Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LAUS ATRAMENTI, by HORACE SMITH

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LAUS ATRAMENTI, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Our sires were such pedagogue blockheads of yore
Last Line: Since I never shall shine by the aid of the muse.
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Horatio
Subject(s): Education; Muses; Universities & Colleges

OUR Sires were such pedagogue blockheads of yore,
That they sent us to college instruction to seek,
Where we bothered our brains with pedantical lore,
Law, Logic, and Algebra, Latin and Greek;
But now, wiser grown, leaving learning alone,
And resolving to shine by a light of our own,
Our cares we transfer from the head to the foot,
Leave the brain to be muddied, and polish the boot.

On the banks of the Isis, ye classical fools,
Who with Lycophron's crabbedness puzzle your ear,
And ye who learn logarithmetical rules
At Cambridge, from tables of Baron Napier,
Renounce Aristotle, and take to the bottle
That wears "Patent Blacking" inscribed on its throttle;
For Napier and Greek are by few understood,
While all can decide when your blacking is good.

When a gentleman dubbed by the wight of the brush,
Which has set up your foot in Corinthian style,
For the rest of your wardrobe you care not a rush,
Secure of the public's distinguishing smile.
Though your dress may be dusty, and musty, and fusty,
You're whitewashed by blacking, and cannot be rusty; --
Such errors as these are but venial and small,
People look at your boot, which atones for them all.

And ye who are struggling your fortune to make
By the brief or the bolus, law, commerce, or trade,
Your pitiful schemes of ambition forsake,
And be makers of blacking, by taunts undismayed;
For what is auguster than giving a lustre
To those who without you would hardly pass muster,
And by selling your "brilliant and beautiful jet,"
A name and a fortune together to get?

Day and Martin now laugh as they ride in their coach,
Till they're black in the face as their customers' boots;
Warren swears that his blacking's beyond all approach,
Which Turner's advertisement plumply refutes;
They hector and huff, print, publish, and puff,
And write in the papers ridiculous stuff,
While Hunt, who was blackened by all, and run down,
Takes a thriving revenge as he blackens the town.

Their labels belibel each other -- each wall
With the feuds of these rivals in blacking is white;
But the high polished town seems to patronise all,
And the parties get rich in each other's despite;
For my own part, I think I shall mix up my ink,
In a bottle with lamp-black and beer to the brink,
And set up at once for a shiner of shoes,
Since I never shall shine by the aid of the muse.

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