty mole.
My only ploughman the . . . mole.
Here shall I wait in vain till figs be set,
And till the spring disclose the violet.
Through all my wilds a tameless mouse careers,
And in that narrow boundary appears,
Huge as the stalking lion of Algiers,
Huge as the fabled boar of Calydon.
And all my hay is at one swoop impresst
By one low-flying swallow for her nest,
Strip god Priapus of each attribute
Here finds he scarce a pedestal to foot.
The gathered harvest scarcely brims a spoon;
And all my vintage drips in a cocoon.
Generous are you, but I more generous still:
Take back your farm and stand me half a gill!

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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