By Hope Mirrlees.
Round and round trudged the pony, round and round went the hidden musical-box, grinding out its thin, blurred tunes.
Why did she cock her pretty blue eye
At the lad with the silver buckles,
When the penniless lad who was handsome and spry
Got nought but a rap on his knuckles?
These vulgar songs, though faded, were not really old. Nevertheless, to Master Nathaniel, they were the oldest songs in existence – sung by the Morning Stars when all the world was young. For they were freighted with his childhood, and brought the memory, or, rather, the tang, the scent, of the solemn innocent world of children, a world sans archness, sans humour, sans vulgarity, where they had sounded as pure and silvery as a shepherd’s pipe. Where the little charmer with her puce bow, and the scheming hussy who had cocked her blue eye had been own sisters to the pretty fantastic ladies of the nursery rhymes, like them walking always to the accompaniment of tinkling bells and living on frangipane and sillabubs of peaches and cream; and whose gestures were stylised and actions preposterous –nonsense actions that needed no explanation. While mothers-in-law, shrewish wives, falling in love – they were just pretty words like brightly-coloured beads, strung together without meaning.