Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE ANT-LION, by THOMAS MILLER (1807-1874)

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE ANT-LION, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: By digging a hole in the sand
Last Line: And both of us live by slaughter and strife.
Subject(s): Ants; Insects; Wasps; Bugs; Yellow Jackets

By digging a hole in the sand
I live -- and catch what comes to hand;
Hard work it is when there are stones,
And often tries my poor old bones.
I get a stone upon my back,
Just as a pedlar does his pack;
But mine is loose and his is fast.
Out of my pit I must it cast,
And many times I have to try
Before I get it up so high;
Many a heavy tug and strain,
I reach the top, it's down again.
Then I must descend my pit
And once more have a tug at it;
Neither cord nor strap to bind it,
And no one behind to mind it.
Hard work it is, and so you'd say
If you but tried it for a day.
If you can but spare the time,
Upon a steep embankment climb,
On your back a large loose stone,
And what it is will then be known.
I have no doubt you would own,
If like me you earned your bread,
You'd need no rocking when in bed.

Out of this hole a head you'll see,
And two crooked paws -- that is me,
At least all I care to show;
My body's in the hole below.
An insect near the top now crawls;
The sand is loose, and down he falls.
Then into my hole I go,
And eat him up as you would do
If you had nothing else to eat,
Ah! and consider it a treat.
Sometimes he bigger is than I,
Then showers of sand I at him shy,
And happen hit him in the eye;
Then he can't see his way at all,
But hits his head against the wall;
And while he in his anger hums,
Another shower at him comes,
And then he says, "Well, hit or miss,
I must try and get out of this."
We go at it hammer and tongs;
He tries to stab me with his prongs,
But tries in vain, he can't get out,
So quick I kick the sand about,
So thick it comes, he cannot see
Even the slightest bit of me,
But wonders who's his enemy;
And so at random makes a thrust,
While I keep kicking up a dust.
If he's a wasp and got a sting,
Then I lay fast hold of one wing,
And turn as he turns round for hours,
Still throwing up the sand in showers;
Nor ever all the time leave go --
A trick worth two of that I know.
He bends, he twists, while round I dodge,
Lest he his sting should in me lodge,
For that I know would be my death.
We never once stop to take breath,
But still continue the fierce strife --
We know we fight for very life;
For he would not go away,
Till with his sting he did me slay,
Even if I would let him go.
(You ask him and he'll tell you so).
I knowing this, go in again --
I pull, I haul, I kick, I strain;
Then get into the sand his head,
Give it a bite, and he is dead:
And say, just as I sit down to dine,
"What a hard this is of mine!"
I only wish I would could eat sand,
For that in plenty lies at hand;
But an ant-lion must lead a lion-like life,
And both of us live by slaughter and strife.

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