The Old Familiar Faces "All, All Are Gone, The Old Familiar Faces"
by Charles Lamb

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"All, All Are Gone, The Old Familiar Faces"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Lamb's poem belongs to an ancient literary tradition of nostalgic recollection, of which the most famous example probably is François Villon's (1431-?) "The Ballad of Dead Ladies" with its refrain "But where are the snows of yester-year?" But Lamb's poem is peculiarly his own. Its tone of gentle pathos is characteristic of his writing, while its details refer to events of Lamb's life. "I loved a love once, fairest among women" speaks of Ann Simmons, who reappears in Lamb's essays as Alice W–n. The "Friend of my bosom," with whom Lamb says he might "talk of the old familiar faces," is Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). In the concluding stanza, the italicized statement that "some are taken from me" is a comment on Lamb's sister Mary who, in a fit of mania, killed their mother. Mary lived with Charles (by court permission) in her sane periods, but from time to time she had to be placed in an asylum. The first stanza of the poem reads:

I have had playmates, I have had companions,
In my days of childhood, in my joyful schooldays–
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.