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Burton Egbert Stevenson.

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But then She reads him.
I say - and is it strictly true? -
How I admire her cockatoo;
Well! in a way of course I do:
But then She feeds him.

And I become, at her command,
The sternest Tory in the land;
The Grand Old Man is far from grand;
But then She states it.
Nay! worse than that, I am so tame,
I once admitted - to my shame -
That football was a brutal game:
Because She hates it.

My taste in Art she hailed with groans,
And I, once charmed with bolder tones,
Now love the yellows of Burne-Jones:
But then She likes them.
My tuneful soul no longer hoards
Stray jewels from the Empire boards;
I revel now in Dvorak's chords:
But then She strikes them.

Our age distinctly cramps a knight;
Yet, though debarred from tilt and fight,
I can admit that black is white,
If She asserts it.
Heroes of old were luckier men
Than I - I venture now and then
To hint - retracting meekly when
She controverts it.

Alfred Cochrane [1865-




THE EIGHT-DAY CLOCK

The days of Bute and Grafton's fame,
Of Chatham's waning prime,
First heard your sounding gong proclaim
Its chronicle of Time;
Old days when Dodd confessed his guilt,
When Goldsmith drave his quill,
And genial gossip Horace built
His house on Strawberry Hill.

Now with a grave unmeaning face
You still repeat the tale,
High-towering in your somber case,
Designed by Chippendale;
Without regret for what is gone,
You bid old customs change,
As year by year you travel on
To scenes and voices strange.

We might have mingled with the crowd
Of courtiers in this hall,
The fans that swayed, the wigs that bowed,
But you have spoiled it all;
We might have lingered in the train
Of nymphs that Reynolds drew,
Or stared spell-bound in Drury Lane
At Garrick - but for you.

We might in Leicester Fields have swelled
The throng of beaux and cits,
Or listened to the concourse held
Among the Kitcat wits;
Have strolled with Selwyn in Pall Mall,
Arrayed in gorgeous silks,
Or in Great George Street raised a yell
For Liberty and Wilkes.

This is the life which you have known,
Which you have ticked away,
In one unmoved unfaltering tone
That ceased not day by day,
While ever round your dial moved
Your hands from span to span,
Through drowsy hours and hours that proved
Big with the fate of man.

A steady tick for fatal creeds,
For youth on folly bent,
A steady tick for worthy deeds,
And moments wisely spent;
No warning note of emphasis,
No whisper of advice,
To ruined rake or flippant miss,
For coquetry or dice.

You might, I think, have hammered out
With meaning doubly dear,
The midnight of a Vauxhall rout
In Evelina's ear;
Or when the night was almost gone,
You might, the deals between,
Have startled those who looked upon
The cloth when it was green.

But no, in all the vanished years
Down which your wheels have run,
Your message borne to heedless ears
Is one and only one -
No wit of men, no power of kings,
Can stem the overthrow
Wrought by this pendulum that swings
Sedately to and fro.

Alfred Cochrane [1865-




A PORTRAIT

In sunny girlhood's vernal life
She caused no small sensation,
But now the modest English wife
To others leaves flirtation.
She's young still, lovely, debonair,
Although sometimes her features
Are clouded by a thought of care
For those two tiny creatures.

Each tiny, toddling, mottled mite
Asserts with voice emphatic,
In lisping accents, "Mite is right,"
Their rule is autocratic:
The song becomes, that charmed mankind,
Their musical narcotic,
And baby lips than Love, she'll find,
Are even more despotic.

Soft lullaby when singing there,
And castles ever building,
Their destiny she'll carve in air,
Bright with maternal gilding:
Young Guy, a clever advocate,
So eloquent and able!
A powdered wig upon his pate,
A coronet for Mabel!

Joseph Ashby-Sterry [1838-1917]




"OLD BOOKS ARE BEST"

Old Books are best! With what delight
Does "Faithorne fecit" greet our sight
On frontispiece or title-page
Of that old time, when on the stage
"Sweet Nell" set "Rowley's" heart alight!

And you, O Friend, to whom I write,
Must not deny, e'en though you might,
Through fear of modern pirates' rage,
Old Books are best.

