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The Leaning Tower

 Having an aged hate of height
I forced myself to climb the Tower,
Yet paused at every second flight
Because my heart is scant of power;
Then when I gained the sloping summit
Earthward I stared, straight as a plummet.
When like a phantom by my side I saw a man cadaverous; At first I fancied him a guide, For dimly he addressed me thus: "Sir, where you stand, Oh long ago! There also stood Galilleo.
"Proud Master of a mighty mind, he worshipped truth and knew not fear; Aye, though in age his eyes were blind, Till death his brain was crystal clear; And here he communed with the stars, Where now you park your motor cars.
"This Pisa was a pleasant place, Beloved by poets in their prime; Yonder our Shelly used to pace, And Byron ottavas would rhyme.
Till Shelley, from this fair environ, Scrammed to escape egregious Byron.
"And you who with the horde have come, I hate your guts, I say with candour; Your wife wears slacks, and you chew gum, So I, the ghost of Savage Landor, Beg you, step closer to the edge, That I may push you o'er the ledge.
" But back I shrank, sped down the stair, And sought the Baptistry where God is; For I had no desire, I swear, To prove the law of falling bodies.
You're right - when one's nigh eighty he's a Damphool to climb the Tower of Pisa.

by Robert William Service
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