BY AUSTIN DOBSON
IN TWO VOLUMES VOL. II.
Majores majora sonent
NEW YORK DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1895, BY DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
* * * * *
All rights reserved.
University Press: JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE, U. S. A.
"For old sake's sake!" 'Twere hard to choose Words fitter for an old-world Muse Than these, that in their cadence bring Faint fragrance of the posy-ring, And charms that rustic lovers use.
The long day lengthens, and we lose The first pale flush, the morning hues,— Ah! but the back-look, lingering, For old sake's sake!
That we retain. Though Time refuse To lift the veil on forward views, Despot in most, he is not King Of those kind memories that cling Around his travelled avenues For old sake's sake!
"Qui n'a pas l'esprit de son age De son age a tout le malheur." Voltaire.
Page AT THE SIGN OF THE LYRE:— The Ladies of St. James's 3 The Old Sedan Chair 6 To an Intrusive Butterfly 9 The Cure's Progress 11 The Masque of the Months 13 Two Sermons 17 "Au Revoir" 19 The Carver and the Caliph 26 To an Unknown Bust in the British Museum 29 Molly Trefusis 32 At the Convent Gate 36 The Milkmaid 38 An Old Fish-Pond 40 An Eastern Apologue 43 To a Missal of the Thirteenth Century 45 A Revolutionary Relic 48 A Madrigal 54 A Song to the Lute 56 A Garden Song 58 A Chapter of Froissart 60 To the Mammoth Tortoise 64 A Roman "Round-Robin" 66 Verses to Order 68 A Legacy 70 "Little Blue Ribbons" 72 Lines to a Stupid Picture 74 A Fairy Tale 76 To a Child 78 Household Art 80 The Distressed Poet 81 Jocosa Lyra 83 My Books 85 The Book-Plate's Petition 87 Palomydes 89 Andre le Chapelain 91 The Water of Gold 95 A Fancy from Fontenelle 97 Don Quixote 98 A Broken Sword 99 The Poet's Seat 101 The Lost Elixir 104
MEMORIAL VERSES:— A Dialogue (Alexander Pope) 107 A Familiar Epistle (William Hogarth) 112 Henry Fielding 115 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 119 Charles George Gordon 120 Victor Hugo 121 Alfred, Lord Tennyson 122
FABLES OF LITERATURE AND ART:— The Poet and the Critics 127 The Toyman 130 The Successful Author 133 The Dilettant 136 The Two Painters 138 The Claims of the Muse 140 The 'Squire at Vauxhall 144 The Climacteric 149
TALES IN RHYME:— The Virgin with the Bells 155 A Tale of Polypheme 159 A Story from a Dictionary 170 The Water Cure 178 The Noble Patron 184
VERS DE SOCIETE:— Incognita 193 Dora versus Rose 197 Ad Rosam 200 Outward Bound 205 In the Royal Academy 208 The Last Despatch 213 "Premiers Amours" 216 The Screen in the Lumber Room 219 Daisy's Valentines 221 In Town 224 A Sonnet in Dialogue 227 Growing Gray 229
VARIA:— The Maltworm's Madrigal 233 An April Pastoral 236 A New Song of the Spring Gardens 237 A Love Song, 1700 239 Of his Mistress 240 The Nameless Charm 242 To Phidyle 243 To his Book 244 For a Copy of Herrick 246 With a Volume of Verse 247 For the Avery "Knickerbocker" 248 To a Pastoral Poet 250 "Sat est Scripsisse" 251
PROLOGUES AND EPILOGUES:— Prologue and Envoi to Abbey's Edition of "She Stoops to Conquer" 257 Prologue and Epilogue to Abbey's "Quiet Life" 264
AT THE SIGN OF THE LYRE.
"At the Sign of the Lyre," Good Folk, we present you With the pick of our quire, And we hope to content you!
Here be Ballad and Song, The fruits of our leisure, Some short and some long— May they all give you pleasure!
But if, when you read, They should fail to restore you, Farewell, and God-speed— The world is before you!
THE LADIES OF ST. JAMES'S.
A PROPER NEW BALLAD OF THE COUNTRY AND THE TOWN.
"Phyllida amo ante alias." Virg.
