The Ape

Charles Lamb 1775 (Inner Temple, London) – 1834 (Edmonton, London)



An Ape is but a trivial beast,
Men count it light and vain;
But I would let them have their thoughts,
To have my Ape again.

To love a beast in any sort
Is no great sign of grace;
But I have loved a flouting Ape's
'Bove any lady's face.

I have known the power of two fair eyes,
In smile or else in glance,
And how (for I a lover was)
They make the spirits dance;

But I would give two hundred smiles
Of them that fairest be,
For one look of my staring Ape
That used to stare on me.

This beast, this Ape, it had a face-
If face it might be styled-
Sometimes it was a staring Ape,
Sometimes a beauteous child-

A Negro flat-a Pagod squat,
Cast in a Chinese mould-
And then it was a Cherub's face
Made of the beaten gold!

But Time, that's meddling, meddling still,
And always altering things-
And what's already at the best
To alteration brings,

That turns the sweetest buds to flowers,
And chops and changes toys,
That breaks up dreams, and parts old friends,
And still commutes our joys-

Has changed away my Ape at last
And in its place conveyed,
Thinking therewith to cheat my sight,
A fresh and blooming maid!

And fair to sight is she-and still
Each day doth sightlier grow,
Upon the ruins of the Ape,
My ancient playfellow!

The tale of Sphinx, and Theban jests
I true in me perceive;
I suffer riddles; death from dark
Enigmas I receive:

Whilst a hid being I pursue,
That lurks in a new shape,
My darling in herself I miss,
And, in my ape, the ape.

1806.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 14, 2023

1:26 min read
127

Quick analysis:

Scheme XXAX XBAB XCXC XDED BFEF XGBG HIXI XJXJ XKXK HXEH XLXL XEXE
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 1,412
Words 284
Stanzas 12
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

Charles Lamb

Charles Lamb was an English essayist, poet, and antiquarian, best known for his Essays of Elia and for the children's book Tales from Shakespeare, co-authored with his sister, Mary Lamb (1764–1847). Friends with such literary luminaries as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, William Wordsworth, and William Hazlitt, Lamb was at the centre of a major literary circle in England. He has been referred to by E. V. Lucas, his principal biographer, as "the most lovable figure in English literature". more…

All Charles Lamb poems | Charles Lamb Books

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