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Poem by Alfred Tennyson

The Cock

Will Waterproofs Lyrical Monologue

O PLUMP head-waiter at The Cock,
  To which I most resort,
How goes the time? T is five oclock.
  Go fetch a pint of port:
But let it not be such as that
  You set before chance-comers,
But such whose father-grape grew fat
  On Lusitanian summers.

No vain libation to the Muse,
  But may she still be kind,
And whisper lovely words, and use
  Her influence on the mind,
To make me write my random rhymes,
  Ere they be half forgotten;
Nor add and alter, many times,
  Till all be ripe and rotten.

I pledge her, and she comes and dips
  Her laurel in the wine,
And lays it thrice upon my lips,
  These favored lips of mine;
Until the charm have power to make
  New lifeblood warm the bosom,
And barren commonplaces break
  In full and kindly blossom.

I pledge her silent at the board;
  Her gradual fingers steal
And touch upon the master-chord
  Of all I felt and feel.
Old wishes, ghosts of broken plans,
  And phantom hopes assemble;
And that childs heart within the mans
  Begins to move and tremble.

Through many an hour of summer suns,
  By many pleasant ways,
Against its fountain upward runs
  The current of my days:
I kiss the lips I once have kissed;
  The gas-light wavers dimmer;
And softly, through a vinous mist,
  My college friendships glimmer.

I grow in worth and wit and sense,
  Unboding critic-pen,
Or that eternal want of pence
  Which vexes public men,
Who hold their hands to all, and cry
  For that which all deny them,
Who sweep the crossings, wet or dry,
  And all the world go by them.

Ah yet, though all the world forsake,
  Though fortune clip my wings,	
I will not cramp my heart, nor take
  Half-views of men and things.
Let Whig and Tory stir their blood;
  There must be stormy weather;
But for some true result of good
  All parties work together.

Let there be thistles, there are grapes;
  If old things, there are new;
Ten thousand broken lights and shapes,
  Yet glimpses of the true.
Let raffs be rife in prose and rhyme,
  We lack not rhymes and reasons,
As on this whirligig of Time
  We circle with the seasons.

This earth is rich in man and maid;
  With fair horizons bound:
This whole wide earth of light and shade
  Comes out, a perfect round.
High over roaring Temple Bar,
  And, set in Heavens third story,
I look at all things as they are,
  But through a kind of glory.

Head-waiter, honored by the guest
  Half-mused or reeling ripe,
The pint you brought me was the best
  That ever came from pipe.
But though the port surpasses praise,
  My nerves have dealt with stiffer.
Is there some magic in the place?
  Or do my peptics differ?

For since I came to live and learn,
  No pint of white or red
Had ever half the power to turn
  This wheel within my head,
Which bears a seasoned brain about,
  Unsubject to confusion,
Though soaked and saturate, out and out,
  Through every convolution.

For I am of a numerous house,
  With many kinsmen gay,
Where long and largely we carouse
  As who shall say me nay:
Each month, a birthday coming on,
  We drink defying trouble,
Or sometimes two would meet in one,
  And then we drank it double;

Whether the vintage, yet unkept,
  Had relish fiery-new;
Or, elbow-deep in sawdust, slept,
  As old as Waterloo;
Or stowed (when classic Canning died)
  In musty bins and chambers,
Had cast upon its crusty side
  The gloom of ten Decembers.

The Muse, the jolly Muse, it is!
  She answered to my call,
She changes with that mood or this,
  Is all-in-all to all:
She lit the spark within my throat,
  To make my blood run quicker,	
Used all her fiery will, and smote
  Her life into the liquor.

And hence this halo lives about
  The waiters hands, that reach
To each his perfect pint of stout,
  His proper chop to each.
He looks not like the common breed
  That with the napkin dally;
I think he came, like Ganymede,
  From some delightful valley.

The Cock was of a larger egg
  Than modern poultry drop,
Stept forward on a firmer leg,
  And crammed a plumper crop;
Upon an ampler dunghill trod,
  Crowed lustier late and early,
Sipt wine from silver, praising God,
  And raked in golden barley.

