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Oliver, a Boy

When I was young my mother's hand
Led me through a joyful land
Where neither war nor hate exist
Nor something more I must resist 

Where nothing but the night is black
And black is never dark for lack
Of something bright or greater light
But merely brings a lesser sight

And should a sullen something scratch
Or enter unbeknownst to hatch
A nightmare by my crib or bed
No lack of love appeared instead

But still there grew impending fear
That drew from shadows newly near
To tempt the tender tears of youth
And soon betray a child's truth...

My mother's name was Seraphine
A sadder child was never seen 
Her duty was to serve the table
Of newly widowed Mrs. Grable

Her husband Mr. Grable died
To keep the British gratified
Which left the widow newly fed
By wealthy brother Master Ted

Their lineage was the House of Bean 
A family favored by the Queen
When epic wars left many dead
The House of Bean was spared instead

For serving well Her Majesty
The Beans were blessed with property
And one small subject good and clean
The lowly servant Seraphine

When Seraphine was just a child
Her Master Ted met Mr. Wild
A gentleman from Derbyshire
In need of servant class for hire

In Derbyshire he kept a farm
A new estate with country charm
That came with dairy cows and sheep
And one large lake two fathoms deep

He lived in lonely solitude
Without a wife to share his food
The class that served so faithfully
By evening left his company

When Seraphine was strong and able
She dug the grave of Mrs. Grable
And thought about a different house
To serve within a different blouse

For Seraphine had seen the day
When Master Bean refused to pay
The twenty pounds he paid before
Although she labored even more

She knew the way to break his sway
Was leave his house without delay
In search of better work and food
And just a bit of gratitude

But Bean would never let her go
Because he feared that she would go
And tell the queen most truthfully
About the years she worked for free

She thought about a running mate
Another maid to share her fate
But all the other maids were proud
To be among the servant crowd

A dreamer on the kitchen crew
Was dreaming with a window view
When suddenly the breaking dawn
Betrayed the maiden on the lawn

The kitchen boy released a shout
That startled everyone about
And made the Manor Lady scream
And wake the Master from his dream

A bobby who was passing by
Was startled by their anguished cry
And hurried with a worried frown
To find the Master in his gown

The Master told a mournful story
That even sold the Morning Glory
And made the bobby blow his whistle
Enough to wilt a bed of thistle

A 'Peeler' by the name of Cook
Approached his calling by the book
And made a vow to Master Bean 
To squash my mother Seraphine...

***

This intermission that we take
Is meant to help you stay awake
Through what I say and for the sake
Of everyone who needs a break...


	... INTERMISSION...


Welcome back my weary friends
I promise you this story ends
But not before your time flies through
A tale with a horse or two...

On streets of cobblestone and gray
Where beggars sleep and orphans play
The aged, sick and nearly dead
Are buried with the underfed

As costermongers ply their ware
To passersby who linger there
The orphan children learn to pick
The pockets of the ones they trick

Aristocrats in tops and tails
Avoid the class that tips in jails
But lovely ladies in repose
Do not discriminate by those

Though Seraphine had made her start
By thinking quick and acting smart
She should have known that few survive
Or live to leave when they arrive

The parlor maids knew she was right
But Master Bean begrudged her flight
And sent the bobbies on a chase
To rescue him from his disgrace

They found her dripping in the rain
And bound her ankles with a chain
To bring her back to Master Bean 
For beatings by the Butler Green

When Seraphine was black and blue
And seething from a whack or two
They locked her door and walked away
To keep her down and make her pay

The vengeful Bean could only see
Potential loss of property
And laid a very nasty plan
To sell the lass before she ran

On Sunday Seraphine was freed
To join the fun that servants need
For English tea and idle talk
For Battledore and Shuttlecock

As Seraphine began to play
Somebody smacked the bird away
It flew a course by Master Bean
And landed on the head of Green

She turned as if to run away
But something bigger blocked the way
Which made her faint and hit the ground
Before an object large and round

A gentle breeze came blowing by
To brush her face and sing the sky
A misty blush of twilight rose 
In melody of sweet repose

The rounder man who bent and smiled
Was recognized as Mr. Wild
Who raised the maiden vertically
And spoke apologetically

He chastened Bean for acting mean
And even growled at Mr. Green
He bid adieu to all the staff
And told some jokes to make her laugh 

He kissed her hand and called her sweet
And made her dance with happy feet
To make her glad so she might see
A better life was meant to be

She knew that he behaved that way
To fluff her bed with tender hay
But she would not be stalked by Bean
Or let herself be frocked by Green

Although in fact she had no choice
She did not run or raise her voice
Because she knew that no one sane
Could stay with Bean and not complain

She walked again through every room
Which otherwise would be her doom
But now she didn't seem to care
About a shriek or angry glare

She packed a set of duffel bags
Which held some clothing more like rags
Because she wasn't paid a thing
For doing time and laboring

She also packed some jam she made
And one small jar of marmalade
Which might have made the Master mad
If marmalade was all he had

A carriage made the lass be wary
Of the load she had to carry
When Master called her to his carriage
She did not see it led to... baggage

When Seraphine was in his tow
And time arrived for her to go
The staff was there to say goodbye
Which made her blow a kiss and cry...

Copyright © BRYAN NORTON

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