Read III.  MISCELLANEOUS VERSES of Songs Of The Road , free online book, by Arthur Conan Doyle, on


I am not blind I understand;
I see him loyal, good, and wise,
I feel decision in his hand,
I read his honour in his eyes. 
Manliest among men is he
With every gift and grace to clothe
He never loved a girl but me —
And I I loathe him! loathe him!

The other!  Ah!  I value him
Precisely at his proper rate,
A creature of caprice and whim,
Unstable, weak, importunate.
His thoughts are set on paltry gain —
You only tell me what I see —
I know him selfish, cold and vain;
But, oh! he’s all the world to me!


Her cheek was wet with North Sea spray,
We walked where tide and shingle
The long waves rolled from far away
To purr in ripples at our feet. 
And as we walked it seemed to me
That three old friends had met that
The old, old sky, the old, old sea,
And love, which is as old as they.

Out seaward hung the brooding mist
We saw it rolling, fold on fold,
And marked the great Sun alchemist
Turn all its leaden edge to gold,
Look well, look well, oh lady mine,
The gray below, the gold above,
For so the grayest life may shine
All golden in the light of love.


     The bloom is on the May once more,
          The chestnut buds have burst anew;
     But, darling, all our springs are o’er,
          ’Tis winter still for me and you. 
     We plucked Life’s blossoms long ago
     What’s left is but December’s snow.

     But winter has its joys as fair,
          The gentler joys, aloof, apart;
     The snow may lie upon our hair
          But never, darling, in our heart. 
     Sweet were the springs of long ago
     But sweeter still December’s snow.

     But swift the ruthless seasons sped
          And swifter still they speed away. 
     What though they bow the dainty head
          And fleck the raven hair with gray? 
     The boy and girl of long ago
     Are laughing through the veil of snow.


          Masters, I sleep not quiet in my grave,
     There where they laid me, by the Avon
     In that some crazy wights have set it forth
     By arguments most false and fanciful,
     Analogy and far-drawn inference,
     That Francis Bacon, Earl of Verulam
     (A man whom I remember in old days,
     A learned judge with sly adhesive palms,
     To which the suitor’s gold was wont to
     stick) —
     That this same Verulam had writ the plays
     Which were the fancies of my frolic brain. 
     What can they urge to dispossess the crown
Which all my comrades and the whole loud
     Did in my lifetime lay upon my brow? 
     Look straitly at these arguments and see
     How witless and how fondly slight they be. 
          Imprimis, they have urged that, being
     In the mean compass of a paltry town,
     I could not in my youth have trimmed
          my mind
     To such an eagle pitch, but must be found,
     Like the hedge sparrow, somewhere near
            the ground. 
          Bethink you, sirs, that though I was
     The learning which in colleges is found,
     Yet may a hungry brain still find its fo
     Wherever books may lie or men may be;
And though perchance by Isis or by Cam
     The meditative, philosophic plant
     May best luxuriate; yet some would say
     That in the task of limning mortal life
     A fitter preparation might be made
     Beside the banks of Thames.  And then
     If I be suspect, in that I was not
     A fellow of a college, how, I pray,
     Will Jonson pass, or Marlowe, or the rest,
     Whose measured verse treads with as
          proud a gait
     As that which was my own?  Whence did
          they suck
     This honey that they stored?  Can you
     The vantages which each of these has had
     And I had not?  Or is the argument
That my Lord Verulam hath written all,
     And covers in his wide-embracing self
     The stolen fame of twenty smaller men? 
          You prate about my learning.  I
            would urge
     My want of learning rather as a proof
     That I am still myself.  Have I not traced
     A seaboard to Bohemia, and made
     The cannons roar a whole wide century
     Before the first was forged?  Think you,
     That he, the ever-learned Verulam,
     Would have erred thus?  So may my very
     In their gross falseness prove that I am true,
     And by that falseness gender truth in you. 
     And what is left?  They say that they
          have found
A script, wherein the writer tells my Lord
     He is a secret poet.  True enough! 
     But surely now that secret is o’er past. 
     Have you not read his poems?  Know
          you not
     That in our day a learned chancellor
     Might better far dispense unjustest law
     Than be suspect of such frivolity
     As lies in verse?  Therefore his poetry
     Was secret.  Now that he is gone
     ’Tis so no longer.  You may read his verse,
     And judge if mine be better or be worse: 
     Read and pronounce!  The meed of
          praise is thine;
     But still let his be his and mine be mine. 
          I say no more; but how can you for-
     Outspoken Jonson, he who knew me well;
So, too, the epitaph which still you read? 
     Think you they faced my sepulchre with
          lies —
     Gross lies, so evident and palpable
     That every townsman must have wot of it,
     And not a worshipper within the church
     But must have smiled to see the marbled
     Surely this touches you?  But if by chance
     My reasoning still leaves you obdurate,
     I’ll lay one final plea.  I pray you look
     On my presentment, as it reaches you. 
     My features shall be sponsors for my fame;
     My brow shall speak when Shakespeare’s
          voice is dumb,
     And be his warrant in an age to come.



