Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FAMILIAR EPISTLE TO A LITTLE BOY, by WILLIAM ALLINGHAM



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

FAMILIAR EPISTLE TO A LITTLE BOY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I must own, my dear sonny, 'tis likely but few
Last Line: —look me up in the year nineteen-hundred-and-one.
Alternate Author Name(s): Pollex, D.; Walker, Patricius
Subject(s): Angels; Death; Fathers & Sons; Heaven; Memory; Dead, The; Paradise


I must own, my dear Sonny, 'tis likely but few
Will care for this book; but I count upon you
For one reader, and hope you'll find something to please
And nothing to plague you in verses like these.
You've already a much truer taste in poetics
Than many grown-up folk, and some famous critics;
An 'ear,' which you have, is essential; but this
The people most lacking it can't even miss.
O give me the young! And at least you'll be mine;
You'll sometimes remember a song or a line
As the years travel round, as new mornings arise,
New sunsets draw softly away from the skies,
Like the old ones I saw? When your life-wheel shall bring
The freshness, the flutter, the ripple of Spring,
And Summer's broad glow, and grave Autumn bedight
In his tarnish'd gold russet; then bareness and white,
And the clasp of sweet home in the long Winter's night,
With their moods and their fancies;—'As I feel, he felt,'
Perhaps you will say, 'and was able to melt
Life's crudeness and strangeness, some part, into song,
For his soothing and mine.' Dearest Gerald, so long
As a ghost may keep earth round him (not meaning clay)
This will soothe too, to fancy 'Perhaps he will say.'
Nor will that ghost be happy unless he may know
Your footsteps have wander'd where his used to go
In the young time and song-time—among those green hills
And gray mossy rocks, and swift-flowing rills,
On mountain, by river and wave-trampled shore,
Where the wild region nourish'd the poet it bore,
And colour'd his mind with its shadows and gleams.
That lonely west coast was the house of his dreams
And his visions,—O Future and Past that combine
At a point ever shifting and flitting, to shine
In the spark of the Present! Old stories re-sown
Sprang to life once again, became part of my own,
Like 'mummy-wheat' sprouting in little home-croft;
The Ladder for Angels—it slanted aloft
From our meadow; the Star in the East hung on high
Where Fermanagh spreads dark to the midwinter sky;
And the Last Triumph sounded o'er Mullinashee
With its graves old and new. And now tenderly, see,
They glide forward, and gaily, the sweet shapes of Greece,
All natives and neighbours, for wonders don't cease;
Shy Dryads come peeping in Woody Corlay,
And surge-lifted Nereids in Donegal Bay.
Olympus lay south, where the mists meet and melt
Upon Truskar. My Helicon, drought never felt;
It was Tubbernaveka, that deep cressy well.
A goddess-nymph kiss'd my boy-lips if I fell
Into slumber at Pan's hour in fragrant June grass;
Processions of helmeted heroes would pass
In the twilight; I saw the white robes of the bard
With his lyre. But the harp whose clear music I heard
Was Irish, and Erin could also unfold
Her songs and her dreams and her stories of old.
See Ireland, dear Sonny! my nurture was there;
And my song-gift, for which you at least are to care,
Took colours and flavours unfitted for vogue
(With a tinge of the shamrock, a touch of the brogue
Unconsciously mingling and threading through all)
On that wild verge of Europe, in dark Donegal.
—'Dark,' did I say!—Is there sunshine elsewhere?
Such brightness of grass, such glory of air,
Such a sea rolling in on such sands, a blue joy
Of more mystical mountains?
O eyes of the Boy!
O heart of the Boy! newly waken'd from sleep.
Might I sleep again, MASTER, long slumber and deep,
To wake rested!
But go there, my Gerald, this book
In your pocket, with fresh heart and eyes take a look,
At the poor lonely region,—ah, where will you see
The heavenly enchantment that wrapt it for me?
In any case, Laddie, I trust you will be as
Good son as was formerly pious Æneas,
Will carry your Daddie the poet right through
This house-afire Present and hullabaloo,
And, going on calmly when forward you've bent your eye,
Set him down safe in the Twentieth Century.
Strange feels that no-when! I shiver at sight
Of a realm like the North Pole, of icefields and night!
Can the world and old England be yet living on?
Our Big-Wigs and Earwigs, O where are they gone?
Nay, courage! methinks one may feel more at home
By degrees there: a sweet chilly breath seems to come,
Like new Spring's from the Future. It won't be so bad;
In fact, I believe it will suit me, my lad!
We travel to new things in time as in space,
And escape out of habitude's bonds that embrace
And enjail us; we win change of air for our thought,
And that same with restorative virtue is fraught.
Though knaves, fools and humbugs no doubt there will be,
They won't be the same we're accustom'd to see
And be plagued with. 'Tis thinking about them offends;
But the new can't take hold. Nay, respectable friends
Often bore us—the crowd of relations, connections,
Conditions, traditions, and foolish subjections;
(Small wonder if people run sometimes away,
'Without any reason,' as dull neighbours say,
Who themselves are the reason, with all the routine
One got sick of!)—Hurrah! change of air! change of scene!
'Number Twenty will have its own Poets, be sure,
Its own Judges'—I hope so: do fashions endure?
They flow, eddy, try back, as one often has found;
And a thing out of favour—its turn may come round;
Dear Public may long for the simple and plain
For a change,—sounder appetite waking again,
Or perhaps from a hot queasy stomach's sensations
Demanding cool drinks after fiery potations.
Why care? Just because there are people, a few,
Scatter'd up and down space (perhaps more, if we knew)
Whom a flying word reaches, a force yet more subtle
And swift than the ether's electrical shuttle,
All-weaving; a shaft thrilling muscle and marrow,
Or lighting as softly as thistle-seed arrow,
To comfort, to kindle, to help, to delight;
And our brave English speech has a far-reaching flight
(Though what may become of it soon there's no tellin
With novel and newspaper, slang and misspelling),—
A mere little Song—Yes, one's hardly content
To think one's fine impulses, efforts, misspent,
All the hopes and sweet fancies but blossom and cloud
Of an old merry Maytime, long stretch'd in its shroud.
But enough to this tune. So cushla-ma-chree
(As my nurse used to say), and dear Reader to be,
Garait óg, may God bless thee, my own little Son!
—Look me up in the year Nineteen-hundred-and-one.




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