Collegia – Ode 40: The Rub-It-Out or ‘Ome I Came


(With apologies to Fitzgerald)

Awake! for, Ringing in the Realm of Night,
The Morning Bell has put all Sleep to flight:
And lo: the Knocker-up has swiftly come
Before the morning shows its gloom Light.

Dreaming when One’s Right Hand was on the Door
I heard a Voice cry, “Seven-fifteen, or more.”
Awake, O Early One, and fill the Bowl,
That We may wash before the Breakfast Hour.

And when the Frist had washed he loud did roar,
“I want to empty This; open the Door!
“You know the little Time we have to dress,
“And once the Bell has rung can dress no more.”

Now, Time’s swift Flight dispelling old Desires,
The slothful One unto the Bowl aspires,
Puts his black Hand upon the College Soap
And scrubs until he from his Dirt suspires.

Arthur indeed is gone on down the Stair,
But Willie bustles round with Time to spare;
He still finds one Thing that remains to do;
Smooths carefully before the Glass his Hair.

The Gates are almost lock’t; but with a Whine
He piping cries: “Lock me not up, thou Swine!”
He manages with Dext’rity to slip
Before the Gates clang shut, but cuts It fine.

Come, let us eat; and in the Taste of String
Our Hunger stop from its sharp Harrowing:
Of boiling Milk there’s but a little left
To pour – and Lo! The Milk is on the Wing.

Oh, look – eleven Oranges To-day
Are for our Feed; and why this Thusness, pray?
Ah, the first Maid that brings the Sausage here
Shall take that Sausage quick away again.

But come along to Chapel; leave the Lot
Of greedy Eaters at their Task forgot:
Let Latham eat as much Food as he will,
Or Spurr begin his Orange – heed them not.

With me along the Corridor of Stone
That justly marks the Reapers from the Sown,
Where Forms of one-time Prinnies hang in Frames,
And pity present Prinny on his Throne.

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath his Coat,
A Roll of Grease, a Spoon, Someone will float
In stealthy Transit to his tiny Cell,
There to enjoy them at a Time remote.

How sweet is stolen Food! think some:
Others, how sore the Recompense to come!
Ah, take a Little now and leave the Rest;
Oh, the vast Meaning of a single Crumb!

I sometimes think that never blows so Red
A Rose as Light from Prinny’s nose is shed:
That every petti-fogging Rule we bear
Found Birth in Prinny’s senile empty Head.

And this delightful Man, whose Whiskers green
Surround a Lip that loves to vent his Spleen –
Ah, cross his Pathway lightly, for he loves
To make One feel what Discipline can mean.

Ah, Prinny ancient, read the Word that clears
To-day of Trouble and of Future Fears –
Open the Gates! To-morrow you may be
Yourself for this mad Act reduced to Tears.

Lo, some we know, not Loveliest, nor Best,
Whom Time and Fate with Exercises prest,
Have sneaked Upstairs a little While before
The Gates are locked, to work with added Zest.

And we that now make merry in the Room
They left, when loud some Student’s Voice doth boom,
We must Ourselves upon the Couch of Straw
Lie, smoke, and read, till Four o’clock doth dome.

Ah, make the Most of What we have to spend
Before we too into our Rooms ascend;
Each into Bed and under Sheet to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Candle, and – sans Friend!

Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare,
And those that after a TO-MORROW stare,
A Student from the Gathering Darkness cries,
‘Fools! Hilton’s Maths is neither Here nor There!’

Why, all the Docs and Tutors who discuss’d
Of the Two Themes so learnedly, are thrust
Like foolish Humbugs forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scattered, for at Half-Term Work is Dust.

Oh, come with Me, and leave the proudly Wise
To work; one thing is certain, that Time flies;
One Crowd is working, and the Rest enjoy
The Day, for that once flown for ever dies.

Into this College then, and why not knowing,
Nor whence, like Water, little Willie’s flowing:
And out of it, much thinner round the Waist,
I know not whither little Willie’s going.

