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Poem by Frederick Locker-Lampson
Phœbe, the Nymph of the Well
SHE smiled as she gave him a draught from the springlet,— Tunbridge, thy waters are bitter, alas! But love finds an ambush in dimple and ringlet; “Thy health, pretty maiden!”—He emptied the glass. He saw, and he loved her, nor cared he to quit her; The oftener he came, why the longer he stayed; Indeed, though the spring was exceedingly bitter, We found him eternally pledging the maid. A preux chevalier, and but lately a cripple, He met with his hurt where a regiment fell, But worse was he wounded when staying to tipple A bumper to “Phœbe, the Nymph of the Well.” Some swore he was old, that his laurels were faded, All vowed she was vastly too nice for a nurse; But Love never looks on the matter as they did, She took the brave soldier for better or worse. And here is the home of her fondest election,— The walls may be worn, but the ivy is green; And here she has tenderly twined her affection Around a true soldier who bled for the Queen. See, yonder he sits, where the church-bells invite us; What child is that spelling the epitaphs there? ’T is the joy of his age, and may fate so requite us When time shall have broken, or sickness, or care. Erelong, ay, too soon, a sad concourse will darken The doors of that church and that peaceful abode; His place then no longer will know him,—but hearken, The widow and orphan appeal to their God. Much peace will be hers. “If our lot must be lowly, Resemble the father who ’s with us no more”; And only on days that are high or are holy, She ’ll show him the cross that her warrior wore. So taught, he will rather take after his father, And wear a long sword to our enemies’ loss; And some day or other he ’ll bring to his mother Victoria’s gift,—the Victoria Cross! And still she ’ll be charming, though ringlet and dimple Perhaps may have lost their peculiar spell; And often she ’ll quote, with complacency simple, The compliments paid to the Nymph of the Well. And then will her darling, like all good and true ones, Console and sustain her,—the weak and the strong; And some day or other two black eyes or blue ones Will smile on his path as he journeys along. Wherever they win him, whoever his Phœbe, Of course of all beauty she must be the belle,— If at Tunbridge he chance to fall in with a Hebe, He will not fall out with a draught from the well.
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