An Ancient to Ancients

by Thomas Hardy

Where once we danced, where once we sang, Gentlemen, The floors are sunken, cobwebs hang, And cracks creep; worms have fed upon The doors. Yea, sprightlier times were then Than now, with harps and tabrets gone, Gentlemen! Where once we rowed, where once we sailed, Gentlemen, And damsels took the tiller, veiled Against too strong a stare (God wot Their fancy, then or anywhen!) Upon that shore we are clean forgot, Gentlemen! We have lost somewhat of that, afar and near, Gentlemen, The thinning of our ranks each year Affords a hint we are nigh undone, That shall not be ever again The marked of many, loved of one, Gentlemen. In dance the polka hit our wish, Gentlemen, The paced quadrille, the spry schottische, "Sir Roger."--And in opera spheres The "Girl" (the famed "Bohemian"), And "Trovatore" held the ears, Gentlemen. This season's paintings do not please, Gentlemen Like Etty, Mulready, Maclise; Throbbing romance had waned and wanned; No wizard wields the witching pen Of Bulwer, Scott, Dumas, and Sand, Gentlemen. The bower we shrined to Tennyson, Gentlemen, Is roof-wrecked; damps there drip upon Sagged seats, the creeper-nails are rust, The spider is sole denizen; Even she who voiced those rhymes is dust, Gentlemen! We who met sunrise sanguine-souled, Gentlemen, Are wearing weary. We are old; These younger press; we feel our rout Is imminent to A?des' den,-- That evening shades are stretching out, Gentlemen! And yet, though ours be failing frames, Gentlemen, So were some others' history names, Who trode their track light-limbed and fast As these youth, and not alien From enterprise, to their long last, Gentlemen. Sophocles, Plato, Socrates, Gentlemen, Pythagoras, Thucydides, Herodotus, and Homer,--yea, Clement, Augustin, Origen, Burnt brightlier towards their setting-day, Gentlemen. And ye, red-lipped and smooth-browed; list, Gentlemen; Much is there waits you we have missed; Much lore we leave you worth the knowing, Much, much has lain outside our ken; Nay, rush not: time serves: we are going, Gentlemen.