What though the print be not so bright,
The paper dark, the binding slight?
Our author, be he dull or sage,
Returning from that distant age
So lives again, we say of right:
Old Books are best.

Beverly Chew [1850-1924]




IMPRESSION

In these restrained and careful times
Our knowledge petrifies our rhymes;
Ah! for that reckless fire men had
When it was witty to be mad;

When wild conceits were piled in scores,
And lit by flaming metaphors,
When all was crazed and out of tune, -
Yet throbbed with music of the moon.

If we could dare to write as ill
As some whose voices haunt us still,
Even we, perchance, might call our own
Their deep enchanting undertone.

We are too diffident and nice,
Too learned and too over-wise,
Too much afraid of faults to be
The flutes of bold sincerity.

For, as this sweet life passes by,
We blink and nod with critic eye;
We've no words rude enough to give
Its charm so frank and fugitive.

The green and scarlet of the Park,
The undulating streets at dark,
The brown smoke blown across the blue,
This colored city we walk through; -

The pallid faces full of pain,
The field-smell of the passing wain,
The laughter, longing, perfume, strife,
The daily spectacle of life; -

Ah! how shall this be given to rhyme,
By rhymesters of a knowing time?
Ah! for the age when verse was clad,
Being godlike, to be bad and mad.

Edmund Gosse [1849-1928]




"WITH STRAWBERRIES"

With strawberries we filled a tray,
And then we drove away, away
Along the links beside the sea,
Where wave and wind were light and free,
And August felt as fresh as May,

And where the springy turf was gay
With thyme and balm and many a spray
Of wild roses, you tempted me
With strawberries!

A shadowy sail, silent and gray,
Stole like a ghost across the bay;
But none could hear me ask my fee,
And none could know what came to be.
Can sweethearts all their thirst allay
With strawberries?

William Ernest Henley [1849-1903]




BALLADE OF LADIES' NAMES

Brown's for Lalage, Jones for Lelia,
Robinson's bosom for Beatrice glows,
Smith is a Hamlet before Ophelia.
The glamor stays if the reason goes!
Every lover the years disclose
Is of a beautiful name made free.
One befriends, and all others are foes.
Anna's the name of names for me.

Sentiment hallows the vowels of Delia;
Sweet simplicity breathes from Rose;
Courtly memories glitter in Celia;
Rosalind savors of quips and hose,
Araminta of wits and beaux,
Prue of puddings, and Coralie
All of sawdust and spangled shows;
Anna's the name of names for me.

Fie upon Caroline, Madge, Amelia -
These I reckon the essence of prose! -
Cavalier Katherine, cold Cornelia,
Portia's masterful Roman nose,
Maud's magnificence, Totty's toes,
Poll and Bet with their twang of the sea,
Nell's impertinence, Pamela's woes!
Anna's the name of names for me.

ENVOY
Ruth like a gillyflower smells and blows,
Sylvia prattles of Arcadee,
Sybil mystifies, Connie crows,
Anna's the name of names for me!

William Ernest Henley [1849-1903]




TO A PAIR OF EGYPTIAN SLIPPERS

Tiny slippers of gold and green,
Tied with a mouldering golden cord!
What pretty feet they must have been
When Caesar Augustus was Egypt's lord!
Somebody graceful and fair you were!
Not many girls could dance in these!
When did your shoemaker make you, dear,
Such a nice pair of Egyptian "threes"?

Where were you measured? In Sais, or On,
Memphis, or Thebes, or Pelusium?
Fitting them neatly your brown toes upon,
Lacing them deftly with finger and thumb,
I seem to see you! - so long ago,
Twenty-one centuries, less or more!
And here are your sandals: yet none of us know
What name, or fortune, or face you bore.

Your lips would have laughed, with a rosy scorn,
If the merchant, or slave-girl, had mockingly said,
"The feet will pass, but the shoes they have worn
Two thousand years onward Time's road shall tread,
And still be footgear as good as new!"
To think that calf-skin, gilded and stitched,
Should Rome and the Pharaohs outlive - and you
Be gone, like a dream, from the world you bewitched!