Down from Isles’ Centre, through the old Back Gate
We came, and in the Lecture Theatres sate,
And many Swots we’d met in our Abode,
But not such Swots as here await their Fate.

There was a Door to which we found no Key:
There was a Pane through which we could not see:
No little Talk allowed in Library;
But we made up for that when at our Tea.

Then to the roving Officer once we cried
When lights had fused, “What Lamp is there to guide
“The little Students stumbling in the Dark?”
“A Sixty on the Landing” he replied.

Once in the Chapel Hall, at Dusk of Day,
I watched the Prinny jumping with dismay;
He’d bit his Tongue, and with his bitten Tongue
He shouted, “Heavenly Father – let us pray!”

Ah, ring the Bell: – what boots it too retreat;
I forward march with Slippers on my Feet:
Worn-out To-morrow and new Yesterday,
Why fret about them if to-day they fit?

One Moment in the Flight of Time to waste,
One Moment just to see that Shoes are laced –
The Sun is rising and the Undergroud
Starts in another Moment – Oh, make haste!

How many times have we in hot Pursuit
Chased after Maths and Learning resolute?
Better be merry while this Day is free
Than vegetate in College destitute.

So in the Park we walk, upon the Grass,
And see the Flowers and the Blooms that pass;
And study Nature’s Art whilst thou art here,
Appreciate the Beauty of the fresh Spring’s Dress.

Where the Rose blows along the River Bank
With me in early Youth’s Abandon prank:
And when the Evening comes with chilly Draught,
Curse not, but Providence for this Day thank!

‘Tis all a Patchwork Quilt of Nights and Days,
And not so many Squares now to erase
Before the end of Term our Hopes to raise
Will come, and we leave London and its Haze.

The moving Figure lights; and, having lit,
Moves from the Lamp; there’s need for all our Wit
If we are late for Supper Time to-night;
Come, lift thy Feet; we’ll make a Dash for it.

Now Chapel o’er; the Book did Prinny close
And wandered out; then quick we all arose
And fled the Steps to the warm Reading Room,
With soon the Students sitting round in Rows.

And strange to tell among the Seniors dense
Some did articulate and wave their Fins,
And suddenly one more impatient cried –
“Why is he Censor, then, and where his Pense?”

Then said another – “Yea, ‘twas all in vain
“My Books from Library this Morn were ta’en,
“For he who closed the Gates this Afternoon
“Forced me into the Library again!”

Another said, – “Why, ne’er a peevish Boy
“Would close the Gates lest he Prinny annoy;
“And even the most obeying would unlock
“So that we could full Freedom thus enjoy.”

Then said another with a long drawn Sigh,
“My Pipe with heavy Smoking is gone dry:
“But fetch me Baccy from ye old Tuckshop,
“Methinks – might recover by and by.”

So while the Seniors one by one were speaking,
One heard an awful Row above the Shrieking,
And so he jogged his Neighbour, “Brother, brother!
“Hark to the ancient Gramophone a-squeaking!”

Ah, with all Joy the waning Term provide,
And lead my Spirit where the green Glens hide,
And on a Bank beside the Serpentine
Cause me to dream of purple Mountain-side.

Alas, that Term should last for yet three Weeks,
But let us fill the Time so that it leaks
Away, and brings us to that famous Day
That ev’ry Student individually seeks.

Ah, March! Could thou and I with Time conspire
To haste his sluggish Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shed the intervening Days
To bring one nearer that we all desire.

Ah, Bed of weary Nights who know’st no Strain,
The Bed that wears clean Sheets now and again:
How oft hereafter shall it spread its Breast
To soothe to Sleep my aching Limbs – in vain.

And when the Maids amid the morning Gloom
Shall wander round to scrub and wield the Broom,
And in their daily Labour reach that Place
Where once we lived – sweep out an empty Room!

Mar. 1928