Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  The Cynic of the Woods

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Arthur Patchett Martin b. 1851

The Cynic of the Woods

COME from busy haunts of men,

With nature to commune,

Which you, it seems, observe, and then

Laugh out, like some buffoon.

You cease, and through the forest drear

I pace, with sense of awe;

When once again upon my ear

Breaks in your harsh guffaw.

I look aloft to yonder place,

Where placidly you sit,

And tell you to your very face,

I do not like your wit.

I ’m in no mood for blatant jest,

I hate your mocking song,

My weary soul demands the rest

Denied to it so long.

Besides, there passes through my brain

The poet’s love of fame—

Why should not an Australian strain

Immortalize my name?

And so I pace the forest drear,

Filled with a sense of awe,

When louder still upon my ear

Breaks in your harsh guffaw.

Yet truly, Jackass, it may be,

My words are all unjust:

You laugh at what you hear and see,

And laugh because you must.

You’ve seen Man civilized and rude,

Of varying race and creed,

The black-skinned savage almost nude,

The Englishman in tweed.

And here the lubra oft has strayed,

To rest beneath the boughs,

Where now, perchance, some fair-haired maid

May hear her lover’s vows;

While you from yonder lofty height

Have studied human ways,

And, with a satirist’s delight,

Dissected hidden traits.

Laugh on, laugh on! Your rapturous shout

Again on me intrudes;

But I have found your secret out,

O cynic of the woods!

Well! I confess, grim mocking elf,

Howe’er I rhapsodize,

That I am more in love with self

Than with the earth or skies.

So I will lay the epic by,

That I had just begun:

Why should I scribble? Let me lie

And bask here in the sun.

And let me own, were I endowed

With your fine humorous sense,

I, too, should laugh—ay, quite as loud,

At all Man’s vain pretence.