Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Ode on a Distant Prospect of Clapham Academy

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.


Ode on a Distant Prospect of Clapham Academy

By Thomas Hood (1799–1845)

AH me! those old familiar bounds!

That classic house, those classic grounds

My pensive thought recalls!

What tender urchins now confine,

What little captives now repine,

Within yon irksome walls!

Ay, that ’s the very house! I know

Its ugly windows, ten a-row!

Its chimneys in the rear!

And there ’s the iron rod so high,

That drew the thunder from the sky

And turned our table-beer!

There I was birched! there I was bred!

There like a little Adam fed

From Learning’s woful tree!—

The weary tasks I used to con!

The hopeless leaves I wept upon!

Most fruitless leaves to me!

The summoned class!—the awful bow!—

I wonder who is master now

And wholesome anguish sheds!

How many ushers now employs,

How many maids to see the boys

Have nothing in their heads!

And Mrs. S***?—Doth she abet

(Like Pallas in the parlor) yet

Some favored two or three,—

The little Crichtons of the hour,

Her muffin-medals that devour,

And swill her prize—Bohea?

Ay, there ’s the playground! there ’s the lime,

Beneath whose shade in summer’s prime

So wildly I have read!—

Who sits there now, and skims the cream

Of young Romance, and weaves a dream

Of love and cottage-bread?

Who struts the Randall of the walk?

Who models tiny heads in chalk?

Who scoops the light canoe?

What early genius buds apace?

Where ’s Poynter? Harris? Bowers? Chase?

Hal Baylis? blithe Carew?

Alack! they ’re gone—a thousand ways!

And some are serving in “the Greys,”

And some have perished young!—

Jack Harris weds his second wife;

Hal Baylis drives the wane of life;

And blithe Carew—is hung!

Grave Bowers teaches A B C

To savages at Owhyee;

Poor Chase is with the worms!—

All, all are gone,—the olden breed!—

New crops of mushroom boys succeed,

“And push us from our forms!”

Lo! where they scramble forth, and shout,

And leap, and skip, and mob about,

At play where we have played!

Some hop, some run (some fall), some twine

Their crony arms; some in the shine,

And some are in the shade!

Lo! there what mixed conditions run:

The orphan lad; the widow’s son;

And fortune’s favored care,—

The wealthy born, for whom she hath

Macadamized the future path,—

The nabob’s pampered heir!

Some brightly starred, some evil born;

For honor some, and some for scorn;

For fair or foul renown!

Good, bad, indifferent,—none may lack!

Look, here ’s a White, and there ’s a Black!

And there ’s a Creole brown!

Some laugh and sing, some mope and weep,

And wish their frugal sires would keep

Their only sons at home;

Some tease the future tense, and plan

The full-grown doings of the man,

And pant for years to come!

A foolish wish! There ’s one at hoop;

And four at fives! and five who stoop

The marble taw to speed!

And one that curvets in and out,

Reining his fellow cob about,—

Would I were in his steed!

Yet he would gladly halt and drop

That boyish harness off, to swop

With this world’s heavy van,—

To toil, to tug. O little fool!

While thou canst be a horse at school,

To wish to be a man!

Perchance thou deem’st it were a thing

To wear a crown,—to be a king!

And sleep on regal down!

Alas! thou know’st not kingly cares;

Far happier is thy head that wears

That hat without a crown!

And dost thou think that years acquire

New added joys? Dost think thy sire

More happy than his son?

That manhood’s mirth?—O, go thy ways

To Drury Lane when —— plays,

And see how forced our fun!

Thy taws are brave!—thy tops are rare!—

Our tops are spun with coils of care,

Our dumps are no delight!—

The Elgin marbles are but tame,

And ’t is at best a sorry game

To fly the Muse’s kite!

Our hearts are dough, our heels are lead,

Our topmost joys fall dull and dead

Like balls with no rebound!

And often with a faded eye

We look behind, and send a sigh

Towards that merry ground!

Then be contented. Thou hast got

The most of heaven in thy young lot;

There ’s sky-blue in thy cup!

Thou ’lt find thy manhood all too fast,—

Soon come, soon gone! and age at last

A sorry breaking up!