James Kenneth Stephen
The Last Ride Together (After Browning) - Poem by James Kenneth Stephen
(From Her Point of View)
When I had firmly answered 'No',
And he allowed that that was so,
I really thought I should be free
For good and all from Mr B.,
And that he would soberly acquiesce:
I said that it would be discreet
That for a while we should not meet;
I promised I would always feel
A kindly interest in his weal;
I thanked him for his amorous zeal;
In short, I said all I could but 'yes'.
I said what I'm accustomed to,
I acted as I always do;
I promised he should find in me
A friend, - a sister, if that might be:
But he was still dissatisfied:
He certainly was most polite;
He said exactly what was right,
He acted very properly,
Except indeed for this, that he
Insisted on inviting me
To come with him for 'one more last ride'.
A little while in doubt I stood:
A ride, no doubt, would do me good:
I had a habit and a hat
Extremely well worth looking at:
The weather was distinctly fine:
My horse too wanted exercise,
And time, when one is riding, flies:
Besides it really seemed, you see,
The only way of ridding me
Of pertinacious Mr B.:
So my head I graciously incline.
I won't say much of what happened next:
I own I was extremely vexed:
Indeed I should have been aghast
If anyone had seen what passed:
But nobody need ever know
That, as I leaned forward to stir the fire,
He advanced before I could well retire,
And I suddenly felt, to my great alarm,
The grasp of a warm unlicensed arm,
An embrace in which I found no charm;
I was awfully glad when he let me go.
Then we began to ride: my steed
Washer fresh, too fresh indeed,
And at first I thought of little, save
The way to escape an early grave,
As the dust rose up on either side.
My stern companion jogged along
On a brown old cob both broad and strong:
He looked as he does when he's writing verse,
Or endeavouring not to swear and curse,
Or wondering where he has left his purse,
Indeed it was a sombre ride.
I spoke of the weather to Mr B.,
But he neither listened nor spoke to me;
I praised his horse, and I smiled the smile
Which was wont to move him once on a while;
I said I was wearing his favourite flowers:
But I wasted my words on the desert air,
For he rode with a fixed and gloomy stare:
I wonder what he was thinking about:
As I don't read verse, I shan't find out:
It was something subtle and deep, no doubt,
A theme to detain a man for hours.
Ah! there was the corner where Mr S.
So nearly induced me to whisper 'yes':
And here it was that the next but one
Proposed on horseback, or would have done,
Had his horse not most opportunely shied;
Which perhaps was due to an unseen flick
He received from my whip: 'twas a scurvy trick,
But I never could do with that young man:
I hope his present young woman can.
Well, I must say, never, since time began,
Did I go for a duller or longer ride.
He never smiles and he never speaks:
He might go on like this for weeks:
He rolls a slightly frenzied eye
Towards the blue and burning sky,
And the cob bounds on with tireless stride,
If we aren't at home for lunch at two
I don't know what Papa will do;
But I know full well he will say to me
'I never approved of Mr B.;
It's the very devil that you and he
Ride, ride together, for ever ride.'
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