A Study in Contrasts


B Y cliff and chine, and hollow-nestling wood
Thrilled with the poignant savour of the sea,
All in the crisp light of a wintry morn,
We walked, my friend and I, preceded still
By one whose silken and voluminous suit,
His courtly ruff, snow-pure mid golden tan,
His grandly feathered legs slenderly strong,
The broad and flowing billow of his breast,
His delicate ears and superfine long nose,
With that last triumph, his distinguished tail,
In their collective glory spoke his race
The flower of Collie aristocracy.
Yet, from his traits, how absent that reserve,
That stillness on a base of power, which marks,
In men and mastiffs, the selectly sprung!
For after all, his high-life attributes,
His trick of doing nothing with an air,
His salon manners and society smile,
Were but skin-deep, factitious, and you saw
The bustling despot of the mountain flock,
And pastoral dog-of-all-work, underlie
The fashionable modern lady's pet —
Industrial impulses bereft of scope,
Duty and discipline denied an aim,
Ancestral energy and strenuousness
In graceful trifling frittered all away.
Witness the depth of his concern and zeal
About minutest issues: shall we take
This path or that? — it matters not a straw —
But just a moment unresolved we stand,
And all his personality, from ears
To tip of tail, is interrogative;
And when from pure indifference we decide,
How he vociferates! how he bounds ahead!
With what enthusiasm he ratifies,
Applauds, acclaims our choice 'twixt right and left,
As though some hoary problem over which
The world had puckered immemorial brows,
Were solved at last, and all life launched anew!

These and a thousand tricks and ways and traits
I noted as of Demos at their root,
And foreign to the staid, conservative,
Came-over-with-the-Conqueror type of mind.
And then, his nature, how impressionable,
How quickly moved to Collie mirth or woe,
Elated or dejected at a word!
And how unlike your genuine Vere de Vere's
Frigid, indifferent, half-ignoring glance
At everything outside the sacred pale
Of things De Veres have sanctioned from the Flood,
The unweariable curiosity
And universal open-mindedness
Of that all-testing, all-inquisitive nose!


So, to my friend's house, back we strolled; and there —
We loitering in the garden — from her post
Of purview at a window, languidly
A great Angora watched his Collieship,
And throned in monumental calm, surveyed
His effervescence, volatility,
Clamour on slight occasion, fussiness,
Herself immobile, imperturbable,
Like one whose vision seeks the Immanent
Behind these symbols and appearances,
The face within this transitory mask.
And as her eyes with indolent regard
Viewed his upbubblings of ebullient life,
She seemed the Orient Spirit incarnate, lost
In contemplation of the Western Soul!
Ev'n so, methought, the genius of the East,
Reposeful, patient, undemonstrative,
Luxurious, enigmatically sage,
Dispassionately cruel, might look down
On all the fever of the Occident; —
The brooding mother of the unfilial world,
Recumbent on her own antiquity,
Aloof from our mutations and unrest,
Alien to our achievements and desires,
Too proud alike for protest or assent
When new thoughts thunder at her massy door; —
Another brain dreaming another dream,
Another heart recalling other loves;
Too grey and grave for our adventurous hopes,
For our precipitate pleasures too august,
And in still majesty, with silent tongue,
Refraining her illimitable scorn.
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