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CHARLES LAMB

1775-1834

587                                      The Old Familiar Faces

I HAVE had playmates, I have had companions,
In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
I have been laughing, I have been carousing,
Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom cronies
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
I loved a Love once, fairest among women:
Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man:
Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly;
Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces.
Ghost-like I paced round the haunts of my childhood,
Earth seemd a desert I was bound to traverse,
Seeking to find the old familiar faces.
Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother,
Why wert not thou born in my fathers dwelling?
So might we talk of the old familiar faces
How some they have died, and some they have left me,
And some are taken from me; all are departed
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

588                                                Hester

WHEN maidens such as Hester die
Their place ye may not well supply,
Though ye among a thousand try
      With vain endeavour.
A month or more hath she been dead,
Yet cannot I by force be led
To think upon the wormy bed
         And her together.
A springy motion in her gait,
A rising step, did indicate
Of pride and joy no common rate,
         That flushd her spirit:
I know not by what name beside
I shall it call: if twas not pride,
It was a joy to that allied,
         She did inherit.
Her parents held the Quaker rule,
Which doth the human feeling cool;
But she was traind in Natures school;
         Nature had blest her.
A waking eye, a prying mind;
A heart that stirs, is hard to bind;
A hawks keen sight ye cannot blind;
      Ye could not Hester.
My sprightly neighbour! gone before
To that unknown and silent shore,
Shall we not meet, as heretofore,
      Some summer morning
When from thy cheerful eyes a ray
Hath struck a bliss upon the day,
A bliss that would not go away,
        A sweet forewarning?

589                                    On an Infant dying as soon as born

I SAW where in the shroud did lurk
A curious frame of Natures work;
A floweret crushd in the bud,
A nameless piece of Babyhood,
Was in her cradle-coffin lying;
Extinct, with scarce the sense of dying:
So soon to exchange the imprisoning womb
For darker closets of the tomb!
She did but ope an eye, and put
A clear beam forth, then straight up shut
For the long dark: neer more to see
Through glasses of mortality.
    Riddle of destiny, who can show
What thy short visit meant, or know
What thy errand here below?
Shall we say that Nature blind
Checkd her hand, and changed her mind,
Just when she had exactly wrought
A finishd pattern without fault?
Could she flag, or could she tire,
Or lackd she the Promethean fire
(With her nine moons long workings sickend)
That should thy little limbs have quickend?
Limbs so firm, they seemd to assure
Life of health, and days mature:
Womans self in miniature!
Limbs so fair, they might supply
(Themselves now but cold imagery)
The sculptor to make Beauty by.
Or did the stern-eyed Fate descry
That babe or mother, one must die;
So in mercy left the stock
And cut the branch; to save the shock
Of young years widowd, and the pain
When single state comes back again
To the lone man who, reft of wife,
Thenceforward drags a maimàed life?
The economy of Heaven is dark,
And wisest clerks have missd the mark,
Why human buds, like this, should fall,
More brief than fly ephemeral
That has his day; while shrivelld crones
Stiffen with age to stocks and stones;
And crabbàed use the conscience sears
In sinners of an hundred years.
    Mothers prattle, mothers kiss,
Baby fond, thou neer wilt miss:
Rites, which custom does impose,
Silver bells, and baby clothes;
Coral redder than those lips
Which pale death did late eclipse;
Music framed for infants glee,
Whistle never tuned for thee;
Though thou wantst not, thou shalt have them,
Loving hearts were they which gave them.
Let not one be missing; nurse,
See them laid upon the hearse
Of infant slain by doom perverse.
Why should kings and nobles have
Pictured trophies to their grave,
And we, churls, to thee deny
Thy pretty toys with thee to lie
A more harmless vanity?

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