William Makepeace Thackeray

(1811-1863 / India)

Mrs. Katherine’s Lantern - Poem by William Makepeace Thackeray

'Coming from a gloomy court,
Place of Israelite resort,
This old lamp I've brought with me.
Madam, on its panes you'll see
The initials K and E.'

'An old lantern brought to me?
Ugly, dingy, battered, black!'
(Here a lady I suppose
Turning up a pretty nose)—
'Pray, sir, take the old thing back.
I've no taste for bricabrac.'

'Please to mark the letters twain'—
(I'm supposed to speak again)—
'Graven on the lantern pane.
Can you tell me who was she,
Mistress of the flowery wreath,
And the anagram beneath—
The mysterious K E?

'Full a hundred years are gone
Since the little beacon shone
From a Venice balcony:
There, on summer nights, it hung,
And her Lovers came and sung
To their beautiful K E.

'Hush! in the canal below
Don't you hear the plash of oars
Underneath the lantern's glow,
And a thrilling voice begins
To the sound of mandolins?
Begins singing of amore
And delire and dolore—
O the ravishing tenore!

'Lady, do you know the tune?
Ah, we all of us have hummed it!
I've an old guitar has thrummed it,
Under many a changing moon.
Shall I try it? Do Re MI . .
What is this? Ma foi, the fact is,
That my hand is out of practice,
And my poor old fiddle cracked is,
And a man—I let the truth out,—
Who's had almost every tooth out,
Cannot sing as once he sung,
When he was young as you are young,
When he was young and lutes were strung,
And love-lamps in the casement hung.'

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010

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