DGR wrote this poor little epigram in 1871. It clearly reflects his pained reaction to Buchanan's critique of his 1870 Poems . DGR's notebooks are littered with brief textual fragments and notes for poems (like one he projected with the title the “The Verminiad”) that reflect how disturbed he was by Buchanan's review. His sustained public reply to Buchanan came as his essay “The Stealthy School of Criticism”, and it is certain that a poem like “Soothsay”, whose drafts are in the same notebooks, was itself written as a kind of philosophical response to the situation.
Two texts of this unpublished epigram survive: one (the earliest) is the pencil draft in the Ashley Library's so-called
Notebook I, the other—copied from that text—is in the
so-called Note Book III in the Duke University Library.