by Frederick Key
While 'round the gloomy edifice the chilly zephyr sweeped.
Then to a higher window ledge the agile agent hopt,
And with his slender crowbar, the window quickly popt.
Across the darkened offices, while all the city sleeped,
The agent found the cabinet in which the files were keeped.
He pried them open, glad the staff were home and peaceful dreamt,
Then, shock! Him, suddenly exposed! A brilliant flashlight beamt!
He jumpt up to escape, but had no means to go, he feeled.
An agent’s life is dangerous; he plays the cards he’s dealed.
“Who are you?” growled his captor; from the angry voice he relt.
“I know you’re up to varmintry; that’s why my eyes are pelt!
I’ve spended most nights peacefully, although I’m always wary.
Why break in the offices of Webster’s dictionary?”
“I’m on a mission,” said our man. “Our language is polluted!
I’m glad you didn’t pull that gun! I feart I might get shooted!”
“Polluted language?” said the guard, as on the wall he leaned.
“I’m sure I haven’t got a clue about what you have meaned.
Sure, many things are spelt all weird, and stranger are the verbs,
But nothing here can compensate all those whom this perturbs!”
“I’d hoped to change the pages,” the saddened agent spake.
“Upon these awful tenses, my vengeance would have wrake!
I thought I’d standardize the verbs with all their weird past tenses!
And thus I used my spying skills and breaked in through your fences!”
“Alas,” wistful said the guard, “I fear the dictionary
Is well beyond your means to fix; it’s wrote too arbitrary.
The lesson here, it's often telled---the wise man learnt it fast---
Is saddest of the pen and tongue: You cannot change the past.”