Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
IV. Sabbath: Worship: Creed
The Philosopher Toad
Rebecca S. Nichols (1819–1903)
 
  DOWN deep in the hollow, so damp and so cold,
    Where oaks are by ivy o’ergrown,
  The gray moss and lichen creep over the mould,
    Lying loose on a ponderous stone.
  Now within this huge stone, like a king on his throne,        5
  A toad has been sitting more years than is known;
  And, strange as it seems, yet he constantly deems
  The world standing still while he’s dreaming his dreams,—
  Does this wonderful toad in his cheerful abode
In the innermost heart of that flinty old stone,        10
By the gray-haired moss and the lichen o’ergrown.
 
  Down deep in the hollow, from morning till night,
    Dun shadows glide over the ground,
  Where a watercourse once, as it sparkled with light,
    Turned a ruined old mill-wheel around:        15
  Long years have passed by since its bed became dry,
  And the trees grow so close, scarce a glimpse of the sky
  Is seen in the hollow, so dark and so damp,
  Where the glow-worm at noonday is trimming his lamp,
  And hardly a sound from the thicket around,        20
  Where the rabbit and squirrel leap over the ground,
  Is heard by the toad in his spacious abode
In the innermost heart of that ponderous stone,
By the gray-haired moss and the lichen o’ergrown.
 
  Down deep in that hollow the bees never come,        25
    The shade is too black for a flower;
  And jewel-winged birds with their musical hum,
    Never flash in the night of that bower;
  But the cold-blooded snake, in the edge of the brake,
  Lies amid the rank grass, half asleep, half awake;        30
  And the ashen-white snail, with the slime in, its trail,
  Moves wearily on like a life’s tedious tale,
  Yet disturbs not the toad in his spacious abode,
In the innermost heart of that flinty old stone,
By the gray-haired moss and the lichen o’ergrown.        35
 
  Down deep in a hollow some wiseacres sit,
    Like a toad in his cell in the stone;
  Around them in daylight the blind owlets flit,
    And their creeds are with ivy o’ergrown;—
  Their stream may go dry, and the wheels cease to ply,        40
  And their glimpses be few of the sun and the sky,
  Still they hug to their breast every time-honored guest,
  And slumber and doze in inglorious rest;
  For no progress they find in the wide sphere of mind,
  And the world’s standing still with all of their kind;        45
  Contented to dwell deep down in the well,
  Or move like a snail in the crust of his shell,
  Or live like the toad in his narrow abode,
With their souls closely wedged in a thick wall of stone,
By the gray weeds of prejudice rankly o’ergrown.        50
 
 
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