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Frederick Locker-Lampson (Фредерик Локер-Лэмпсон)

The Old Clerk

We knew an old Clerk, it was “once on time”,
   An era to set sober datists despairing;
Then let them despair!—Darby sat in a chair
   Near a cross that takes name from the village of Charing.

Though silent and lean, Darby was not morose,
   What hair he had left was more silver than sable,
His feet had begun to turn up at the toes,
   From constantly being curled under a table.

His pay and expenditure, quite in accord,
   Were both on the strictest economy founded;
His rulers, in conclave, were known as the Board,
   His rulers were sticks of mahogany rounded.

In his heart he looked down on this dignified knot,—
   For why, the forefather of one of these senators,
A rascal concern’d in the Gunpowder Plot,
   Had been barber-surgeon to Darby’s progenitors.

Poor fool! to resent the caprices of Luck.
   Still, a long thirty years (it was rather degrading)
He’d been writing despatches,—which means he had stuck
   Some heads and some tails to much rhodomontading.

This sounds rather weary and dreary; but, no!
   Though strictly inglorious, his days were quiescent,
And his red-tape was tied in a true-lover’s bow
   Each night when returning to Rosemary Crescent.

There Joan meets him smiling, the young ones are there,
   His coming is bliss to the half-dozen wee things;
Of his advent the dog and the cat are aware,
   And Phyllis, neat handed, is laying the tea-things.

This greeting the silent old Clerk understands.
   Now his friends he can love, had he foes, he could mock them;
So met, so surrounded, his bosom expands,—
   Some tongues have more need of such scenes to unlock them.

And Darby, at least, is resign’d to his lot,
   And Joan (rather proud of the sphere he’s adorning)
Has well-nigh forgotten that Gunpowder Plot,
   And he won’t recall it till ten the next morning.

A time must arrive when, in pitiful case,
   He will drop from his Branch like a fruit more than mellow:
Is he still to be found in his usual place?
   Or is he already forgotten, poor fellow?

If still at his duty, he soon will arrive,—
   He passes this turning, because it is shorter,—
If not within sight as the clock’s striking five,
   We shall see him before it is chiming the quarter.

Frederick Locker-Lampson's other poems:
  1. The Widow’s Mite
  2. The Cradle
  3. The Russet Pitcher
  4. A Word That Makes Us Linger
  5. O Tempora Mutantur!

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