In The Royal Academy.

A poem by Henry Austin Dobson

HUGH (on furlough).
HELEN (his cousin).


HELEN.

They have not come! And ten is past,--
Unless, by chance, my watch is fast;
--Aunt Mabel surely told us "ten."

HUGH.

I doubt if she can do it, then.
In fact, their train....

HELEN.

That is,--you knew.
How could you be so treacherous, Hugh?

HUGH.

Nay;--it is scarcely mine, the crime,
One can't account for railway-time!
Where shall we sit? Not here, I vote;--
At least, there's nothing here of note.

HELEN.

Then here we'll stay, please. Once for all,
I bar all artists,--great and small!
From now until we go in June
I shall hear nothing but this tune:--
Whether I like Long's "Vashti," or
Like Leslie's "Naughty Kitty" more;
With all that critics, right or wrong,
Have said of Leslie and of Long....
No. If you value my esteem,
I beg you'll take another theme;
Paint me some pictures, if you will,
But spare me these, for good and ill....

HUGH.

"Paint you some pictures!" Come, that's kind!
You know I'm nearly colour-blind.

HELEN.

Paint then, in words. You did before;
Scenes at--where was it? Dustypoor?
You know....

HUGH (with an inspiration).

I'll try.

HELEN.

But mind they're pretty
Not "hog hunts." ...

HUGH.

You shall be Committee,
And say if they are "out" or "in."

HELEN.

I shall reject them all. Begin.

HUGH.

Here is the first. An antique Hall
(Like Chanticlere) with panelled wall.
A boy, or rather lad. A girl,
Laughing with all her rows of pearl
Before a portrait in a ruff.
He meanwhile watches....

HELEN.

That's enough,
It wants "verve," "brio," "breadth," "design," ...
Besides, it's English. I decline.

HUGH.

This is the next. 'Tis finer far:
A foaming torrent (say Braemar).
A pony, grazing by a boulder,
Then the same pair, a little older,
Left by some lucky chance together.
He begs her for a sprig of heather....

HELEN.

--"Which she accords with smile seraphic."
I know it,--it was in the "Graphic."
Declined.

HUGH.

Once more, and I forego
All hopes of hanging, high or low:
Behold the hero of the scene,
In bungalow and palankeen....

HELEN.

What!--all at once! But that's absurd;--
Unless he's Sir Boyle Roche's bird!

HUGH.

Permit me--'Tis a Panorama,
In which the person of the drama,
Mid orientals dusk and tawny,
Mid warriors drinking brandy pawnee,
Mid scorpions, dowagers, and griffins,
In morning rides, at noon-day tiffins,
In every kind of place and weather,
Is solaced ... by a sprig of heather.

(More seriously.)

He puts that faded scrap before
The "Rajah," or the "Koh-i-noor"....
He would not barter it for all
Benares, or the Taj-Mahal....
It guides,--directs his every act,
And word, and thought--In short--in fact--
I mean ...

(Opening his locket.)

Look, Helen, that's the heather!
(Too late! Here come both Aunts together.)

HELEN.

What heather, Sir?

(After a pause.)

And why ... "too late?"
--Aunt Dora, how you've made us wait!
Don't you agree that it's a pity
Portraits are hung by the Committee?

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