Buscombe; Or, A Michaelmas Goose

When I was Head of Blunders school,
Before the age of stokers,
Compelled by rank to look a fool
Betwixt a pair of 'chokers,'

Tom Tanner's father's wrote, to say
That we should both of us come,
To spend Saint Michael's holiday
At the Vicarage of Buscombe.

One trifle marred this merry plan—
I had contrived, though barr'd up,
To typify the future man,
By getting very hard up.

Oh bimetallic champion, some
New ratio doth seem proper,
When the circulating medium
Has fallen to half a copper.

Vile mammon hence! Thy low amount
Too paltry is to mope for;
The more we have in hand to count,
The less in heart to hope for.

Bright youth itself is golden ore,
And health the best gold-beater:
Without a sigh for two pence more,
We passed the gates of Peter.

A nod suffices surly Cop,
Who grins his bona fides;
As Cerberus preferred his sop
To Orpheus and Alcides.

But Mother Cop! Her cooking knack
Would conquer fifty Catos—
The Queen of tarts, and tuck, and tack,
And cream, and fried potatoes.

And rashers! Sweet Ulysses, say
Old Homer was mistaken;
The Goddess must have had her way,
And turned thee into bacon.

That Circe came, and wished us joy,
And said, 'Goodbye, my dearie!'
Because I was an honest boy,
And pauper tneo ære.

So Tom and I, like men on strike,
Shook hands with all our cronies,
Walked fifty yards, to save the pike,
And jumped upon our ponies.

Of apples, nuts, and goose galore
I chattered, like a stupid,
And thought of shooting coneys, more
Than being shot by Cupid.

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At racing pace the turnpike road
(Great Western, in this quicker age)
Was swallowed up with whip and goad,
And soon we saw the Vicarage.

A sweet seclusion, to forget
The world and its disasters,
And fill the mind with mignonette,
Clove-pinks, and German asters;

In pensive, or in playful mood,
To saunter here, and dally
With leafy calm of solitude,
Or sunshine of the valley.

The Vicar loved his parish well,
And well was he loved by it;
Religion did not him compel
To harass and defy it

No price he charged for Heavenly love,
No discount on Resurgo;
His conscience told him—one side-shove
Is worth ten kicks a tergo.

But while the path of life he showed
To win the Christian guerdon,
No post was he, to point the road,
But a man to share the burden.

The lapse of years made manifest
The sanctuary of holy age;
As clearer grows the ring-dove's nest,
When time hath stripp'd the foliage.

The Vicar's wife was much the same,
In fairer form presented—
A lively, yet a quiet dame,
With home, sweet home, contented.

In parish, needs; and household arts,
A lesson to this glib age;
Well versed in pickles, jams, and tarts,
Piano, chess, and cribbage.

And well she loved the flowers, that speak
A language undefiled—
The flowers that lift the dimpled cheek,
Or droop the dewy eyelid.

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Now, if she lingers after us,
What ground have we for snarling?
What act prohibits private buss,
Reserved for 'Tommy darling'?

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But who are these, so fresh and sweet,
In lovely hats and dresses,
Who half advance, and half retreat,
And peep through clouds of tresses?

'Come, dears!' They shyly offer hand,
Beneath the jasmin trellis;
'Say who you are, girls'—Charlotte, and
Her sister, Caroline Ellis!

Sweet Charlotte hath a serious face,
A gaze almost parental;
A type of every maiden grace,
But a wee bit sentimental.

Bright Caroline hath eyes that dance,
While buoyant airs engirdle her;
Her playful soul may love romance,
But not a creepy curdler.

Sweet Charlotte's are the deep grey eyes
That win profound devotion;
Bright Carry's flash, like azure skies,
With heliograph in motion.

As merry as the vintage ray,
That dances down the grape-rill;
As tender as the dews of May,
Or apple-buds of April.

Their charms are safe to grow more bright
For at least two lustral stages;
And so it seems not unpolite
To enquire what their age is.

'Last May, I was fifteen'; with glee
Replies the laughing Carry;
Sage Charlotte adds—'And I shall be
Seventeen, next February.'

To the dining-room we walk on air,
Disdaining jots and tittles;
To feed seems such a low affair—
And yet, hurrah for victuals!

Could e'en a boy ply knife and fork,
In presence so poetic,
Until the vicar draws a cork,
And gives the sniff prophetic?

And when the evening games began,
Pope Joan, and Speculation—
What head could keep its poise and plan,
With the heart in palpitation?

Until, in soft white-curtained bed,
We sink to slumber lowly,
And angels fan the childish head,
With visions sweet and holy.

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'Now I do declare,' exclaimed our host,
As he strode back from the arish,
'Those railway fellows soon will boast
They have undermined my parish!

'Though none can say I have ever set
My face against improvement,
I cannot quite perceive as yet
The good of this new movement

'Like Hannibal, these folk confound
All nature's institutions,
And shun, with a great dive underground,
Parochial contributions!

