Reflections Of A Magistrand. On Returning To St. Andrews

A poem by Robert Fuller Murray

In the hard familiar horse-box I am sitting once again;
Creeping back to old St. Andrews comes the slow North British train,

Bearing bejants with their luggage (boxes full of heavy books,
Which the porter, hot and tipless, eyes with unforgiving looks),

Bearing third year men and second, bearing them and bearing me,
Who am now a fourth year magnate with two parts of my degree.

We have started off from Leuchars, and my thoughts have started too
Back to times when this sensation was entirely fresh and new.

When I marvelled at the towers beyond the Eden's wide expanse,
Eager-hearted as a boy when first he leaves his father's manse

With some money in his pocket, with some down upon his cheek,
With the elements of Latin, with the rudiments of Greek.

And his spirit leaps within him to be gone before him then,
Underneath the towers he looks at, in among the throngs of men,

Men from Fife and men from Forfar, from the High School of Dundee,
Ten or twelve from other counties, and from England two or three.

Oh, the Bursary Competition! oh, the wonder and the rage,
When I saw my name omitted from the schedule in the cage!

Grief is strong but youth elastic, and I rallied from the blow,
For I felt that there were few things in the world I did not know.

Then my ready-made opinions upon all things under heaven
I declaimed with sound and fury, to an audience of eleven

Gathered in the Logic class-room, sworn to settle the debate,
Does the Stage upon the whole demoralise or elevate?

This and other joys I tasted. I became a Volunteer,
Murmuring Dulce et decorum in the Battery-Sergeant's ear;

Joined the Golf Club, and with others of an afternoon was seen
Vainly searching in the whins, or foozling on the putting-green;

Took a minor part in Readings; lifted up my voice and sang
At the Musical rehearsals, till the class-room rafters rang;

Wrote long poems for the Column; entered for the S. R. C,
And, if I remember rightly, was thrown out by twenty-three;

Ground a little for my classes, till the hour of nine or ten,
When I read a decent novel or went out to see some men.

So I reaped the large experience which has made me what I am,
Far removed from bejanthood as is St. Andrews from Siam.

But with age and with experience disenchantment comes to all,
Even pleasure on the keenest appetite at last will pall.

Had I now a hundred pounds, a hundred pounds would I bestow
To enjoy the loud solatium as I did three years ago,

When the songs were less familiar, less familiar too the pies,
And I did not mind receiving orange-peel between the eyes.

Yet, in spite of disenchantment, and in spite of finding out
There are some things in the world that I am hardly sure about,

Still sufficient of illusion and inexplicable grace
Hangs about the grey old town to make it a delightful place.

Though solatiums charm no longer, though a gaudeamus fails
With its atmosphere unwholesome to expand my spirit's sails,

Though rectorial elections are if anything a bore,
And I do not care to carry dripping torches any more,

Though my soul for Moral lectures does not vehemently yearn,
Though the north-east winds are bitter--I am willing to return.

At this point in my reflections, on the left the Links expand,
Many a whin bush full of prickles, many a bunker full of sand.

And I see distinguished club-men, whom I only know by sight,
Old, obese, and scarlet-coated, playing golf with all their might;

As they were three years ago, when first I travelled by this train,
As they will be three years hence, if I should come this way again.

What to them is train or traveller? what to them the flight of time?
But we draw too near the station to indulge in the sublime.

In a minute at the furthest on the platform I shall stand,
Waiting till they take my trunk out, with my hat-box in my hand.

As the railway train approaches and the train of thought recedes,
I behold Professor --- in a brand new suit of tweeds.

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