Why are ye wandering aye ’twixt
porch and porch,
Thou and thy fellow—when the pale stars fade
At dawn, and when the glowworm lights her torch,
O Beadle of the Burlington Arcade?
—Who asketh why the Beautiful was made?
A wan cloud drifting o’er the waste of blue,
The thistledown that floats above the glade,
The lilac-blooms of April—fair to view,
And naught but fair are these; and such, I ween, are you.
Yes, ye are beautiful. The
young street boys
Joy in your beauty. Are ye there to bar
Their pathway to that paradise of toys,
Ribbons and rings? Who’ll blame ye if ye are?
Surely no shrill and clattering crowd should mar
The dim aisle’s stillness, where in noon’s mid-glow
Trip fair-hair’d girls to boot-shop or bazaar;
Where, at soft eve, serenely to and fro
The sweet boy-graduates walk, nor deem the pastime slow.
And O! forgive me, Beadles, if I
Scant tribute to your worth, when first ye stood
Before me robed in broadcloth and brocade
And all the nameless grace of Beadlehood!
I would not smile at ye—if smile I could
Now as erewhile, ere I had learn’d to sigh:
Ah, no! I know ye beautiful and good,
And evermore will pause as I pass by,
And gaze, and gazing think, how base a thing am I.
“O come, O come,” the mother pray’d
And hush’d her babe: “let me behold
Once more thy stately form array’d
Like autumn woods in green and gold!
“I see thy brethren come and go;
Thy peers in stature, and in hue
Thy rivals. Same like monarchs glow
With richest purple: some are blue
“As skies that tempt the swallow back;
Or red as, seen o’er wintry seas,
The star of storm; or barr’d with black
And yellow, like the April bees.
“Come they and go! I heed not, I.
Yet others hail their advent, cling
All trustful to their side, and fly
Safe in their gentle piloting
“To happy homes on heath or hill,
By park or river. Still I wait
And peer into the darkness: still
Thou com’st not—I am desolate.
“Hush! hark! I see a towering form!
From the dim distance slowly roll’d
It rocks like lilies in a storm,
And O, its hues are green and gold:
“It comes, it comes! Ah rest is sweet,
And there is rest, my babe, for us!”
She ceased, as at her very feet
Stopp’d the St. John’s Wood omnibus.
Play, play, while as yet it is day:
While the sweet sunlight is warm on the brae!
Hark to the lark singing lay upon lay,
While the brown squirrel eats nuts on the spray
And in the apple-leaves chatters the jay!
Play, play, even as they!
What though the cowslips ye pluck will decay,
What though the grass will be presently hay?
What though the noise that ye make should dismay
Old Mrs. Clutterbuck over the way?
Play, play, for your locks will grow gray;
Even the marbles ye sport with are clay.