     They said that it had feet of clay,
          That its fall was sure and quick. 
     In the flames of yesterday
          All the clay was burned to brick.

     When they carved our epitaph
          And marked us doomed beyond recall,
     “We are,” we answered, with a laugh,
          “The Empire that declines to fall.”



     Breathing the stale and stuffy air
          Of office or consulting room,
     Our thoughts will wander back to where
          We heard the low Atlantic boom,

     And, creaming underneath our screw,
          We watched the swirling waters break,
     Silver filagrees on blue
          Spreading fan-wise in our wake.

     Cribbed within the city’s fold,
          Fettered to our daily round,
     We’ll conjure up the haze of gold
          Which ringed the wide horizon round.

     Where once the Roman galley sped,
          Or Moorish corsair spread his sail,
     By wooded shore, or sunlit head,
          By barren hill or sea-washed vale

     We took our way.  But we can swear,
          That many countries we have scanned,
     But never one that could compare
          With our own island mother-land.

The dream is o’er.  No more we view
The shores of Christian or of Turk,
But turning to our tasks anew,
We bend us to our wonted work.


When, ere the tangled web is reft,
The kid-gloved villain scowls and
And hapless innocence is left
With no assets save sighs and tears,

’Tis then, just then, that in there stalks
The hero, watchful of her needs;
He talks, Great heavens how he talks! 
But we forgive him, for his deeds.

Life is the drama here to-day
And Death the villain of the plot. 
It is a realistic play. 
Shall it end well or shall it not?


From our youth to our age
We have passed each stage
In old immemorial order,
From primitive days
Through flowery ways
With love like a hedge as their border. 
Ah, youth was a kingdom of joy,
And we were the king and the queen,
When I was a year
Short of thirty, my dear,
And you were just nearing nineteen. 
But dark follows light
And day follows night
As the old planet circles the sun;
And nature still traces
Her score on our faces
And tallies the years as they run. 
Have they chilled the old warmth in your
I swear that they have not in mine,
Though I am a year
Short of sixty, my dear,
And you are well, say thirty-nine.


Father, father, who is that a-whispering? 
Who is it who whispers in the wood? 
You say it is the breeze
As it sighs among the trees,
But there’s some one who whispers in the

Father, father, who is that a-murmuring? 
Who is it who murmurs in the night? 
You say it is the roar
Of the wave upon the shore,
But there’s some one who murmurs in the

Father, father, tell me what you’re waiting
Tell me why your eyes are on the
It is dark and it is late,
But you sit so still and straight,
Ever staring, ever smiling, at the door.


(From Heine)

     Up, dear laddie, saddle quick,
          And spring upon the leather! 
     Away post haste o’er fell and waste
          With whip and spur together!

     And when you win to Duncan’s kin
          Draw one of them aside
     And shortly say, “Which daughter may
          We welcome as the bride?”

     And if he says, “It is the dark,”
          Then quickly bring the mare,
     But if he says, “It is the blonde,”
          Then you have time to spare;


(After Heine)

     Through the lonely mountain land
          There rode a cavalier. 
     “Oh ride I to my darling’s arms,
          Or to the grave so drear?”
          The Echo answered clear,
          “The grave so drear.”

     So onward rode the cavalier
          And clouded was his brow. 
     “If now my hour be truly come,
          Ah well, it must be now!”
          The Echo answered low,
          “It must be now.”


     First begin
     Taking in. 
     Cargo stored,
     All aboard,
     Think about
     Giving out. 
     Empty ship,
     Useless trip!

     Never strain
     Weary brain,
     Hardly fit,
     Wait a bit! 
     After rest
     Comes the best.

     Critics kind,
     Never mind! 
     Critics flatter,
     No matter! 
     Critics curse,
     None the worse. 
     Critics blame,
     All the same! 
     Do your best. 
     Hang the rest!


Being the doggerel Itinerary of a Holiday in September, 1908

     To St. Albans’ town we came;
     Roman Albanus hence the name. 
     Whose shrine commemorates the faith
     Which led him to a martyr’s death. 
     A high cathedral marks his grave,
     With noble screen and sculptured nave. 
     From thence to Hatfield lay our way,
     Where the proud Cecils held their sway,
     And ruled the country, more or less,
     Since the days of Good Queen Bess. 
     Next through Hitchin’s Quaker hold
     To Bedford, where in days of old
John Bunyan, the unorthodox,
     Did a deal in local stocks. 
     Then from Bedford’s peaceful nook
     Our pilgrim’s progress still we took
     Until we slackened up our pace
     In Saint Neots’ market-place.

     Next day, the motor flying fast,
     Through Newark, Tuxford, Retford
     Until at Doncaster we found
     That we had crossed broad Yorkshire’s
     Northward and ever North we pressed,
     The Bronte Country to our West. 
     Still on we flew without a wait,
     Skirting the edge of Harrowgate,
And through a wild and dark ravine,
     As bleak a pass as we have seen,
     Until we slowly circled down
     And settled into Settle town.

