} THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT WOOD-CHUCKER
} IN TOO MANY PARTS
} BY SAMUEL TAYLOR ORACLE
} PART THE FIRST.
} It is an ancient Oracle,
} And a supplicant he stops.
} "Jesus H Christ, you gave me a turn--
} Why look so miserable, Pops?"
} He holds him with his skinny hand;
} "I know your sort," quoth he.
} "You want to ask that question vile,
} About woodchucks and me."
} "Hold off! Unhand me, grey-beard loon!"
} The supplicant doth whine.
} He'd always wanted to say that:
} 'Tis such a catchy line.
} "What, woodchucks--me? Oh, no sirree!
} It simply isn't true:
} I wandered in here by mistake
} Whilst looking for the loo."
} "Nay, ye shall listen, supplicant,
} My tale's both long and dull;
} But not as dull as Coleridge," said
} The bright-eyed Oracle.
} "We set out on the hunt one day,
} Zeus, Odin, Thoth and I.
} We fancied roasted venison,
} Or maybe rabbit pie.
} "Though, as I now remember it,
} Thoth doth prefer dormice.
} He'd recently sworn off red meat
} On medical advice.
} "And Odin had exotic tastes,
} He wanted pelican--"
} The supplicant here beat his breast,
} "Oh, get a move on, man!"
} "I have to set the scene, you know,"
} The Oracle protests.
} "So heed well and make copious notes;
} Here after follow tests."
} The supplicant, he beat his breast:
} Why was he such a fool
} To come before that frightful bore,
} The bright-eyed Oracle?
} PART THE SECOND.
} "With bows in hand and spirits high,
} We gambolled 'neath the sheltering sky;
} Yet, near and far, we did not spy
} Nor moose, nor goat, nor hind.
} 'Twas passing weird: we were afeared
} No food today we'd find.
} "And now there came both mist and snow,
} And ice was all around;
} And if we'd been brass monkeys, why,
} Our balls'd lie on the ground.
} "At length a woodchuck hove in sight:
} Thorough the fog it came;
} It waddled up to us as if
} It were completely tame.
} "'A sign!' cried Odin. 'We are saved!'
} And Zeus said he'd a hunch
} All would be well; but I cried 'Hell,
} I'm famished! Time for lunch!'
} "I nocked an arrow and took aim;
} And then, and then," said he--
} His voice gave out: without a doubt
} He needed sympathy.
} "God save thee, ancient Oracle!
} You mean to tell me that
} You shot the woodchuck, there and then?
} You really are a prat!"
} PART THE THIRD.
} "Yes, I had done a hellish thing,
} The others were quite pissed.
} Quoth Thoth: 'You twit! Oh, I could spit!
} Why couldn't you have missed?
} A dead woodchuck brings real bad luck;
} Oh, would that you had missed!'
} "Then Odin said: 'It's on your head;
} You dropped us in the dung.
} Let this marmot, which you have shot,
} Around your neck be hung.'
} With rope and knot, that dead marmot
} Around my neck they hung!
} "A breeze sprang up, the mist cleared up,
} The snow melted away.
} And then it rained unceasingly
} The rest of that whole day.
} "Water, water, every where,
} As far as the eye can peer.
} Water, water, every where;
} I'd kill for just one beer!
} "Then Zeus and Odin said, 'Enough!
} This weather's far too rough.'
} And Thoth felt ill, he'd caught a chill,
} Of hunting he had had his fill--
} He went off in a huff.
} "And I was left of friends bereft;
} My grief cut like a knife.
} 'Oh woodchuck, bearer of ill luck!
} I don't care how much wood you chuck:
} Please come once more to life!'
} "But answer I received not one,
} Which came as no surprise;
} The woodchuck stared back up at me
} With lifeless, beady eyes."
} PART THE THIRD.
} "There passed a weary time. The gods
} To their own homes returned.
} A weary time! A weary time!
} My eyes, with tears they burned.
} With woodchuck pendant I trudged on,
} By every comrade spurned!
} "Then, looking eastwards, I beheld
} A new religion dawning;
} As if the sun rose on a brand
} New monotheistic morning.
} "The Greeks and Romans thought it great:
} It had not been much fun
} To guess which god they must placate--
} Now there would be just one!
} "And even the Egyptians--
} Osiris' erstwhile fans--
} With uncouth haste, new faith embraced,
} And turned Mohammedans.
} "The Norsemen, on the other hand,
} Were wracked by indecision:
} They liked their gods both cruel and tough;
} They didn't switch till they learnt of
} The Spanish Inquisition.
