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Robert Anderson (Роберт Андерсон)

Enigma the First

Who made me first, when, where, but few can tell,
Tho' I'm made daily for each beau and belle;
And in most countries found, such is my lot,
From the proud palace to the lowly cot.
I owe my being to the ploughman's toil;
He views me oft in summer with a smile:
Next I surround the bosoms of the fair,
Would I could guard them from the villain's snare!
By beauties in most climes am I carest,
And oft have won them lovers, 'tis confest:
I to deformity add many a charm;
Tho' base the coin, it does the world no harm.
I'm in complexion fairer far than you,
Nor is my shape to ought confin'd, I vow.
Short is my date, perhaps an hour, a year,
And when I'm put to use I disappear.
A drop of water quick my form will change,
But keep me dry, throughout the world I'll range:
I'm hot, I'm cold; let this not cause alarm;
Eat me, or drink me, faith I'll do no harm,
Yon supple tradesman calls me to his aid,
And for his blooming lovey I was made;
Their dear--lov'd cherubs, too, find me of use;
And shop--boy Jacky, strutting, pert and spruce.
I rustle thro' the ball--room 'midst the proud,
Nor yet am seen by any of the crowd;
I'm in the park, parade, and at the play,
In churches, eke in chapels, every day:
You meet me every minute in each street,
But you're too proud to know me when we meet.
In eastern climates I'm at each one's call,
In Norway, Lapland, I'm scarce known at all.
The lawyer, doctor, vicar I attend,
And have been thought a judge's, bishop's friend:
Old maids, old bachelors, my influence own;
I'm next the king, God bless him! on his throne.
That I was used by Scotia's beauteous queen,
And by her murd'rous cousin, may be seen:
Yea, each proud potentate, and gay grandee,
Must shew their pow'r accompanied by me.
The cloister'd nun admits me to her cell,
And in some dungeons I'm allow'd to dwell:
By proud, by wise, o'er Europe am I borne,
Yet still am I the lonely hermit's scorn.
Erin, a faithful friend I prove to thee,
Tho' thousands of thy sons are dup'd by me;
For I a knave have been, in many a clime,
And will remain so till the end of time.

I wonder oft mankind e'er think about me,
When just as well all ranks could do without me.
I'm but a word. My meaning quick explain;
Come, study; bite your nails, then try again.

One half of me is brought far o'er the waves--
One half of me our dear--lov'd country saves--
One half a glorious act or base may mean--
One third contempt or pity shews, I ween--
One half of me an useful tree will form;
It shelters many a rustic from the storm--
From half of me an heroine was nam'd,
Whose death made British cruelty much blam'd;
That half of me did ere the flood appear,
And but for it, thou hadst not now been here.

Two thirds of me is many a courtier's pride--
Two thirds oft seen with monarchs, side by side--
Two thirds of me the traveller greets with joy--
Two thirds the seaman's mind doth oft employ--
Two thirds of me delight this earthly ball--
Two thirds of me caus'd gallant Nelson's fall--
Two thirds of me is each free--mason's boast--
Two thirds of me is oft his heart--warm toast--
Two thirds of me the curious view with awe--
Two thirds of me make man your dang'rous foe--
Two thirds of me support you o'er the flood;
Yet am I useless, rightly understood--
Two thirds of me delight a sland'rous crew,
And yet it entertains the virtuous too--
Two thirds shew what our warriors for you bear--
O brethren, let them ever be your care!

Transpose me now, and soon perchance you'll find
What proves a benefit to all mankind;
By what old Albion is to glory led;
What 'tis secures her sons their daily bread;
What Greece and Rome for ages thought their own,
And what to many a country's yet unknown.
Transpose me, and you'll see a rising ground,
By tyrants rear'd, throughout Hibernia found.
Transpose me, and I soon become a fish,
Deem'd by each epicure a dainty dish;
'Tis not in Ireland found; not in the sea;
Not in the river--Pray, where can it be?
Transpose me, every danger I defy.
Transpose me, and as useless dross I lie.
Transpose me, I'm what various metals are;
Or like a guilty felon at the bar.
Transpose me, I'm the idol of mankind,
And hourly influence the noblest mind.
I'm source of many a pleasure, many a pain;
And hurl destruction o'er both land and main.
I caus'd Parisian blood in streams to flow,
And struck at monarchy the fatal blow.
I call a demon, he attends my call;
The peasant's wholesome cup he fills with gall.
I bid a monster that fair town destroy;
'Tis done--I view him smile with hellish joy.
I bid a mother quick dispatch her child;
'Tis o'er--that cry, how innocent! how wild!
I bid a son his parent smite to death;
I see the parent, gasping, close his breath.
I bid the murd'rer plunge his steel in gore;
He shews it reeking--what can wretch do more?
'Twas I bade Williams try the murd'rous art;
He grinn'd horrific; well perform'd his part!
In carnage now, I glory to my shame;
Now to relieve the helpless is my aim:
I succour many a brother in distress,
And fabrics rear to make their sorrows less:
The beggars bless me, curse me, this I own;
Yet pomp and pow'r I humble with a frown.
Millions by me themselves at once undo;
Millions for want of me are ruin'd too.
I level states and empires when I chuse;
And kings my mandates seldom dare refuse:
I lord it o'er the world, with tyrant sway;
Bid cities flourish, others sweep away.
For me, yon patriot loud of freedom raves;
I nod, his happy country he enslaves.
For me, the artist rears yon lofty dome;
For me the starveling whistles at his loom.
Bards strike the tuneful lyre, and I'm the theme;
Crown'd heads and low--born wretches of me drear
My country's threaten'd; I avert the blow,
And the dull rabble ever keep in awe:
From shore to shore I fly, borne on each gale;
To greet me with a smile, none ever fail.
I speak all languages, although I'm dumb;
And pity 'tis, I'm seldom overcome.
I'm dark; I'm fair; I'm light; I'm heavy found;
And am an hundred fathoms under ground.
Since time's beginning, all have own'd my skill:
Till time shall end, I must be ruler still!

Again transpose me; in a heavy gale,
Tars I make tremble, cowards I turn pale,
Again transpose me, and I'll quick disclose,
What to my aid each land of commerce owes:
What sail'd with Drake, with Anson, this globe round,
And Cook's companion, too, was daily found.
Transpose again, and by one half you'll see,
What's worn on princes, prelates, you, not me.
Presto! again; now certes beyond doubt,
You know what farmers seldom are without.

Be patient, reader. Try me, oft I'll change;
Become a beast that doth the forests range:
Another, many a thrifty housewife's dread;
Another still, that by the last is fed.

Lastly; I bear the hero from the field:--
Tell what I am, or quick thy judgment yield. 

Robert Anderson's other poems:
  1. Lines to a Redbreast
  2. Jingle in the Glasses
  3. Mad Margery
  4. Ode to Care
  5. Epitaph on Maria of the Cottage

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