COME, dear old comrade, you and I
Will steal an hour from days gone by,—
The shining days when life was new,
And all was bright with morning dew, —
The lusty days of long ago,
When you were Bill and I was Joe.
Your name may flaunt a titled trail,
Proud as a cockerel’s rainbow tail ;
And mine as brief appendix wear
As Tam O’Shanter’s luckless mare ;
To-day, old friend, remember still
That I am Joe and you are Bill.
You’ve won the great world’s envied prize,
And grand you look in peoples’ eyes,
With H O N. and L L. D.
In big brave letters, fair to see, —
Your fist, old fellow ! off they go ! —
How are you, Bill? How are you, Joe?
You ’ve worn the judge’s ermined robe ;
You ’ve taught your name to half the globe ;
You’ve sung mankind a deathless strain;
You’ve made the dead past live again :
The world may call you what it will, But you and I are Joe and Bill.
The chaffing young folks stare and say,
“See those old buffers, bent and gray, —
They talk like fellows in their teens !
Mad, poor old boys! That’s what it means,” —
And shake their heads ; they little know
The throbbing hearts of Bill and Joe! —
How Bill forgets his hour of pride,
While Joe sits smiling at his side;
How Joe, in spite of time’s disguise,
Finds the old schoolmate in his eyes, —
Those calm, stern eyes that melt and fill
As Joe looks fondly up at Bill.
Ah, pensive scholar, what is fame ?
A fitful tongue of leaping flame ;
A giddy whirlwind’s fickle gust,
That lifts a pinch of mortal dust;
A few swift years, and who can show
Which dust was Bill and which was Joe ?
The weary idol takes his stand,
Holds out his bruised and aching hand,
While gaping thousands come and go,—
How vain it seems, this empty show ! —
Till all at once his pulses thrill ; —
’T is poor old Joe’s “ God bless you, Bill ! ”
And shall we breathe in happier spheres
The names that pleased our mortal ears,
In some sweet lull of harp and song
For earth-born spirits none too long,
Just whispering of the world below
Where this was Bill, and that was Joe?
No matter; while our home is here
No sounding name is half so dear;
When fades at length our lingering day,
Who cares what pompous tombstones say ?
Read on the hearts that love us still,
Hic jacet Joe. Hic jacet Bill.