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III I very soon had enough of it. The hot smell and the human noises, And my neighbour's coat, the greasy cuff of it, Were a pebble-stone that a child's hand poises, Compared with the pig-of-lead-like pressure Of the preaching man's immense stupidity, As he poured his doctrine forth, full measure, To meet his audience's avidity. You needed not the wit of the Sibyl To guess the cause of it all, in a twinkling: No sooner our friend had got an inkling Of treasure hid in the Holy Bible, (Whene'er 'twas the thought first struck him, How death, at unawares, might duck him Deeper than the grave, and quench The gin-shop's light in hell's grim drench) Than he handled it so, in fine irreverence, As to hug the book of books to pieces: And, a patchwork of chapters and texts in severance, Not improved by the private dog's-ears and creases, Having clothed his own soul with, he'd fain see equipt yours,-- So tossed you again your Holy Scriptures. And you picked them up, in a sense, no doubt: Nay, had but a single face of my neighbours Appeared to suspect that the preacher's labours Were help which the world could be saved without, 'Tis odds but I might have borne in quiet A qualm or two at my spiritual diet, Or (who can tell?) perchance even mustered Somewhat to urge in behalf of the sermon: But the flock sat on, divinely flustered, Sniffing, methought, its dew of Hermon With such content in every snuffle, As the devil inside us loves to ruffle. My old fat woman purred with pleasure, And thumb round thumb went twirling faster, While she, to his periods keeping measure, Maternally devoured the pastor. The man with the handkerchief untied it, Showed us a horrible wen inside it, Gave his eyelids yet another screwing, And rocked himself as the woman was doing. The shoemaker's lad, discreetly choking, Kept down his cough. 'Twas too provoking! My gorge rose at the nonsense and stuff of it; So, saying like Eve when she plucked the apple, "I wanted a taste, and now there's enough of it," I flung out of the little chapel.
"Christmas Eve" by Robert Browning