Twenty stanzas, after Thomas Gray's Eton College Ode, signed "T. H." Thomas Hood departs from his model by introducing, in addition to the shortened stanza, a new wealth of particularity, extending even to a list of his former school friends: "Who struts the Randall of the walk? | Who models tiny heads in chalk? | Who scoops the light canoe? | What early genius buds apace? | Where's Poynter? Harris? Bowers? Chase? | Hal Baylis? blythe Carew?" p. 355.
An academy at Clapham was founded by Thomas Maurice (father of the poet) in 1737; Hood, who spent his early years in Islington, seems not to have attended it.
David Macbeth Moir: "His comic vein was equally remarkable, and was almost the only one that he worked through a succession of years. It is only necessary to mention the Irish Schoolmaster, The Last Man, the Ode on a distant view of Clapham Academy, Faithless Sally Brown, and Miss Kilmansegg with her Golden Leg, to awaken pleasant remembrances in many a mind. Yet, like every author distinguished for true comic humour, there was a deep vein of melancholy pathos running through his mirth; and even when his sun shone brightly, its light seemed often reflected as if only over the rim of a cloud" Sketches of the Poetical Literature of the Past Half-Century (1851; 1852) 255.
Walter Jerrold: "We find it stated that he went to school at 'Prospect House Academy' at Clapham, the locality of the school being fixed by his familiar Ode on a Distant Prospect of Clapham Academy. Another authority says that 'he received his education at Dr. Wanostrocht's school at Clapham' — here it is obvious that the information was taken from the second edition of the 'Memorials,' where there is a curious slip in a foot-note supplied by the poet's son. In the original edition that foot-note began, 'This school was either at Clapham or Camberwell — I can remember my father pointing it out to me while we were living at the latter place.' In the ill-amended note of the later edition the 'either' and 'or Camberwell' are omitted, and it is added that the school was kept by Dr. Wanostrocht — the father of the well-known cricketer Felix. Accepting that amendment in part the matter becomes simple, for Nicholas Wanostrocht kept the Alfred House Academy near Camberwell Green at a spot which, according to a flowery prospectus preserved in the British Museum (dated 1795), was very convenient on account of the coaches going to and from London every hour.... Seeing that Hood, when living at Camberwell, pointed the house out to his son, and that the son gives the master's name, it may safely be assumed that when the poet wrote his Ode he purposely changed the locality to Clapham because the Alfred House Academy was then still flourishing" Thomas Hood (1907) 16.
Ah me! those old familiar bounds!
That classic house, those classic grounds
My pensive thought recalls!
What tender urchins now confine,
What little captives now repine,
Within yon irksome walls!
Ay, that's the very house! I know
Its ugly windows, ten a-row!
Its chimneys in the rear!
And there's the iron rod so high,
That drew the thunder from the sky
And turn'd our table-beer!
There I was birch'd! there I was bred!
There like a little Adam fed
From Learning's woeful tree!
The weary tasks I used to con!—
The hopeless leaves I wept upon!—
Most fruitless leaves to me!—
The summon'd class! — the awful bow!—
I wonder who is master now
And wholesome anguish sheds!
How many ushers now employs,
How many maids to see the boys
Have nothing in their heads!
And Mrs. S***? — Doth she abet
(Like Pallas in the parlour) yet
Some favour'd two or three,—
The little Crichtons of the hour,
Her muffin-medals that devour,
And swill her prize — bohea?
Ay, there's the playground! there's the lime,
Beneath whose shade in summer's prime
So wildly I have read!—
Who sits there now, and skims the cream
Of young Romance, and weaves a dream
Of Love and Cottage-bread?
Who struts the Randall of the walk?
Who models tiny heads in chalk?
Who scoops the light canoe?
What early genius buds apace?
Where's Poynter? Harris? Bowers? Chase?
Hal Baylis? blythe Carew?
Alack! they're gone — a thousand ways!
And some are serving in "the Greys,"
And some have perish'd young!—
Jack Harris weds his second wife;
Hal Baylis drives the wane of life;
And blithe Carew — is hung!
Grave Bowers teaches A B C
To savages at Owhyee;
Poor Chase is with the worms!—
All, all are gone — the olden breed!—
New crops of mushroom boys succeed,
"And push us from our forms!"
Lo! where they scramble forth, and shout,
And leap, and skip, and mob about,
At play where we have play'd!
Some hop, some run, (some fall,) some twine
Their crony arms; some in the shine,
And some are in the shade!
Lo there what mix'd conditions run!
The orphan lad; the widow's son;
And Fortune's favour'd care—
The wealthy born, for whom she hath
Mac-Adamized the future path—
The Nabob's pamper'd heir!
Some brightly starr'd — some evil born,—
For honour some, and some for scorn,—
For fair or foul renown!
Good, bad indiff'rent — none may lack!
Look, here's a White, and there a Black!
And there's a Creole brown!
Some laugh and sing, some mope and weep,
And wish their frugal sires would keep
Their only sons at home;—
Some tease the future tense, and plan
The full-grown doings of the man,
And pant for years to come!
A foolish wish! There's one at hoop;
The marble taw to speed!
And one that curvets in and out,
Reining his fellow Cob about,—
Would I were in his steed!
Yet he would gladly halt and drop
That boyish harness off, to swop
With this world's heavy van—
To toil, to tug. O little fool!
While thou canst be a horse at school
To wish to be a man!
Perchance thou deem'st it were a thing
To wear a crown, — to be a king!
And sleep on regal down!
Alas! thou know'st not kingly cares;
Far happier is thy head that wears
The hat without a crown!
And dost thou think that years acquire
New added joys? Dost think thy sire
More happy than his son?
That manhood's mirth? — Oh, go thy ways
To Drury-land when — plays,
And see how forced our fun!
Thy taws are brave! — thy tops are rare!—
Our tops are spun with coils of care,
Our dumps are no delight!—
The Elgin marbles are but tame,
And 'tis at best a sorry game
To fly the Muse's kite!
Our hearts are dough, our heels are lead,
Our topmost joys fall dull and dead
Like balls with no rebound!
And often with a faded eye
We look behind, and send a sigh
Towards that merry ground!
Then be contented. Thou hast got
The most of heaven in thy young lot;
There's sky-blue in thy cup!
Thou'lt find thy Manhood all too fast—
Soon come, soon gone! and Age at last
A sorry breaking-up!