Not that we mourn you! 'Twere too absurd!
You have been such a very long while away!
Your dry spiced dust would not value one word
Of the soft regrets that my verse could say.
Sorrow and Pleasure, and Love and Hate,
If you ever felt them, have vaporized hence
To this odor - so subtle and delicate -
Of myrrh, and cassia, and frankincense.

Of course they embalmed you! Yet not so sweet
Were aloes and nard, as the youthful glow
Which Amenti stole when the small dark feet
Wearied of treading our world below.
Look! it was flood-time in valley of Nile,
Or a very wet day in the Delta, dear!
When your slippers tripped lightly their latest mile -
The mud on the soles renders that fact clear.

You knew Cleopatra, no doubt! You saw
Antony's galleys from Actium come.
But there! if questions could answers draw
From lips so many a long age dumb,
I would not tease you with history,
Nor vex your heart for the men that were;
The one point to learn that would fascinate me
Is, where and what are you to-day, my dear!

You died, believing in Horus and Pasht,
Isis, Osiris, and priestly lore;
And found, of course, such theories smashed
By actual fact on the heavenly shore.
What next did you do? Did you transmigrate?
Have we seen you since, all modern and fresh?
Your charming soul - so I calculate -
Mislaid its mummy, and sought new flesh.

Were you she whom I met at dinner last week,
With eyes and hair of the Ptolemy black,
Who still of this find in Fayoum would speak,
And to Pharaohs and scarabs still carry us back?
A scent of lotus about her hung,
And she had such a far-away wistful air
As of somebody born when the Earth was young;
And she wore of gilt slippers a lovely pair.

Perchance you were married? These might have been
Part of your trousseau - the wedding shoes;
And you laid them aside with the garments green,
And painted clay Gods which a bride would use;
And, may be, to-day, by Nile's bright waters
Damsels of Egypt in gowns of blue -
Great-great-great - very great - grand-daughters
Owe their shapely insteps to you!

But vainly I beat at the bars of the Past,
Little green slippers with golden strings!
For all you can tell is that leather will last
When loves, and delightings, and beautiful things
Have vanished; forgotten - No! not quite that!
I catch some gleam of the grace you wore
When you finished with Life's daily pit-a-pat,
And left your shoes at Death's bedroom door.

You were born in the Egypt which did not doubt;
You were never sad with our new-fashioned sorrows:
You were sure, when your play-days on Earth ran out,
Of play-times to come, as we of our morrows!
Oh, wise little Maid of the Delta! I lay
Your shoes in your mummy-chest back again,
And wish that one game we might merrily play
At "Hunt the Slippers" - to see it all plain.

Edwin Arnold [1832-1904]




WITHOUT AND WITHIN

My coachman, in the moonlight there,
Looks through the side-light of the door;
I hear him with his brethren swear,
As I could do, - but only more.

Flattening his nose against the pane,
He envies me my brilliant lot,
Breathes on his aching fists in vain,
And dooms me to a place more hot.

He sees me in to supper go,
A silken wonder by my side,
Bare arms, bare shoulders, and a row
Of flounces, for the door too wide.

He thinks how happy is my arm
'Neath its white-gloved and jewelled load;
And wishes me some dreadful harm,
Hearing the merry corks explode.

Meanwhile I inly curse the bore
Of hunting still the same old coon,
And envy him, outside the door,
In golden quiets of the moon.

The winter wind is not so cold
As the bright smile he sees me win
Nor the host's oldest wine so old
As our poor gabble sour and thin.

I envy him the ungyved prance
With which his freezing feet he warms,
And drag my lady's-chains and dance
The galley-slave of dreary forms.

Oh, could, he have my share of din,
And I his quiet! - past a doubt
'Twould still be one man bored within,
And just another bored without.

Nay, when, once paid my mortal fee,
Some idler on my headstone grim
Traces the moss-blurred name, will he
Think me the happier, or I him?

James Russell Lowell [1819-1891]




"SHE WAS A BEAUTY"

She was a beauty in the days
When Madison was President,
And quite coquettish in her ways, -
On conquests of the heart intent.

