To a Captive Owl
I should be dumb before thee, feathered sage!
And gaze upon thy phiz with solemn awe,
But for a most audacious wish to gauge
The hoarded wisdom of thy learned craw.
Art thou, grave bird! so wondrous wise indeed?
Speak freely, without fear of jest or gibe -
What is thy moral and religious creed?
And what the metaphysics of thy tribe?
A Poet, curious in birds and brutes,
I do not question thee in idle play;
What is thy station? What are thy pursuits?
Doubtless thou hast thy pleasures - what are THEY?
Or is 't thy wont to muse and mouse at once,
Entice thy prey with airs of meditation,
And with the unvarying habits of a dunce,
To dine in solemn depths of contemplation?
There may be much - the world at least says so -
Behind that ponderous brow and thoughtful gaze;
Yet such a great philosopher should know,
It is by no means wise to think always.
And, Bird, despite thy meditative air,
I hold thy stock of wit but paltry pelf -
Thou show'st that same grave aspect everywhere,
And wouldst look thoughtful, stuffed, upon a shelf.
I grieve to be so plain, renowned Bird -
Thy fame 's a flam, and thou an empty fowl;
And what is more, upon a Poet's word
I'd say as much, wert thou Minerva's owl.
So doff th' imposture of those heavy brows;
They do not serve to hide thy instincts base -
And if thou must be sometimes munching MOUSE,
Munch it, O Owl! with less profound a face.
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