Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE COCK AND THE BULL, by CHARLES STUART CALVERLEY

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE COCK AND THE BULL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: You see this pebble-stone? It's a thing I bought
Last Line: Extend from here to mesopotamy.
Subject(s): Browning, Robert (1812-1889); Poetry & Poets

YOU see this pebble-stone? It's a thing I
Of a bit of a chit of a boy i' the mid o' the day --
I like to dock the smaller parts-o'-speech
As we curtail the already cur-tailed cur
(You catch the paronomasia, play o' words?) --
Did, rather, i' the pre-Landseerian days.
Well, to my muttons. I purchased the concern.
And clapt it i' my poke, and gave for same
By way, to-wit, of barter or exchange --
"Chop" was my snickering dandiprat's own
term --
One shilling and fourpence, current coin o' the
O-n-e one and f-o-u-r four
Pence, one and fourpence -- you are with me,
sir? --
What hour it skills not: ten or eleven o' the clock,
One day (and what a roaring day it was!)
In February, eighteen sixty-nine,
Alexandrina Victoria, Fidei
Hm -- hm -- how runs the jargon? -- being on

Such, sir, are all the facts, succinctly put,
The basis or substratum -- what you will --
Of the impending eighty thousand lines.
"Not much in 'em either," quoth perhaps simple
But there's a superstructure. Wait a bit.

Mark first the rationale of the thing:
Hear logic rival and levigate the deed.
That shilling -- and for matter o' that, the pence --
I had o' course upo' me -- wi' me, say --
(Mecum's the Latin, make a note o' that)
When I popped pen i' stand, blew snout, scratched
Sniffed -- tch! -- at snuff-box; tumbled up, he-heed,
Haw-hawed (not hee-hawed, that's another guess
Then fumbled at, and stumbled out of, door,
I shoved the door ope wi' my omoplat;
And in vestibulo, i' the entrance-hall,
Donned galligaskins, antigropelos,
And so forth; and, complete with hat and gloves.
One on and one a-dangle i' my hand.
And ombrifuge, (Lord love you!) case o' rain,
I flopped forth, 's buddikins! on my own ten toes,
(I do assure you there be ten of them,)
And went clump-clumping up hill and down dale
To find myself o' the sudden i' front o' the boy.
Put case I hadn't 'em on me, could I ha' bought
This sort-o'-kind-o'-what-you-might-call toy,
This pebble-thing, o' the boy-thing? Q.E.D.
That's proven without aid from mumping Pope,
Sleek porporate or bloated Cardinal,
(Isn't it, old Fatchaps? You're in Euclid now.)
So, having the shilling -- having i' fact a lot --
And pence and halfpence, ever so many, o' them,
I purchased, as I think I said before,
The pebble (lapis, lapidis, -- di, -- dem, -- de, --
What nouns 'crease short i' the genitive, Fat-
chaps, eh?)
O' the boy, a bare-legged beggarly son of a gun,
For one and fourpence. Here we are again.
Now Law steps in, big-wigged, voluminous-
Investigates and re-investigates.
Was the transaction illegal? Law shakes head.
Perpend, sir, all the bearings of the case.

At first the coin was mine, the chattel his.
But now (by virtue of the said exchange
And barter) vice versa all the coin,
Per juris operationem, vests
I' the boy and his assigns till ding o' doom;
(In soecula soeculo-o-o-orum;
I think I hear the Abbate mouth out that.)
To have and hold the same to him and them . . .
Confer some idiot on Conveyancing,
Whereas the pebble and every part thereof,
And all that appertaineth thereunto,
Or shall, will, may, might, can, could, would, or
(Subandi coetera -- clap me to the close --
For what's the good of law in a case o' the kind?)
Is mine to all intents and purposes.
This settled, I resume the thread o' the tale.

Now for a touch o' the vendor's quality.
He says a gen'lman bought a pebble of him,
(This pebble i' sooth, sir, which I hold i' my
hand) --
And paid for 't, like a gen'lman, on the nail.
"Did I o'ercharge him a ha'penny? Devil a bit.
Fiddlestick's end! Get out, you blazing ass!
Gabble o' the goose. Don't bugaboo-baby me!
Go double or quits? Yah! tittup! what's the
-- There's the transaction viewed, i' the vendor's

Next ask that dumpled hag, stood snuffling by,
With her three frowsy-browsy brats o' babes,
The scum o' the kennel, cream o' the filth-heap
-- Faugh?
Aie, aie, aie, aie!
('Stead which we blurt out Hoighty-toighty
now) --
And the baker and candlestick-maker, and Jack
and Gill,
Bleared Goody this and queasy Gaffer that.
Ask the schoolmaster. Take schoolmaster first.

He saw a gentleman purchase of a lad
A stone, and pay for it rite, on the square,
And carry it off per saltum, jauntily,
Propria quoe maribus, gentleman's property now
(Agreeable to the law explained above),
In proprium usum, for his private ends.
The boy he chucked a brown i' the air, and bit
I' the face the shilling: heaved a thumping-stone
At a lean hen that ran cluck-clucking by,
(And hit her, dead as nail i' post o' door,)
Then abiit -- what's the Ciceronian phrase? --
Excessit, evesit, erupit, -- off slogs boy;
Off in three flea-skips. Hactenus, so far,
So good, tam bene. Bene, satis, male, --
Where was I? who said what of one in a quag?
I did once hitch the syntax into verse:
Verbum personale, a verb personal,
Concordat, -- ay, "agrees," old Fatchaps -- cum
Nominativo, with its nominative,
Genere, i' point o' gender numero,
O' number, et persona, and person. Ut,
Instance: Sol ruit, down flops sun, et, and,
Montes umbrantur, snuffs out mountains. Pah!
Excuse me, sir, I think I'm going mad.
You see the trick on 't though, and can yourself
Continue the discourse ad libitum.
It takes up about eighty thousand lines,
A thing imagination boggles at:
And might, odds-bobs, sir! in judicious hands,
Extend from here to Mesopotamy.

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