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Short poem

Frederick Locker Lampson (1821-1895)

To My Grandmother

(Suggested by a Picture by Mr. Romney)

Under the elm a rustic seat
Was merriest Susan's pet retreat
       To merry-make.

              1This Relative of mine
              2Was she seventy-and-nine
              3    When she died?
              4By the canvas may be seen
              5How she look'd at seventeen,
              6    As a Bride.

              7Beneath a summer tree
              8Her maiden reverie
              9    Has a charm;
            10Her ringlets are in taste;
            11What an arm! and what a waist
            12    For an arm!

            13With her bridal-wreath, bouquet,
            14Lace farthingale, and gay
            15    Falbala, --
            16If Romney's touch be true,
            17What a lucky dog were you,
            18    Grandpapa!

            19Her lips are sweet as love;
            20They are parting! Do they move?
            21    Are they dumb?
            22Her eyes are blue, and beam
            23Beseechingly, and seem
            24    To say, "Come!"

            25What funny fancy slips
            26From atween these cherry lips?
            27    Whisper me,
            28Fair Sorceress in paint,
            29What canon says I mayn't
            30    Marry thee!

            31That good-for-nothing Time
            32Has a confidence sublime!
            33    When I first
            34Saw this Lady, in my youth,
            35Her winters had, forsooth,
            36    Done their worst.

            37Her locks, as white as snow,
            38Once shamed the swarthy crow;
            39    By-and-by
            40That fowl's avenging sprite
            41Set his cruel foot for spite
            42    Near her eye.

            43Her rounded form was lean,
            44And her silk was bombazine:
            45    Well I wot
            46With her needles would she sit,
            47And for hours would she knit, --
            48    Would she not?

            49Ah perishable clay!
            50Her charms had dropt away
            51    One by one:
            52But if she heaved a sigh
            53With a burthen, it was, "Thy
            54    Will be done."

            55In travail, as in tears,
            56With the fardel of her years
            57    Overprest,
            58In mercy she was borne
            59Where the weary and the worn
            60    Are at rest.

            61Oh if you now are there,
            62And sweet as once you were,
            63    Grandmamma,
            64This nether world agrees
            65You'll all the better please
            66    Grandpapa.


1] [First published in the edition of 1862, p. 86. Whether the `picture by Mr. Romney,' which purports to have suggested these verses, is duly chronicled in Mr. Humphry Ward's monumental Catalogue of that painter's works, we cannot pretend to say; but, judging from the frequent appearance of the poem in different anthologies, it must be one of the author's most popular efforts. It is therefore worth noting that, apparently, it was never printed in a magazine. `I could get no one to accept "My Grandmother,"' writes the author in a letter quoted in Once a Week for September 7, 1872. `What used particularly to discourage me was,' -- he adds characteristically, -- `having my verses returned as not suitable, and then to see in the very next number of the magazine a poem that gave me the impression that it was the work of some relative of the editor --perhaps his grandmamma.' The stanza of `My Grandmother' is that of Holmes's `Last Leaf' -- a poem which Locker greatly admired. Holmes, in his turn, had taken the stanza from Longfellow.] (Note by Austin Dobson, p. 169)
The epigraph is from Locker Lampson's own poem, "Susannah. I. The Elder Trees," lines 3-4.

15] Falbala: flounce, trimming for a woman's petticoat.

29] canon: law of the church.

44] bombazine: a twilled or corded dress material often made of a combination of cotton, silk, and worsted.

56] fardel: burden.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Frederick Locker Lampson, London Lyrics, with introduction and notes by Austin Dobson (London: Macmillan, 1904): 2-5. PR 4891 L2 A17 1904 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1862
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/18

Rhyme: aabccb

Other poems by Frederick Locker Lampson