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James Kenneth Stephen (1859-1892)

The Old School List


              1In a wild moraine of forgotten books,
              2  On the glacier of years gone by,
              3As I plied my rake for order's sake,
              4  There was one that caught my eye:
              5And I sat by the shelf till I lost myself.
              6  And roamed in the crowded mist,
              7And heard lost voices and saw lost looks,
              8  As I pored on an Old School List.

              9What a jumble of names! there were some that I knew,
            10  As a brother is known: to-day
            11Gone I know not where, nay I hardly care,
            12  For their places are full: and, they--
            13What climes they have ranged: how much they're changed!
            14  Time, place and pursuits assist
            15In transforming them: stay where you are: adieu!
            16  You are all in the Old School List.

            17There are some who did nothing at school, much since:
            18  And others much then, since naught:
            19They are middle-aged men, grown bald since then:
            20  Some have travelled, and some have fought:
            21And some have written, and some are bitten
            22  With strange new faiths: desist
            23From tracking them: broker or priest of prince,
            24  They are all in the Old School List.

            25There's a grave grey lawyer in King's Bench Walk,
            26  Whose clients are passing few:
            27He seldom speaks: in those lonely weeks,
            28  What on earth can he find to do?
            29Well, he stroked the eight -- what a splendid fate!--
            30  And the Newcastle barely missed:
            31"A future Lord Chancellor!" so we'd talk
            32  In the days of the old School List.

            33There were several duffers and several bores,
            34  Whose faces I've half forgot,
            35Whom I lived among, when the world was young,
            36  And who talked "no end of rot":
            37Are they now little clerks who stroll in the Parks
            38  Or scribble with grimy fist,
            39Or rich little peers who hire Scotch moors?
            40  Well -- they're all in the old School List.

            41There were some who were certain to prosper and thrive,
            42  And certain to do no more,
            43Who were "capital chaps," and, tho' moderate saps,
            44  Would never stay in after four:
            45Now day after day they are packed away,
            46  After being connubially kissed,
            47To work in the city from ten to five:
            48  There they are in the old School List.

            49There were two good fellows I used to know.
            50  --How distant it all appears!
            51We played together in football weather,
            52  And messed together for years:
            53Now one of them's wed, and the other's dead
            54  So long that he's hardly missed
            55Save by us, who messed with him years ago:
            56  But we're all in the old School List.

Notes

1] Author's Note: "Suggested by accidentally finding an old copy of Stapylton's `Eton School Lists.'" (Eton is perhaps the most famous English public (i.e., private) school in England, located in a town of the same name in Berkshire.
moraine: glacial deposit of stones and earth.

25] King's Bench: the superior civil and criminal court.

29] stroked the eight: acted as stroke-oarsman of an eight-man rowing crew during competitions: the stroke-oarsman set the pace.


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: J. K. Stephen, Quo Musa Tendis? (Cambridge: Macmillan and Bowes, 1891), pp. 7-9. PR 5473 S4Q8 cop. 2 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1891
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/14

Rhyme: abcbdeae


Other poems by James Kenneth Stephen