I had thought to lead up conversation
To the subject—it’s easily done —
Then let off, as an airy creation
Of the moment, that masterly pun.
Let it off, with a flash like a rocket’s;
In the midst of a dazzled conclave,
Where I sat, with my hands in my pockets,
The only one grave.
I had fancied young Titterton’s chuckles,
And old Bottleby’s hearty guffaws
As he drove at my ribs with his knuckles,
His mode of expressing applause:
While Jean Bottleby—queenly Miss Janet —
Drew her handkerchief hastily out,
In fits at my slyness—what can it
Have all been about?
I know ’twas the happiest, quaintest
Combination of pathos and fun:
But I’ve got no idea—the faintest —
Of what was the actual pun.
I think it was somehow connected
With something I’d recently read —
Or heard—or perhaps recollected
On going to bed.
What had I been reading? The Standard:
“Double Bigamy;” “Speech of the Mayor.”
And later—eh? yes! I meandered
Through some chapters of Vanity Fair.
How it fuses the grave with the festive!
Yet e’en there, there is nothing so fine —
So playfully, subtly suggestive —
As that joke of mine.
Did it hinge upon “parting asunder?”
No, I don’t part my hair with my brush.
Was the point of it “hair?” Now I wonder!
Stop a bit—I shall think of it—hush!
There’s Hare, a wild animal—Stuff!
It was something a deal more recondite:
Of that I am certain enough;
And of nothing beyond it.
Hair—locks! There are probably
Good things to be said about those.
Give me time—that’s the best guess of any —
“Lock” has several meanings, one knows.
Iron locks—iron-gray locks—a “deadlock” —
That would set up an everyday wit:
Then of course there’s the obvious “wedlock;”
But that wasn’t it.
No! mine was a joke for the ages;
Full of intricate meaning and pith;
A feast for your scholars and sages —
How it would have rejoiced Sidney Smith!
’Tis such thoughts that ennoble a mortal;
And, singing him out from the herd,
Fling wide immortality’s portal —
But what was the word?
Ah me! ’tis a bootless endeavour.
As the flight of a bird of the air
Is the flight of a joke—you will never
See the same one again, you may swear.
’Twas my firstborn, and O how I prized it!
My darling, my treasure, my own!
This brain and none other devised it —
And now it has flown.
When the young Augustus Edward
Has reluctantly gone bedward
(He’s the urchin I am privileged to teach),
From my left-hand waistcoat pocket
I extract a batter’d locket
And I commune with it, walking on the beach.