Verse > Edwin A. Robinson > Collected Poems > III. Captain Craig, Etc. > 1. Captain Craig: II
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935).  Collected Poems. 1921.
  
III. Captain Craig, Etc.
1. Captain Craig: II
  
II

YET that ride had an end, as all rides have;
And the days coming after took the road
That all days take,—though never one of them
Went by but I got some good thought of it      385
For Captain Craig. Not that I pitied him,
Or nursed a mordant hunger for his presence;
But what I thought (what Killigrew still thinks)
An irremediable cheerfulness
Was in him and about the name of him,      390
And I fancy that it may be most of all
For cheer in them that I have saved his letters.
I like to think of him, and how he looked—
Or should have looked—in his renewed estate,
Composing them. They may be dreariness      395
Unspeakable to you that never saw
The Captain; but to five or six of us
Who knew him they are not so bad as that.
It may be we have smiled not always where
The text itself would seem to indicate      400
Responsive titillation on our part,—
Yet having smiled at all we have done well,
Knowing that we have touched the ghost of him.
He tells me that he thinks of nothing now
That he would rather do than be himself,      405
Wisely alive. So let us heed this man:—
 
“The world that has been old is young again,
The touch that faltered clings; and this is May.
So think of your decrepit pensioner
As one who cherishes the living light,      410
Forgetful of dead shadows. He may gloat,
And he may not have power in his arms
To make the young world move; but he has eyes
And ears, and he can read the sun. Therefore
Think first of him as one who vegetates      415
In tune with all the children who laugh best
And longest through the sunshine, though far off
Their laughter, and unheard; for ’t is the child,
O friend, that with his laugh redeems the man.
Time steals the infant, but the child he leaves;      420
And we, we fighters over of old wars—
We men, we shearers of the Golden Fleece—
Were brutes without him,—brutes to tear the scars
Of one another’s wounds and weep in them,
And then cry out on God that he should flaunt      425
For life such anguish and flesh-wretchedness.
But let the brute go roaring his own way:
We do not need him, and he loves us not.
 
“I cannot think of anything to-day
That I would rather do than be myself,      430
Primevally alive, and have the sun
Shine into me; for on a day like this,
When chaff-parts of a man’s adversities
Are blown by quick spring breezes out of him—
When even a flicker of wind that wakes no more      435
Than a tuft of grass, or a few young yellow leaves,
Comes like the falling of a prophet’s breath
On altar-flames rekindled of crushed embers,—
Then do I feel, now do I feel, within me
No dreariness, no grief, no discontent,      440
No twinge of human envy. But I beg
That you forego credentials of the past
For these illuminations of the present,
Or better still, to give the shadow justice,
You let me tell you something: I have yearned      445
In many another season for these days,
And having them with God’s own pageantry
To make me glad for them,—yes, I have cursed
The sunlight and the breezes and the leaves
To think of men on stretchers or on beds,      450
Or on foul floors, things without shapes or names,
Made human with paralysis and rags;
Or some poor devil on a battle-field,
Left undiscovered and without the strength
To drag a maggot from his clotted mouth;      455
Or women working where a man would fall—
Flat-breasted miracles of cheerfulness
Made neuter by the work that no man counts
Until it waits undone; children thrown out
To feed their veins and souls on offal … Yes,      460
I have had half a mind to blow my brains out
Sometimes; and I have gone from door to door,
Ragged myself, trying to do something—
Crazy, I hope.—But what has this to do
With Spring? Because one half of humankind      465
Lives here in hell, shall not the other half
Do any more than just for conscience’ sake
Be miserable? Is this the way for us
To lead these creatures up to find the light,—
Or to be drawn down surely to the dark      470
Again? Which is it? What does the child say?
 
