To Postumous In October

A poem by R. C. Lehmann

When you and I were younger the world was passing fair;
Our days were sped with laughter, our steps were free as air;
Life lightly lured us onward, and ceased not to unroll
In endless shining vistas a playground for the soul.
But now no glory fires us; we linger in the cold,
And both of us are weary, and both are growing old;
Come, Postumus, and face it, and, facing it, confess
Your years are half a hundred, and mine are nothing less.

When you and I were twenty, my Postumus, we kept
In tidy rooms in College, and there we snugly slept.
And still, when I am dreaming, the bells I can recall
That ordered us to chapel or welcomed us to hall.
The towers repeat our voices, the grey and ancient Courts
Are filled with mirth and movement, and echo to our sports;
Then riverward we trudge it, all talking, once again
Down all the long unlovely extent of Jesus Lane.

One figure leads the others; with frank and boyish mien,
Straight back and sturdy shoulders, he lords it o'er the scene;
His grip is firm and manly, his cheeks are smooth and red;
The tangled curls cling tightly about his jolly head.
And when we launch the eight-oar I hear his orders ring;
With dauntless iteration I see his body swing:
The pride of all the river, the mainstay of our crew -
O Postumous, my bold one, can this be truly you?

Nay, Postumus, my comrade, the years have hurried on;
You're not the only Phoenix, I know, whose plumes are gone.
When I recall your splendour, your memory, too, is stirred;
You too can show a moulted, but once refulgent, bird;
And, if I still should press you, you too could hardly fail
To point a hateful moral where I adorned the tale.
'Twere better to be thankful to Heaven that ruled it so,
And gave us for our spending the days of long ago.

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