East and West Poems

Songs Without Sense

For the Parlor and Piano

Bret Harte


AFFECTION’S charm no longer gilds
    The idol of the shrine;
But cold Oblivion seeks to fill
    Regret’s ambrosial wine.
Though Friendship’s offering buried lies
    ’Neath cold Aversion’s snow,
Regard and Faith will ever bloom
    Perpetually below.

I see thee whirl in marble halls,
    In Pleasure’s giddy train;
Remorse is never on that brow,
    Nor Sorrow’s mark of pain.
Deceit has marked thee for her own;
    Inconstancy the same;
And Ruin wildly sheds its gleam
    Athwart thy path of shame.



The dews are heavy on my brow;
    My breath comes hard and low;
Yet, mother dear, grant one request,
    Before your boy must go.
Oh! lift me ere my spirit sinks,
    And ere my senses fail,
Place me once more, O mother dear,
    Astride the old fence-rail.

The old fence-rail, the old fence-rail!
    How oft these youthful legs,
With Alice’ and Ben Bolt’s, were hung
    Across those wooden pegs!
’Twas there the nauseating smoke
    Of my first pipe arose:
O mother dear, these agonies
    Are far less keen than those.

I know where lies the hazel dell,
    Where simple Nellie sleeps;
I know the cot of Nettie Moore,
    And where the willow weeps.
I know the brookside and the mill,
    But all their pathos fails
Beside the days when once I sat
    Astride the old fence-rails.



I’m a gay tra, la, la,
With my fal, lal, la, la,
And my bright—
And my light—
        Tra, la, le.             [Repeat.]

Then laugh, ha, ha, ha,
And ring, ting, ling, ling,
And sing fal, la, la,
        La, la, le. [Repeat.]

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