WHEN we’re children at our lessons, it is beautiful to think
Of good time that is coming later on;
The rivers of New Zealand, the mountains of Peru,
The watersheds of Europe, and the tribes of Timbuctoo,
All the facts without the fancies, all the tiresome and true,
Will be nowhere in that lovely later on.
We’ll forget the foolish fables that were written by Fontaine,
In the pleasant time that’s coming later on;
At those twelve times twenty tables we will never look again,
In lazy time that’s coming later on.
The date of Magna Charta, the plot the called “the Rye,”
The counties that are bounded by the Humber and the Wye,
We may not quite forget them, but we mean to have a try
In the lazy time that’s coming later on.
Oh, my optimistic hero, there are lessons you must learn,
In the queer time that is coming later on;
And masters and examiners you’ll find at every turn,
In the hard times that are coming later on.
Miss Fortune is a governess who’ll teach you many things,
A tutor called Experience will moderate for flings,
You’ll learn how men make money, and you’ll learn that it has wings
In the strange times that are coming later on.
Then you’ll meet the radiant vision who is all the world to you
(You’ll attend her mother’s lectures later on);
You’ll learn that what’s enough for one is not enough for two,
Nor enough for half-a-dozen later on.
No, the work is never ended, though for holidays you crave,
There are pop-guns to be mended for robbers in the Cave.
You fancy you’re the master, but you find that you’re a slave
To a curly-headed tyrant later on.
And so through all your lifetime you are longing for the day,
The lovely day that’s coming later on;
When pens and ink and copybooks will all be laid away,
And that day is surely coming later on.
For when you’re really tired, having done your level best,
When the story’s nearly ended, and the sun sets in the West,
Then you’ll lie down very gently, and the weary will find rest,
And I fancy we’ll deserve it later on.
Later on, later on,
Oh the many friends have gone,
Sweet lips that smiled and loving eyes that shone.
Through the darkness into light,
One by one they’ve winged their flight
And perhaps we’ll play together – later on.
French, Percy. (1980) ‘Prose, Poems & Parodies.’ Dublin, Helicon Limited