Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ST. GEORGE'S PENITENTIARY, by HORACE SMITH



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ST. GEORGE'S PENITENTIARY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The learned and facetious dr. Airy
Last Line: Had we just now the time to write 'em.
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Horatio
Subject(s): Love; Mythology; Physicians; Doctors


THE learned and facetious Dr. Airy
Preached, 'tother day, a sermon so pathetic,
For the St. George's Penitentiary,
That it seemed just like giving an emetic
To every purse of Christian bowels:
Folks sobbed and blubbered
So fast that hankerchiefs were turned to towels;
And the last tear seemed squeezed from out its cupboard.
The Doctor smiled (within his sleeve)
At these salt tributes to his oratory,
Sure that the Institution would receive
A sum redounding to his proper glory,
From the soul-melted auditory.

The sermon o'er, he bent his keen
Ear to the tinklings of the plate; --
Alas they came with pause deliberate
'Twixt each donation,
"Like angel visits, few and far between,"
(I like a new quotation,)
But, as he caught the sounds, he thought
Each had a golden echo, which in fairness
Made full atonement for its rareness.
"Ay, ay," soliloquized the preacher,
"I told them charity atoned
For multitudes of sins; -- they've owned
For once the wisdom of their teacher.
And, for their many crimes untold,
Are doing penance with their gold."

With this auriferous impression,
Proud and elate,
He move towards the plate;
But ah! how changed was his expression,
When, 'stead of the expected prize,
Nothing but shillings met his eyes,
And those, alas! too few in number
Each other to encumber.
"Ah!" cried the parson -- "addle-pated
Dolts and dunces! when I stated,
'Love of our species is the just
Measure of charity, they must
Have understood the phrase to be,
Love of our specie.'
Nothing but shillings, shillings still!
A strange vagary!
Now on my credit, if I had my will,
Their Institution's title I would vary,
Into the Twelve-PENNY-tentiary."
Doctor! 'tis my opinion humble,
You had not any right to grumble,
For he who in this penny age can touch
A shilling, gets twelve times as much
As other folks; -- I state no hoax,
But simple fact, devoid of jokes,
Or amphibological equivoques;
Yes, since the penny banner was unfurled,
In this two-halfpenny four-farthing world,
Have we not thousands who are willing
To place unlimited reliance,
For learning, news, and science,
Upon the twelfth part of a shilling?
Have we not Penny Cyclopedias,
Penny Magazines and books,
Penny Tracts, less good than tedious,
For penitents of rueful looks,
And penny classics that give scope
To boys at penny schools, and misses,
To sympathize with poor Ulysses
And his beloved Penny-lope?

With such economy,
Where every cottage is a college,
What wonder, in the march of knowledge,
That ploughboys understand astronomy?
Cries Hodge -- "How comes it that the sun,
Who nightly seeks the western shore,
Rises, as sure as any gun,
Next morning where he was afore?"
"Spoony!" replies a learned wight,
"Your ignorance is truly risible;
He always travels back at night,
And that's the reason he's inwisible."

It was a penny Latinist, who said,
In chaos there had been a battle
Before the days of men and cattle,
Though not set down in Holy Writ,
Because in Ovid he had read
That was the time when nihil fit.
Such tales, (I hope that none have quizzed 'em,)
Evince the march of penny wisdom,
And might be told ad infinitum,
Had we just now the time to write 'em.





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