The New Dodo
by Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849)
Squats on a toad-stool under a tree
A bodiless childfull of life in the gloom,
Crying with frog voice, “What shall I be?
Poor unborn ghost, for my mother killed me
Scarcely alive in her wicked womb.
What shall I be? shall I creep to the egg
That’s cracking asunder yonder by Nile,
And with eighteen toes,
And a snuff-taking nose,
Make an Egyptian crocodile?
Sing, ‘Catch a mummy by the leg
And crunch him with an upper jaw,
Wagging tail and clenching claw;
Take a bill-full from my craw,
Neighbour raven, caw, O caw,
Grunt, my crocky, pretty maw!
“Swine, shall I be you? Thou’rt a dear dog;
But for a smile, and kiss, and pout,
I much prefer your black-lipped snout,
Little, gruntless, fairy hog,
Godson of the hawthorn hedge.
For, when Ringwood snuffs me out,
And ’gins my tender paunch to grapple,
Sing, ‘’Twixt your ancles visage wedge,
And roll up like an apple.’
“Serpent Lucifer, how do you do?
Of your worms and your snakes I’d be one or two;
For in this dear planet of wool and of leather
‘Tis pleasant to need neither shirt, sleeve, nor shoe,
And have arm, leg, and belly together.
Then aches your head, or are you lazy?
Sing, ‘Round your neck your belly wrap,
Tail-a-top, and make your cap
Any bee and daisy.’
“I’ll not be a fool, like the nightingale
Who sits up all midnight without any ale,
Making a noise with his nose;
Nor a camel, although ’tis a beautiful back;
Nor a duck, notwithstanding the music of quack,
And the webby, mud-patting toes.
I’ll be a new bird with the head of an ass,
Two pigs’ feet, two mens’ feet, and two of a hen;
Devil-winged; dragon-bellied; grave-jawed, because grass
Is a beard that’s soon shaved, and grows seldom again
Before it is summer; so cow all the rest;
The new Dodo is finished. O! come to my nest.”