William Bell Scott

(1811-1890 / Scotland)

The Old Old Story - Poem by William Bell Scott


It seems but yesterday, and yet
I was then but two years from school,
This picture I can not forget,
Over all life's seething pool.
The sweet light voice, a living lute,
The sweet slim figure struck me mute;
Matilda was the lovely name,
Within a neat red-pencilled frame
I wrote it in my first verse book,
Snugly kept in secret nook!

She came to us beneath the wing
Of her mamma, whose bonnet wide
Was an epitome of spring,—
So long since, I must even confide,
The great scooped bonnet was just then
Adored by fashion and by men:

Well I remember wondering
How this frank angel ever came
From such a broad-winged pompous dame!

And after forty years depart,
Child and mamma drop on us here;
Can the slim figure and light heart
Beneath the same broad wing appear
Again in this far distant year?
Ah no! the ladies seem the same,
But the bonnet is quite different;
Matilda is the pompous dame,
And this her daughter Millicent!

Good heavens! it is indeed just so,
Time reproduces all his toys;
Here is the pair of long ago
Touching the hearts of other boys.
And am I then to moralise,
With satire in my rhymes and eyes?
The sonsy matron! suppose we
Ask her now what she thinks of me?


I would indeed like well to see
What Matilda thinks, or thought of me
In that romantic early year
When her fine name I held so dear,
Or at least made it so appear
In my long-hid first verses book:
I'll try to wile her out to look
At the sundial or the bees,
And underneath the quivering trees
I shall touch on ancient things,
That so long since lost all their wings,
Or rather, to tell truth, I'd say,
Used them long since to fly away.
I did at once, and I must own
A faintly sentimental tone
Stole o'er my reminiscences,
As we passed, repassed the bees:
I said her child recalled her so,—
Revived in me the long ago—
The age was just about the same
When we once played a charming game,

Now quite gone out, upon the grass;
And here again the bees we pass;
Though she forgets to turn her head,
She answers in a cheerful mood,
Her daughter is both fair and good.
The gravel crunched beneath her tread
While she went on, and thus she said:

‘Your memory's good for long ago,
I often wish that mine were so,
But when a girl is wed like me,
And carried quite away to town,
The rest soon fades away, you see:
The birds gone, soon the nest blows down:
Your brother James, now gone, and I
Had some flirtations certainly,
He was the red-haired one and tall:—
I can't remember you at all!’

I made reply, some sidelong mutter;
We turned, we joined the rest at tea,
She ate three folds of bread and butter,
She had never thought at all of me!

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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