Tick! Tick! Tick!

Original Text: 
Cambridge University Library Add. MS. 7617B (among "Scraps of J. F. W. H's Poems")
(occasioned by an "irregular ode to an old Clock", by Lady ---)
"Mine eyes are dim with fruitless tears,
     "My heart is idly stirred:
"For the same sound is in my ear
     "As once in youth I heard" -- (Wordsworth)
Tick i.
1I have a clock, and there it stands
2     Against my study wall;
3The same old dialplate and hands
4     My earliest thoughts Recal.
5That clock was like no vulgar clock,
7When dawn aroused the crowing cock
8     Its noon had passed away.
9It marked no eve, nor matin prime,
10     No hour for woe or weal.
11Who looked to it for dinner time
12     Might go without a meal.
13Yet still it ticked -- nor slow nor fast
14     Its rate was ever found,
17And yet, with every beat it made
18     With every beat it makes
19A human life away must fade, --
20     A human life awakes.
22     They fall -- nor stop nor stay --
23Till the great debt be paid, and crime
24     And grief be swept away.
Tick ii.
25I have a clock of diff'rent mould.
26     Nor catgut, brass, nor steel
27A place within its frame doth hold,
28     Bob, pendulum, or wheel.
29Where'er I go, by land, by sea
30     From earliest infancy
31At home, abroad, by night, by day
32     It bears me company.
34     I know not how it goes.
35It hath no face, no hands, I wot.
36     No hour, no time it shews.
37Ah! how irregular its beat!
38     Hope, fear, Love, joy, surprize
39A word, a look, a fond conceit
40     To change its Rate suffice.
41Its beats are numbered. More or few
42     I know not, -- would not know:
43Content to stay, while aught to do
Collingwood Jan. 23. 1865

Notes

6] told: shewed in an earlier draft. Back to Line
15] Sun, Moon, Stars: Suns and Moons in an earlier draft. Back to Line
16] on: in in an earlier draft. Back to Line
21] Herschel notes:
"Die zu ben Ban den Ewigkeiten
Zwar Sandkorn nur für Sandkorn reicht
Dach von der prosen Schuld der Leiten
Minuten, Tage, Jahre streicht" (Schiller)
sand-corns: sand-grains in an earlier draft. Back to Line
33] The order of this and the next stanza is reversed, as Herschel's note requests. Back to Line
44] Content, if aught remain to do / To stay: in an earlier draft. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
2002
Publication Notes: 
With thanks to Cambridge University Library for access to this manuscript.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2002
Rhyme: