Collegia – Ode 75: The Garden Party


(Apologies to Sir Walter Scott)

Our brick wall swank with a lively fair,
Westminster stones are green.
And we may gather knick-knacks there
To grace a king and queen.
For as we come from dining hall
Beneath the turrets old
We see in back quad many a stall
Where curious things are sold.
The brick wall dank are strangely fair,
And W’s stones are green.
We must do down and take our share
In this unusual scene.

“If, student, thou wouldst vend with me”
Cries out the V.P’s spouse,
“Thou first must guess the number of pea
This little jar doth house.
And if thou canst that riddle read
(And you a bob must pay!)
Then to my luncheon I shall speed
While you on duty stay.
And” cried she, “do not stand and stare
“But be at business keen,
So that you take a goodly share
Of what the folk bring in!”

There’s stalls for this and stalls for that,
And sideshows by the dozen.
You kick a ball, or hit a hat;
You sport with aunt and cousin.
And stranger ladies, quite high-born,
Come for a sly peep at us.
Alas, not every merry morn
We have such apparatus.
To-day we have the College Fair,
Grey stones the College Green.
The Garden Party! Do we care?
It’s better than routine!

With burnish’d plate and crockery
One gallant stall is hung;
You buy three balls in mockery
Which at the ware a flung.
No more they’ll carry tuck and crumb,
No more the cakes or greens;
For when an aimer’s shot is plum
They’ll smash to smithereens.
And O! though they were once so fair,
Had such a pattern gay,
They are much better gone, I declare,
Their cracks had come to stay.

Reader! a cheerless life we lead,
And cheerless tasks we ply;
The friends who cheer us in our need
Deserve this revel’ry.
So when we with our comrades meet
To-night when all is quiet,
We’ll say that this has been a fete,
And not a funny riot.
The brick walls thank the chance to wear
For once a mantle gay;
But we are glad it’s over! – There,
It is another day!

23. 6. 29