James Kenneth Stephen

(25 February 1859 – 3 February 1892 / England)

The Old School List


In a wild moraine of forgotten books,
On the glacier of years gone by,
As I plied my rake for order's sake,
There was one that caught my eye:
And I sat by the shelf till I lost myself.
And roamed in the crowded mist,
And heard lost voices and saw lost looks,
As I pored on an Old School List.

What a jumble of names! there were some that I knew,
As a brother is known: to-day
Gone I know not where, nay I hardly care,
For their places are full: and, they--
What climes they have ranged: how much they're changed!
Time, place and pursuits assist
In transforming them: stay where you are: adieu!
You are all in the Old School List.

There are some who did nothing at school, much since:
And others much then, since naught:
They are middle-aged men, grown bald since then:
Some have travelled, and some have fought:
And some have written, and some are bitten
With strange new faiths: desist
From tracking them: broker or priest of prince,
They are all in the Old School List.

There's a grave grey lawyer in King's Bench Walk,
Whose clients are passing few:
He seldom speaks: in those lonely weeks,
What on earth can he find to do?
Well, he stroked the eight -- what a splendid fate!--
And the Newcastle barely missed:
"A future Lord Chancellor!" so we'd talk
In the days of the old School List.

There were several duffers and several bores,
Whose faces I've half forgot,
Whom I lived among, when the world was young,
And who talked "no end of rot":
Are they now little clerks who stroll in the Parks
Or scribble with grimy fist,
Or rich little peers who hire Scotch moors?
Well -- they're all in the old School List.

There were some who were certain to prosper and thrive,
And certain to do no more,
Who were "capital chaps," and, tho' moderate saps,
Would never stay in after four:
Now day after day they are packed away,
After being connubially kissed,
To work in the city from ten to five:
There they are in the old School List.

There were two good fellows I used to know.
--How distant it all appears!
We played together in football weather,
And messed together for years:
Now one of them's wed, and the other's dead
So long that he's hardly missed
Save by us, who messed with him years ago:
But we're all in the old School List.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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