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Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

The Leaning Tower


Having an aged hate of height
I forced myself to climb the Tower,
Yet paused at every second flight
Because my heart is scant of power;
Then when I gained the sloping summit
Earthward I stared, straight as a plummet.

When like a phantom by my side
I saw a man cadaverous;
At first I fancied him a guide,
For dimly he addressed me thus:
"Sir, where you stand, Oh long ago!
There also stood Galilleo.

"Proud Master of a mighty mind,
he worshipped truth and knew not fear;
Aye, though in age his eyes were blind,
Till death his brain was crystal clear;
And here he communed with the stars,
Where now you park your motor cars.

"This Pisa was a pleasant place,
Beloved by poets in their prime;
Yonder our Shelly used to pace,
And Byron ottavas would rhyme.
Till Shelley, from this fair environ,
Scrammed to escape egregious Byron.

"And you who with the horde have come,
I hate your guts, I say with candour;
Your wife wears slacks, and you chew gum,
So I, the ghost of Savage Landor,
Beg you, step closer to the edge,
That I may push you o'er the ledge."

But back I shrank, sped down the stair,
And sought the Baptistry where God is;
For I had no desire, I swear,
To prove the law of falling bodies. . . .
You're right - when one's nigh eighty he's a
Damphool to climb the Tower of Pisa.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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