“But let us not make riot for the child
Untaught, nor let us hold that we may read
The sun but through the shadows; nor, again,
Be we forgetful ever that we keep      475
The shadows on their side. For evidence,
I might go back a little to the days
When I had hounds and credit, and grave friends
To borrow my books and set wet glasses on them,
And other friends of all sorts, grave and gay,      480
Of whom one woman and one man stand out
From all the rest, this morning. The man said
One day, as we were riding, ‘Now, you see,
There goes a woman cursed with happiness:
Beauty and wealth, health, horses,—everything      485
That she could ask, or we could ask, is hers,
Except an inward eye for the dim fact
Of what this dark world is. The cleverness
God gave her—or the devil—cautions her
That she must keep the china cup of life      490
Filled somehow, and she fills it—runs it over—
Claps her white hands while some one does the sopping
With fingers made, she thinks, for just that purpose,
Giggles and eats and reads and goes to church,
Makes pretty little penitential prayers,      495
And has an eighteen-carat crucifix
Wrapped up in chamois-skin. She gives enough,
You say; but what is giving like hers worth?
What is a gift without the soul to guide it?
“Poor dears, and they have cancers?—Oh!” she says;      500
And away she works at that new altar-cloth
For the Reverend Hieronymus Mackintosh—
Third person, Jerry. “Jerry,” she says, “can say
Such lovely things, and make life seem so sweet!”
Jerry can drink, also.—And there she goes,      505
Like a whirlwind through an orchard in the springtime—
Throwing herself away as if she thought
The world and the whole planetary circus
Were a flourish of apple-blossoms. Look at her!
And here is this infernal world of ours—      510
And hers, if only she might find it out—
Starving and shrieking, sickening, suppurating,
Whirling to God knows where … But look at her!’
 
“And after that it came about somehow,
Almost as if the Fates were killing time,      515
That she, the spendthrift of a thousand joys,
Rode in her turn with me, and in her turn
Made observations: ‘Now there goes a man,’
She said, ‘who feeds his very soul on poison:
No matter what he does, or where he looks,      520
He finds unhappiness; or, if he fails
To find it, he creates it, and then hugs it:
Pygmalion again for all the world—
Pygmalion gone wrong. You know I think
If when that precious animal was young,      525
His mother, or some watchful aunt of his,
Had spanked him with Pendennis and Don Juan,
And given him the Lady of the Lake,
Or Cord and Creese, or almost anything,
There might have been a tonic for him? Listen:      530
When he was possibly nineteen years old
He came to me and said, “I understand
You are in love”—yes, that is what he said,—
“But never mind, it won’t last very long;
It never does; we all get over it.      535
We have this clinging nature, for you see
The Great Bear shook himself once on a time
And the world is one of many that let go.”
And yet the creature lives, and there you see him.
And he would have this life no fairer thing      540
Than a certain time for numerous marionettes
To do the Dance of Death. Give him a rose,
And he will tell you it is very sweet,
But only for a day. Most wonderful!
Show him a child, or anything that laughs,      545
And he begins at once to crunch his wormwood
And then runs on with his “realities.”
What does he know about realities,
Who sees the truth of things almost as well
As Nero saw the Northern Lights? Good gracious!      550
Can’t you do something with him? Call him something—
Call him a type, and that will make him cry:
One of those not at all unusual,
Prophetic, would-be-Delphic manger-snappers
That always get replaced when they are gone;      555
Or one of those impenetrable men,
Who seem to carry branded on their foreheads,
“We are abstruse, but not quite so abstruse
As possibly the good Lord may have wished;”
One of those men who never quite confess      560
That Washington was great;—the kind of man
That everybody knows and always will,—
Shrewd, critical, facetious, insincere,
And for the most part harmless, I’m afraid.
But even then, you might be doing well      565
To tell him something.’—And I said I would.
“So in one afternoon you see we have
The child in absence—or, to say the least,
In ominous defect,—and in excess
Commensurate, likewise. Now the question is,      570
Not which was right and which was wrong, for each,
By virtue of one-sidedness, was both;
But rather—to my mind, as heretofore—
Is it better to be blinded by the lights,
Or by the shadows? By the lights, you say?      575
The shadows are all devils, and the lights
Gleam guiding and eternal? Very good;
But while you say so do not quite forget
That sunshine has a devil of its own,
And one that we, for the great craft of him,      580
But vaguely recognize. The marvel is
That this persuasive and especial devil,
By grace of his extreme transparency,
Precludes all common vision of him; yet
There is one way to glimpse him and a way,      585
As I believe, to test him,—granted once
That we have ousted prejudice, which means
That we have made magnanimous advance
Through self-acquaintance. Not an easy thing
For some of us; impossible, may be,      590
For most of us: the woman and the man
I cited, for example, would have wrought
The most intractable conglomerate
Of everything, if they had set themselves
To analyze themselves and not each other;      595
If only for the sake of self-respect,
They would have come to no place but the same
Wherefrom they started; one would have lived awhile
In paradise without defending it,
And one in hell without enjoying it;      600
And each had been dissuaded neither more
Nor less thereafter. There are such on earth
As might have been composed primarily
For mortal warning: he was one of them,
And she—the devil makes us hesitate.      605
’T is easy to read words writ well with ink
That makes a good black mark on smooth white paper;
But words are done sometimes with other ink
Whereof the smooth white paper gives no sign
Till science brings it out; and here we come      610
To knowledge, and the way to test a devil.
 