Grandpapa, on his right knee bent,
Wooed her in stiff, old-fashioned phrase, -
She was a beauty in the days
When Madison was President.

And when your roses where hers went
Shall go, my Rose, who date from Hayes,
I hope you'll wear her sweet content
Of whom tradition lightly says:
She was a beauty in the days
When Madison was President.

Henry Cuyler Bunner [1855-1896]




NELL GWYNNE'S LOOKING-GLASS

Glass antique, 'twixt thee and Nell
Draw we here a parallel.
She, like thee, was forced to bear
All reflections, foul or fair.
Thou art deep and bright within,
Depths as bright belonged to Gwynne;
Thou art very frail as well,
Frail as flesh is, - so was Nell.

Thou, her glass, art silver-lined,
She too, had a silver mind:
Thine is fresh till this far day,
Hers till death ne'er wore away:
Thou dost to thy surface win
Wandering glances, so did Gwynne;
Eyes on thee love long to dwell,
So men's eyes would do on Nell.

Life-like forms in thee are sought,
Such the forms the actress wrought;
Truth unfailing rests in you,
Nell, whate'er she was, was true.
Clear as virtue, dull as sin,
Thou art oft, as oft was Gwynne;
Breathe on thee, and drops will swell:
Bright tears dimmed the eyes of Nell.

Thine's a frame to charm the sight,
Framed was she to give delight;
Waxen forms here truly show
Charles above and Nell below;
But between them, chin with chin,
Stuart stands as low as Gwynne, -
Paired, yet parted, - meant to tell
Charles was opposite to Nell.

Round the glass wherein her face
Smiled so soft, her "arms" we trace;
Thou, her mirror, hast the pair,
Lion here, and leopard there.
She had part in these, - akin
To the lion-heart was Gwynne;
And the leopard's beauty fell
With its spots to bounding Nell.

Oft inspected, ne'er seen through,
Thou art firm, if brittle too;
So her will, on good intent,
Might be broken, never bent.
What the glass was, when therein
Beamed the face of glad Nell Gwynne,
Was that face by beauty's spell
To the honest soul of Nell.

Laman Blanchard [1804-1845]




MIMNERMUS IN CHURCH

You promise heavens free from strife,
Pure truth, and perfect change of will;
But sweet, sweet is this human life,
So sweet, I fain would breathe it still:
Your chilly stars I can forego,
This warm kind world is all I know.

You say there is no substance here,
One great reality above:
Back from that void I shrink in fear,
And child-like hide myself in love:
Show me what angels feel. Till then
I cling, a mere weak man, to men.

You bid me lift my mean desires
From faltering lips and fitful veins
To sexless souls, ideal choirs,
Unwearied voices, wordless strains:
My mind with fonder welcome owns
One dear dead friend's remembered tones.

Forsooth the present we must give
To that which cannot pass away;
All beauteous things for which we live
By laws of time and space decay.
But oh, the very reason why
I clasp them, is because they die.

William Johnson-Cory [1823-1892]




CLAY

"We are but clay," the preacher saith;
"The heart is clay, and clay the brain,
And soon or late there cometh death
To mingle us with earth again."

Well, let the preacher have it so,
And clay we are, and clay shall be; -
Why iterate? - for this I know,
That clay does very well for me.

When clay has such red mouths to kiss,
Firm hands to grasp, it is enough:
How can I take it aught amiss
We are not made of rarer stuff?

And if one tempt you to believe
His choice would be immortal gold,
Question him, Can you then conceive
A warmer heart than clay can hold?

Or richer joys than clay can feel?
And when perforce he falters nay,
Bid him renounce his wish and kneel
In thanks for this same kindly clay.

Edward Verrall Lucas [1868-




AUCASSIN AND NICOLETE

What magic halo rings thy head,
Dream-maiden of a minstrel dead?
What charm of faerie round thee hovers,
That all who listen are thy lovers?

What power yet makes our pulses thrill
To see thee at thy window-sill,
And by that dangerous cord down-sliding,
And through the moonlit garden gliding?

True maiden art thou in thy dread;
True maiden in thy hardihead;
True maiden when, thy fears half-over,
Thou lingerest to try thy lover.

