Ode On A Distant Prospect Of Clapham Academy - Poem by Thomas Hood
Ah me! those old familiar bounds!
That classic house, those classic grounds
My pensive thought recalls!
What tender urchins now confine,
What little captives now repine,
Within yon irksome walls?
Ay, that's the very house! I know
Its ugly windows, ten a-row!
Its chimneys in the rear!
And there's the iron rod so high,
That drew the thunder from the sky
And turn'd our table-beer!
There I was birch'd! there I was bred!
There like a little Adam fed
From Learning's woeful tree!
The weary tasks I used to con!—
The hopeless leaves I wept upon!—
Most fruitless leaves to me!—
The summon'd class!—the awful bow!—
I wonder who is master now
And wholesome anguish sheds!
How many ushers now employs,
How many maids to see the boys
Have nothing in their heads!
And Mrs. S——?—Doth she abet
(Like Pallas in the parlor) yet
Some favor'd two or three,—
The little Crichtons of the hour,
Her muffin-medals that devour,
And swill her prize—bohea?
Ay, there's the playground! there's the lime,
Beneath whose shade in summer's prime
So wildly I have read!—
Who sits there now, and skims the cream
Of young Romance, and weaves a dream
Of Love and Cottage-bread?
Who struts the Randall of the walk?
Who models tiny heads in chalk?
Who scoops the light canoe?
What early genius buds apace?
Where's Poynter? Harris? Bowers? Chase?
Hal Baylis? blithe Carew?
Alack! they're gone—a thousand ways!
And some are serving in 'the Greys,'
And some have perish'd young!—
Jack Harris weds his second wife;
Hal Baylis drives the wane of life;
And blithe Carew—is hung!
Grave Bowers teaches A B C
To savages at Owhyee;
Poor Chase is with the worms!—
All, all are gone—the olden breed!—
New crops of mushroon boys succeed,
'And push us from our forms!'
Lo! where they scramble forth, and shout,
And leap, and skip, and mob about,
At play where we have play'd!
Some hop, some run, (some fall,) some twine
Their crony arms; some in the shine,—
And some are in the shade!
Lo there what mix'd conditions run!
The orphan lad; the widow's son;
And Fortune's favor'd care—
The wealthy-born, for whom she hath
Mac-Adamised the future path—
The Nabob's pamper'd heir!
Some brightly starr'd—some evil born,—
For honor some, and some for scorn,—
For fair or foul renown!
Good, bad, indiff'rent—none may lack!
Look, here's a White, and there's a Black
And there's a Creole brown!
Some laugh and sing, some mope and weep,
And wish their frugal sires would keep
Their only sons at home;—
Some tease their future tense, and plan
The full-grown doings of the man,
And plant for years to come!
A foolish wish! There's one at hoop;
And four at fives! and five who stoop
The marble taw to speed!
And one that curvets in and out,
Reining his fellow Cob about,—
Would I were in his steed!
Yet he would glady halt and drop
That boyish harness off, to swop
With this world's heavy van—
To toil, to tug. O little fool!
While thou canst be a horse at school,
To wish to be a man!
Perchance thou deem'st it were a thing
To wear a crown,—to be a king!
And sleep on regal down!
Alas! thou know'st not kingly cares;
For happier is thy head that wears
That hat without a crown!
And dost thou think that years acquire
New added joys? Dost think thy sire
More happy than his son?
That manhood's mirth?—Oh, go thy ways
To Drury-lane when—plays,
And see how forced our fun!
Thy taws are brave!—thy tops are rare!—
Our tops are spun with coils of care,
Our dumps are no delight!—
The Elgin marbles are but tame,
And 'tis at best a sorry game
To fly the Muse's kite!
Our hearts are dough, our heels are lead,
Our topmost joys fall dull and dead
Like balls with no rebound!
And often with a faded eye
We look behind, and send a sigh
Towards that merry ground!
Then be contented. Thou hast got
The most of heaven in thy young lot;
There's sky-blue in thy cup!
Thou'lt find thy Manhood all too fast—
Soon come, soon gone! and Age at last
A sorry breaking-up!
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