A Ramshackle Room

‘And some groups of young oarsmen in shorts on the wall’

A Ramshackle Room

When the gusts are at play with the trees on the lawn,
        And the lights are put out in the vault of the night;
When within all is snug, for the curtains are drawn,
        And the fire is aglow and the lamps are alight,
Sometimes, as I muse, from the place where I am
My thoughts fly away to a room near the Cam.

‘Tis a ramshackle room, where a man might complain
        Of a slope in the ceiling, a rise in the floor;
With a view on a court and a glimpse on a lane,
        And no end of cool wind through the chinks of the door;
With a deep-seated chair that I love to recall,
And some groups of young oarsmen in shorts on the wall.

There’s a fat jolly jar of tobacco, some pipes –
        A meerschaum, a briar, a cherry, a clay –
There’s a three-handled cup fit for Audit or Swipes
        When the breakfast is done and the plates cleared away.
There’s a litter of papers, of books a scratch lot,
Such as Plato, and Dickens, and Liddell and Scott

And a crone in a bonnet that’s more like a rag
        From a mist of remembrance steps suddenly out;
And her funny old tongue never ceases to wag
        As she tidies the room where she bustles about;
For a man may be strong and a man may be young,
But he can’t put a drag on a Bedmaker’s tongue.

And, oh, there’s a youngster who sits at his ease
        In the hope, which is vain, that the tongue may run down,
With his feet on the grate and a book on his knees,
        And his cheeks they are smooth and his hair it is brown.
Then I sigh myself back to the place where I am
From that ramshackle room near the banks of the Cam.

R. C. Lehmann
(9 February 1910)

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