The sullen mayor who reigns in hell,
By mortals Pluto hight,
Who thrashes all his subjects well,
Both morn and eve, as stories tell,
And rules the realms of night,
All pleasure lost in cursing once,
All joy in flogging, for the nonce.
The sedentary life he led
Upon his brazen chair
Made his hindquarters very red,
While pricks, as from a nettle-bed,
He felt both here and there:
A burning sun, too, chanced to shine,
And boiled down all his blood to brine.
‘Tis true he drank full many a draught
Of Phlegethon’s black flood;
By cupping, leeches, doctor’s craft,
And venesection, fore and aft,
They took from him much blood.
Full many a clyster was applied,
And purging, too, was also tried.
His doctor, versed in sciences,
With wig beneath his hat,
Argued and showed with wondrous ease,
From Celsus and Hippocrates,
When he in judgment sat,–
“Right worshipful the mayor of hell,
The liver’s wrong, I see full well.”
“He’s but a booby,” Pluto said,
“With all his trash and pills!
A man like me–pray where’s his head?
A young man yet–his wits have fled!
While youth my veins yet fills!
Unless electuaries he’ll bring,
Full in his face my club I’ll fling!”
Or right or wrong,–’twas a hard case
To weather such a trial;
(Poor men, who lose a king’s good grace!)
He’s straight saluted in the face
By every splint and phial.
He very wisely made no fuss;
This hint he learnt of Cerberus.
“Go! fetch the barber of the skies,
Apollo, to me soon!”
An airy courier straightway flies
Upon his beast, and onward hies,
And skims past poles and moon;
As he went off, the clock struck four,
At five his charger reached the door.
Just then Apollo happened–”Heigh-ho!
A sonnet to have made?”
Oh, dear me, no!–upon Miss Io
(Such is the tale I heard from Clio)
The midwife to have played.
The boy, as if stamped out of wax,
Might Zeus as father fairly tax.
He read the letter half asleep,
Then started in dismay:
“The road is long, and hell is deep,
Your rocks I know are rough and steep . . .
Yet like a king he’ll pay!”
He dons his cap of mist and furs,
Then through the air the charger spurs.
With locks all frizzled a la mode,
And ruffles smooth and nice,
In gala dress, that brightly glowed
(A gift Aurora had bestowed),
With watch-chains of high price,
With toes turned out, and chapeau bas,
He stood before hell’s mighty czar.
The grumbler, in his usual tone,
Received him with a curse:
“To Pomerania straight begone!
Ugh! how he smells of eau de Cologne!
Why, brimstone isn’t worse.
He’d best be off to heaven again,
Or he’ll infect hell’s wide domain.”
The god of pills, in sore surprise,
A spring then backwards took:
“Is this his highness’ usual guise?
‘Tis in the brain, I see, that lies
The mischief–what a look!
See how his eyes in frenzy roll!
The case is bad, upon my soul!
“A journey to Elysium
The infectus would dissolve,
Making the saps less tough become,
As through the Capitolium
And stomach they revolve.
Provisionally be it so:
Let’s start then–but incognito!”
“Ay, worthy sir, no doubt well meant!
If, in these regions hazy,
As with you folk, so charged with scent,
You dapper ones who heaven frequent,
‘Twere proper to be lazy,
If hell a master needed not,
Why, then I’d follow on the spot!