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The Book of Humorous Verse By Various Characters: 3213

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Scene: A wayside shrine in France.

Persons: Celeste, Pierre, a Cloud.

Celeste (gazing at the solitary white Cloud):

I wonder what your thoughts are, little Cloud,

Up in the sky, so lonely and so proud!

Cloud: Not proud, dear maiden; lonely, if you will.

Long have I watched you, sitting there so still

Before that little shrine beside the way,

And wondered where your thoughts might be astray;

Your knitting lying idle on your knees,

And worse than idle-like Penelope's,

Working its own undoing!

Celeste (picks up her knitting): Who was she?

Saints! What a knot!-Who was Penelope?

What happened to her knitting? Tell me, Cloud!

Cloud: She was a Queen; she wove her husband's shroud.

Celeste (drops the knitting).

His shroud!

Cloud:There, there! 'Twas only an excuse

To put her lovers off, a wifely ruse,

Bidding them bide till it was finished, she

Each night the web unravelled secretly.

Celeste: He came home safe?

Cloud:If I remember right,

It was the lovers needed shrouds that night!

It is an old, old tale. I heard it through

A Wind whose ancestor it was that blew

Ulysses' ship across the purple sea

Back to his people and Penelope.

We Clouds pick up strange tales, as far and wide

And to and fro above the world we ride,

Across uncharted seas, upon the swell

Of viewless waves and tides invisible,

Freighted with friendly flood or forkèd flame,

Knowing not whither bound nor whence we came;

Now drifting lonely, now a company

Of pond'rous galleons-

Celeste:Oft-times I see

A Cloud, as

by some playful fancy stirred,

Take likeness of a monstrous beast or bird

Or some fantastic fish, as though 'twere clay

Moulded by unseen hands.

Cloud:Then tell me, pray,

What I resemble now!

Celeste:I scarcely know.

But had you asked a little while ago,

I should have said a camel; then your hump

Dissolved, and you became a gosling plump,

Downy and white and warm-

Cloud:What! Warm, up here?

Ten thousand feet above the earth!

Celeste:Oh dear!

What am I thinking of! Of course I know

How cold it is. Pierre has told me so

A thousand times.

Cloud:And who is this Pierre

That tells you all the secrets of the air?

How came he to such frigid heights to soar?

Celeste: Pierre's my-He is in the Flying Corps.

Cloud: Ah, now I understand! And he's away?

Celeste: He left at dawn, where for he would not say,

Telling me only 'twas a bombing raid

Somewhere-My God! What's that?

Cloud:What, little maid?

Celeste (pointing): That-over there-beyond the wooded crest!

Cloud: Only a skylark dropping to her nest;

Her mate is hov'ring somewhere near. I heard

His tremulous song of love-

Celeste:That was no bird!

(Drops upon her knees.)

O Mary! Blessed Mother! Hear, my prayer!

That one that fell-grant it was not Pierre!

Here is the cross my mother gave me-I

Will burn the longest candle it will buy!

Cloud: Courage, my child! Your prayer will not be vain!

Who guards the lark, will guide your lover's plane.

The West Wind's calling. I must go!-Hark! There

He sings again! Le bon Dieu garde, ma chère!

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