And ah! what heart of stone or steel
But doth some stir unwonted feel,
When to the day new brightness bringing
Thou standest at the stair-foot singing!

Thy slender limbs in boyish dress,
Thy tones half glee, half tenderness,
Thou singest, 'neath the light tale's cover,
Of thy true love to thy true lover.

O happy lover, happy maid,
Together in sweet story laid;
Forgive the hand that here is baring
Your old loves for new lovers' staring!

Yet, Nicolete, why fear'st thou fame?
No slander now can touch thy name,
Nor Scandal's self a fault discovers,
Though each new year thou hast new lovers.

Nor, Aucassin, need'st thou to fear
These lovers of too late a year,
Nor dread one jealous pang's revival;
No lover now can be thy rival.

What flower considers if its blooms
Light, haunts of men, or forest glooms?
What care ye though the world discovers
Your flowers of love, O flower of lovers!

Francis William Bourdillon [1852-1921]




PROVENCAL LOVERS
Aucassin And Nicolette

Within the garden of Beaucaire
He met her by a secret stair, -
The night was centuries ago.
Said Aucassin, "My love, my pet,
These old confessors vex me so!
They threaten all the pains of hell
Unless I give you up, ma belle"; -
Said Aucassin to Nicolette.

"Now who should there in Heaven be
To fill your place, ma tres-douce mie?
To reach that spot I little care!
There all the droning priests are met;
All the old cripples, too, are there
That unto shrines and altars cling
To filch the Peter-pence we bring"; -
Said Aucassin to Nicolette.

"There are the barefoot monks and friars
With gowns well tattered by the briars,
The saints who lift their eyes and whine:
I like them not - a starveling set!
Who'd care with folk like these to dine?
The other road 'twere just as well
That you and I should take, ma belle!" -
Said Aucassin to Nicolette.

"To purgatory I would go
With pleasant comrades whom we know,
Fair scholars, minstrels, lusty knights
Whose deeds the land will not forget,
The captains of a hundred fights,
The men of valor and degree:
We'll join that gallant company," -
Said Aucassin to Nicolette.

"There, too, are jousts and joyance rare,
And beauteous ladies debonair,
The pretty dames, the merry brides,
Who with their wedded lords coquette
And have a friend or two besides, -
And all in gold and trappings gay,
With furs, and crests in vair and gray," -
Said Aucassin to Nicolette.

"Sweet players on the cithern strings,
And they who roam the world like kings,
Are gathered there, so blithe and free!
Pardie! I'd join them now, my pet,
If you went also, ma douce mie!
The joys of Heaven I'd forego
To have you with me there below," -
Said Aucassin to Nicolette.

Edmund Clarence Stedman [1833-1908]




ON THE HURRY OF THIS TIME

With slower pen men used to write,
Of old, when "letters" were "polite";
In Anna's or in George's days,
They could afford to turn a phrase,
Or trim a struggling theme aright.

They knew not steam; electric light
Not yet had dazed their calmer sight; -
They meted out both blame and praise
With slower pen.

Too swiftly now the Hours take flight!
What's read at morn is dead at night:
Scant space have we for Art's delays,
Whose breathless thought so briefly stays,
We may not work - ah! would we might! -
With slower pen.

Austin Dobson [1840-1921]




"GOOD-NIGHT, BABETTE!"
Si vieillesse pouvait! -

Scene. - A small neat Room. In a high Voltaire Chair
sits a white-haired old Gentleman.

Monsieur Vieuxbois Babette

M. Vieuxbois (turning querulously)
Day of my life! Where can she get!
Babette! I say! Babette! - Babette!

Babette (entering hurriedly)
Coming, M'sieu'! If M'sieu' speaks
So loud, he won't be well for weeks!

M. Vieuxbois
Where have you been?

Babette
Why M'sieu' knows: -
April!... Ville d'Avray!... Ma'am'selle Rose!

