Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

(21 November 1863 – 12 May 1944 / England)

A Letter


After W. M. P.
Dear Kitty,
At length the term's ending;
I 'm in for my Schools in a week;
And the time that at present I'm spending
On you should be spent upon Greek:
But I'm fairly well read in my Plato,
I'm thoroughly red in the eyes,
And I've almost forgotten the way to
Be healthy and wealthy and wise.
So 'the best of all ways'—why repeat you
The verse at 2.30 a.m.,
When I 'm stealing an hour to entreat you
Dear Kitty, to come to Commem.?
Oh, come! You shall rustle in satin
Through halls where Examiners trod:
Your laughter shall triumph o'er Latin
In lecture-room, garden, and quad.
They stand in the silent Sheldonian—
Our orators, waiting—for you,
Their style guaranteed Ciceronian,
Their subject—'the Ladies in Blue.'
The Vice sits arrayed in his scarlet;
He's pale, but they say he dissem-
-bles by calling his Beadle a 'varlet'
Whenever he thinks of Commem.
There are dances, flirtations at Nuneham,
Flower-shows, the procession of Eights:
There's a list stretching usque ad Lunam
Of concerts, and lunches, and fetes:
There's the Newdigate all about 'Gordon,'
—So sweet, and they say it will scan.
You shall flirt with a Proctor, a Warden
Shall run for your shawl and your fan.
They are sportive as gods broken loose from
Olympus, and yet very em-
-inent men. There are plenty to choose from,
You'll find, if you come to Commem.
I know your excuses: Red Sorrel
Has stumbled and broken her knees;
Aunt Phoebe thinks waltzing immoral;
And 'Algy, you are such a tease;
It's nonsense, of course, but she is strict';
And little Dick Hodge has the croup;
And there's no one to visit your 'district'
Or make Mother Tettleby's soup.
Let them cease for a se'nnight to plague you;
Oh, leave them to manage pro tem.
With their croups and their soups and their ague)
Dear Kitty, and come to Commem.
Don't tell me Papa has lumbago,
That you haven't a frock fit to wear,
That the curate 'has notions, and may go
To lengths if there's nobody there,'
That the Squire has 'said things' to the Vicar,
And the Vicar 'had words' with the Squire,
That the Organist's taken to liquor,
And leaves you to manage the choir:
For Papa must be cured, and the curate
Coerced, and your gown is a gem;
And the moral is—Don't be obdurate,
Dear Kitty, but come to Commem.
'My gown? Though, no doubt, sir, you're clever,
You 'd better leave fashions alone.
Do you think that a frock lasts for ever?'
Dear Kitty, I'll grant you have grown;
But I thought of my 'scene' with McVittie
That night when he trod on your train
At the Bachelor's Ball. ''Twas a pity,'
You said, but I knew 'twas Champagne.
And your gown was enough to compel me
To fall down and worship its hem—
(Are 'hems' wearing? If not, you shall tell me
What is, when you come to Commem.)
Have you thought, since that night, of the Grotto?
Of the words whispered under the palms,
While the minutes flew by and forgot to
Remind us of Aunt and her qualms?
Of the stains of the old Journalisten?
Of the rose that I begged from your hair?
When you turned, and I saw something glisten—
Dear Kitty, don't frown; it was there!
But that idiot Delane in the middle
Bounced in with 'Our dance, I—ahem!'
And—the rose you may find in my Liddell
And Scott when you come to Commem.
Then, Kitty, let 'yes' be the answer.
We'll dance at the 'Varsity Ball,
And the morning shall find you a dancer
In Christ Church or Trinity hall.
And perhaps, when the elders are yawning
And rafters grow pale overhead
With the day, there shall come with its dawning
Some thought of that sentence unsaid.
Be it this, be it that—'I forget,' or
'Was joking'—whatever the fem-
-inine fib, you'll have made me your debtor
And come,—you will come? to Commem.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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