The Old Barn

The barn, the old barn, oh! its dark walls were rife
With the records most fair in my tablet of life;
And a rare barn it was, for, search twenty miles round
Such another brave building was not to be found.

'Twas large as an ark, 'twas strong as a church,
'Twas the chicken's resort, 'twas the young raven's perch;
There the bat flapped his wing, and the owlet migh screech,
Secure in the gable-ends, far out of reach.

It was evident Time had been playing his pranks
With the moss-garnished roof and the storm-beaten planks;
For many a year had the harvest-home wain
Creaked up to its door with the last load of grain

A wee thing, they tumbled me into its mow,
And left me to scramble out, Heaven knows how;
A wild, merry girl, the old barn was the spot
Which afforded delight that is still unforgot.

'Twas a birthday, one scion was walking life's stage,
In youth's proudest of characters — just come of age
Many plans were devised — but the chosen of all
Was to clear out the old barn, and " get up a ball. "

We had prayed, we had hoped that the lanes might be dry,
Than no cloud would would come over the moon-lighted sky;
But, alas 'twas November, and fog, sleet, and gloom,
Made night of our jubilee dark as the tomb.

The rain fell in torrents — the wind roared along —
The watch-dog howled back to the rude tempest song;
And we trembled and feared lest the merriest set
Should be scared by that true English sunshine — the wet.

But, hark! what loud voices, what rumbling of wheels,
What stepping in puddles, what tragical " squeals! "
While close-tilted wagons and mud-spattered carts
Set down a rare cargo of happy young hearts.

What a dance was the first — with what pleasure we went
Down the middle and up till our breathing was spent!
Though Musard might have shrugged at a bit of a strife
'Twixt the notes of the fiddle and key of the fife.

Our flooring was rugged, our sconces had rust;
There was falling of grease — there was raising of dust,
But Terpsichore published a Morning Post " yarn "
On the Almacks we held in the noble old barn.

Then the rat-hunt! oh, mercy! we hear poets speak
Of the tug of fierce battle when " Greek joins with Greek; "
But war held as wild and as deadly a reign
When the terriers met the destroyers of grain.

The smith left his bellows — the miller his sack —
'Twas fortunate business grew suddenly slack:
The thatcher was there, and the thatcher's boy too,
And, somehow, the butcher had nothing to do.

The 'Squire lent his stick and his voice to the fray, —
He, of course, only " chanced to be riding that way; "
And the master — the ploughman — the rich and the poor,
Stood Equality's jostling about the barn-door.

There was bustling old Pincher, all fierceness and bark,
And even fat Dido as gay as a lark;
Snap, Vixen, and Bob, and another full score,
For though rats might be many — the dogs were oft more.

'Twas sport, I dare say, but such works were torn down,
That the sapient " master " looked on with a frown
And saw, without aid of astrologer's star,
That the hunters were worse than the hunted by far.

Full well I remember our taking the ale
To the good-natured fellow who toiled at the flail;
When the boy who now sleeps with a stone at his feet
Would fain try his hand as a thrasher of wheat.

'Twas agreed to — and boldly he swung the bright staff,
With an awkwardness raising a tittering laugh,
Which strengthened to bursting Vulgarity's tone,
When, instead of on wheat-ears, it fell on his own.

Ever luckless in daring, 'twas he who slipped down,
With a broken-out tooth and a broken-in crown —
When he clambered up high on the cross-beams to feed
The unhappy stray cat and her tortoise-shell breed.

'Twas he who, in petulance, sulked to his home,
And packed up his bundle the wide world to roam;
But, with penitenTheart and a shelterless head,
He came back to the sheaves in the barn for a bed.

'Twas a bitter cold night, when I heard, with a pout,
That the stables were full and old Dobbin turned out:
Old Dob who had seen a score miles since the morn;
'Twas a shame and a cruelty not to be borne.

A brother was ready — the pony was caught —
Brought in he must be — yet where could he be brought;
But short was the parley, and, munching away,
He was warm in the barn with his oats and his hay.

The barn was the place where the beams and the rope
Gave our mischievous faculties plenty of scope;
And when rick lines were found, knotted, severed, and frayed,
Not a word did we breathe of the swings we had made.

" Hide and seek " was the game that delighted us most,
When we stealthily crept behind pillar and post;
When the law was enforced that " Home " should not be won,
Till we'd circled the barn in our scampering run.
I'd a merry heart then — but I scarcely know why
I should look into Memory's page with a sigh;
'Tis ungrateful to turn to the past with regret,
When we hold a fair portion of happiness yet.

My laugh in that day was a spirited shout,
But still it is heard to ring joyously out;
My friends were the warmest that childhood could find,
But those round me still are endearingly kind.

" Long ago, " has too often awakened my soul,
Till my pale brow would sink and the tear-drop would roll:
Down, down, busy thought, for the future may be
As bright as the time of the old barn for me.
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