Francis Bret Harte Poems >>
Telemachus Versus Mentor

Don't mind me, I beg you, old fellow,--I'll do very well here alone;
You must not be kept from your "German" because I've dropped in like
  a stone.
Leave all ceremony behind you, leave all thought of aught but
  yourself;
And leave, if you like, the Madeira, and a dozen cigars on the shelf.

As for me, you will say to your hostess--well, I scarcely need give
  you a cue.
Chant my praise!  All will list to Apollo, though Mercury pipe to a
  few.
Say just what you please, my dear boy; there's more eloquence lies
  in youth's rash
Outspoken heart-impulse than ever growled under this grizzling
  mustache.

Go, don the dress coat of our tyrant,--youth's panoplied armor for
  fight,--
And tie the white neckcloth that rumples, like pleasure, and lasts
  but a night;
And pray the Nine Gods to avert you what time the Three Sisters
  shall frown,
And you'll lose your high-comedy figure, and sit more at ease in
  your gown.

He's off!  There's his foot on the staircase.  By Jove, what a bound!
  Really now
Did I ever leap like this springald, with Love's chaplet green on my
  brow?
Was I such an ass?  No, I fancy.  Indeed, I remember quite plain
A gravity mixed with my transports, a cheerfulness softened my pain.

He's gone!  There's the slam of his cab door, there's the clatter
  of hoofs and the wheels;
And while he the light toe is tripping, in this armchair I'll tilt
  up my heels.
He's gone, and for what?  For a tremor from a waist like a teetotum
  spun;
For a rosebud that's crumpled by many before it is gathered by one.

Is there naught in the halo of youth but the glow of a passionate
race--'Midst the cheers and applause of a crowd--to the goal of a
  beautiful face?
A race that is not to the swift, a prize that no merits enforce,
But is won by some faineant youth, who shall simply walk over the
  course?

Poor boy! shall I shock his conceit?  When he talks of her cheek's
  loveliness,
Shall I say 'twas the air of the room, and was due to carbonic excess?
That when waltzing she drooped on his breast, and the veins of her
  eyelids grew dim,
'Twas oxygen's absence she felt, but never the presence of him?

Shall I tell him first love is a fraud, a weakling that's strangled
  in birth,
Recalled with perfunctory tears, but lost in unsanctified mirth?
Or shall I go bid him believe in all womankind's charm, and forget
In the light ringing laugh of the world the rattlesnake's gay
  castanet?

Shall I tear out a leaf from my heart, from that book that forever
  is shut
On the past?  Shall I speak of my first love--Augusta--my Lalage?
  But
I forget.  Was it really Augusta?  No. 'Twas Lucy!  No.  Mary!
  No.  Di!
Never mind! they were all first and faithless, and yet--I've forgotten
  just why.

No, no!  Let him dream on and ever.  Alas! he will waken too soon;
And it doesn't look well for October to always be preaching at June.
Poor boy!  All his fond foolish trophies pinned yonder--a bow from
  HER hair,
A few billets-doux, invitations, and--what's this?  My name, I
  declare!

Humph!  "You'll come, for I've got you a prize, with beauty and money
  no end:
You know her, I think; 'twas on dit she once was engaged to your
  friend;
But she says that's all over."  Ah, is it?  Sweet Ethel! incomparable
  maid!
Or--what if the thing were a trick?--this letter so freely displayed!--

My opportune presence!  No! nonsense!  Will nobody answer the bell?
Call a cab!  Half past ten.  Not too late yet.  Oh, Ethel!  Why don't
  you go?  Well?
"Master said you would wait"--  Hang your master!  "Have I ever a
  message to send?"
Yes, tell him I've gone to the German to dance with the friend of
  his friend.