THE TWO VISITS,
("Dispersal Areas, 10a, 10b, 10c—Crystal Palace.”)
It was, I think, in ’88
That Luck or Providence or Fate
Assumed the more material state
Of Aunt (or Great-Aunt) Alice,
And took (the weather being fine,
And Bill, the eldest, only nine)
Three of us by the Brighton line
To see the Crystal Palace.
Observe us, then, an eager four
Advancing on the Western Door,
Or possibly the Northern, or—
Well, anyhow, advancing;
Aunt Alice bending from the hips,
And Bill in little runs and trips,
And John with frequent hops and skips,
While I was fairly dancing.
Aunt Alice pays; the turnstile clicks,
And with the happy crowds we mix
To gaze upon—well, I was six,
Say, getting on for seven;
And, looking back on it to-day,
The memories have passed away—
I find that I can only say
(Roughly) to gaze on heaven.
Heaven it was which came to pass
Within those magic walls of glass
(Though William, like a silly ass,
Had lost my bag of bull’s-eyes).
The wonders of that wonder-hall!
The—all the things I can’t recall,
And, dominating over all,
The statues, more than full-size.
Adam and Niobe were there,
Disraeli much the worse for wear,
Samson before he’d cut his hair,
Lord Byron and Apollo;
A female group surrounded by
A camel (though I don’t know why)—
And all of them were ten feet high
And all, I think, were hollow.
These gods looked down on us and smiled
To see how utterly a child
By simple things may be beguiled
To happiness and laughter;
It warmed their kindly hearts to see
The joy of Bill and John and me
From ten to lunch, from lunch to tea,
From tea to six or after.
That evening, when the day was dead,
They tucked a babe of six in bed,
Arranged the pillows for his head,
And saw the lights were shaded;
Too sleepy for the Good-night kiss
His only conscious thought was this:
“No man shall ever taste the bliss
That I this blessed day did.”
When one is six one cannot tell;
And John, who at the Palace fell
A victim to the Blondin Belle,
Is wedded to another;
And I, my intimates allow,
Have lost the taste for bull’s-eyes now,
And baldness decorates the brow
Of Bill, our elder brother.
Well, more than thirty years have passed...
But all the same on Thursday last
My heart was beating just as fast
Within that Hall of Wonder;
My bliss was every bit as great
As what it was in ’88—
Impossible to look sedate
Or keep my feelings under.
The gods of old still gazed upon
The scene where, thirty years agone,
The lines of Bill and me and John
Were cast in pleasant places;
And “Friends,” I murmured, “what’s the odds
If you are rather battered gods?
This is no time for Ichabods