Hob's Epitaph


A Grey-owl was I when on earth;
My master, a wondrous wise-man,
Found out my deserts and my worth,
And would needs have me bred an exciseman. [1] 
He gave me the range of his house,5
And a favourite study, his shed,
Where I rush’d on the struggling mouse,
While science rush’d into my head.
In gauging, [2]  I still made advances;
Like schoolboy, grew wiser and wiser;10
Resolved in the world to take chances,
And try to come in supervisor.
But Fate comes, and Genius must fail:—
One morning, while gauging or drinking,
My wig over-balanced my tail,15
And I found myself stifling and sinking.
Yet I died not like men—who still quarrel
Through life—yet to destiny yield:—
The tippler is drown’d in his barrel;
The soldier is slain in the field.—20
Not in love—nor in debt—nor in strife—
Nor in horrors attendant on war:—
In a barrel I gave up my life,
But mine was—a barrel of tar.


[1] [An officer of the Customs and Excise, whose job involved ensuring the duty of alcoholic drink was not evaded. Cf. ‘The Invitation,’ ll. 127–30 and 210, in May-Day with the Muses.] BACK

[2] [Ascertaining the content or capacity of a cask by measurement and calculation. In Bloomfield’s time the main concern was with curbing the common practice of watering beers and spirits, tested by taking their specific gravity.] BACK