Verse > Anthologies > Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. > Yale Book of American Verse
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Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse.  1912.
 
John Godfrey Saxe. 1816–1887
 
115. Polyphemus and Ulysses
 
A VERY remarkable history this is 
Of one POLYPHEMUS and CAPTAIN ULYSSES: 
The latter a hero accomplished and bold, 
The former a knave, and a fright to behold,— 
A horrid big giant who lived in a den,         5
And dined every day on a couple of men, 
Ate a woman for breakfast, and (dreadful to see!) 
Had a nice little baby served up with his tea! 
Indeed, if there's truth in the sprightly narration 
Of HOMER, a poet of some reputation,  10
Or VIRGIL, a writer but little inferior, 
And in some things, perhaps, the other's superior,— 
POLYPHEMUS was truly a terrible creature, 
In manners and morals, in form and in feature; 
For law and religion he cared not a copper,  15
And, in short, led a life that was very improper:— 
What made him a very remarkable guy, 
Like the late MR. THOMPSON, he 'd only one eye; 
But that was a whopper,—a terrible one,— 
"As large" (VIRGIL says) "as the disk of the sun!"  20
A brilliant, but rather extravagant figure, 
Which means, I suppose, that his eye was much bigger 
Than yours,—or even the orb of your sly 
Old bachelor-friend "who 's a wife in his eye." 
  
ULYSSES, the hero I mentioned before,  25
Was shipwrecked, one day, on the pestilent shore 
Where the CYCLOPS resided, along with their chief, 
POLYPHEMUS, the terrible man-eating thief, 
Whose manners they copied, and laws they obeyed, 
While driving their horrible cannibal trade.  30
  
With many expressions of civil regret 
That ULYSSES had got so unpleasantly wet, 
With many expressions of pleasure profound 
That all had escaped being thoroughly drowned, 
The rascal declared he was "fond of the brave,"  35
And invited the strangers all home to his cave. 
  
Here the cannibal king, with as little remorse 
As an omnibus feels for the death of a horse, 
Seized, crushed, and devoured a brace of the Greeks, 
As a Welshman would swallow a couple of leeks,  40
Or a Frenchman, supplied with his usual prog, 
Would punish the hams of a favorite frog. 
Dashed and smashed against the stones, 
He broke their bodies and cracked their bones, 
Minding no more their moans and groans,  45
Than the grinder heeds his organ's tones! 
With purple gore the pavement swims, 
While the giant crushes their crackling limbs, 
And poor ULYSSES trembles with fright 
At the horrid sound, and the horrid sight,—  50
Trembles lest the monster grim 
Should make his "nuts and raisins" of him! 
      And, really, since 
      The man was a Prince, 
It 's not very odd that his Highness should wince,  55
(Especially after such very strong hints,) 
At the cannibal's manner, as rather more free 
Than his Highness at court was accustomed to see! 
  
But the crafty Greek, to the tyrant's hurt, 
(Though he did n't deserve so fine a dessert),  60
Took a dozen of wine from his leather trunk, 
And plied the giant until he was drunk!— 
Drunker than any one you or I know, 
Who buys his "Rhenish" with ready rhino,— 
Exceedingly drunk,—sepultus vino!  65
  
Gazing a moment upon the sleeper, 
ULYSSES cried, "Let 's spoil his peeper!— 
'T will put him, boys, in a pretty trim, 
If we can manage to douse his glim!" 
So, taking a spar that was lying in sight,  70
They poked it into his "forward light," 
And gouged away with furious spite, 
Ramming and jamming with all their might! 
  
In vain the giant began to roar, 
      And even swore  75
      That he never before 
Had met, in his life, such a terrible bore: 
They only plied the auger the more 
And mocked his grief with a bantering cry, 
"Don't talk of pain,—it 's all in your eye!"  80
Until, alas for the wretched CYCLOPS! 
He gives a groan, and out his eye pops! 
Leaving the knave, one need n't be told, 
As blind as a puppy of three days old. 
  
The rest of the tale I can't tell now,—  85
Except that ULYSSES got out of the row, 
With the rest of his crew—it 's no matter how; 
While old POLYPHEMUS, until he was dead,— 
Which was n't till many years after, 't is said,— 
Had a grief in his heart and a hole in his head!  90
  
MORAL
 
Don't use strong drink,—pray let me advise,— 
It 's bad for the stomach, and ruins the eyes; 
Don't impose upon sailors with land-lubber tricks, 
Or you 'll catch it some day like a thousand of bricks!  95
 
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