Times and Manners.

O men of old, whose classic deeds1
(Performed by Greek or ancient Roman)2
The painful student daily reads3
In Mommsen, Abbott, Grote, and Oman,—4
Although our theories about5
The Good and Beautiful be truer,6
Yet sometimes I’m inclined to doubt7
If we be better off than you were !8
The methods you employed in war9
Were quite superfluously gory,10
Your views of Law and Order far11
More rude than those of any Tory ;12
The way you used a captured foe13
Was the reverse of philanthropic :14
Your sentiments were crude, I know,15
On this and every other topic :16
You did not strive to calm the storm17
Of simple elemental passions,18
But dealt with men who planned Reform19
In singularly drastic fashions,20
And when defeated at the poll21
Or foiled in some forensic quarrel,22
Employed the Dagger and the Bowl23
In ways which seem to us immoral.24
And worse than this (if really true25
The scenes which annalists describe are)26
I know you dined at half-past two,27
I know you mixed your wine with Tiber :28
I know that you on couches lay29
In most uncomfortable poses,30
And—why, ’twere difficult to say31
You crowned your perfumed heads with roses :32
You drank as deep as any fish :33
You must have been as strong as horses !34
A peacock was your favourite dish35
You went and bathed between the courses :36
Yet none that e’er I read about,37
Hero or sage, in periods classic,38
By reason of ancestral gout39
Forewent that extra glass of Massic.40
Then, should a too luxurious fare41
Sow sickness’ seeds (which was but seldom),42
A vow or inexpensive prayer43
At once effectively expelled ’e m :44
Not yet the boons that Science brings,45
No microbes yet could vex and plague you :46
At worst, you died of common things,47
A fever or perhaps an ague.48
How changed the modern’s lot from yours !49
Daily do specialists affright his50
Inquiring mind with scores and scores51
Of things that end in death, and -itis :52
Of ailments new with newer terms53
At Science’ feet we’re always learning,54
With wholly unsuspected germs55
Awaiting us at every turning.56
‘Twas hard undoubtedly to be57
Beheaded by a tyrant’s minions,58
Because you chanced to disagree59
With his tyrannical opinions :60
Yet, when I view the countless swarm61
Of troubles new that maim and kill us,62
Proscription seems a lesser harm63
Than Medicine with a fresh bacillus !64
O men of old ! your ways, I own,65
Were harsher far than ours and rougher :66
Still,—had you but by prescience known67
What complicated ills we suffer,68
Would you have longed to share our plight,69
And tread our path by Truth enlightened ?70
I cannot say. Perhaps you might :71
And then, again, perhaps you mightn’t !72