Poets of John Company/Twenty O'Clock

Twenty O'clock.

I cannot exactly say how it arises—
I am always the victim of startling surprises;
And now I've just suffered a terrible shock!
I'm asked out to dinner at twenty o'clock!


I'm an elderly man, of conservative turn,
Content to remember, not eager to learn;
I like institutions as firm as a rock;
What ails her to talk about twenty o'clock?

We prate about progress; it flatters our pride;
Yet we are but the playthings of cycle and tide;
We only return, if the truth be admitted,
To walk in the ways that our grandfathers quitted.

When clocks were invented, they made them to chime
From one up to twenty-four hours at a time;
And cuckoos, who cuckoo two dozen at a go
Still linger, I hear, in the Canton of Vaud.

A truce to lamenting! It's vain to repine;
The world will not alter its notions for mine;
So listen a little, and let me take stock
Of things atavistic like twenty o'clock.

I hear Sarah Battle inviting the throng
Short whist to abandon in favour of long;
While Handel in smiles from a corner in heaven
Sees Sullivan's score on a stave of eleven.

Ere long shall the glory of Oscar be past
With pseudo-æsthetics too sickly to last;
And artists like those of a healthier age
Paint lilies and roses for sun-flower and sage.

Nor less will our sportsmen, if worthy the name,
Vote battues and beaters unmanly and tame;
And a flask and slow matches for cartridge and cock
Will find us a pheasant for twenty o'clock.

The dinner I'm asked to, I'm able to state,
Will be plainer and better than dinners of late;
And ale and metheglin, not Chablis or Hock,
Will wash down our sirloin at twenty o'clock.


It's striking nineteen! I must send for my man,
And hasten my dressing, and hail a sedan;
I'm off! at the door of my hostess to knock
At exactly five minutes to twenty o'clock.