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Ode To The Great Unknown
by [?]

“O breathe not his name!”–Moore.

[Note: After nearly eighty years it is almost pardonable to remind the reader that in the earlier days of the Waverley Novels their author was much talked of by the above title. The variety of Hood’s reading, and his resource in simile, are very noticeable in this Ode. The likening of Dominie Sampson to Lamb’s friend, George Dyer and the comparison of Mause Headrigg to Rae Wilson on his travels, are admirable examples.]


Thou Great Unknown!
I do not mean Eternity, nor Death,
That vast incog!
For I suppose thou hast a living breath,
Howbeit we know not from whose lungs ’tis blown,
Thou man of fog!
Parent of many children–child of none!
Nobody’s son!
Nobody’s daughter–but a parent still!
Still but an ostrich parent of a batch
Of orphan eggs,–left to the world to hatch
Superlative Nil!
A vox and nothing more,–yet not Vauxhall;
A head in papers, yet without a curl!
Not the Invisible Girl!
No hand–but a handwriting on a wall–
A popular nonentity,
Still call’d the same,–without identity!
A lark, heard out of sight,–
A nothing shin’d upon,–invisibly bright,
“Dark with excess of light!”
Constable’s literary John-a-nokes–
The real Scottish wizard–and not which,
Nobody–in a niche;
Every one’s hoax!
Maybe Sir Walter Scott–
Perhaps not!
Why dost thou so conceal and puzzle curious folks?


Thou,–whom the second-sighted never saw,
The Master Fiction of fictitious history!
Chief Nong-tong-paw!
No mister in the world–and yet all mystery!
The “tricksy spirit” of a Scotch Cock Lane–
A novel Junius puzzling the world’s brain–
A man of Magic–yet no talisman!
A man of clair obscure–not he o’ the moon!
A star–at noon.
A non-descriptus in a caravan,
A private–of no corps–a northern light
In a dark lantern,–Bogie in a crape–
A figure–but no shape;
A vizor–and no knight;
The real abstract hero of the age;
The staple Stranger of the stage;
A Some One made in every man’s presumption,
Frankenstein’s monster–but instinct with gumption;
Another strange state captive in the north,
Constable-guarded in an iron mask–
Still let me ask,
Hast thou no silver platter,
No door-plate, or no card–or some such matter,
To scrawl a name upon, and then cast forth?


Thou Scottish Barmecide, feeding the hunger
Of Curiosity with airy gammon!
Thou mystery-monger,
Dealing it out like middle cut of salmon,
That people buy and can’t make head or tail of it;
(Howbeit that puzzle never hurts the sale of it;)
Thou chief of authors mystic and abstractical,
That lay their proper bodies on the shelf–
Keeping thyself so truly to thyself,
Thou Zimmerman made practical!
Thou secret fountain of a Scottish style,
That, like the Nile,
Hideth its source wherever it is bred,
But still keeps disemboguing
(Not disembroguing)
Thro’ such broad sandy mouths without a head!
Thou disembodied author–not yet dead,–
The whole world’s literary Absentee!
Ah! wherefore hast thou fled,
Thou learned Nemo–wise to a degree,
Anonymous LL.D.!


Thou nameless captain of the nameless gang
That do–and inquests cannot say who did it!
Wert thou at Mrs. Donatty’s death-pang?
Hast thou made gravy of Weare’s watch–or hid it?
Hast thou a Blue-Beard chamber? Heaven forbid it!
I should be very loth to see thee hang!
I hope thou hast an alibi well plann’d,
An innocent, altho’ an ink-black hand.
Tho’ that hast newly turn’d thy private bolt on
The curiosity of all invaders–
I hope thou art merely closeted with Colton,
Who knows a little of the Holy Land,
Writing thy next new novel–The Crusaders!