} "You cannot kill immortal beings--
} They're, after all, undying;
} But if no-one believes in them,
} They find this very trying!
} "They sink into a sullen sulk,
} Their bodies dissipate;
} And, in the blinking of an eye,
} They just evaporate.
} "Four times fifty mighty gods,
} (And a demiurge or two)
} As all their worshippers upped sticks,
} They melted like the dew.
} "Their spirits on the wind were blown--
} They sped hence, like a flux!
} And each one, as it passed me, cried:
} 'You and your damned woodchucks!'"
} PART THE FOURTH.
} "You bore me, tedious Oracle!
} Your tale goes on for ever!
} Pick up the pace, cut to the chase;
} I fear I'll leave here never!
} "You bore me with your rambling rimes--
} You've kept me right through lunchtime!"
} "Fear not, fear not, dear supplicant;
} I'm getting near the punchline!
} "For I did not fade all away!
} I know not why; the reason may
} Lie in my constitution.
} Perhaps the woodchuck cast some spell,
} That damned me to this living hell;
} But I think the solution
} Lies in the fact that nobody,
} Right from the start, believed in me--
} Thus I 'scaped dissolution.
} "Alone, alone, all, all alone,
} Alone I strayed afar!
} Until one day, to my dismay,
} I reached America.
} "The woodchuck rotted and was gone,
} But this was hardly lucky;
} Because its odour lingered on,
} And I smelled all woodchucky.
} "I tell you this, oh supplicant:
} Your sex life goes to pot!
} For girls curl their toes, and hold their nose;
} And, as for scoring, you won't get close,
} When you reek of Eu-de-Marmot!"
} PART THE FIFTH.
} "You bore me, windbag Oracle!"
} "Hush, supplicant, be quiet!
} If thou keep'st interrupting me,
} My Zot Staff I will aim at thee,
} And liberally apply it!
} "Where was I? Oh, yes--I arrived
} At Indiana U.
} I thought I'd try my trade to ply,
} And prophesy anew.
} "I set up shop, and advertised
} All round the Internet;
} I figured those geeks needed all
} The help that they could get.
} "And, sure enough, they came to me
} From far and wide, in streams,
} With questions subtle and profound
} Beyond my wildest dreams!
} "Where vanish all our yesterdays?
} Where will our souls go to?
} What can Bill Gates, in one brief life,
} With so much money do?
} Such questions as a sage could
} Really get his teeth into!
} "Yet, when they stood before my throne
} Upon the appointed day,
} My rodentine effluvium
} Would wipe their thoughts away;
} Till not at all could they recall
} What they had come to say.
} Their poor brains drained of intellect,
} They'd blurt out, with all speed:
} 'How much wood would a woodchuck chuck,
} If wood it chucks, indeed?'"
} PART THE SIXTH.
} "At last, there came the fateful year
} Of nineteen ninety-seven,
} The Son of God came down to earth
} To take mankind to heaven--"
} "Hang on!" protests the supplicant,
} "How could I that have missed?
} The Second Coming passed me by?"
} "It serves you right," came the reply,
} "For being an atheist.
} "The Sacred Lamb himself came here
} To Bloomington, IN,
} To gather to him each and every
} Upright citizen.
} "'Oh shrieve me, shrieve me, Holy One!'
} I cried most piteously.
} 'You are the saviour of all men--
} Will you not too save me?'
} "Then Jesus spoke compassionately,
} 'My flock is all humanity:
} You do not fit the bill--
} You are some bygone deity.
} But, so you'll not think ill of me,
} Ask of me what you will;
} And willingly I'll grant it thee--
} Your wish I will fulfil.'
} "Here was my chance, I realised,
} To win my longed-for death;
} I'd ask to be a mortal man--
} All set, I took a breath.
} "I took a breath, I smelled that smell,
} My faculties went all to hell;
} I said, 'Dear Master, kind and good:
} I hear that woodchucks will chuck wood--
} How much wood, can you tell?'"
} PART THE SEVENTH.
} The Oracle falls silent now,
} And stares down at his feet.
} The supplicant can scarce believe
} The time has come for his reprieve:
} He beats a quick retreat!
} The Oracle, whose eye is bright,
} Whose beard with age is hoar,
} Now sits and frets; that's what he gets
} For being such a bore.
} "Farewell, farewell, oh supplicant!
} Remember my sad plight!
} When next you call, I promise I'll
} Not keep you half the night.
} And, by the way, the toilet is
} The third door on the right."
} He went like one that hath been stunned,
} His ears and brain full sore:
} A sadder and a wiser man,
} He supplicates no more.
} He owes the Oracle two grand;
} And supplicates no more.