“To most of us, you say, and you say well,
This demon of the sunlight is a stranger;
But if you break the sunlight of yourself,
Project it, and observe the quaint shades of it,      615
I have a shrewd suspicion you may find
That even as a name lives unrevealed
In ink that waits an agent, so it is
The devil—or this devil—hides himself
To all the diagnoses we have made      620
Save one. The quest of him is hard enough—
As hard as truth; but once we seem to know
That his compound obsequiousness prevails
Unferreted within us, we may find
That sympathy, which aureoles itself      625
To superfluity from you and me,
May stand against the soul for five or six
Persistent and indubitable streaks
Of irritating brilliance, out of which
A man may read, if he have knowledge in him,      630
Proportionate attest of ignorance,
Hypocrisy, good-heartedness, conceit,
Indifference,—by which a man may learn
That even courage may not make him glad
For laughter when that laughter is itself      635
The tribute of recriminating groans.
Nor are the shapes of obsolescent creeds
Much longer to flit near enough to make
Men glad for living in a world like this;
For wisdom, courage, knowledge, and the faith      640
Which has the soul and is the soul of reason—
These are the world’s achievers. And the child—
The child that is the saviour of all ages,
The prophet and the poet, the crown-bearer,
Must yet with Love’s unhonored fortitude,      645
Survive to cherish and attain for us
The candor and the generosity,
By leave of which we smile if we bring back
The first revealing flash that wakened us
When wisdom like a shaft of dungeon-light      650
Came searching down to find us.
 
        “Halfway back
I made a mild allusion to the Fates,
Not knowing then that ever I should have
Dream-visions of them, painted on the air,—      655
Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos. Faint-hued
They seem, but with a faintness never fading,
Unblurred by gloom, unshattered by the sun,
Still with eternal color, colorless,
They move and they remain. The while I write      660
These very words I see them,—Atropos,
Lachesis, Clotho; and the last is laughing.
When Clotho laughs, Atropos rattles her shears;
But Clotho keeps on laughing just the same.
Some time when I have dreamed that Atropos      665
Has laughed, I’ll tell you how the colors change—
The colors that are changeless, colorless.”
I fear I may have answered Captain Craig’s
Epistle Number One with what he chose,
Good-humoredly but anxiously, to take      670
For something that was not all reverence;
From Number Two it would have seemed almost
As if the flanges of the old man’s faith
Had slipped the treacherous rails of my allegiance,
Leaving him by the roadside, humorously      675
Upset, with nothing more convivial
To do than be facetious and austere:—
 
“If you decry Don César de Bazan,
There is an imperfection in your vitals.
Flamboyant and old-fashioned? Overdone?      680
Romantico-robustious?—Dear young man,
There are fifteen thousand ways to be one-sided,
And I have indicated two of them
Already. Now you bait me with a third—
As if it were a spider with nine legs;      685
But what it is that you would have me do,
What fatherly wrath you most anticipate,
I lack the needed impulse to discern;
Though I who shape no songs of any sort,
I who have made no music, thrilled no canvas,—      690
I who have added nothing to the world
The world would reckon save long-squandered wit—
Might with half-pardonable reverence
Beguile my faith, maybe, to the forlorn
Extent of some sequestered murmuring      695
Anent the vanities. No doubt I should,
If mine were the one life that I have lived;
But with a few good glimpses I have had
Of heaven through the little holes in hell,
I can half understand what price it is      700
The poet pays, at one time and another,
For those indemnifying interludes
That are to be the kernel in what lives
To shrine him when the new-born men come singing.
 
