Arthur Patchett Martin

(18 February 1851 – 15 February 1902 / Woolwich, Kent, England)

The Cynic of the Woods


Come I from busy haunts of men,
With nature to commune,
Which you, it seems, observe, and then
Laugh out, like some buffoon.

You cease, and through the forest drear
I pace, with sense of awe;
When once again upon my ear
Breaks in your harsh guffaw.

I look aloft to yonder place,
Where placidly you sit,
And tell you to your very face,
I do not like your wit.

I’m in no mood for blatant jest,
I hate your mocking song,
My weary soul demands the rest
Denied to it so long.

Besides, there passes through my brain
The poet’s love of fame—
Why should not an Australian strain
Immortalize my name?

And so I pace the forest drear,
Filled with a sense of awe,
When louder still upon my ear
Breaks in your harsh guffaw.

Yet truly, Jackass, it may be,
My words are all unjust:
You laugh at what you hear and see,
And laugh because you must.

You’ve seen Man civilized and rude,
Of varying race and creed,
The black-skinned savage almost nude,
The Englishman in tweed.

And here the lubra oft has strayed,
To rest beneath the boughs,
Where now, perchance, some fair-haired maid
May hear her lover’s vows;

While you from yonder lofty height
Have studied human ways,
And, with a satirist’s delight,
Dissected hidden traits.

Laugh on, laugh on! Your rapturous shout
Again on me intrudes;
But I have found your secret out,
O cynic of the woods!

Well! I confess, grim mocking elf,
Howe’er I rhapsodize,
That I am more in love with self
Than with the earth or skies.

So I will lay the epic by,
That I had just begun:
Why should I scribble? Let me lie
And bask here in the sun.

And let me own, were I endowed
With your fine humorous sense,
I, too, should laugh—ay, quite as loud,
At all Man’s vain pretence.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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