Lewis Carroll: IV

IV

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!