Some vast amount of years ago,
Ere all my youth had vanish'd from me,
A boy it was my lot to know,
Whom his familiar friends called Tommy.
I love to gaze upon a child;
A young bud bursting into blossom;
Artless, as Eve yet unbeguiled,
And agile as a young opossum:
And such was he. A calm-brow'd lad,
Yet mad, at moments, as a hatter:
Why hatters as a race are mad
I never knew, nor does it matter.
He was what nurses call a "limb;"
One of those small misguided creatures
Who, tho' their intellects are dim,
Are one too many for their teachers:
And, if you asked of him to say
What twice 10 was, or 3 times 7,
He'd glance (in quite a placid way)
From heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And smile, and look politely round,
To catch a casual suggestion;
But make no effort to propound
Any solution of the question.
And not so much esteemed was he
Of the authorities: and therefore
He fraternized by chance with me,
Needing a somebody to care for:
And three fair summers did we twain
Live (as they say) and love together;
And bore by turns the wholesome cane
Till our young skins became as leather:
And carved our names on every desk,
And tore our clothes, and inked our collars;
And looked unique and picturesque,
But not, it may be, model scholars.
We did much as we chose to do;
We'd never heard of Mrs. Grundy;
All the theology we knew
Was that we mighn't play on Sunday;
And all the general truths, that cakes
Were to be bought at half a penny,
And that excruciating aches
Resulted if we ate too many:
And seeing ignorance is bliss,
And wisdom consequently folly,
The obvious result is this—
That our two lives were very jolly.
At last the separation came,
Real love, at that time, was the fashion;
And by a horrid chance, the same
Young thing was, to us both, a passion.
Old Poser snorted like a horse:
His feet were large, his hands were pimply,
His manner, when excited, coarse:—
But Miss P. was an angel simply.
She was a blushing, gushing thing;
All—more than all—my fancy painted;
Once—when she helped me to a wing
Of goose—I thought I should have fainted.
The people said that she was blue:
But I was green, and loved her dearly.
She was approaching thirty-two;
And I was then eleven, nearly.
I did not love as others do;
(None ever did that I've heard tell of);
My passion was a byword through
The town she was, of course, the belle of:
Oh sweet—as to the toilworn man
The far-off sound of rippling river;
As to cadets in Hindostan
The fleeting remnant of their liver—
To me was Anna; dear as gold
That fills the miser's sunless coffers;
As to the spinster, growing old,
The thought—the dream—that she had offers.
I'd sent her little gifts of fruit;
I'd written lines to her as Venus;
I'd sworn unflinchingly to shoot
The man who dared to come between us:
And it was you, my Thomas you,
The friend in whom my soul confided,
Who dared to gaze on—to do,
I may say, much the same as I did.
One night I saw him squeeze her hand;
There was no doubt about the matter;
I said he must resign, or stand
My vengeance—and he chose the latter.
We met, we "planted" blows on blows:
We fought as long as we were able:
My rival had a bottle-nose,
And both my speaking eyes were sable.
When the school-bell cut short our strife,
Miss P. gave both of us a plaister;
And in a week became the wife
Of Horace Nibbs, the writing-master.
I loved her then—I'd love her still,
Only one must not love Another's:
But thou and I, my Tommy, will,
When we again meet, meet as brothers.
It may be that in age one seeks
Peace only: that the blood is brisker
In boys' veins, than in theirs whose cheeks
Are partially obscured by whisker;
Or that the growing ages steal
The memories of past wrongs from us.
But this is certain—that I feel
Most friendly unto thee, oh Thomas!
And whereso'er we meet again,
On this or that side the equator,
If I've not turned teetotaller then,
And have wherewith to pay the waiter,
To thee I'll drain the modest cup,
Ignite with thee the mild Havannah;
And we will waft, while liquoring up,
Forgiveness to the heartless Anna.