I’ve wandered to the village, Tom, I’ve sat beneath the tree,
Upon the schoolhouse playground, that sheltered you and me;
But none were there to greet me, Tom; and few were left to know,
Who played with us upon that green some forty years ago.
The grass is just as green, Tom; barefooted boys at play
Were sporting, just as we did then, with spirits just as gay.
But the “master” sleeps upon the hill, which, coated o’er with snow,
Afforded us a sliding-place some forty years ago.
The old schoolhouse is altered some; the benches are replaced
By new ones, very like the same our jackknives once defaced;
But the same old bricks are in the wall, the bell swings to and fro;
Its music’s just the same, dear Tom, ’twas forty years ago.
The boys were playing some old game, beneath that same old tree;
I have forgot the name just now – you’ve played the same with me,
On that same spot; ’twas played with knives, by throwing so and so;
The loser had a task to do, there, forty years ago.
The river’s running just as still; the willows on its side
Are larger than they were, Tom; the stream appears less wide;
But the grape-vine swing is ruined now, where once we played the beau,
And swung our sweethearts – pretty girls – just forty years ago.
The spring that bubbled ‘neath the hill, close by the spreading beech,
Is very low – ’twas then so high that we could scarcely reach;
And, kneeling down to get a drink, dear Tom, I started so,
To see how sadly I am changed since forty years ago.
Near by that spring, upon an elm, you know I cut your name,
Your sweetheart’s just beneath it, Tom, and you did mine the same;
Some heartless wretch has peeled the bark, ’twas dying sure but slow,
Just as she died, whose name you cut, some forty years ago.
My lids have long been dry, Tom, but tears came to my eyes;
I thought of her I loved so well, those early broken ties;
I visited the old churchyard, and took some flowers to strow
Upon the graves of those we loved some forty years ago.
Some are in the churchyard laid, some sleep beneath the sea,
And none are left of our old class, excepting you and me;
But when our time shall come, Tom, and we are called to go,
I hope we’ll meet with those we loved some forty years ago.
Sometimes called “Twenty Years Ago.” Claimed for A. J. Gault (1818-1903) by his family
– The Home Book of Verse
The Twenty Years ago version can be found here Harpers New Monthly Magazine