Fame's Penny-Trumpet


Published in Lewis Carroll's collection, Phantasmagoria and Other Poems (1869). Illustrated by Arthur B. Frost in the 1911 edition. "Inscribed to a dear Child: in memory of golden summer hours and whispers of a summer sea."
Fame's Penny-Trumpet

[Affectionately dedicated to all “original researchers” who pant for “endowment.”]

Blow, blow your trumpets till they crack,
   Ye little men of little souls!
And bid them huddle at your back—
   Gold-sucking leeches, shoals on shoals!

Fill all the air with hungry wails—
   “Reward us, ere we think or write!
Without your Gold mere Knowledge fails
   To sate the swinish appetite!”

And, where great Plato paced serene,
   Or Newton paused with wistful eye,
Rush to the chace with hoofs unclean
   And Babel-clamour of the sty

Be yours the pay: be theirs the praise:
   We will not rob them of their due,
Nor vex the ghosts of other days
   By naming them along with you.

They sought and found undying fame:
   They toiled not for reward nor thanks:
Their cheeks are hot with honest shame
   For you, the modern mountebanks!

Who preach of Justice—plead with tears
   That Love and Mercy should abound—
While marking with complacent ears
   The moaning of some tortured hound:

Who prate of Wisdom—nay, forbear,
   Lest Wisdom turn on you in wrath,
Trampling, with heel that will not spare,
   The vermin that beset her path!

Go, throng each other’s drawing-rooms,
   Ye idols of a petty clique:
Strut your brief hour in borrowed plumes,
   And make your penny-trumpets squeak.

If you enjoyed Carroll's poem, you might like Phantasmagoria, it's quite a ghost story!


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