You don't know Froissart now, young folks.
This age, I think, prefers recitals
Of high-spiced crime, with "slang" for jokes,
And startling titles;
But, in my time, when still some few
Loved "old Montaigne," and praised Pope's Homer
(Nay, thought to style him "poet" too,
Were scarce misnomer),
Sir John was less ignored. Indeed,
I can re-call how Some-one present
(Who spoils her grandson, Frank!) would read
And find him pleasant;
For,--by this copy,--hangs a Tale.
Long since, in an old house in Surrey,
Where men knew more of "morning ale"
Than "Lindley Murray,"
In a dim-lighted, whip-hung hall,
'Neath Hogarth's "Midnight Conversation,"
It stood; and oft 'twixt spring and fall,
With fond elation,
I turned the brown old leaves. For there
All through one hopeful happy summer,
At such a page (I well knew where),
Some secret comer,
Whom I can picture, 'Trix, like you
(Though scarcely such a colt unbroken),
Would sometimes place for private view
A certain token;--
A rose-leaf meaning "Garden Wall,"
An ivy-leaf for "Orchard corner,"
A thorn to say "Don't come at all,"--
Not that, in truth, our friends gainsaid;
But then Romance required dissembling,
(Ann Radcliffe taught us that!) which bred
Some genuine trembling;
Though, as a rule, all used to end
In such kind confidential parley
As may to you kind Fortune send,
You long-legged Charlie,
When your time comes. How years slip on!
We had our crosses like our betters;
Fate sometimes looked askance upon
Those floral letters;
And once, for three long days disdained,
The dust upon the folio settled;
For some-one, in the right, was pained,
And some-one nettled,
That sure was in the wrong, but spake
Of fixed intent and purpose stony
To serve King George, enlist and make
Minced-meat of "Boney,"
Who yet survived--ten years at least.
And so, when she I mean came hither,
One day that need for letters ceased,
She brought this with her!
Here is the leaf-stained Chapter:--How
The English King laid Siege to Calais;
I think Gran. knows it even now,--
Go ask her, Alice.