Collegia – Ode 87: To Arthur


(With apologies to John Keats)

Reason for trysts and fellow youthfulness,
Close bosom friend of the last remaining one,
Despairing with him of this load and stress
And if these pining years would ever run
To send us happy from this college squeeze
And fill our youth with ripeness and with lore.
To Well were lured and heard the hasty bells
With their shrill clangour; to sit muddling o’er
Our lessons and the tutors’ mysteries,
Until the boom of midnight made us cease,
And swotting had o’erstrained our mental cells.

Who hath not heard us oft amid our books
Break into song, extolling Mannin fair?
Who hath not yearned to join us when the cook’s
Latest meat pie from home hath tinged the air?
Or on a half-made bed lulled into sleep,
Drowsed with the fume of large pipes, while we sat
Talking of girls as of exotic flowers;
And sometimes like a greener thou didst keep
Early thine hours and laid aside thy book;
Or in the nightly press, with patient look,
Wouldst suffer others’ ravings hours by hours.

Where wilt thou go from here? Where wilt thou go?
Think not of me, I’ll have my freedom too,
But not until another year has ceased to flow,
And yet another summer loses hue.
Now in a wailful choir the room mice mourn
Among the tins and saucepans stacked aloft
Or shrinking as the light gleams in the crack.
A three-year partnership is split and torn,
No more I’ll sing; but now with treble soft
I’ll whistle from my lonely single loft
And with next term that thou wert coming back.

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