IV

by Lewis Carroll
My First is singular at best:
More plural is my Second:
My Third is far the pluralest—
So plural-plural, I protest
It scarcely can be reckoned!
My First is followed by a bird:
My Second by believers
In magic art: my simple Third
Follows, too often, hopes absurd
And plausible deceivers.
My First to get at wisdom tries—
A failure melancholy!
My Second men revered as wise:
My Third from heights of wisdom flies
To depths of frantic folly.
My First is ageing day by day:
My Second’s age is ended:
My Third enjoys an age, they say,
That never seems to fade away,
Through centuries extended.
My Whole?  I need a poet’s pen
To paint her myriad phases:
The monarch, and the slave, of men—
A mountain-summit, and a den
Of dark and deadly mazes—
A flashing light—a fleeting shade—
Beginning, end, and middle
Of all that human art hath made
Or wit devised!  Go, seek her aid,
If you would read my riddle!