Verse > Anthologies > Fuess and Stearns, eds. > The Little Book of Society Verse
Fuess and Stearns, comps.  The Little Book of Society Verse.  1922.
By Austin Dobson
“Si jeunesse savait?—”

I PLUNGE my hand among the leaves:
(An alien touch but dust perceives,
    Nought else supposes;)
For me those fragrant ruins raise
Clear memory of the vanished days        5
    When they were roses.
“If youth but knew!” Ah, “if,” in truth?—
I can recall with what gay youth,
    To what light chorus,
Unsobered yet by time or change,        10
We roamed the many-gabled Grange,
    All life before us;
Braved the old clock-tower’s dust and damp
To catch the dim Arthurian camp
    In misty distance;        15
Peered at the still-room’s sacred stores,
Or rapped at walls for sliding doors
    Of feigned existence.
What need had we for thoughts or cares!
The hot sun parched the old parterres        20
    And “flowerful closes”;
We roused the rooks with rounds and glees,
Played hide-and-seek behind the trees,—
    Then plucked these roses.
Louise was one—light, glib Louise,        25
So freshly freed from school decrees
    You scarce could stop her;
And Bell, the Beauty, unsurprised
At fallen locks that scandalized
    Our dear “Miss Proper:”—        30
Shy Ruth, all heart and tenderness,
Who wept—like Chaucer’s Prioress,
    When Dash was smitten;
Who blushed before the mildest men,
Yet waxed a very Corday when        35
    You teased her kitten.
I loved them all. Bell first and best;
Louise the next—for days of jest
    Or madcap masking;
And Ruth, I thought,—why, failing these,        40
When my High-Mightiness should please,
    She’d come for asking.
Louise was grave when last we met;
Bell’s beauty, like a sun, has set;
    And Ruth, Heaven bless her,        45
Ruth that I wooed,—and wooed in vain,
Has gone where neither grief nor pain
    Can now distress her.

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