The ladies of St. James's Go swinging to the play; Their footmen run before them, With a "Stand by! Clear the way!" But Phyllida, my Phyllida! She takes her buckled shoon, When we go out a-courting Beneath the harvest moon.
The ladies of St. James's Wear satin on their backs; They sit all night at Ombre, With candles all of wax: But Phyllida, my Phyllida! She dons her russet gown, And runs to gather May dew Before the world is down.
The ladies of St. James's! They are so fine and fair, You'd think a box of essences Was broken in the air: But Phyllida, my Phyllida! The breath of heath and furze, When breezes blow at morning, Is not so fresh as hers.
The ladies of St. James's! They're painted to the eyes; Their white it stays for ever, Their red it never dies: But Phyllida, my Phyllida! Her colour comes and goes; It trembles to a lily,— It wavers to a rose.
The ladies of St. James's! You scarce can understand The half of all their speeches, Their phrases are so grand: But Phyllida, my Phyllida! Her shy and simple words Are clear as after rain-drops The music of the birds.
The ladies of St. James's! They have their fits and freaks; They smile on you—for seconds, They frown on you—for weeks: But Phyllida, my Phyllida! Come either storm or shine, From Shrove-tide unto Shrove-tide, Is always true—and mine.
My Phyllida! my Phyllida! I care not though they heap The hearts of all St. James's, And give me all to keep; I care not whose the beauties Of all the world may be, For Phyllida—for Phyllida Is all the world to me!
THE OLD SEDAN CHAIR.
"What's not destroyed by Time's devouring Hand? Where's Troy, and where's the May-Pole in the Strand?" Bramston's "Art of Politicks."
It stands in the stable-yard, under the eaves, Propped up by a broom-stick and covered with leaves: It once was the pride of the gay and the fair, But now 'tis a ruin,—that old Sedan chair!
It is battered and tattered,—it little avails That once it was lacquered, and glistened with nails; For its leather is cracked into lozenge and square, Like a canvas by Wilkie,—that old Sedan chair!
See,—here came the bearing-straps; here were the holes For the poles of the bearers—when once there were poles; It was cushioned with silk, it was wadded with hair, As the birds have discovered,—that old Sedan chair!
"Where's Troy?" says the poet! Look,—under the seat, Is a nest with four eggs,—'tis the favoured retreat Of the Muscovy hen, who has hatched, I dare swear, Quite an army of chicks in that old Sedan chair!
And yet—Can't you fancy a face in the frame Of the window,—some high-headed damsel or dame, Be-patched and be-powdered, just set by the stair, While they raise up the lid of that old Sedan chair?
Can't you fancy Sir Plume, as beside her he stands, With his ruffles a-droop on his delicate hands, With his cinnamon coat, with his laced solitaire, As he lifts her out light from that old Sedan chair?
Then it swings away slowly. Ah, many a league It has trotted 'twixt sturdy-legged Terence and Teague; Stout fellows!—but prone, on a question of fare, To brandish the poles of that old Sedan chair!
It has waited by portals where Garrick has played; It has waited by Heidegger's "Grand Masquerade;" For my Lady Codille, for my Lady Bellair, It has waited—and waited, that old Sedan chair!
Oh, the scandals it knows! Oh, the tales it could tell Of Drum and Ridotto, of Rake and of Belle,— Of Cock-fight and Levee, and (scarcely more rare!) Of Fete-days at Tyburn, that old Sedan chair!
"Heu! quantum mutata," I say as I go. It deserves better fate than a stable-yard, though! We must furbish it up, and dispatch it,—"With Care,"— To a Fine-Art Museum—that old Sedan chair!
TO AN INTRUSIVE BUTTERFLY.
"Kill not—for Pity's sake—and lest ye slay The meanest thing upon its upward way." Five Rules of Buddha.
I watch you through the garden walks, I watch you float between The avenues of dahlia stalks, And flicker on the green; You hover round the garden seat, You mount, you waver. Why,— Why storm us in our still retreat, O saffron Butterfly!
Across the room in loops of flight I watch you wayward go; Dance down a shaft of glancing light, Review my books a-row; Before the bust you flaunt and flit Of "blind Maeonides"— Ah, trifler, on his lips there lit Not butterflies, but bees!
