Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
Alma Mater
By Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch (1863–1944)
KNOW you her secret none can utter?
  —Hers of the Book, the tripled Crown?
Still on the spire the pigeons flutter;
  Still by the gateway haunts the gown;
Still on the street from corbel and gutter,        5
  Faces of stone look down.
Faces of stone, and other faces—
  Some from library windows wan
Forth on her gardens, her green spaces,
  Peer and turn to their books anon.        10
Hence, my Muse, from the green oases
  Gather the tent, begone!
Nay, should she by the pavement linger
  Under the rooms where once she play’d,
Who from the feast would rise and fling her        15
  One poor sou for her serenade?
One poor laugh for the antic finger
  Thrumming a lute-string fray’d?
Once, my dear,—but the world was young, then—
  Magdalen elms and Trinity limes—        20
Lissom the blades and the backs that swung then,
  Eight good men in the good old times—
Careless we, and the chorus flung then
  Under St. Mary’s chimes!
Reins lay loose and the ways led random—        25
  Christ Church meadow and Iffley track—
‘Idleness horrid and dogcart’ (tandem)—
  Aylesbury grind and Bicester pack—
Pleasant our lines, and faith! we scann’d ’em;
  Having that artless knack.        30
Come, old limmer, the times grow colder:
  Leaves of the creeper redden and fall.
Was it a hand then clapp’d my shoulder?
  —Only the wind by the chapel wall.
Dead leaves drift on the lute: so … fold her        35
  Under the faded shawl.
Never we wince, though none deplore us,
  We, who go reaping that we sow’d;
Cities at cock-crow wake before us—
  Hey, for the lilt of the London road!        40
One look back and a rousing chorus!
  Never a palinode!
Still on her spire the pigeons hover;
  Still by her gateway haunts the gown.
Ah, but her secret? You, young lover,        45
  Drumming her old ones forth from town,
Know you the secret none discover?
  Tell it—when you go down.
Yet if at length you seek her, prove her,
  Lean to her whispers never so nigh;        50
Yet if at last not less her lover
  You in your hansom leave the High;
Down from her towers a ray shall hover,
  Touch you—a passer-by!

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