An Age of Ink

OF all the ages ever known,
Of Brass or Bronze, of Brick or Stone,
The blackest and the worst, I think,
Is this pestiferous Age of Ink.
In volume vast the torrent pours,
Its volumes blocking all outdoors ;
And fed and fattened as it flows
With verses scanned and potted prose.
Though all would dam it, — and some do, —
The Deluge still is après nous.
Lured to the brink women and men
A moment pause — then dip a pen.
If, deep of keel and broad of beam.
Some mighty monster stem the stream,
Green paths and pastures boys forsake
To founder in the Kipling wake.
And girls ! — not gunners nor marines
So swift could flood the magazines.
Through many-storied novelettes
Their hero strides, in pantalets.
Haughty of mien, pallid of brow,
And would be bad — if he knew how.
Pity they’ve not a special pen, —
That women must line up with men;
In the same field they harrow so,—
She with her Rake, he with his Hoe ;
And wonder wakes with every screed,
If all are writing, who’s to read ?
“And you!” I hear some scribbler say.
Oh yes, I’m there, — exhibit A.
But one must live ; small is my store ;
A wolf stands darkening the door :
He must be driven to his den,
And so I prod him with my pen.
When children for new grammars cry.
Can parents stand unheeding by ?
Nay ; my pluperfect babes I kiss,
Then dash off verses much like this.
If any are my special pride,
Excursion tickets I provide, —
That if none else the moral see,
At least it will come home to me.
But my envelopes, as their crest.
Bear never the “ return request,”
That in detail superfluous gives
The street whereon the Poet lives.
The door outside of which, elate,
His Muse a minuet treads in state.
With broidered skirt and lifted head —
Inside a cake walk does for bread.
Though few may know where Sappho sung,
Or Ossian once his wild harp hung,
And Homer’s birthplace be in doubt,

My sins and songs soon find me out.
And with a promptness none would guess
Turn up, and at the right address.
If this do not, I ’ll say and think
There’s one redeeming thing in Ink.
Charles Henry Webb.