Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FLIGHT, by CHARLES STUART CALVERLEY

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FLIGHT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: O memory! That which I gave thee
Last Line: And now it has flown.
Subject(s): Jokes

O MEMORY! that which I gave thee
To guard in thy garner yestreen --
Little deeming thou e'er could'st behave thee
Thus basely -- hath gone from thee clean!
Gone, fled, as ere autumn is ended
The yellow leaves flee from the oak --
I have lost it for ever, my splendid
Original joke.

What was it? I know I was brushing
My hair when the notion occurred:
I know that I felt myself blushing
As I thought, "How supremely absurd!
How they'll hammer on floor and on table
As its drollery dawns on them -- how
They will quote it" -- I wish I were able
To quote it just now.

I had thought to lead up conversation
To the subject -- it's easily done --
Then let off, as an airy creation
Of the moment, that masterly pun.
Let it off, with a flash like a rocket's;
In the midst of a dazzled conclave,
Where I sat, with my hands in my pockets,
The only one grave.

I had fancied young Titterton's chuckles,
And old Bottleby's hearty guffaws
As he drove at my ribs with his knuckles,
His mode of expressing applause:
While Jean Bottleby -- queenly Miss Janet --
Drew her handkerchief hastily out,
In fits at my slyness -- what can it
Have all been about?

I know 'twas the happiest, quaintest
Combination of pathos and fun:
But I've got no idea -- the faintest --
Of what was the actual pun.
I think it was somehow connected
With something I'd recently read --
Or heard -- or perhaps recollected
On going to bed.

What had I been reading? The Standard:
"Double Bigamy;" "Speech of the Mayor."
And later -- eh? yes! I meandered
Through some chapters of Vanity Fair.
How it fuses the grave with the festive!
Yet e'en there, there is nothing so fine --
So playfully, subtly suggestive --
As that joke of mine.

Did it hinge upon "parting asunder?"
No, I don't part my hair with my brush.
Was the point of it "hair"? Now I wonder!
Stop a bit -- I shall think of it -- hush!
There's hare, a wild animal -- Stuff!
It was something a deal more recondite:
Of that I am certain enough;
And of nothing beyond it.

Hair -- locks! There are probably many
Good things to be said about those.
Give me time -- that's the best guess of any --
"Lock" has several meanings, one knows.
Iron locks -- iron-gray locks -- a "deadlock" --
That would set up an everyday wit:
Then of course there's the obvious "wedlock;"
But that wasn't it.

No! mine was a joke for the ages;
Full of intricate meaning and pith;
A feast for your scholars and sages --
How it would have rejoiced Sidney Smith!
'Tis such thoughts that ennoble a mortal
And, singling him out from the herd,
Fling wide immortality's portal --
But what was the word?

Ah me! 'tis a bootless endeavour.
As the flight of a bird of the air
Is the flight of a joke -- you will never
See the same one again, you may swear.
'Twas my firstborn, and O how I prized it!
My darling, my treasure, my own!
This brain and none other devised it --
And now it has flown.

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