Treasure Island

Henry Austin Dobson

(18 January 1840 – 2 September 1921 / Plymouth)

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Incognita


Just for a space I met her –
Just for a day in the train!
It began when she feared it would wet her,
That tiniest spurtle of rain:
So we tucked a great rug in the sashes,
And carefully padded the pane;
And I sorrow in sackcloth and ashes,
Longing to do it again!

Then it grew when she begged me to reach her
A dressing-case under the seat;
She was “really so tiny a creature,
That she needed a stool for her feet.! ”
Which was promptly arranged to her order
With a care that was even minute,
And a glimpse – of an open- worked border,
And a glance – of the fairyest boot.

Then it drooped, and revived at some hovels –
“Were they houses for men or for pigs? ”
Then it shifted to muscular novels,
With a little digression on prigs:
She thought “Wives and Daughters” “so jolly”;
“Had I read it? ” She knew when I had,
Like the rest, I should dote upon “Molly”;
And “poor Mrs Gaskell – how sad! ”

“Like Browning? ” “But so-so.” His proof lay
“Too deep for her frivolous mood,
That preferred your mere metrical soufflé
To the stronger poetical food;
Yet at times he was good – “as a tonic”;
Was Tennyson writing just now?
And was this new poet Byronic,
And clever, and naughty, or how?

Then we trifled with concerts and croquet,
Then she daintily dusted her face;
Then she sprinkled herself with “Ess Bouquet”,
Fished out from the foregoing case;
And we chattered of Gassier and Grisi,
And voted Aunt Sally a bore;
Discussed if the tight rope were easy,
Or Chopin much harder than Spohr.

And oh! The odd things that she quoted,
With the prettiest possible look,
And the price of two buns that she noted
In the prettiest possible book;
While her talk like a musical rillet
Flashed on with the hours that flew,
And the carriage, her smile seemed to fill it
With just enough summer – for Two.

Till at last in her corner, peeping
From a nest of rugs and of furs,
With the white shut eyelids sleeping
On those dangerous looks of hers,
She seemed like a snowdropp breaking,
Not wholly alive nor dead,
But with one blind impulse making
To the sounds of the spring overhead;

And I watched in the lamplights’s swerving
The shade of the down-dropped lid,
And the lip-line’s delicate curving,
Where a slumbering smile lay hid,
Till I longed that, rather than sever,
The train should shriek into space,
And carry us onward – for ever –
Me and that beautiful face.

But she suddenly woke in a fidget,
With fears she was “nearly at home”,
And talk of a certain Aunt Bridget,
Whom I mentally wished – well at Rome;
Got out at the very next station,
Looking back with a merry bon soir,
Adding, too, to my utter vexation,
A surplus, unkind Au Revoir.

So left me to muse on her graces,
To doze and to muse, till I dreamed
That we sailed through the sunniest places
In a glorified galley, it seemed;
But the cabin was made of a carriage,
And the ocean was Eau-de-Cologne,
And we split on a rock labelled MARRIAGE,
And I woke, - as cold as a stone.

And that’s how I lost her – a jewel,
Incognita – one in a crowd,
Not prudent enough to be cruel,
Not worldly enough to be proud.
It was just a shut lid and its lashes,
Just a few hours in a train,
And I sorrow in sackcloth and ashes,
Longing to see her again

Submitted: Sunday, March 16, 2003

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Comments about this poem (Incognita by Henry Austin Dobson )

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  • Is It Poetry (7/8/2013 10:37:00 AM)

    This small smidgen
    she glances.
    Out the window
    through the trees.
    Oh sad this short tale
    it's gone.
    This happy story
    that most would call youth...iip (Report) Reply

Read all 1 comments »

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