Poems and Essays

by Joseph Howe




Thou grave old Time Piece, many a time and oft
    I’ve been your debtor for the time of day;
And every time I cast my eyes aloft,
    And swell the debt—I think ’tis time to pay.
Thou, like a sentinel upon a tower,
    Hast still announced “the enemy’s” retreat,
And now that I have got a leisure hour,
    Thy praise, thou old Repeater, I’ll repeat.

A very striking object, all must own,
    For years you’ve been, and may for years remain,
And though fierce storms around your head have blown,
    Your form erect, and clear and mellow tone,
Despite their violence, you still retain.

A “double face,” some foolishly believe,
    Of gross deception is a certain sign;
But thy four faces may their fears relieve,
    For who can boast so frank a life as thine.
You ne’er disguised your thoughts for purpose mean,
    You ne’er conceal’d your knowledge from the crowd,
Like knaves and asses that I’ve sometimes seen,
    But what you knew with fearlessness avow’d. [Page 165]

Time, with his scythe, could never mow you down,
    Though you could cut him up in fragments small—
Showing his halves and quarters to the town,
    Old Quarter Master General for us all.
Though unambitious, still the highest place
    All ranks and classes cheerfully resign,
And “looking up to thee,” feel no disgrace
    If to “look down on them” thou dost incline.
While some the Graces seek,
    And others love the Muse’s rosy bowers—
Thou art content from week to week,
    To revel with the ever fleeting Hours.

How many curious scenes and odd displays
    You’ve gazed upon, since first you took your stand;
How many sad, how many brilliant days,
    You’ve had a hand in—Oh! that you could hand
                Your knowledge down—
Your Log—your Album—all your observations,
    Jokes and remarks, on what you’ve heard and seen;
If besides “note of time,” your cogitations
    On all the doings that in time have been
                You had recorded,
No book would sell so well
                About the town,
    Nor any author be so well rewarded.

What various feelings, in the human heart,
                Thy tones have stirred;—
    How hast the Lover curs’d thee, when he heard
Thy voice proclaiming it was time to part.
                With what a start [Page 166]
    Of quick delight, about to be set free,
The schoolboy heard you say that it was three;
But then, next morning, how he’d sigh and whine
When you as frankly told him it was nine;
Oh! cruel Clock! thus carelessly to shout it,
                If e’er you’d play’d
At Ball, or By the Way, on the Parade,
You never would have said one word about it.

To wretch, condemn’d for flagrant crimes to swing,
What horrid anguish would thy clear tones bring,
                Telling his hour!
But, to the pilloried scoundrel, placed on high,
Round whom stale fish and rotten eggs did fly—
                A fearful shower!
Whose dodging shoulders, and averted eye,
Half uttered prayer, or sharp and piercing cry,
                Betray’d his fears;
Who thought “his hour” would surely last all day,
Sweet was thy welcome voice, when it did say
                The storm about his ears
Should cease and die away.

How oft hast thou observ’d the hapless wight,
Who’d toil’d, and raked, and scraped, from morning light,
                Till nearly three;
And yet had not enough his Note to pay,
                Turn round to thee;
While throbbing brow, and nervous gait did say,
Hold—hold—good Clock, another quarter stay—
    For if I cannot raise, or beg or borrow, [Page 167]
    My credit will have died before tomorrow,
For this I do assure you’s, my “last day.”
The Sun stood still, at Joshua’s command,
Oh! be as kind, or I can never stand;
Ah! do—if you of pity have one drop,
If you “go on,” by Heaven I’ll have “to stop,”

How many dashing blades have gone to pot,
    Who sought on Folly’s files the first to be;
But never one, of all the precious lot,
    Could live, old friend, so long “on tick” as thee.
The cunning fellows, too, thou put’st to shame,
    Who scheme, and plot, and plan from morn till eve;
Thy “wheels within wheels” always go the same,
    While they, some “screw loose” failing to perceive,
On ev’ry side their wreck’d machinery leave.

                A good example
To all the idle chaps about the town,
                Who trample
On precepts by economists set down,
                You always gave;
Your “hands” were going night and day;
From year to year you toil’d away
                Like any slave;
Your limbs from heavy weights no hour were free
And “Sunday dawned no holiday to thee.”
You “the whole figure” went while others faltered,
And howsoe’er times changed, your time ne’er altered.
[Page 168]