Smoke by Snodgrass

"A trifle light as air."

Swift sang a broomstick, and with matchless lore
Rehearsed the contents of a housemaid's drawer:
Great Burns's genius shone sublime in lice;
Old Homer epicised on frogs and mice;
And, leaping from his swift Pindaric car,
Great Byron eulogised the light cigar;
Pope for a moment left the critic's chair,
And sang the breezy fan that cools the fair;
And he whose harp to loftiest notes was strung,
E'en Mantua's Swan, the homely salad sung;
Colossal Johnson, famed for dictionary,
A sprig of myrtle; Cowper, a canary,
Nor scorn'd the humble snail; and Goldsmith's lyre
A haunch of venison nobly did inspire;—
Of such light themes the loftiest lyres have spoke,
And my small shell shall sound the praise of smoke.
Essence sublime! serenely curling vapour!
Fierce from a steam-boat, gentle from a taper,—
Daughter of fire, descendant of the sun,
Breath of the peaceful pipe and murderous gun,—
How gloriously thou roll'st from chimneys high,
To seek companion clouds amidst the sky!
Thrice welcome art thou to the traveller's sight,
And his heart hails thee with sincere delight;
As soft thou sail'st amid the ethereal blue,
Visions of supper float before his view!
Emblem of peace in council, when profound
The sacred calumet goes slowly round!
Breath of the war, thou canopiest the fight,
And veil'st the bloody field in murky night!
Precursor of the cannon's deadly shot,
And soft adorner of the peasant's cot;
With Etna's roaring flames dost thou arise,
And from the altar's top perfume the skies!
I see thee now
To the breezes bow,
Thy spiral columns lightly bending
In gentle whirls
And graceful curls,
Thy soft grey form with the azure blending.
When Nature's tears in dewy showers descend,
Close to the earth thine aerial form doth bend;
But when in light
And beauty bright,
With radiant smile she gladdens all,
And the sun's soft beam
On thy shadowy stream
Does in a ray of glory fall,
Thou risest high
'Mid the deep blue sky,
Like a silver shaft from a fairy hall!
When from the light cigar thy sweet perfume
In od'rous cloudlets hovers round the room,
Inspired by Fancy's castle-building power,
Thy fragile form cheers many a lonely hour.
O'er every wave thy misty flag is seen
Careering lightly over billows green;
And when, 'mid creaming foam and sparkling spray,
Celestial Venus rose upon the day,
Thy vapoury wreath the goddess did enshroud,
And wrapt her beauties in a milk-white cloud.
'Twas thou, majestic! led the way before
Retreating Israel from th' Egyptian shore;
From out thy sable cloud, 'mid lightning's flash,
The trumpet's clangour and the thunder's crash,
From Sinai's mount the law divine was given,
Thy veil conceal'd the Majesty of Heaven!
When sun, and moon, and heaven's bright hosts expire,
And the great globe decays in flames of fire,
Then shalt thou rise, thy banner be unfurl'd
Above the smouldering ruins of the world!