A private life was all his joy,
  Till in a court he saw
A something-pottle-bodied boy,
  That knuckled at the taw:
He stooped and clutched him, fair and good,
  Flew over roof and casement:
His brothers of the weather stood
  Stock-still for sheer amazement.

But he, by farmstead, thorpe, and spire,
  And followed with acclaims,
A sign to many a staring shire,
  Came crowing over Thames.
Right down by smoky Pauls they bore,
  Till, where the street grows straiter,
One fixed forever at the door,
  And one became head-waiter.

But whither would my fancy go?
  How out of place she makes
The violet of a legend blow
  Among the chops and steaks!
T is but a steward of the can,
  One shade more plump than common;
As just and mere a serving-man
  As any, born of woman.

I ranged too high: what draws me down
  Into the common day?
Is it the weight of that half-crown
  Which I shall have to pay?
For, something duller than at first,
  Nor wholly comfortable,
I sit (my empty glass reversed),
  And thrumming on the table:

Half fearful that, with self at strife,
  I take myself to task;
Lest of the fulness of my life
  I leave an empty flask:
For I had hope, by something rare,
  To prove myself a poet:
But, while I plan and plan, my hair
  Is gray before I know it.

So fares it since the years began,
  Till they be gathered up;
The truth, that flies the flowing can,
  Will haunt the vacant cup:
And others follies teach us not,
  Nor much their wisdom teaches;
And most, of sterling worth, is what
  Our own experience preaches.

Ah, let the rusty theme alone!
  We know not what we know.
But for my pleasant hour, t is gone,
  T is gone, and let it go.
T is gone: a thousand such have slipt
  Away from my embraces,
And fallen into the dusty crypt
  Of darkened forms and faces.

Go, therefore, thou! thy betters went
  Long since, and came no more;
With peals of genial clamor sent
  From many a tavern-door,
With twisted quirks and happy hits,
  From misty men of letters;
The tavern-hours of mighty wits,
  Thine elders and thy betters.

Hours, when the poets words and looks
  Had yet their native glow:
Nor yet the fear of little books
  Had made him talk for show;
But, all his vast heart sherris-warmed,
  He flashed his random speeches;
Ere days, that deal in ana, swarmed
  His literary leeches.

So mix forever with the past,
  Like all good things on earth!
For should I prize thee, couldst thou last,
  At half thy real worth?
I hold it good, good things should pass:
  With time I will not quarrel:
It is but yonder empty glass
  That makes me maudlin-moral.

Head-waiter of the chop-house here,
  To which I most resort,
I too must part: I hold thee dear
  For this good pint of port.
For this, thou shalt from all things suck
  Marrow of mirth and laughter;
And, wheresoeer thou move, good luck
  Shall fling her old shoe after.

But thou wilt never move from hence,
  The sphere thy fate allots:
Thy latter days increased with pence
  Go down among the pots:
Thou battenest by the greasy gleam
  In haunts of hungry sinners,
Old boxes, larded with the steam
  Of thirty thousand dinners.

We fret, we fume, would shift our skins,
  Would quarrel with our lot;
Thy care is, under polished tins,
  To serve the hot-and-hot;
To come and go, and come again,
  Returning like the pewit,
And watched by silent gentlemen,
  That trifle with the cruet.

Live long, ere from thy topmost head
  The thick-set hazel dies;
Long, ere the hateful crow shall tread
  The corners of thine eyes:
Live long, nor feel in head or chest
  Our changeful equinoxes,
Till mellow Death, like some late guest,
  Shall call thee from the boxes.

But when he calls, and thou shalt cease
  To pace the gritted floor,
And, laying down an unctuous lease
  Of life, shalt earn no more;
No carvéd cross-bones, the types of Death,
  Shall show thee past to heaven:
But carvéd cross-pipes, and, underneath,
  A pint-pot, neatly graven.

Alfred Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson's other poems:
  1. In the Valley of Cauteretz
  2. The Lord of Burleigh
  3. O True and Tried
  4. Epitaph on General Gordon
  5. Beautiful City

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