You pause, you poise, you circle up Among my old Japan; You find a comrade on a cup, A friend upon a fan; You wind anon, a breathing-while, Around AMANDA'S brow;— Dost dream her then, O Volatile! E'en such an one as thou?
Away! Her thoughts are not as thine. A sterner purpose fills Her steadfast soul with deep design Of baby bows and frills; What care hath she for worlds without, What heed for yellow sun, Whose endless hopes revolve about A planet, aetat One!
Away! Tempt not the best of wives; Let not thy garish wing Come fluttering our Autumn lives With truant dreams of Spring! Away! Re-seek thy "Flowery Land;" Be Buddha's law obeyed; Lest Betty's undiscerning hand Should slay ... a future PRAED!
THE CURE'S PROGRESS.
Monsieur the Cure down the street Comes with his kind old face,— With his coat worn bare, and his straggling hair, And his green umbrella-case.
You may see him pass by the little "Grande Place," And the tiny "Hotel-de-Ville"; He smiles, as he goes, to the fleuriste Rose, And the pompier Theophile.
He turns, as a rule, through the "Marche" cool, Where the noisy fish-wives call; And his compliment pays to the "Belle Therese," As she knits in her dusky stall.
There's a letter to drop at the locksmith's shop, And Toto, the locksmith's niece, Has jubilant hopes, for the Cure gropes In his tails for a pain d'epice.
There's a little dispute with a merchant of fruit, Who is said to be heterodox, That will ended be with a "Ma foi, oui!" And a pinch from the Cure's box.
There is also a word that no one heard To the furrier's daughter Lou; And a pale cheek fed with a flickering red, And a "Bon Dieu garde M'sieu!"
But a grander way for the Sous-Prefet, And a bow for Ma'am'selle Anne; And a mock "off-hat" to the Notary's cat, And a nod to the Sacristan:—
For ever through life the Cure goes With a smile on his kind old face— With his coat worn bare, and his straggling hair, And his green umbrella-case.
THE MASQUE OF THE MONTHS.
(FOR A FRESCO.)
Firstly thou, churl son of Janus, Rough for cold, in drugget clad, Com'st with rack and rheum to pain us;— Firstly thou, churl son of Janus. Caverned now is old Sylvanus; Numb and chill are maid and lad.
After thee thy dripping brother, Dank his weeds around him cling; Fogs his footsteps swathe and smother,— After thee thy dripping brother. Hearth-set couples hush each other, Listening for the cry of Spring.
Hark! for March thereto doth follow, Blithe,—a herald tabarded; O'er him flies the shifting swallow,— Hark! for March thereto doth follow. Swift his horn, by holt and hollow, Wakes the flowers in winter dead.
Thou then, April, Iris' daughter, Born between the storm and sun; Coy as nymph ere Pan hath caught her,— Thou then, April, Iris' daughter. Now are light, and rustling water; Now are mirth, and nests begun.
May the jocund cometh after, Month of all the Loves (and mine); Month of mock and cuckoo-laughter,— May the jocund cometh after. Beaks are gay on roof and rafter; Luckless lovers peak and pine.
June the next, with roses scented, Languid from a slumber-spell; June in shade of leafage tented;— June the next, with roses scented. Now her Itys, still lamented, Sings the mournful Philomel.
Hot July thereafter rages, Dog-star smitten, wild with heat; Fierce as pard the hunter cages,— Hot July thereafter rages. Traffic now no more engages; Tongues are still in stall and street.
August next, with cider mellow, Laughs from out the poppied corn; Hook at back, a lusty fellow,— August next, with cider mellow. Now in wains the sheafage yellow 'Twixt the hedges slow is borne.
Laden deep with fruity cluster, Then September, ripe and hale; Bees about his basket fluster,— Laden deep with fruity cluster. Skies have now a softer lustre; Barns resound to flap of flail.
Thou then, too, of woodlands lover, Dusk October, berry-stained; Wailed about of parting plover,— Thou then, too, of woodlands lover. Fading now are copse and cover; Forests now are sere and waned.
Next November, limping, battered, Blinded in a whirl of leaf; Worn of want and travel-tattered,— Next November, limping, battered. Now the goodly ships are shattered, Far at sea, on rock and reef.