     On Sunday, in the pouring rain,
     We started on our way again. 
     Through Kirkby Lonsdale on we drove,
     The weary rain-clouds still above,
     Until at last at Windermere
     We felt our final port was near,
     Thence the lake with wooded beach
     Stretches far as eye can reach. 
     There above its shining breast
     We enjoyed our welcome rest. 
     Tuesday saw us still in rain —
     Buzzing on our road again.

     Over a dreary wilderness
     We had to take our path by guess,
     For Scotland’s glories don’t include
     The use of signs to mark the road. 
     For forty miles the way ran steep
     Over bleak hills with scattered sheep,
Until at last, ’neath gloomy skies,
     We saw the stately towers rise
     Where noble Edinburgh lies —
     No city fairer or more grand
     Has ever sprung from human hand. 
     But I must add (the more’s the pity)
     That though in fair Dunedin’s city
     Scotland’s taste is quite delightful,
     The smaller Scottish towns are frightful.

     When in other lands I roam
     And sing “There is no place like home.” 
     In this respect I must confess
     That no place has its ugliness. 
     Here on my mother’s granite breast
     We settled down and took our rest. 
     On Saturday we ventured forth
     To push our journey to the North.

     Next morning first we viewed a mound,
     Memorial of some saint renowned,
     And then the mouldered ditch and ramp
     Which marked an ancient Roman camp. 
     Then past Lubnaig on we went,
     Gazed on Ben Ledi’s steep ascent,
     And passed by lovely stream and valley
     Through Dochart Glen to reach Dalmally,
     Where on a rough and winding track
     We wished ourselves in safety back;
     Till on our left we gladly saw
     The spreading waters of Loch Awe,
     And still more gladly truth to tell —
     A very up-to-date hotel,
With Conan’s church within its ground,
     Which gave it quite a homely sound. 
     Thither we came upon the Sunday,
     Viewed Kilchurn Castle on the Monday,
     And Tuesday saw us sally forth
     Bound for Oban and the North.

     We came to Oban in the rain,
     I need not mention it again,
     For you may take it as a fact
     That in that Western Highland tract
     It sometimes spouts and sometimes drops,
     But never, never, never stops. 
     From Oban on we thought it well
     To take the steamer for a spell. 
     But ere the motor went aboard
     The Pass of Melfort we explored. 
     A lovelier vale, more full of peace,
     Was never seen in classic Greece;
A wondrous gateway, reft and torn,
     To open out the land of Lomé. 
     Leading on for many a mile
     To the kingdom of Argyle.

     Wednesday saw us on our way
     Steaming out from Oban Bay,
     (Lord, it was a fearsome day!)
     To right and left we looked upon
     All the lands of Stevenson —
     Moidart, Morven, and Ardgour,
     Ardshiel, Appin, and Mamore —
     If their tale you wish to learn
     Then to “Kidnapped” you must turn. 
     Strange that one man’s eager brain
     Can make those dead lands live again! 
     From the deck we saw Glencoe,
     Where upon that night of woe
     William’s men did such a deed
As even now we blush to read. 
     Ben Nevis towered on our right,
     The clouds concealed it from our sight,
     But it was comforting to say
     That over there Ben Nevis lay’. 
     Finally we made the land
     At Fort William’s sloping strand,
     And in our car away we went
     Along that lasting monument,
     The good broad causeway which was made
     By King George’s General Wade. 
     He built a splendid road, no doubt,
     Alas! he left the sign-posts out. 
     And so we wandered, sad to say,
     Far from our appointed way,
     Till twenty mile of rugged track
     In a circle brought us back. 
     But the incident we viwed
In a philosophic mood. 
     Tired and hungry but serene
     We settled at the Bridge of Spean.

     Our journey now we onward press
     Toward the town of Inverness,
     Through a country all alive
     With memories of “forty-five.” 
     The noble clans once gathered here,
     Where now are only grouse and deer. 
     Alas, that men and crops and herds
     Should ever yield their place to birds! 
     And that the splendid Highland race
     Be swept aside to give more space
     For forests where the deer may stray
     For some rich owner far away,
     Whose keeper guards the lonely glen
     Which once sent out a hundred men! 
     When from Inverness we turned,
Feeling that a rest was earned. 
     We stopped at Nairn, for golf links famed,
     “Scotland’s Brighton” it is named,
     Though really, when the phrase we heard,
     It seemed a little bit absurd,
     For Brighton’s size compared to Nairn
     Is just a mother to her bairn. 
     We halted for a day of rest,
     But took one journey to the West
     To view old Cawdor’s tower and moat
     Of which unrivalled Shakespeare wrote,
     Where once Macbeth, the schemer deep,
     Slew royal Duncan in his sleep,
     But actors since avenged his death
     By often murdering Macbeth. 
     Hard by we saw the circles gray
     Where Druid priests were wont to pray.

     In the future it will seem
     To have been a happy dream,
     But unless my hopes are vain
     We may dream it soon again.