“So do I comprehend what I have read      705
From even the squeezed items of account
Which I have to my credit in that book
Whereof the leaves are ages and the text
Eternity. What do I care to-day
For pages that have nothing? I have lived,      710
And I have died, and I have lived again;
And I am very comfortable. Yes,
Though I look back through barren years enough
To make me seem—as I transmute myself
In downward retrospect from what I am—      715
As unproductive and as unconvinced
Of living bread and the soul’s eternal draught
As a frog on a Passover-cake in a streamless desert,—
Still do I trust the light that I have earned,
And having earned, received. You shake your head,      720
But do not say that you will shake it off.
 
“Meanwhile I have the flowers and the grass,
My brothers here the trees, and all July
To make me joyous. Why do you shake your head?
Why do you laugh?—because you are so young?      725
Do you think if you laugh hard enough the truth
Will go to sleep? Do you think of any couch
Made soft enough to put the truth to sleep?
Do you think there are no proper comedies
But yours that have the fashion? For example,      730
Do you think that I forget, or shall forget,
One friendless, fat, fantastic nondescript
Who knew the ways of laughter on low roads,—
A vagabond, a drunkard, and a sponge,
But always a free creature with a soul?      735
I bring him back, though not without misgivings,
And caution you to damn him sparingly.
 
“Count Pretzel von Würzburger, the Obscene
(The beggar may have had another name,
But no man to my knowledge ever knew it)      740
Was a poet and a skeptic and a critic,
And in his own mad manner a musician:
He found an old piano in a bar-room,
And it was his career—three nights a week,
From ten o’clock till twelve—to make it rattle;      745
And then, when I was just far down enough
To sit and watch him with his long straight hair,
And pity him, and think he looked like Liszt,
I might have glorified a musical
Steam-engine, or a xylophone. The Count      750
Played half of everything and ‘improvised’
The rest: he told me once that he was born
With a genius in him that ‘prohibited
Complete fidelity,’ and that his art
‘Confessed vagaries,’ therefore. But I made      755
Kind reckoning of his vagaries then:
I had the whole great pathos of the man
To purify me, and all sorts of music
To give me spiritual nourishment
And cerebral athletics; for the Count      760
Played indiscriminately—with an f,
And with incurable presto—cradle-songs
And carnivals, spring-songs and funeral marches,
The Marseillaise and Schubert’s Serenade—
And always in a way to make me think      765
Procrustes had the germ of music in him.
And when this interesting reprobate
Began to talk—then there were more vagaries:
He made a reeking fetich of all filth,
Apparently; but there was yet revealed      770
About him, through his words and on his flesh,
That ostracizing nimbus of a soul’s
Abject, apologetic purity—
That phosphorescence of sincerity—
Which indicates the curse and the salvation      775
Of a life wherein starved art may never perish.
 
“One evening I remember clearliest
Of all that I passed with him. Having wrought,
With his nerve-ploughing ingenuity,
The Träumerei into a Titan’s nightmare,      780
The man sat down across the table from me
And all at once was ominously decent.
‘“The more we measure what is ours to use,”’
He said then, wiping his froth-plastered mouth
With the inside of his hand, ‘“the less we groan      785
For what the gods refuse.” I’ve had that sleeved
A decade for you. Now but one more stein,
And I shall be prevailed upon to read
The only sonnet I have ever made;
And after that, if you propitiate      790
Gambrinus, I shall play you that Andante
As the world has never heard it played before.’
So saying, he produced a piece of paper,
Unfolded it, and read, ‘SONNET UNIQUE
DE PRETZEL VON WURZBURGER, DIT L’OBSCÉNE:      795
 
“‘Carmichael had a kind of joke-disease,
And he had queer things fastened on his wall.
There are three green china frogs that I recall
More potently than anything, for these
Three frogs have demonstrated, by degrees,      800
What curse was on the man to make him fall:
“They are not ordinary frogs at all,
They are the Frogs of Aristophanes.”
 
