In a home that reeks of tar and sperm-oil!
But at intervals she thinks, I know,
Of those days which we, afar from turmoil,
Spent together forty years ago.
O my earliest love, still unforgotten,
With your downcast eyes of dreamy blue!
Never, somehow, could I seem to cotton
To another as I did to you!
As o’er the hill we roam’d at will,
My dog and I together,
We mark’d a chaise, by two bright bays
Slow-moved along the heather:
Two bays arch neck’d, with tails erect
And gold upon their blinkers;
And by their side an ass I spied;
It was a travelling tinker’s.
The chaise went by, nor aught cared I;
Such things are not in my way:
I turn’d me to the tinker, who
Was loafing down a by-way:
I ask’d him where he lived—a stare
Was all I got in answer,
As on he trudged: I rightly judged
The stare said, “Where I can, sir.”
I ask’d him if he’d take a whiff
Of ’bacco; he acceded;
He grew communicative too,
(A pipe was all he needed,)
Till of the tinker’s life, I think,
I knew as much as he did.
“I loiter down by thorp and town;
For any job I’m willing;
Take here and there a dusty brown,
And here and there a shilling.
“I deal in every ware in turn,
I’ve rings for buddin’ Sally
That sparkle like those eyes of her’n;
I’ve liquor for the valet.
“I steal from th’ parson’s strawberry-plots,
I hide by th’ squire’s covers;
I teach the sweet young housemaids what’s
The art of trapping lovers.
“The things I’ve done ’neath moon
Have got me into messes:
I’ve seen the sky through prison bars.
I’ve torn up prison dresses.
“I’ve sat, I’ve sigh’d, I’ve
gloom’d, I’ve glanced
With envy at the swallows
That through the window slid, and danced
(Quite happy) round the gallows;
“But out again I come, and show
My face nor care a stiver
For trades are brisk and trades are slow,
But mine goes on for ever.”
Thus on he prattled like a babbling brook.
Then I, “The sun hath slipt behind the hill,
And my aunt Vivian dines at half-past six.”
So in all love we parted; I to the Hall,
They to the village. It was noised next noon
That chickens had been miss’d at Syllabub Farm.
They tell me I am beautiful: they praise my
My little feet that silently slip on from stair to stair:
They praise my pretty trustful face and innocent grey eye;
Fond hands caress me oftentimes, yet would that I might die!
Why was I born to be abhorr’d of man and bird and beast? The bulfinch marks me stealing by, and straight his song hath ceased; The shrewmouse eyes me shudderingly, then flees; and, worse than that, The housedog he flees after me—why was I born a cat?