Wishing, by John G. Saxe
Of all amusements for the mind,
From logic down to fishing,
There isn’t one that you can find,
So very cheap as ‘wishing’.
A very choice diversion, too,
If we but rightly use it,
And not, as we are apt to do,
Pervert it and abuse it.
I wish – a common wish indeed –
My purse were somewhat fatter,
That I might cheer the child of need,
And not my pride to flatter;
That I might make oppression reel
As only gold can make it,
And break the Tyrant’s rod of steel,
As only gold can break it.
I wish – that sympathy and love,
And every human passion,
That has its origin above,
Would come and keep in fashion;
That scorn and jealousy and hate,
And every base emotion,
Were buried fifty fathoms deep
Beneath the waves of Ocean!
I wish – that friends were always true,
And motives always pure;
I wish the good were not so few,
I wish the bad were fewer;
I wish that parsons ne’er forgot
To heed their pious teaching;
I wish that practising was not
So different from preaching!
I wish – that modest worth might be
Appraised with truth and candour;
I wish – that innocence were free
From treachery and slander;
I wish that men their vows would mind,
That women ne’er were rovers;
I wish that wives were always kind,
And husbands always lovers.
I wish – in fine – that joy and mirth,
And every good ideal,
May come erewhile throughout the earth,
To be the glorious real;
Til God shall every creature bless
With his supremest blessing,
And hope be lost in happiness,
And wishing in possessing.
Nearly ten years ago now, I was with Mum in a grubby, backwater antique shop, procrastinating. I was supposed to be at home, packing my life into cardboard boxes so that I might transport it to the vast metropolis that is Norwich.
Whilst wandering through dusty shelves, wearing a top hat from 1924 that I was intent on purchasing, I stumbled upon a green, leather-bound book. Opening the dusty cover, I discovered that in 1886, the tome had belonged to a Robert Robertson of 17 North Church Street in Dundee.
Though I can not say Dundee holds any special meaning to me, there was something about the fact that I knew the name of the book’s former owner – scrawled in spidery pencil over the back of the cover – which made me slip it into the hat box before I continued my browsing.
Mr Robertson had scribbled his moniker into ‘Best Poems in the World’ 99 years before my birth and the book offers a wonderful insight into the differences in our two worlds. Full of sentimentality, moral lessons and unnecessary exclamation marks, this book sums up the Victorian mentality rather well. With poetry about dying brides and men who stray but get their comeuppance, Mr Robertson’s book really is fascinating.
Underlying all of the gloom and moral fibre though, is what I like to believe is true human nature. Worded using the sappy vocabulary of its time, the above poem does – in the most Victorian sense of the word – show all that is fine about us. As a species, we would do well to remember this when windows are smashed, and plasma screen TVs can be grabbed.
In other news, the house progresses. Slowly.
I’ve managed to get the bedroom looking rather swish now and hope the pictures below will excuse me from further one-handed typing.
On to the living room which looked like…