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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Edward Rowland Sill (1841–1887)

Five Lives

From “Poems”

FIVE mites of monads dwelt in a round drop

That twinkled on a leaf by a pool in the sun.

To the naked eye they lived invisible;

Specks, for a world of whom the empty shell

Of a mustard-seed had been a hollow sky.

One was a meditative monad, called a sage;

And, shrinking all his mind within, he thought:

“Tradition, handed down for hours and hours,

Tells that our globe, this quivering crystal world,

Is slowly dying. What if, seconds hence

When I am very old, yon shimmering doom

Comes drawing down and down, till all things end?”

Then with a wizen smirk he proudly felt

No other mote of God had ever gained

Such giant grasp of universal truth.

One was a transcendental monad; thin

And long and slim of mind; and thus he mused:

“Oh, vast, unfathomable monad-souls!

Made in the image”—a hoarse frog croaks from the pool—

“Hark! ’twas some god, voicing his glorious thought

In thunder music. Yea, we hear their voice,

And we may guess their minds from ours, their work.

Some taste they have like ours, some tendency

To wriggle about, and munch a trace of scum.”

He floated up on a pin-point bubble of gas

That burst, pricked by the air, and he was gone.

One was a barren-minded monad, called

A positivist; and he knew positively;

“There was no world beyond this certain drop.

Prove me another! Let the dreamers dream

Of their faint gleams, and noises from without,

And higher and lower; life is life enough.”

Then swaggering half a hair’s breadth hungrily,

He seized upon an atom of bug, and fed.

One was a tattered monad, called a poet;

And with a shrill voice ecstatic thus he sang:

“Oh, little female monad’s lips!

Oh, little female monad’s eyes!

Ah, the little, little, female, female monad!”

The last was a strong-minded monadess,

Who dashed amid the infusoria,

Danced high and low, and wildly spun and dove,

Till the dizzy others held their breath to see.

But while they led their wondrous little lives

Æonian moments had gone wheeling by,

The burning drop had shrunk with fearful speed;

A glistening film—’twas gone; the leaf was dry.

The little ghost of an inaudible squeak

Was lost to the frog that goggled from his stone;

Who, at the huge, slow tread of a thoughtful ox

Coming to drink, stirred sideways fatly, plunged,

Launched backward twice, and all the pool was still.