M. Vieuxbois
Ah! I am old, - and I forget.
Was the place growing green, Babette?

Babette
But of a greenness! - yes, M'sieu'!
And then the sky so blue! - so blue!
And when I dropped my immortelle,
How the birds sang!
(Lifting her apron to her eyes)
This poor Ma'am'selle!

M. Vieuxbois
You're a good girl, Babette, but she, -
She was an Angel, verily.
Sometimes I think I see her yet
Stand smiling by the cabinet;
And once, I know, she peeped and laughed
Betwixt the curtains...
Where's the draught?
(She gives him a cup)
Now I shall sleep, I think, Babette; -
Sing me your Norman chansonnette.

Babette (sings)
"Once at the Angelus,
(Ere I was dead),
Angels all glorious
Came to my bed;
Angels in blue and white
Crowned on the Head."

M. Vieuxbois (drowsily)
"She was an Angel"... "Once she laughed"...
What, was I dreaming?
Where's the draught?

Babette (showing the empty cup)
The draught, M'sieu'?

M. Vieuxbois
How I forget!
I am so old! But sing, Babette!

Babette (sings)
"One was the Friend I left
Stark in the Snow;
One was the Wife that died
Long, - long ago;
One was the Love I lost...
How could she know?"

M. Vieuxbois (murmuring)
Ah, Paul!... old Paul!... Eulalie too!
And Rose... And O! "the sky so blue!"

Babette (sings)
"One had my Mother's eyes,
Wistful and mild;
One had my Father's face;
One was a Child:
All of them bent to me, -
Bent down and smiled!"
(He is asleep!)

M. Vieuxbois (almost inaudibly)
"How I forget!"
"I am so old!"... "Good-night, Babette!"

Austin Dobson [1840-1921]




A DIALOGUE FROM PLATO
Le tempo le mieux employe est celui qu'on perd. - Claude Tillier

I'd "read" three hours. Both notes and text
Were fast a mist becoming;
In bounced a vagrant bee, perplexed,
And filled the room with humming,

Then out. The casement's leafage sways,
And, parted light, discloses
Miss Di., with hat and book, - a maze
Of muslin mixed with roses.

"You're reading Greek?" "I am - and you?"
"O, mine's a mere romancer!"
"So Plato is." "Then read him - do;
And I'll read mine for answer."

I read: "My Plato (Plato, too -
That wisdom thus should harden!)
Declares 'blue eyes look doubly blue
Beneath a Dolly Varden.'"

She smiled. "My book in turn avers
(No author's name is stated)
That sometimes those Philosophers
Are sadly mistranslated."

"But hear, - the next's in stronger style:
The Cynic School asserted
That two red lips which part and smile
May not be controverted!"

She smiled once more. "My book, I find,
Observes some modern doctors
Would make the Cynics out a kind
Of album-verse concoctors."

Then I: "Why not? 'Ephesian law,
No less than time's tradition,
Enjoined fair speech on all who saw
Diana's apparition."

She blushed, - this time. "If Plato's page
No wiser precept teaches,
Then I'd renounce that doubtful sage,
And walk to Burnham Beeches."

"Agreed," I said. "For Socrates
(I find he too is talking)
Thinks Learning can't remain at ease
When Beauty goes a-walking."

She read no more. I leapt the sill:
The sequel's scarce essential -
Nay, more than this, I hold it still
Profoundly confidential.

Austin Dobson [1840-1921]




THE LADIES OF ST. JAMES'S
A Proper New Ballad Of The Country And The Town

Phyllida amo ante alias. - Virgil

The ladies of St. James's
Go swinging to the play;
Their footmen run before them,
With a "Stand by! Clear the way!"
But Phyllida, my Phyllida!
She takes her buckled shoon,
When we go out a-courting
Beneath the harvest moon.

The ladies of St. James's
Wear satin on their backs;
They sit all night at Ombre,
With candles all of wax:
But Phyllida, my Phyllida!
She dons her russet gown,
And runs to gather May dew
Before the world is down.

The ladies of St. James's!
They are so fine and fair,
You'd think a box of essences
Was broken in the air:
But Phyllida, my Phyllida!


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Online LibraryBurton Egbert StevensonThe Home Book of Verse — Volume 4 → online text (page 8 of 18)