O MEMORY! that which I gave thee
To guard in thy garner yestreen –
Little deeming thou e’er could’st behave thee
Thus basely – hath gone from thee clean!
Gone, fled, as ere autumn is ended
The yellow leaves flee from the oak –
I have lost it for ever, my splendid
What was it? I know I was brushing
My hair when the notion occurred:
I know that I felt myself blushing
As I thought, “How supremely absurd!
How they’ll hammer on floor and on table
As its drollery dawns on them – how
They will quote it ”– I wish I were able
To quote it just now.
I had thought to lead up conversation
To the subject – it ’s easily done –
Then let off, as an airy creation
Of the moment, that masterly pun.
Let it off, with a flash like a rocket’s;
In the midst of a dazzled conclave,
Where I sat, with my hands in my pockets,
The only one grave.
I had fancied young Titterton’s chuckles,
And old Bottleby’s hearty guffaws
As he drove at my ribs with his knuckles,
His mode of expressing applause;
While Jean Bottleby – queenly Miss Janet –
Drew her handkerchief hastily out,
In fits at my slyness – what can it
Have all been about?
I know ’twas the happiest, quaintest
Combination of pathos and fun:
But I’ve got no idea – not the faintest –
Of what was the actual pun.
I think it was somehow connected
With something I’d recently read –
Or heard – or perhaps recollected
On going to bed.
What had I been reading? The Standard:
“Double Bigamy;” “Speech of the Mayor.”
And later – eh? yes! I meandered
Through some chapters of Vanity Fair.
How it fuses the grave with the festive!
Yet e’en there, there is nothing so fine –
So playfully, subtly suggestive –
As that joke of mine.
Did it hinge upon “parting asunder?”
No, I don’t part my hair with my brush.
Was the point of it “hair ”? Now I wonder!
Stop a bit – I shall think of it – hush!
There 's hare, a wild animal – Stuff!
It was something a deal more recondite:
Of that I am certain enough;
And of nothing beyond it.
Hair – locks! There are probably many
Good things to be said about those.
Give me time – that’s the best guess of any –
“Lock” has several meanings, one knows.
Iron locks – iron-gray locks – a “ deadlock ”–
That would set up an everyday wit:
Then of course there’s the obvious “wedlock;”
But that wasn’t it.
No! mine was a joke for the ages;
Full of intricate meaning and pith;
A feast for your scholars and sages –
How it would have rejoiced Sidney Smith!
‘Tis such thoughts that ennoble a mortal;
And, singling him out from the herd,
Fling wide immortality’s portal –
But what was the word?
Ah me! ’tis a bootless endeavour.
As the flight of a bird of the air
Is the flight of a joke – you will never
Find the same one again, you may swear.
‘Twas my firstborn, and O how I prized it!
My darling, my treasure, my own!
My brain and none other devised it –
And now it has flown.
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