ADVENTURE OF A POET - Robert Fuller Murray Poems


Poems » robert fuller murray » adventure of a poet


As I was walking down the street
    A week ago,
Near Henderson's I chanced to meet
    A man I know.

His name is Alexander Bell,
    His home, Dundee;
I do not know him quite so well
    As he knows me.

He gave my hand a hearty shake,
    Discussed the weather,
And then proposed that we should take
    A stroll together.

Down College Street we took our way,
    And there we met
The beautiful Miss Mary Gray,
    That arch coquette,
Who stole last spring my heart away
    And has it yet.

That smile with which my bow she greets,
    Would it were fonder!
Or else less fond-since she its sweets
    On all must squander.

Thus, when I meet her in the streets,
    I sadly ponder,
And after her, as she retreats,
    My thoughts will wander.

And so I listened with an air
    Of inattention,
While Bell described a folding-chair
    Of his invention.

And when we reached the Swilcan Burn,
    'It looks like rain,'
Said I, 'and we had better turn.'
    'Twas all in vain,

For Bell was weather-wise, and knew
    The signs aerial;
He bade me note the strip of blue
    Above the Imperial,

Also another patch of sky,
    South-west by south,
Which meant that we might journey dry
    To Eden's mouth.

He was a man with information
    On many topics:
He talked about the exploration
    Of Poles and Tropics,

The scene in Parliament last night,
    Sir William's letter;
'And do you like the electric light,
    Or gas-lamps better?'

The strike among the dust-heap pickers
    He said was over;
And had I read about the liquors
    Just seized at Dover?

Or the unhappy printer lad
    At Rothesay drowned?
Or the Italian ironclad
    That ran aground ?

He told me stories (lately come)
    Of town society,
Some slightly tinged with truth, and some
    With impropriety.

He spoke of duelling in France,
    Then lightly glanced at
Mrs. Mackenzie's monster dance,
    Which he had danced at.

So he ran on, till by-and-by
    A silence came,
For which I greatly fear that I
    Was most to blame.

Then neither of us spoke a word
    For quite a minute
When presently a thought occurred
    With promise in it.

'How did you like the Shakespeare play
    The students read
By this, the Eden like a bay
    Before us spread.

Near Eden many softer plots
    Of sand there be;
Our feet, like Pharaoh's chariots,
    Drave heavily.

And ere an answer I could frame,
    He said that Irving
Of his extraordinary fame
    Was undeserving,

And for his part he thought more highly
    Of Ellen Terry;
Although he knew a girl named Riley
    At Broughty Ferry,

Who might be, if she only chose,
    As great a star,
She had a part in the tableaux
    At the bazaar.

If I had said but little yet,
    I now said less,
And smoked a home-made cigarette
    In mute distress.

The smoke into his face was blown
    By the wind's action,
And this afforded me, I own,
    Some satisfaction ;

But still his tongue received no check
    Till, coming home,
We stood beside the ancient wreck
    And watched the foam

Wash in among the timbers, now
    Sunk deep in sand,
Though I can well remember how
    I used to stand

On windy days and hold my hat,
    And idly turn
To read 'Lovise, Frederikstad'
    Upon her stern.

Her stern long since was buried quite,
    And soon no trace
The absorbing sand will leave in sight
    To mark her place.

This reverie was not permitted
    To last too long.
Bell's mind had left the stage, and flitted
    To fields of song.

And now he spoke of Marmion
    And Lewis Morris;
The former he at school had done,
    Along with Horace.

His maiden aunts, no longer young,
    But learned ladies,
Had lately sent him Songs Unsung,
    Epic of Hades,

Gycia, and Gwen.   He thought them fine ;
    Not like that Browning,
Of whom he would not read a line,
    He told me, frowning.

Talking of Horace -- very clever
    Beyond a doubt,
But what the Satires meant, he never
    Yet could make out.

I said I relished Satire Nine
    Of the First Book;
But he had skipped to the divine
    Eliza Cook.

He took occasion to declare,
    In tones devoted,
How much he loved her old Arm-chair,
    Which now he quoted.

And other poets he reviewed,
    Some two or three,
Till, having touched on Thomas Hood,
    He turned to me.

'Have you been stringing any rhymes
    Of late?' he said.
I could not lie, but several times
    I shook my head.

The last straw to the earth will bow
    The overloaded camel,
And surely I resembled now
    That ill-used mammal.

See how a thankless world regards
    The gifted choir
Of minstrels, singers, poets, bards,
    Who sweep the lyre.

This is the recompense we meet
    In our vocation.
We bear the burden and the heat
    Of inspiration;

The beauties of the earth we sing
    In glowing numbers,
And to the 'reading public' bring
    Post-prandial slumbers ;

We save from Mammon's gross dominion
    These sordid times ....
And all this, in the world's opinion,
    Is 'stringing rhymes.'

It is as if a man should say,
    In accents mild,
'Have you been stringing beads to-day,
    My gentle child?'

(Yet even children fond of singing
    Will pay off scores,
And I to-day at least am stringing
    Not beads but bores.)

And now the sands were left behind,
    The Club-house past.
I wondered, Can I hope to find
    Escape at last,

Or must I take him home to tea,
    And bear his chatter
Until the last train to Dundee
    Shall solve the matter?

But while I shuddered at the thought
    And planned resistance,
My conquering Alexander caught
    Sight in the distance

Of two young ladies, one of whom
    Is his ambition;
And so, with somewhat heightened bloom,
    He asked permission

To say good-bye to me and follow.
    I freely gave it,
And wished him all success.
    Apollo Sic me servavit.