by: Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836-1906)

      HE spare professor, grave and bald,
      Began his paper. It was called,
      I think, "A Brief Historic Glance
      At Russia, Germany, and France."
      A glance, but to my best belief
      'T was almost anything but brief--
      A wide survey, in which the earth
      Was seen before mankind had birth;
      Strange monsters basked them in the sun,
      Behemoth, armored glyptodon,
      And in the dawn's unpractised ray
      The transient dodo winged its way;
      Then, by degrees, through slit and slough,
      We reached Berlin--I don't know how.
      The good Professor's monotone
      Had turned me into senseless stone
      Instanter, but that near me sat
      Hypatia in her new spring hat,
      Blue-eyed, intent, with lips whose bloom
      Lighted the heavy-curtained room.
      Hypatia--ah, what lovely things
      Are fashioned out of eighteen springs!
      At first, in sums of this amount,
      The eighteen winters do not count.
      Just as my eyes were growing dim
      With heaviness, I saw that slim,
      Erect, elastic figure there,
      Like a pond-lily taking air.
      She looked so fresh, so wise, so neat,
      So altogether crisp and sweet,
      I quite forgot what Bismarck said,
      And why the Emperor shook his head,
      And how it was Von Moltke's frown
      Cost France another frontier town.
      The only facts I took away
      From the Professor's theme that day
      Were these: a forehead broad and low,
      Such as antique sculptures show;
      A chin to Greek perfection true;
      Eyes of Astarte's tender blue;
      A high complection without fleck
      Or flaw, and curls about her neck.

"At a Reading" is reprinted from THE SISTERS' TRAGEDY WITH OTHER POEMS,LYRICAL AND DRAMATIC. Thomas Bailey Aldrich. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1891.




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