Algernon Swinburne: The Critical Heritage

By Clyde K. Hyder | Go to book overview

19.

A. C. Hilton: ‘Octopus’

1872

Arthur Clement Hilton (1851-1877) wrote for the Light Green, a magazine of two issues (1872), which he established while at Cambridge University, the best of the parodies of Swinburne. The fact that ‘Dolores’ has been the most frequently parodied of Swinburne’s poems casts light on an aspect of the poet’s reputation.

OCTOPUS1

BY ALGERNON CHARLES SIN-BURN


STRANGE beauty, eight-limbed and eight-handed,
Whence earnest to dazzle our eyes?
With thy bosom bespangled and banded
With the hues of the seas and the skies;
Is thy home European or Asian,
O mystical monster marine?
Part molluscous and partly crustacean,
Betwixt and between.


Wast thou born to the sound of sea-trumpets?
Hast thou eaten and drunk to excess
Of the sponges—thy muffins and crumpets,
Of the seaweed—thy mustard and cress?
Wast thou nurtured in caverns of coral,
Remote from reproof or restraint?
Art thou innocent, art thou immoral,
Sinburnian or Saint?


Lithe limbs, curling free, as a creeper
That creeps in a desolate place,
To enrol and envelop the sleeper
In a silent and stealthy embrace,
Cruel beak craning forward to bite us,

1 Written at the Crystal Palace Aquarium. [Author’s note. ]

-156-

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