With pensive eyes the little room I view, Where, in my youth, I weathered it so long; With a wild mistress, a stanch friend or two, And a light heart still breaking into song: Making a mock of life, and all its cares, Rich in the glory of my rising sun, Lightly I vaulted up four pair of stairs, In the brave days when I was twenty-one. Yes; 'tis a garret—let him know't who will— There was my bed—full hard it was and small; My table there—and I decipher still Half a lame couplet charcoaled on the wall. Ye joys, that Time hath swept with him away, Come to mine eyes, ye dreams of love and fun; For you I pawned my watch how many a day, In the brave days when I was twenty-one. And see my little Jessy, first of all; She comes with pouting lips and sparkling eyes: Behold, how roguishly she pins her shawl Across the narrow casement, curtain-wise; Now by the bed her petticoat glides down, And when did woman look the worse in none? I have heard since who paid for many a gown, In the brave days when I was twenty-one. One jolly evening, when my friends and I Made happy music with our songs and cheers, A shout of triumph mounted up thus high, And distant cannon opened on our ears: We rise,—we join in the triumphant strain,— Napoleon conquers—Austerlitz is won— Tyrants shall never tread us down again, In the brave days when I was twenty-one. Let us begone—the place is sad and strange— How far, far off, these happy times appear; All that I have to live I'd gladly change For one such month as I have wasted here— To draw long dreams of beauty, love, and power, From founts of hope that never will outrun, And drink all life's quintessence in an hour, Give me the days when I was twenty-one!
This poem is in the public domain.