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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

A Psalm of Montreal

By Samuel Butler (1835–1902)

  • From ‘The Note-Books of Samuel Butler’
  • THE CITY OF MONTREAL is one of the most rising and, in many respects, most agreeable on the American continent, but its inhabitants are as yet too busy with commerce to care greatly about the masterpieces of old Greek Art. In the Montreal Museum of Natural History I came upon two plaster casts, one of the Antinous and the other of the Discobolus—not the good one, but in my poem, of course, I intend the good one—banished from public view to a room where were all manner of skins, plants, snakes, insects, etc., and, in the middle of these, an old man stuffing an owl.
  • “Ah,” said I, “so you have some antiques here; why don’t you put them where people can see them?”
  • “Well, sir,” answered the custodian, “you see they are rather vulgar.”
  • He then talked a great deal and said his brother did all Mr. Spurgeon’s printing.
  • The dialogue—perhaps true, perhaps imaginary, perhaps a little of the one and a little of the other—between the writer and this old man gave rise to the lines that follow:—

  • Stowed away in a Montreal lumber room

    The Discobolus standeth and turneth his face to the wall;

    Dusty, cobweb-covered, maimed and set at naught,

    Beauty crieth in an attic and no man regardeth:

    O God! O Montreal!

    Beautiful by night and day, beautiful in summer and winter,

    Whole or maimed, always and alike beautiful—

    He preacheth gospel of grace to the skin of owls

    And to one who seasoneth the skins of Canadian owls:

    O God! O Montreal!

    When I saw him I was wroth and I said, “O Discobolus!

    Beautiful Discobolus, a Prince both among gods and men!

    What doest thou here, how camest thou hither, Discobolus,

    Preaching gospel in vain to the skins of owls?”

    O God! O Montreal!

    And I turned to the man of skins and said unto him, “O thou man of skins,

    Wherefore hast thou done thus to shame the beauty of the Discobolus?”

    But the Lord had hardened the heart of the man of skins

    And he answered, “My brother-in-law is haberdasher to Mr. Spurgeon.”

    O God! O Montreal!

    “The Discobolus is put here because he is vulgar—

    He has neither vest nor pants with which to cover his limbs;

    I, Sir, am a person of most respectable connections—

    My brother-in-law is haberdasher to Mr. Spurgeon.”

    O God! O Montreal!

    Then I said, “O brother-in-law to Mr. Spurgeon’s haberdasher,

    Who seasonest also the skins of Canadian owls,

    Thou callest trousers ‘pants,’ whereas I call them ‘trousers,’

    Therefore thou art in hell-fire and may the Lord pity thee!”

    O God! O Montreal!

    “Preferrest thou the gospel of Montreal to the gospel of Hellas,

    The gospel of thy connection with Mr. Spurgeon’s haberdashery to the gospel of the Discobolus?”

    Yet none the less blasphemed he beauty saying, “The Discobolus hath no gospel,

    But my brother-in-law is haberdasher to Mr. Spurgeon.”

    O God! O Montreal!