“‘God! how he laughed whenever he said that;
And how we caught from one another’s eyes      805
The flash of what a tongue could never tell!
We always laughed at him, no matter what
The joke was worth. But when a man’s brain dies,
We are not always glad … Poor Carmichael!’
 
“‘I am a sowbug and a necrophile,’      810
Said Pretzel, ‘and the gods are growing old;
The stars are singing Golden hair to gray,
Green leaf to yellow leaf,—or chlorophyl
To xanthophyl, to be more scientific,—
So speed me one more stein. You may believe      815
That I’m a mendicant, but I am not:
For though it look to you that I go begging,
The truth is I go giving—giving all
My strength and all my personality,
My wisdom and experience—all myself,      820
To make it final—for your preservation;
Though I be not the one thing or the other,
Though I strike between the sunset and the dawn,
Though I be cliff-rubbed wreckage on the shoals
Of Circumstance,—doubt not that I comprise,      825
Far more than my appearance. Here he comes;
Now drink to good old Pretzel! Drink down Pretzel!
Quousque tandem, Pretzel, and O Lord,
How long! But let regret go hang: the good
Die first, and of the poor did many cease      830
To be. Beethoven after Wordsworth. Prosit!
There were geniuses among the trilobites,
And I suspect that I was one of them.’
“How much of him was earnest and how much
Fantastic, I know not; nor do I need      835
Profounder knowledge to exonerate
The squalor or the folly of a man
Than consciousness—though even the crude laugh
Of indigent Priapus follow it—
That I get good of him. And if you like him,      840
Then some time in the future, past a doubt,
You’ll have him in a book, make metres of him,—
To the great delight of Mr. Killigrew,
And the grief of all your kinsmen. Christian shame
And self-confuted Orientalism      845
For the more sagacious of them; vulture-tracks
Of my Promethean bile for the rest of them;
And that will be a joke. There’s nothing quite
So funny as a joke that’s lost on earth
And laughed at by the gods. Your devil knows it.      850
 
“I come to like your Mr. Killigrew,
And I rejoice that you speak well of him.
The sprouts of human blossoming are in him,
And useful eyes—if he will open them;
But one thing ails the man. He smiles too much.      855
He comes to see me once or twice a week,
And I must tell him that he smiles too much.
If I were Socrates, it would be simple.”
 
Epistle Number Three was longer coming.
I waited for it, even worried for it—      860
Though Killigrew, and of his own free will,
Had written reassuring little scraps
From time to time, and I had valued them
The more for being his. “The Sage,” he said,
“From all that I can see, is doing well—      865
I should say very well. Three meals a day,
Siestas, and innumerable pipes—
Not to the tune of water on the stones,
But rather to the tune of his own Ego,
Which seems to be about the same as God.      870
But I was always weak in metaphysics,
And pray therefore that you be lenient.
I’m going to be married in December,
And I have made a poem that will scan—
So Plunket says. You said the other wouldn’t:      875
 
  “Augustus Plunket, Ph.D.,
    And oh, the Bishop’s daughter;
  A very learned man was he
    And in twelve weeks he got her;
 
  And oh, she was as fair to see      880
  As pippins on the pippin tree …
  Tu, tui, tibi, te,—chubs in the mill water.
 
“Connotative, succinct, and erudite;
Three dots to boot. Now goodman Killigrew
May wind an epic one of these glad years,      885
And after that who knoweth but the Lord—
The Lord of Hosts who is the King of Glory?”
 
