In a 'Bus

(A SPRING CONTRAST.)
A quarter of a century agone,
Just such a face as this upon me shone,
And in a 'bus too;
And then, as now, it was the warm springtide;
And then, as now, there was no soul inside
Excepting us two.

There are the same blue eyes, the delicate nose.
Same rosebud mouth, and cheeks of blushful rose,
Same chin bewitching;
Same throat of sheeny white and perfect mould,
Same light-brown hair, with scattered threads of gold
The brown enriching.
Ah! how this present beauty's counterpart
Woke instant tumult in my fluttering heart—
Pain, pleasure, blended!
Yet this one is as beautiful as that . .
Dear me! why don't my heart go pit-a-pat
Now, as it then did?

One glance of those bright eyes, and all was o'er:
I wished to die; at least I cared no more
For life without her:—
These, glancing on me now, are quite as fair;
Yet, strange to say, I do not seem to care
One bit about her.

I wished I were a glove upon that hand—
The eardrop in her ear, the zone that spanned
Her waist so trimly;
And now, in view of equal charms, the bliss
Of such astounding metamorphosis
I see but dimly.

Well I recall the mad desire to hear
Her name who turned the common atmosphere
To heavenly ether:—
Why is it that I do not now, as then,
Care twopence if the name be M. or N.,
Or both, or neither?

Well I remember how I longed to pay
Her fare, or in some other lordly way
 
Impress her duly:—
Why is it, then, though not less generous grown,
I'm better pleased this nymph should pay her own
Than mulct “yours truly”?

And how quick-soaring hope as quickly fell
When I descried a military swell
Her brooch portrayed in;
Why is it, then, 'twould leave me undistressed
If a whole regiment adorned the breast
Of this fair maiden?

And how my anguish, when she drew her glove,
And showed the plain gold sign of wedded love,
Refused assuagement:—
Why is it that I do not care a jot
If this one wears such fateful ring, or not—
Plain, or engagement?

Is it because my taste hath changed its style,
And now prefers, in place of Venus' smile,
The frown of Pallas?
Ah no: Minerva, too, has lost her sway;
I met her antitype this very day,
And felt quite callous.

Is it the climate? Ah, if vernal airs
Incline the heart to amorous affairs,
This Austral season
Should stir in every vein, when beauty's by,
The throb of lusty youth! Oh no; the cli-
mate's not the reason.

Is it the place! Still, no; this threepenny 'bus
Is much the same as rolled the twain of us
Through Piccadilly;
And fitter place, when all is said and done,
There could not be for “bussing.” (Pass the pun;
I know it's silly.)

Is it that I have learned their sweetest smiles
And airs and graces are but “wanton wiles,”
And mere pretences?
Or is it that the naked eye of youth
Sees all through glamour, while I see the truth
Through convex lenses?

But wherefore beat about the bush, old man?
You know that you can give, if any can,
Reasons in plenty.
 
Must I, then, own it?.. 'Tis—because—because—
I am not quite—not quite—the man I was
At five-and-twenty!

An empty socket shows where passion burned;
My sense of beauty now, alas, has turned
Pure intellectual,
And to arouse a tumult in the brain,
Or thrill the system with delicious pain,
Quite ineffectual.

So, I may gaze on her, and gaze my fill. . . .
D'ye know, I think I'm somewhat human still;
I like her, rather;
But oh, how things are changed from what they were!
For all she is so fair, I feel to her
Just like a father.

She dowers me with a smile from lip and eye,
And while I wonder what she meaneth by
The sweet bestowment,
“Please pass my fare,” comes from her beauteous lips,
And, as I take the coin, our finger tips
Meet for a moment.

A thrill! A thrill! I do declare, a thrill!
Upon my honour, I believe I'm still
Intensely human!
I pause and ponder what I mean to do.
Methinks I'd better scuttle home unto
My own old woman.

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James Brunton Stephens

James Brunton Stephens was a Scottish-born Australian poet, author of Convict Once. more…

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"In a 'Bus" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 21 Nov. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/20002/in-a-'bus>.

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