When You and I were Young (Poem by William Hodgson Ellis)

Poem Examples

When You and I were Young *
By William Hodgson Ellis


When you and I were babes, Adam,
    In good Prince Albert's time,
The word went forth that war should cease,
Commerce should link all lands, and Peace
    Should dwell in every clime.

When you and I were boys, Adam,
    In Queen Victoria's days,
Those guns that now so silent stand,
Where meet the rulers of our land,
    With olive decked and bays.

Roared from the Russian ramparts grim,
    Their muzzles all ablaze,
While old Todleben, with his back
Against the wall, foiled each attack
    In Queen Victoria's days.

When you and I were young, Adam,
    In good Victoria's time,
We stood together side by side,
When Mewburn and Mackenzie died,
    And Tempest, “ere their prime.”

But say not “they have left no peer — ”
    That were unwelcome praise
To those three friends of ours long dead,
Whose blood for Fatherland was shed
    In good Victoria's days.

In royal Edward's time, Adam,
    Fresh prophecies were rife.
They told us nickel-pointed shot
And flat trajectories and what not
    Would rid the world of strife.

But now that we are old, Adam,
    We see with startled eyes
Quick-firing guns won't stop the Jap,
Nor Serb nor Bulgar cares a rap
    Who wins the Nobel prize.

When you and I were young, Adam,
    There were no telephones;
There was no ultramicroscope;
And no X-rays for those who grope
    And pry among the bones.

But, though with diagnostic aids
    They were but ill supplied,
There were a few who shrewdly guessed
(Old What's-his-name among the rest)
    At what went on inside.

When you and I were young, Adam,
    It was damnation stark
To doubt that all that breathe the air,
Came, male and female, pair by pair,
    Straight out of Noah's ark.

“Mutantur,” Adam, “tempora
    Mutamur atque nos,”
And now we're not a bit afraid
To tell just how the world was made
    In detail and in gross.

In pre-Archæan periods
    Of elemental stress
The C and H and O and N
Collide, rebound, combine, and then
    React with H2S.

Colloidal specks from this ensued
    Which grew, and grew, and grew,
With lively motion all endued,
Till they attained a magnitude
    Of 0·01μ.

Then somewhere over ·01
    And under ·05
Amoeboid feelers out they sent
And took some liquid nourishment
    And, lo, they were alive!

In pre-Archæan periods
    Let fancy have her fling,
But, Adam, will your faith allow
Such goings on can happen now
    When George the Fifth is King?

Well, times may change, and we may change,
    But find him when I can,
I'll drink a health to one who's stood
For all that's honest, kind and good;
    So here's to you, Old Man!

1912


Note:
* Read at the Dinner given at the York Club, Toronto, November 29th, 1912, in honour of Dr. Adam H. Wright.

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