Still, when the Captain’s own words were before me,
I seemed to read from them, or into them,
The protest of a mortuary joy      890
Not all substantiating Killigrew’s
Off-hand assurance. The man’s face came back
The while I read them, and that look again,
Which I had seen so often, came back with it.
I do not know that I can say just why,      895
But I felt the feathery touch of something wrong:—
 
“Since last I wrote—and I fear weeks have gone
Too far for me to leave my gratitude
Unuttered for its own acknowledgment—
I have won, without the magic of Amphion      900
Without the songs of Orpheus or Apollo,
The frank regard—and with it, if you like,
The fledged respect—of three quick-footed friends.
(‘Nothing is there more marvelous than man,’
Said Sophocles; and I say after him:      905
‘He traps and captures, all-inventive one,
The light birds and the creatures of the wold,
And in his nets the fishes of the sea.’)
Once they were pictures, painted on the air,
Faint with eternal color, colorless,—      910
But now they are not pictures, they are fowls.
 
“At first they stood aloof and cocked their small,
Smooth, prudent heads at me and made as if,
With a cryptic idiotic melancholy,
To look authoritative and sagacious;      915
But when I tossed a piece of apple to them,
They scattered back with a discord of short squawks
And then came forward with a craftiness
That made me think of Eden. Atropos
Came first, and having grabbed the morsel up,      920
Ran flapping far away and out of sight,
With Clotho and Lachesis hard after her;
But finally the three fared all alike,
And next day I persuaded them with corn.
In a week they came and had it from my fingers      925
And looked up at me while I pinched their bills
And made them sneeze. Count Pretzel’s Carmichael
Had said they were not ordinary birds
At all,—and they are not: they are the Fates,
Foredoomed of their own insufficiency      930
To be assimilated.—Do not think,
Because in my contented isolation
It suits me at this time to be jocose,
That I am nailing reason to the cross,
Or that I set the bauble and the bells      935
Above the crucible; for I do nought,
Say nought, but with an ancient levity
That is the forbear of all earnestness.
 
“The cross, I said.—I had a dream last night:
A dream not like to any other dream      940
That I remember. I was all alone,
Sitting as I do now beneath a tree,
But looking not, as I am looking now,
Against the sunlight. There was neither sun
Nor moon, nor do I think of any stars;      945
Yet there was light, and there were cedar trees,
And there were sycamores. I lay at rest,
Or should have seemed at rest, within a trough
Between two giant roots. A weariness
Was on me, and I would have gone to sleep,      950
But I had not the courage. If I slept,
I feared that I should never wake again;
And if I did not sleep I should go mad,
And with my own dull tools, which I had used
With wretched skill so long, hack out my life.      955
And while I lay there, tortured out of death,
Faint waves of cold, as if the dead were breathing,
Came over me and through me; and I felt
Quick fearful tears of anguish on my face
And in my throat. But soon, and in the distance,      960
Concealed, importunate, there was a sound
Of coming steps,—and I was not afraid;
No, I was not afraid then, I was glad;
For I could feel, with every thought, the Man,
The Mystery, the Child, a footfall nearer.      965
Then, when he stood before me, there was no
Surprise, there was no questioning: I knew him,
As I had known him always; and he smiled.
‘Why are you here?’ he asked; and reaching down,
He took up my dull blades and rubbed his thumb      970
Across the edges of them and then smiled
Once more.—‘I was a carpenter,’ I said,
‘But there was nothing in the world to do.’—
‘Nothing?’ said he.—‘No, nothing,’ I replied.—
‘But are you sure,’ he asked, ‘that you have skill?      975
And are you sure that you have learned your trade?
No, you are not.’—He looked at me and laughed
As he said that; but I did not laugh then,
Although I might have laughed.—‘They are dull,’ said he;
‘They were not very sharp if they were ground;      980
But they are what you have, and they will earn
What you have not. So take them as they are,
Grind them and clean them, put new handles to them,
And then go learn your trade in Nazareth.
Only be sure that you find Nazareth.’—      985
‘But if I starve—what then?’ said I.—He smiled.
 