Last of all the shrunk December Cowled for age, in ashen gray; Fading like a fading ember,— Last of all the shrunk December. Him regarding, men remember Life and joy must pass away.
Between the rail of woven brass, That hides the "Strangers' Pew," I hear the gray-haired vicar pass From Section One to Two.
And somewhere on my left I see— Whene'er I chance to look— A soft-eyed, girl St. Cecily, Who notes them—in a book.
Ah, worthy GOODMAN,—sound divine! Shall I your wrath incur, If I admit these thoughts of mine Will sometimes stray—to her?
I know your theme, and I revere; I hear your precepts tried; Must I confess I also hear A sermon at my side?
Or how explain this need I feel,— This impulse prompting me Within my secret self to kneel To Faith,—to Purity!
A DRAMATIC VIGNETTE.
SCENE.—The Fountain in the Garden of the Luxembourg. It is surrounded by Promenaders.
MONSIEUR JOLICOEUR. A LADY (unknown).
M. JOLICOEUR. 'Tis she, no doubt. Brunette,—and tall: A charming figure, above all! This promises.—Ahem!
THE LADY. Monsieur? Ah! it is three. Then Monsieur's name Is JOLICOEUR?...
M. JOLICOEUR. Madame, the same.
THE LADY. And Monsieur's goodness has to say?... Your note?...
M. JOLICOEUR. Your note.
THE LADY. Forgive me.—Nay. (Reads) "If Madame [I omit] will be Beside the Fountain-rail at Three, Then Madame—possibly—may hear News of her Spaniel. JOLICOEUR." Monsieur denies his note?
M. JOLICOEUR. I do. Now let me read the one from you. "If Monsieur Jolicoeur will be Beside the Fountain-rail at Three, Then Monsieur—possibly—may meet An old Acquaintance. 'INDISCREET.'"
THE LADY (scandalized). Ah, what a folly! 'Tis not true. I never met Monsieur. And you?
M. JOLICOEUR (with gallantry). Have lived in vain till now. But see: We are observed.
THE LADY. (looking round). I comprehend.... (After a pause.) Monsieur, malicious brains combine For your discomfiture, and mine. Let us defeat that ill design. If Monsieur but ... (hesitating).
M. JOLICOEUR (bowing). Rely on me.
THE LADY (still hesitating). Monsieur, I know, will understand ...
M. JOLICOEUR. Madame, I wait but your command.
THE LADY. You are too good. Then condescend At once to be a new-found Friend!
M. JOLICOEUR (entering upon the part forthwith). How? I am charmed,—enchanted. Ah! What ages since we met ... at Spa?
THE LADY (a little disconcerted). At Ems, I think. Monsieur, maybe, Will recollect the Orangery?
M. JOLICOEUR. At Ems, of course. But Madame's face Might make one well forget a place.
THE LADY. It seems so. Still, Monsieur recalls The Kuerhaus, and the concert-balls?
M. JOLICOEUR. Assuredly. Though there again 'Tis Madame's image I retain.
THE LADY. Monsieur is skilled in ... repartee. (How do they take it?—Can you see?)
M. JOLICOEUR. Nay,—Madame furnishes the wit. (They don't know what to make of it!)
THE LADY. And Monsieur's friend who sometimes came?... That clever ... I forget the name.
M. JOLICOEUR. The BARON?... It escapes me, too. 'Twas doubtless he that Madame knew?
THE LADY (archly). Precisely. But, my carriage waits. Monsieur will see me to the gates?
M. JOLICOEUR (offering his arm). I shall be charmed. (Your stratagem Bids fair, I think, to conquer them.) (Aside) (Who is she? I must find that out.) —And Madame's husband thrives, no doubt?
THE LADY (off her guard). Monsieur de BEAU—?... He died at Dole!
M. JOLICOEUR. Truly. How sad! (Aside) (Yet, on the whole, How fortunate! BEAU-pre?—BEAU-vau? Which can it be? Ah, there they go!) —Madame, your enemies retreat With all the honours of ... defeat.
THE LADY. Thanks to Monsieur. Monsieur has shown A skill PREVILLE could not disown.
M. JOLICOEUR. You flatter me. We need no skill To act so nearly what we will. Nay,—what may come to pass, if Fate And Madame bid me cultivate ...
