Collegia – Ode 28: Graue Aash


YOU ask me why I sit and gaze
With vacant stare in front of me;
And why amid this dunce’s daze
My eyes all bleared with rheumy glaze
I shudder intermittently.

You ask me why, when I do shave,
My chin and cheeks encased with foam,
I stand as if I saw my grave,
And why I sigh and so behave
As if I had no earthly home.

I cannot tell you all. I know
That when dread Fate my feet impelled
To travel here and undergo
The trials that these walls bestow
My heart was by a siren spelled.

I know she lives in cottage small
And has an aunt who lives with her;
I read the writing on the wall
And wonder if I’m going to fall,
Or will another cause my stir.

For at a dance in Stepney Green
Where I performed upon the keys,
I caught a glance from merry een,
I danced with her: her name was Jean.
I wonder did she only tease?

I feel that if I saw again
This pretty flutterer of the looks,
I might become a faithless swain,
And be the cause of grief and pain
By being caught in double hooks.

One’s form is in the Isle of Man,
Another’s hidden in East End;
I think there’s need for desperate plan.
Think you a secret keep you can,
I’ll tell you what I’ll do, my friend.

I’ll keep my thoughts on college work,
And ease my heart with maths and sci.
My duty here I will not shirk –
Though censure not if there will lurk
Inside my throat a stifled sigh!

19. 2. 1928