“Now I call that as curious a dream
As ever Meleager’s mother had,—
Æneas, Alcibiades, or Jacob.
I’ll not except the scientist who dreamed      990
That he was Adam and that he was Eve
At the same time; or yet that other man
Who dreamed that he was Æschylus, reborn
To clutch, combine, compensate, and adjust
The plunging and unfathomable chorus      995
Wherein we catch, like a bacchanale through thunder,
The chanting of the new Eumenides,
Implacable, renascent, farcical,
Triumphant, and American. He did it,
But did it in a dream. When he awoke      1000
One phrase of it remained; one verse of it
Went singing through the remnant of his life
Like a bag-pipe through a mad-house.—He died young,
And if I ponder the small history
That I have gleaned of him by scattered roads,      1005
The more do I rejoice that he died young.
That measure would have chased him all his days,
Defeated him, deposed him, wasted him,
And shrewdly ruined him—though in that ruin
There would have lived, as always it has lived,      1010
In ruin as in failure, the supreme
Fulfilment unexpressed, the rhythm of God
That beats unheard through songs of shattered men
Who dream but cannot sound it.—He declined,
From all that I have ever learned of him,      1015
With absolute good-humor. No complaint,
No groaning at the burden which is light,
No brain-waste of impatience—‘Never mind,’
He whispered, ‘for I might have written Odes.’
 
“Speaking of odes now makes me think of ballads.      1020
Your admirable Mr. Killigrew
Has latterly committed what he calls
A Ballad of London—London ‘Town,’ of course—
And he has wished that I pass judgment on
He says there is a ‘generosity’      1025
About it, and a ‘sympathetic insight;’
And there are strong lines in it, so he says.
But who am I that he should make of me
A judge? You are his friend, and you know best
The measure of his jingle. I am old,      1030
And you are young. Be sure, I may go back
To squeak for you the tunes of yesterday
On my old fiddle—or what’s left of it—
And give you as I’m able a young sound;
But all the while I do it I remain      1035
One of Apollo’s pensioners (and yours),
An usher in the Palace of the Sun,
A candidate for mattocks and trombones
(The brass-band will be indispensable),
A patron of high science, but no critic.      1040
So I shall have to tell him, I suppose,
That I read nothing now but Wordsworth, Pope,
Lucretius, Robert Burns, and William Shakespeare.
Now this is Mr. Killigrew’s performance:
 
  “‘Say, do you go to London Town,      1045
    You with the golden feather?’—
  ‘And if I go to London Town
    With my golden feather?’—
  ‘These autumn roads are bright and brown,
  The season wears a russet crown;      1050
  And if you go to London Town,
    We’ll go down together.’
 
“I cannot say for certain, but I think
The brown bright nightingale was half assuaged
Before your Mr. Killigrew was born.      1055
If I have erred in my chronology,
No matter,—for the feathered man sings now:
 
“‘Yes, I go to London Town’
    (Merrily waved the feather),
  ‘And if you go to London Town,      1060
    Yes, we’ll go together.’
 
  So in the autumn bright and brown,
  Just as the year began to frown,
  All the way to London Town
    Rode the two together.      1065
 
  “‘I go to marry a fair maid’
    (Lightly swung the feather)—
  ‘Pardie, a true and loyal maid’
    (Oh, the swinging feather!)—
  ‘For us the wedding gold is weighed,      1070
  For us the feast will soon be laid;
  We’ll make a gallant show,’ he said,—
    ‘She and I together.’
 
“The feathered man may do a thousand things,
And all go smiling; but the feathered man      1075
May do too much. Now mark how he continues:
 
  “‘And you—you go to London Town?’
    (Breezes waved the feather)—
    ‘Yes, I go to London Town.’
    (Ah, the stinging feather!)—      1080
  ‘Why do you go, my merry blade?
  Like me, to marry a fair maid?’—
  ‘Why do I go? … God knows,’ he said;
    And on they rode together.
 
“Now you have read it through, and you know best      1085
What worth it has. We fellows with gray hair
Who march with sticks to music that is gray
Judge not your vanguard fifing. You are one
To judge; and you will tell me what you think.
Barring the Town, the Fair Maid, and the Feather,      1090
The dialogue and those parentheses,
You cherish it, undoubtedly. ‘Pardie!’
You call it, with a few conservative
Allowances, an excellent small thing
For patient inexperience to do:      1095
Derivative, you say,—still rather pretty.
But what is wrong with Mr. Killigrew?
Is he in love, or has he read Rossetti?—
Forgive me! I am old and garrulous …
When are you coming back to Tilbury Town?”      1100

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