Time, You Old Gypsy Man


Time, you old gypsy man,
Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
Just for one day?

This bit of poetry has been rattling around in my head for a week or so now, and I know not why. I don’t remember anything punching its way into my mind, nor even who the author was.
The Internet supplied some of the answers rather easily. The poem was by Ralph Hodgson, who lived from 1871 to 1962, an English poet. Truth to tell, before I got busy and looked it up, I thought the quote was from Emily Dickinson’s The Chariot: “Because I could not stop for Death, / he kindly stopped for me. / The carriage held but just ourselves / and Immortality.”

I used to think Emily was morbid, given to writing about Death as though he were a living person willing to enter into a dialogue with this invalid recluse. Good for her, I say now. Whatever we put into words is not going to change a thing about the outcome of our lives. Whether there is a hereafter, a heaven, or just nothingness, there is no timetable to refer to. Might as well go willingly.
But I digress. Hodgson goes on trying to coax just a day from the old gypsy, Time. He promises “all things” to effect a pause in Time’s schedule: / “…Bells for your jennet / Of silver the best, / Goldsmiths shall beat you / A great golden ring, / Peacocks will bow to you. / Little boys sing ./ Oh, and sweet girls will / Festoon you with may.”

I had to look up “jennet” and “may,” both lower case. A jennet is a smallish Spanish horse, a pacer actually, and may is a shrubby species of spiraea with clusters of small white flowers along slender branches.
What’s your hurry? Hodgson challenges Time. He traces the gypsy’s itinerary: “Last week in Babylon, / Last night in Rome, / Morning, and in the crush / Under Paul’s dome.” But what’s the big rush?
I can no longer master this old gypsy man.

The days are all out of control, and rarely line up the way I feel them. Before I commit to getting out of bed in the morning I have to decide if it’s Tuesday or Friday. Never mind the date.
Time to get up. It’s 8:00 what, a.m. or p.m.? And Daylight Saving Time, you’re kidding, right?
Seems like we just got adjusted to Eastern Standard Time. Again.
“Write everything down,” Dave bellows, thumbing dramatically through the little notebook that I believe is surgically implanted in his chest.
“You’re an adult. You shouldn’t have to ask receptionists to call you the morning before an appointment.”
And yes, he does write down my appointments in his book, but with about the same accuracy that I do.

Seeing that confident look of triumph fizz off his face when he discovers he got the date right, but not the month, is almost worth the price of admission.
The fact that Grunt – the family’s antique case clock that only Dave can tweak – is also beginning to show his age.
For most of the years we’ve given him shelter and a weekly winding he has been accurate to a half-minute or less per week.

But if we brag on him, we can be sure he will strike back (pun intended).
This is a fine piece of hardware, so how do the chimes get out of sequence? How can he suddenly be 10 minutes off in an hour?

No one ever fools with him, yet he takes spells of serious error with no known cause.
Maybe we should all take a break from the rigidity of Time. starting with our little Black Forest cuckoo clock and going from appliance clocks to ship’s bell to computers to wrist watches, just for one day….

Time, you old gypsy man,
Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
Just for one day?

[Sallie Satterthwaite of Peachtree City has been writing for The Citizen since our first issue Feb. 10, 1993. Before that she had served as a city councilwoman and as a volunteer emergency medical technician. She is the only columnist we know who has a fire station named for her. Her email is SallieS@Juno.com.]