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Old Hampton Wick Poem

Old Hampton Wick Poem
The original manuscript

John Previte lives at The Wilderness on Barge Walk. He wrote recently to our chairman Mark Merrington with a copy of an old poem about Hampton Wick.

John wrote: “I have had the attached in my files for years and often thought I should bring it to wider attention because of its charm. I have no idea which occupant of The Wilderness composed it or when but the sentiment is as valid today as when it was written.” We can only agree!

The full text of the poem is:

Old Hampton Wick. we come to you and dream
‘Neath shading branches mirrored in the stream;
We hear the hum of summer in the breeze
All undefined a whispering of the trees,
Then faint, now louder on the air is borne
The mingling sound of bells this Sabbath morn,
All jangling out of tune; yet does their call
But add unto the beauty of it all.
But man, the ravager, is everquick
To mar such peaceful spots as Hampton Wick
Yet still you smile, though many scars are seen
Where modern man has left his mark of spleen.
That urged his vandal hand to rend and pick
Your very bones, like vultures, HAMPTON WICK.

From Kingston Bridge, where noisy street cars blank
Some half a mile along the river’s bank
And hidden amid trees from fevered stress
There stands an old-time house, “The Wilderness”
In front from casement window, we can spy
Through waving branch, the river wending by;
And fancy wings us back to olden times;
We see a royal barge, hear jests and mimes
And chatterings as King and courtiers vie
To win a glance from some fair lady’s eye;
We hear the herald’s trumpets, hear the songs
And ribald laughter of the gaping throngs,
From rear ward view we conjure up in thought –
Whilst looking o’er the leas of Hampton Court –
The Royal party, court and hirelings near,
Mounting their steeds to chase the nimble deer.
The spell may weave a shimmering summer night;
The elfin moonbeams dart, their shafts of light
Fall upon knights and ladies of St. James’,
Who – here nigh to the banks of Father Thames –
Dance – to the Viols, the Hautboys and Spinet, –
The stately measures of the Minuet.

The spell has snapped; we see but serried ranks
Of Sunday trippers on the river banks.
The stream itself bears on its crest great throngs
Of craft of every kind. We hear the songs
The trippers sing; some coarse, some sad, some gay;
‘Tis laughter, jest and jazz, on holiday.
We see the litter that the trippers make
Leaving but ugly blotches in their wake,
Not theirs the fault, for ants will gather thick
Where sweetness is like yours, old HAMPTON WICK.

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