Jamaica College Revisited (1948)

Say! Do the griffins yet bestride the Tower?

And do they yet retain their ancient power?

Is work still burning on the plains below,

Spreading far and wide its cheery glow?

Ah, yes! Still stands the College, still I see

Each hedge, each shrubbery and each verdant tree.

No signs of ruin here, no bald decay,

Though scores, nay, thousands all have passed this way.

Unchanged the old school stands the test of age,

Of Nature and her elementary rage.

Here still good Virgil may a refuge find,

And all who share with him the classic mind.

Here dwell the spirits of the poet-bards

Of whose great fame we are the jealous guards.

A Chaucer or a Spenser yet may rise

From this fair place. Mayhap there dormant lies

A mighty talent in some teeming mind,

And though unrecognized by this unkind

And vulgar world, yet may there come a time

In some bright sphere or some ethereal clime

Wherein that soul may claim a place among

A classic-minded and immortal throng.

The good years treasure up each memory sweet

Kept safe from cruel Time's relentless feet.

Each aging wall recalls old sights and scenes

Forever lost to human eyes. Still leans

The restless ficus boughs against the Tower,

Where shaded by the dark and leafy bower

The old grey ghosts of younger days still rove.

At dusk they flitter forth and silent move

Through all the long and gloomy passages

Like listless souls of long-departed sages;

There, ghostly laughter of an older set

And whispers through the darkness echo yet.

The murmuring breezes waft them here and there

Complaining softly in the haunted air.

All grey and stark the silent buildings stand

While up above them, like some giant hand,

Hover the sombre clouds whose threatening mein

Lend sterner aspect to the solemn scene.

Beyond, Blue Mountain's mighty ranges rise

Outlined against the darkening evening


There the first symbols of the dawn appear


From thence Apollo, leaping from his lair,

First rears his hoary head above the clouds

When day once more draws back the night's dark shrouds:

Fresh hopes and aspirations spring anew

To cheer us on, perchance, or make us rue


Meanwhile the west grows grey, a shadow falls,

And idly plays upon the scarred walls;

The shapes and phantoms flitter all about

And romp within the classrooms and without,

Where lately cut and swept the grass grows green,

Unheeded, umolested and unseen.

The term is out: now one and all have gone,

And only I am left to brood alone;

Alone, save for these spirits of the past,

And with them now my lot I gladly cast.

Here stands the Hall whose honoured walls display

The names of those who will, long after they

Have run their earthly course, remain to be

An inspiration to posterity -

To those who otherwise might be like some

Who thought their tasks too trying and tiresome,

And frittered by the few (now precious) years

While those achievements which might have been theirs

Go to the credit of more studious friends.

Alas! They missed the road which upward wends

Its way to dizzy heights of knowledge bright,

Where spring the streams of learning and of light.

The sound of speech and laughter all else drowns,

And from his frame the old Archdeacon frowns.

Succeeding generations here have shared

The joys of those on noble Virgil reared.

Have not our minds, to flights of fancy fled,

Recalled the souls of heroes from the dead

And shared with them the doughty deeds of fame

Which with untainted glory crowned each name? -

Great Trojan Aeneas, and the brave Nisus,

Companion to the fair Euryalus;

Aletes, "ripe in judgement, bowed with years",

Moved by the daring of the two to tears,

Himself an able warrior and skilled;