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(1789-1845 / London / England)

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A Retrospective Review

I

Oh, when I was a tiny boy,
My days and nights were full of joy,
My mates were blithe and kind!—
No wonder that I sometimes sigh,
And dash the tear-drop from my eye,
To cast a look behind!


II

A hoop was an eternal round
Of pleasure. In those days I found
A top a joyous thing;—
But now those past delights I drop,
My head, alas! is all my top,
And careful thoughts the string!


III

My marbles—once my bag was stored,—
Now I must play with Elgin's lord,
With Theseus for a taw!
My playful horse has slipt his string,
Forgotten all his capering,
And harness'd to the law!


IV

My kite—how fast and far it flew!
Whilst I, a sort of Franklin, drew
My pleasure from the sky!
'Twas paper'd o'er with studious themes,
The tasks I wrote—my present dreams
Will never soar so high!


V

My joys are wingless all and dead;
My dumps are made of more than lead;—
My flights soon find a fall;
My fears prevail, my fancies droop,
Joy never cometh with a hoop,
And seldom with a call!


VI

My football's laid upon the shelf;
I am a shuttlecock myself
The world knocks to and fro;—
My archery is all unlearn'd,
And grief against myself has turn'd
My arrows and my bow!


VII

No more in noontide sun I bask;
My authorship's an endless task,
My head's ne'er out of school:
My heart is pain'd with scorn and slight,
I have too many foes to fight,
And friends grown strangely cool!


VIII

The very chum that shared my cake
Holds out so cold a hand to shake,
It makes me shrink and sigh:—
On this I will not dwell and hang,—
The changeling would not feel a pang
Though these should meet his eye!


IX

No skies so blue or so serene
As then;—no leaves look half so green
As clothed the playground tree!
All things I loved are altered so,
Nor does it ease my heart to know
That change resides in me!


X

Oh for the garb that marked the boy,
The trousers made of corduroy,
Well ink'd with black and red;
The crownless hat, ne'er deem'd an ill—
It only let the sunshine still
Repose upon my head!


XI

Oh for the riband round the neck!
The careless dogs-ears apt to deck
My book and collar both!
How can this formal man be styled
Merely an Alexandrine child,
A boy of larger growth?


XII

Oh for that small, small beer anew!
And (heaven's own type) that mild sky-blue
That wash'd my sweet meals down;
The master even!—and that small Turk
That fagg'd me!—worse is now my work—
A fag for all the town!


XIII

Oh for the lessons learned by heart!
Ay, though the very birch's smart
Should mark those hours again;
I'd 'kiss the rod,' and be resign'd
Beneath the stroke, and even find
Some sugar in the cane!


XIV

The Arabian Nights rehearsed in bed!
The Fairy Tales in school-time read,
By stealth, 'twixt verb and noun!
The angel form that always walk'd
In all my dreams, and look'd and talk'd
Exactly like Miss Brown!


XV

The omne bene—Christmas come!
The prize of merit, won for home—
Merit had prizes then!
But now I write for days and days,
For fame—a deal of empty praise,
Without the silver pen!


XVI

Then 'home, sweet home!' the crowded coach—
The joyous shout—the loud approach—
The winding horns like rams'!
The meeting sweet that made me thrill,
The sweetmeats, almost sweeter still,
No 'satis' to the 'jams'!—


XVII

When that I was a tiny boy
My days and nights were full of joy,
My mates were blithe and kind!
No wonder that I sometimes sigh,
And dash the tear-drop from my eye,
To cast a look behind!

Submitted: Monday, April 05, 2010


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