All modern themes of poesy are spun so very fine,
That now the most amusing muse, e gratia, such as mine,
Is often forced to cut the thread that strings our recent rhymes,
And try the stronger staple of the good old classic times.
There lived and flourished long ago, in famous Athens town,
One Dædalus, a carpenter of genius and renown;
('Twas he who with an auger taught mechanics how to bore,—
An art which the philosophers monopolized before.)
His only son was Icarus, a most precocious lad,
The pride of Mrs. Dædalus, the image of his dad;
And while he yet was in his teens such progress he had made,
He'd got above his father's size, and much above his trade.
Now Dædalus, the carpenter, had made a pair of wings,
Contrived of wood and feathers and a cunning set of springs,
By means of which the wearer could ascend to any height,
And sail about among the clouds as easy as a kite!
"O father," said young Icarus, "how I should like to fly!
And go like you where all is blue along the upper sky;
How very charming it would be above the moon to climb,
And scamper through the Zodiac, and have a high old time!
"Oh wouldn't it be jolly, though,—to stop at all the inns;
To take a luncheon at 'The Crab,' and tipple at 'The Twins';
And, just for fun and fancy, while careering through the air,
To kiss the Virgin, tease the Ram, and bait the biggest Bear?
"O father, please to let me go!" was still the urchin's cry;
"I'll be extremely careful, sir, and won't go very high;
Oh if this little pleasure-trip you only will allow,
I promise to be back again in time to fetch the cow!"
"You're rather young," said Dædalus, "to tempt the upper air;
But take the wings, and mind your eye with very special care;
And keep at least a thousand miles below the nearest star;
Young lads, when out upon a lark, are apt to go too far!"
He took the wings—that foolish boy—without the least dismay;
His father stuck 'em on with wax, and so he soared away;
Up, up he rises, like a bird, and not a moment stops
Until he's fairly out of sight beyond the mountain-tops!
And still he flies—away—away; it seems the merest fun;
No marvel he is getting bold, and aiming at the sun;
No marvel he forgets his sire; it isn't very odd
That one so far above the earth should think himself a god!
Already, in his silly pride, he's gone too far aloft;
The heat begins to scorch his wings; the wax is waxing soft;
Down—down he goes!—Alas!—next day poor Icarus was found
Afloat upon the Ægean Sea, extremely damp and drowned!
The moral of this mournful tale is plain enough to all:—
Don't get above your proper sphere, or you may chance to fall;
Remember, too, that borrowed plumes are most uncertain things;
And never try to scale the sky with other people's wings!