Charles Stuart Calverley

(22 December 1831 – 17 February 1884 / Martley, Worchestershire)

To Mrs. Goodchild - Poem by Charles Stuart Calverley

The night-wind's shriek is pitiless and hollow,
The boding bat flits by on sullen wing,
And I sit desolate, like that 'one swallow'
Who found (with horror) that he'd not brought spring:
Lonely as he who erst with venturous thumb
Drew from its pie-y lair the solitary plum.

And to my gaze the phantoms of the Past,
The cherished fictions of my boyhood, rise:
I see Red Ridinghood observe, aghast,
The fixed expression of her grandam's eyes;
I hear the fiendish chattering and chuckling
Which those misguided fowls raised at the Ugly Duckling.

The House that Jack built--and the Malt that lay
Within the House--the Rat that ate the Malt -
The Cat, that in that sanguinary way
Punished the poor thing for its venial fault -
The Worrier-Dog--the Cow with Crumpled horn -
And then--ah yes! and then--the Maiden all forlorn!

O Mrs. Gurton--(may I call thee Gammer?)
Thou more than mother to my infant mind!
I loved thee better than I loved my grammar -
I used to wonder why the Mice were blind,
And who was gardener to Mistress Mary,
And what--I don't know still--was meant by 'quite contrary'?

'Tota contraria,' an 'Arundo Cami'
Has phrased it--which is possibly explicit,
Ingenious certainly--but all the same I
Still ask, when coming on the word, 'What is it?'
There were more things in Mrs. Gurton's eye,
Mayhap, than are dreamed of in our philosophy.

No doubt the Editor of 'Notes and Queries'
Or 'Things not generally known' could tell
That word's real force--my only lurking fear is
That the great Gammer 'didna ken hersel':
(I've precedent, yet feel I owe apology
For passing in this way to Scottish phraseology).

Alas, dear Madam, I must ask your pardon
For making this unwarranted digression,
Starting (I think) from Mistress Mary's garden:-
And beg to send, with every expression
Of personal esteem, a Book of Rhymes,
For Master G. to read at miscellaneous times.

There is a youth, who keeps a 'crumpled Horn,'
(Living next me, upon the selfsame story,)
And ever, 'twixt the midnight and the morn,
He solaces his soul with Annie Laurie.
The tune is good; the habit p'raps romantic;
But tending, if pursued, to drive one's neighbours frantic.

And now,--at this unprecedented hour,
When the young Dawn is 'trampling out the stars,' -
I hear that youth--with more than usual power
And pathos--struggling with the first few bars.
And I do think the amateur cornopean
Should be put down by law--but that's perhaps Utopian.

Who knows what 'things unknown' I might have 'bodied
Forth,' if not checked by that absurd Too-too?
But don't I know that when my friend has plodded
Through the first verse, the second will ensue?
Considering which, dear Madam, I will merely
Send the aforesaid book--and am yours most sincerely.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010



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