(Poem #1938) Oh! Ever Thus, From Childhood's Hour
Oh! ever thus, from childhood's hour, I've seen my fondest hopes decay; I never lov'd a tree or flower, But 'twas the first to fade away. I never nurs'd a dear gazelle, To glad me with its soft black eye, But when it came to know me well, And love me, it was sure to die!
(from 'Lalla Rookh, An Oriental Romance') There is about "old" poetry - particularly that of the Romantic and Georgian periods - a quality that I find sadly absent in more modern verse: the underlying sense that rhymed and metrical verse is a *natural* medium in which to express one's thoughts and writings. Today's excerpt is a wonderful example of this sort of unselfconsciousness - the verse flows easily and naturally, but the primary focus is the dialogue between Moore and the reader, and at no point do we stop and feel that what he has to say is in any way constrained by the requirements of the form. While "Lalla Rookh" itself has faded into relative obscurity, the above quoted lines - particularly the second quatrain - have remained both well-known and popular. (In particular, no fan of Wodehouse can fail to be familiar with the "dear gazelle"!). And though it is a verse that has inevitably attracted its share of parodies, this is more due to its distinctiveness than to any inherent mockability. (That said, some of the parodies are truly delightful, such as Tom Hood Jr.'s I never nursed a dear gazelle, To glad me with its dappled hide, But when it came to know me well, It fell upon the buttered side. or Henry Leigh's My rich and aged Uncle John Has known me long and loves me well But still persists in living on - I would he were a young gazelle. ) I've remarked, about some of Moore's other works, that their salient feature is their musicality; today's piece does exhibit the same wonderful sense of the sound and flow of the words, but it is more of a background quality. Also, the fact that this is not a standalone poem but part of an extended epic lends it a very different character (and indeed, by choosing to excerpt such a small piece, I have inevitably sacrificed some of that character). To convey some idea of the tradeoff involved, http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/1492.html for instance has a longer excerpt that loses some of the distinctive beauty of the shorter piece, but gives far more of the flavour of its setting. martin [Links] Biography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Moore Full text of "Lalla Rookh" http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00generallinks/lallarookh/index.html A bit about Lalla Rookh: [broken link] http://www.wwnorton.com/nto/romantic/topic_4/moore.htm