From Four Riddles by Lewis Carroll

[These consist of two Double Acrostics and two Charades.

No. I. was written at the request of some young friends, who had gone to a ball at an Oxford Commemoration---and also as a specimen of what might be done by making the Double Acrostic a connected poem instead of what it has hitherto been, a string of disjointed stanzas, on every conceivable subject, and about as interesting to read straight through as a page of a Cyclopedia. The first two stanzas describe the two main words, and each subsequent stanza one of the cross "lights."

No. II. was written after seeing Miss Ellen Terry perform in the play of "Hamlet." In this case the first stanza describes the two main words.

No. III. was written after seeing Miss Marion Terry perform in Mr. Gilbert's play of "Pygmalion and Galatea." The three stanzas respectively describe "My First," "My Second," and "My Whole."]


There was an ancient City, stricken down
   With a strange frenzy, and for many a day
They paced from morn to eve the crowded town,
      And danced the night away.

I asked the cause: the aged man grew sad:
   They pointed to a building gray and tall,
And hoarsely answered "Step inside, my lad,
      And then you'll see it all."

Yet what are all such gaieties to me
   Whose thoughts are full of indices and surds?

But something whispered "It will soon be done:
   Bands cannot always play, nor ladies smile:
Endure with patience the distasteful fun
      For just a little while!"

A change came o'er my Vision---it was night:
   We clove a pathway through a frantic throng:
The steeds, wild-plunging, filled us with affright:
      The chariots whirled along.

Within a marble hall a river ran---
   A living tide, half muslin and half cloth:
And here one mourned a broken wreath or fan,
      Yet swallowed down her wrath;

And here one offered to a thirsty fair
   (His words half-drowned amid those thunders tuneful)
Some frozen viand (there were many there),
      A tooth-ache in each spoonful.

There comes a happy pause, for human strength
   Will not endure to dance without cessation;
And every one must reach the point at length
      Of absolute prostration.

At such a moment ladies learn to give,
   To partners who would urge them overmuch,
A flat and yet decided negative---
      Photographers love such.

There comes a welcome summons---hope revives,
   And fading eyes grow bright, and pulses quicken:
Incessant pop the corks, and busy knives
      Dispense the tongue and chicken.

Flushed with new life, the crowd flows back again:
   And all is tangled talk and mazy motion---
Much like a waving field of golden grain,
      Or a tempestuous ocean.

And thus they give the time, that Nature meant
   For peaceful sleep and meditative snores,
To ceaseless din and mindless merriment
      And waste of shoes and floors.

And One (we name him not) that flies the flowers,
   That dreads the dances, and that shuns the salads,
They doom to pass in solitude the hours,
      Writing acrostic-ballads.

How late it grows! The hour is surely past
   That should have warned us with its double knock?
The twilight wanes, and morning comes at last---
      "Oh, Uncle, what's o'clock?"

The Uncle gravely nods, and wisely winks.
   It may mean much, but how is one to know?
He opes his mouth---yet out of it, methinks,
      No words of wisdom flow.

Answer: Commemoration, Monstrosities.