'Come boys and girls, let us see their craft,
These hills of Devon will task it;
'Tis a pretty walk to White-Ball shaft,
If the boys will take a basket

'Dear wife; if your poor feet are right,
The miracles of this cycle
Will give you a noble appetite,
For the roast goose of Saint Michael.'

In a twinkle, we had baskets twain
Of the right stuff for a journey,
And beautiful gooseberry Champagne,
Superior to Epernay,

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What myriad joys of heart and mind
Flit in and out our brief age!
That day it was grand to see how kind
The sun looked through the leafage!

While the leaves for their part pricked their lips,
With a dewy simper waiting;
They were conscious of some amber tips—
But those Were his own creating.

Can the heart of man alone be dull,
And the mind of man be spiteful,
When all above is beautiful,
And all below delightful?

When Season bright, and Season rich,
Make bids against each other;
And earth, uncertain which is which,
Smiles up at Nature Mother.

The copse, the lane, the meadow path,
The valleys, banks, and hedges,
Were green with summer's aftermath,
And gold with autumn's pledges.

Wild rose hung coral beads above,
And satchel'd nuts grew nigh them;
Like tips of a little maiden's glove,
Ere ever she has to buy them.

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But ours are not the maids to bite
A gore or gusset undone;
How neat they look, how trim and tight!
Those frocks were made in London.

Long time, we glance in awe and doubt,
Suppressing all frivolity;
Till the spirit of the age breaks out,
And all is mirth and jollity.

One flash, that stole from eyes demure,
Hath scattered all convention;
And then a pearly laugh makes sure
That fun is her intention.

The smiling elders march ahead;
We dance, without a fiddler,
We play at cross-touch, White and Red,
Tip-cat, and Tommy Tidier.

We laugh and shout, much more than speak,
No etiquette importunes;
The trees were made for hide-and-seek,
The flowers to tell our fortunes;

The hills, for pretty girls to pant,
And glow with richer roses;
The wind itself, to toss askant
The curls that hide their noses.

Then sprightly Carry shouts in French—
'All boys and girls, come nutting!'
We are slipping down a mighty trench—
Why, it is the Railway cutting I

Before us yawns a dark-browed arch,
Paved with a muddy runnel;
A thousand giant navvies march
To delve the White-Ball tunnel.

Oh, if a man of them but did
Presume to glance at Carry,
Though he were Milo, or John Ridd,
I would toss him to Old Harry.

I pull my jacket off, like him
Who would shatter England's pillars—
From the tunnel comes an order grim,
'Get out of the way you chillers!'

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And the same stern order doth apply
To the pranks of this remote age!
We are sure alike to be thrust by,
In our nonage, and our dotage.

Yet who shall grudge the tranquil age,
When nought can now betide ill,
To glance, from a distant hermitage,
At a summer morning idyll?

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Oh agony, despair, and woe!
Oh two-edged sword to us come!
To Blundell's must the body go,
While the heart remains at Buscombe.

All breakfast time, how glum we looked!
Our tears were threatening dribblets;
Too truly had our goose been cooked,
To leave us e'en our giblets.

Sweet Charlotte, did you share the thrill,
The pang; no throat may utter,
And strive an aching void to fill
With heartless toast and butter?

And were you sad, bright Caroline,
Although you never said so?
You did cast down your lovely eyne,
And you crumbled up your bread so!

But the Vicar's views were more sublime,
As he asked in all simplicity,
'My youthful friends, what is the prime
Of all mundane felicity?'

My answer, though it sounded cool,
Was given with trepidation—
'To stay at home, and send to school
The rising generation.'

A gentle smile flits o'er his lip,
He eyes me with benignity;
He yearns to offer goodly tip,
Yet fears to wound my dignity.

True benefactor, be not shy,
Thou seest a humble fellow,
Thy noble impulse gratify—.
My stars, if it isn't yellow!

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But time is over, and above,
To end this charming visit;
And must we part my own true love?
Though I am not sure, which is it.

Sweet Charlotte lingered in the shade,
Most gentle of all houris;
Bright Carry in the lobby played
With a pair of polished cowries.

She showed me how alike they were,
So Heaven had pleased to make them.
Though fortune might divide the pair,
She ne'er could separate them.

I blushed, and stammered at her touch,
I feared to beg for either;
My heart was in my mouth so much,
I could say 'Goodbye' to neither.

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Two strings are wise for every bow,
To meet the change of weather;
And Cupid's shafts give softer blow,
When two are tied together.

Oh, Charlotte sweet, and Carry bright,
My whole, or double-half love,
Let no maturer wisdom slight
A simple tale of calf-love.

A blessing on the maiden grace,
That beautifies the real,
To make the world a fairer place,
And lift the low ideal!

If one, or both, by any chance,
Behold what I confess here,
Make auld lang syne of young romance,
By sending your address here.

And answer—as I trust you can,
When time is flying faster,
That he hath served you better than
Your humble poetaster.

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Postscript (a Fact)

This have they done—and oh, by Jove,
Not altered by a fraction!
If then they were too sweet to love,
What are they now? Distraction.

Of course they must be ever young;
How could I be so stupid?
Time fell in love with both, and flung
His calendar to Cupid!

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