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Poem by John Townsend Trowbridge

Recollections of Lalla Rookh

WHEN we were farm boys, years ago,
I dare not tell how many,
When, strange to say, the fairest day
Was often dark and rainy;

No work, no school, no weeds to pull,
No picking up potatoes,
No copy-page to fill with blots,
With little o's or great O's;

But jokes and stories in the barn
Made quiet fun and frolic;
Draughts, fox-and-geese, and games like these,
Quite simple and bucolic;

Naught else to do, but just to braid
A lash, or sing and whittle,
Or go, perhaps, and set our traps,
If it "held up" a little;

On one of those fine days, for which
We boys were always wishing,
Too wet to sow, or plant, or hoe,
Just right to go a fishing,

I found, not what I went to seek,
In the old farmhouse gable,
Nor line, nor hook, but just a book
That lay there on the table,

Beside my sister's candlestick
(The wick burned to the socket);
A handy book to take to bed,
Or carry in one's pocket.

I tipped the dainty cover back,
With little thought of finding
Anything half so bright within
The red morocco binding;

And let by chance my careless glance
Range over song and story;
When from between the magic leaves
There streamed a sudden glory, 

As from a store of sunlit gems,
Pellucid and prismatic,
That edged with gleams the rough old beams,
And filled the raftered attic.

I stopped to read; I took no heed
Of time or place, or whether
The window-pane was streaked with rain,
Or bright with clearing weather.

Of chore time or of supper-time
I had no thought or feeling;
If calves were bleating to be fed,
Or hungry pigs were squealing.

The tangled web of tale and rhyme,
Enraptured, I unraveled;
By caravan, through Hindostan,
Toward gay Cashmere, I traveled.

Before the gate of Paradise
I pleaded with the Peri;
And even of queer old Fadladeen
I somehow did not weary;

Until a voice called out below:
"Come, boys! the rain is over!
It's time to bring the cattle home!
The lambs are in the clover!"

My dream took flight; but day or night,
It came again, and lingered.
I kept the treasure in my coat,
And many a time I fingered

Its golden leaves among the sheaves
In the long harvest nooning;
Or in my room, till fell the gloom,
And low boughs let the moon in.

About me beamed another world,
Refulgent, oriental;
Life all aglow with poetry,
Or sweetly sentimental.

My hands were filled with common tasks,
My head with rare romances;
My old straw hat was bursting out
With light locks and bright fancies.

In field or wood, my thoughts threw off
The old prosaic trammels;
The sheep were grazing antelopes,
The cows, a train of camels.

Under the shady apple-boughs,
The book was my companion;
And while I read, the orchard spread
One mighty branching banyan.

To mango-trees or almond-groves
Were changed the plums and quinces.
I was the poet, Feramorz,
And had, of course, my Princess.

The well-curb was her canopied,
Rich palanquin; at twilight,
'T was her pavilion overhead,
And not my garret skylight.

Ah, Lalla Rookh! O charmèd book!
First love, in manhood slighted!
To-day we rarely turn the page
In which our youth delighted.

Moore stands upon our shelves to-day,
I fear a trifle dusty;
With Scott, beneath a cobweb wreath,
And Byron, somewhat musty.

But though his orient cloth-of-gold
Is hardly now the fashion,
His tender melodies will live
While human hearts have passion.

The centuries roll; but he has left,
Beside the ceaseless river,
Some flowers of rhyme untouched by Time,
And songs that sing forever.

John Townsend Trowbridge

John Townsend Trowbridge's other poems:
  1. The Old Burying-Ground
  2. Menotomy Lake
  3. The Tragedy Queen
  4. An Idyl of Harvest Time
  5. Filling an Order

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