A Tale of A Comet by J. T. Trowbridge


WE had seen the streaming meteors' light,

With their trails of fire, the autumn


And talked of falling sky-rocks hurled

From some long-since exploded world;

Of comets frisking among the stars.

With tails like fiery trains of cars,

And asked, "Should the reckless engineer

Of some rakish comet steer

Crashing into our atmosphere,

How would the planet's shell resist him?"

Then we conversed of the solar system,

And lunar men;

And Doctor Ben

Brought out his globe, at half-past ten,

And lectured, giving conclusive reasons

For tides, eclipses, climes and seasons;

Till, weary at last, I went to bed,

With a jumble of wonderful things in my


Moons and comets and meteorites,

Globes and circles and polar nights;

And there I lay thinking,

And drowsily winking

At something—a ray—thro' my bed-curtains


Too bright for a star, and growing still brighter,

Making the moon-lighted chamber yet lighter,

Which very much astonished the writer!

I gazed from the casement,

And wondered, with ever-increasing amazement,

What the look of alarm on the Moon's frowning

face meant.

His nose peering out from a very close cap,

His fingers in mittens, his chin in a wrap,

Like a tourist prepared for a very cold snap!

On, on he sped, through the regions of space,

With very short legs at a very long pace,

His well-filled knapsack lashed to his back,

Extra shoes and canteen strapped under his pack,

His coat-tails flying away on his track—

Entangled far off in the Pleiades,

On the horns of the Bull and Orion's knees.

For there was the Moon, and, strange to say,

There too was the Earth, just over the way,

Like the Doctor's globe, or a huge balloon,

Forty times larger, perhaps, than the Moon,

All covered with circles, and looming in space:

There were groups upon it, and every face

Was turned one way; and very long-jointed

Telescopes at the sky were pointed;—

And there, with a terrible rushing and humming

And hissing of breath, was a Comet a-coming!

So long and so queer, and as it came nearer

It grew every moment longer and queerer!

Until I made out such a comical chap,

In a red-flannel coat with a very long flap,

On, on he came,

With nose like a flame,

So red I was sure the fellow'd been drinking

(His canteen was empty, I knew by the clinking)

"And what can a sober Comet be thinking,"

I cried "not to see there, plain as the day,

The Earth, like a target, hung right in his way?"

The groups were beginning to hurry about,

And hustle and bustle and signal and shout,

And the Moon looked scared, while I shrieked out,

"Dear sir, I beg pardon, I don't know your name—

I pray you'll consider, and if it's the same

To you, here's a planet! I don't think you knew it;

But, sir, it will be

A great favor to me

And a very large circle of friends, as you see,

If you will drive round it instead of right thro' it!"

He put up his head with a stupefied stare,

And says he, "I declare!

No, I wasn't aware!

And I'm going at such a deuce of a rate—

I'd stop if I could, but I fear it's too late!

Bless my stars! here I am!" He had just time

to stoop,

When through it, head-foremost, he went at a


As a circus rider dives through a hoop!

With a crash,

And a smash,

And a roar as of thunder,

It quivered,

And shivered,

And flew asunder:

The Moon, looking down, shed tragical tears;

While, winking hard and holding his ears,

The Comet came out on the other side,

Wheeled round, swore loud, and ruefully eyed

The ruin; sneezed two or three times; then drew

His long tail after him down the blue.

Heavens and earth! what have I done!

This does beat everything under the sun!

I don't care the wink of a star," said he,

"For all the damage done to me—"

(Feeling his nose, and then with a flirt

Carefully brushing away the dirt

From his coat and its stained and draggled skirt)—

"But look at this dear little, queer little planet!

I've done the business for her, and I van, it

Is quite too bad! The fairest of creatures—


How well I remember her pleasant features,

The smile on her face and the light in her eye,

When I've touched my hat to her, hurrying by,

Many a time, on my way through the sky!

I'd mend the poor thing if I could—and I'll try!"

How he got it, or where,

I cannot declare;

But thereupon he drew up a chair.

Hung his long coat-tail over the back,

Sat down by the pieces and opened his pack,

Brought forth from its depths a stout needle and


And there he sat squinting and scratching his head,

As if rather doubtfully questioning whether

'Twas possible ever to patch her together!

Meanwhile—but how can I hope to tell

Half that to my friends befell

On the shattered and scattered shell?

How depict the huge surprise

Of some, at the very astonishing rise

Of their real estate, shot off in the skies?

How describe the flying blocks,

The fall of steeples and railroad stocks,

The breaking of banks, and the stopping of clocks;

And all the various knocks and shocks;—

Frantic reporters rushing about,

And correspondents setting out

In a big balloon, intending from it

To interview our friend, the Comet!

While the wide-awake daily press unfurled

Its rival bulletins: "End of the World!!

Frightful collision! America hit!!!

Full particulars! Canada hurled

Over New England! The Union split!!!


The Comet coming to our aid!"

For now the Comet—odd to see!

Although it didn't seem odd to me—

With thimble and glue-pot, sewing and gluing

The shattered globe, was cheerfully doing

All he could to restore the ruin;

Patiently replacing all

The scattered fragments, great and small;

Stitching here and sticking there,

With a hopeful smile and a satisfied air,

Putting the planet into repair!

When all was done, with a dexterous twirl

Of his fingers, he set it once more a-whirl,

While the Moon looked pleased as a smiling


Off he sped; and the planet spun

Away on its axis round the sun;

When, watching with curious eyes, I found

He hadn't made it precisely round!

The zones, moreover, were strangely mixed:

Constantinople was squeezed betwixt

St. Petersburg and Baltimore;

South Carolina and Labrador

To Massachusetts were snugly tied;

New York and Paris were side by side;

And, oddest of all earthly fates,

England was in the United States!

Greenland (he couldn't have made a greater

Mistake) was on the new equator!

While in each crack of the crust some bit

Of broken China was made to fit.

Whereupon I cried, with a wild halloo,

"Hold on! come back! this never will do!

Just see what a botch you've made!" Before

He had time to turn, with a clang and a roar,

And a glare of its one great Cyclops eye,

The Lightning Express went whizzing by

With a rushing of steam,

And a howl and a scream,

That waked me from my curious dream;

Which the Doctor avers (and he makes it plain)

Must all have passed through my busy brain

With the passing of the midnight train!