THE LADY (anticipating). Alas!—no farther than the gate. Monsieur, besides, is too polite To profit by a jest so slight.
M. JOLICOEUR. Distinctly. Still, I did but glance At possibilities ... of Chance.
THE LADY. Which must not serve Monsieur, I fear, Beyond the little grating here.
M. JOLICOEUR (aside). (She's perfect. One may push too far, Piano, sano.) (They reach the gates.) Here we are. Permit me, then ... (Placing her in the carriage.) And Madame goes?... Your coachman?... Can I?...
THE LADY (smiling). Thanks! he knows. Thanks! Thanks!
M. JOLICOEUR (insidiously). And shall we not renew Our ... "Ems acquaintanceship?"
THE LADY (still smiling). Adieu! My thanks instead!
M. JOLICOEUR (with pathos). It is too hard! (Laying his hand on the grating.) To find one's Paradise is barred!!
THE LADY. Nay.—"Virtue is her own Reward!" [Exit.
M. JOLICOEUR (solus). BEAU-vau?—BEAU-vallon?—BEAU-manoir?— But that's a detail! (Waving his hand after the carriage.) AU REVOIR!
THE CARVER AND THE CALIPH.
(We lay our story in the East. Because 'tis Eastern? Not the least. We place it there because we fear To bring its parable too near, And seem to touch with impious hand Our dear, confiding native land.)
HAROUN ALRASCHID, in the days He went about his vagrant ways, And prowled at eve for good or bad In lanes and alleys of BAGDAD, Once found, at edge of the bazaar, E'en where the poorest workers are, A Carver.
Fair his work and fine With mysteries of inlaced design, And shapes of shut significance To aught but an anointed glance,— The dreams and visions that grow plain In darkened chambers of the brain.
And all day busily he wrought From dawn to eve, but no one bought;— Save when some Jew with look askant, Or keen-eyed Greek from the Levant, Would pause awhile,—depreciate,— Then buy a month's work by the weight, Bearing it swiftly over seas To garnish rich men's treasuries.
And now for long none bought at all, So lay he sullen in his stall. Him thus withdrawn the Caliph found, And smote his staff upon the ground— "Ho, there, within! Hast wares to sell? Or slumber'st, having dined too well?" "'Dined,'" quoth the man, with angry eyes, "How should I dine when no one buys?" "Nay," said the other, answering low,— "Nay, I but jested. Is it so? Take then this coin, ... but take beside A counsel, friend, thou hast not tried. This craft of thine, the mart to suit, Is too refined,—remote,—minute; These small conceptions can but fail; 'Twere best to work on larger scale, And rather choose such themes as wear More of the earth and less of air, The fisherman that hauls his net,— The merchants in the market set,— The couriers posting in the street,— The gossips as they pass and greet,— These—these are clear to all men's eye Therefore with these they sympathize. Further (neglect not this advice!) Be sure to ask three times the price."
The Carver sadly shook his head; He knew 'twas truth the Caliph said. From that day forth his work was planned So that the world might understand. He carved it deeper, and more plain; He carved it thrice as large again; He sold it, too, for thrice the cost; —Ah, but the Artist that was lost!
TO AN UNKNOWN BUST IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM.
"Sermons in stones."
Who were you once? Could we but guess, We might perchance more boldly Define the patient weariness That sets your lips so coldly; You "lived," we know, for blame and fame; But sure, to friend or foeman, You bore some more distinctive name Than mere "B. C.,"—and "Roman"?
Your pedestal should help us much. Thereon your acts, your title, (Secure from cold Oblivion's touch!) Had doubtless due recital; Vain hope!—not even deeds can last! That stone, of which you're minus, Maybe with all your virtues past Endows ... a TIGELLINUS!
We seek it not; we should not find. But still, it needs no magic To tell you wore, like most mankind, Your comic mask and tragic; And held that things were false and true, Felt angry or forgiving, As step by step you stumbled through This life-long task ... of living!
You tried the cul-de-sac of Thought; The montagne Russe of Pleasure; You found the best Ambition brought Was strangely short of measure; You watched, at last, the fleet days fly, Till—drowsier and colder— You felt MERCURIUS loitering by To touch you on the shoulder.
'Twas then (why not?) the whim would come That howso Time should garble Those deeds of yours when you were dumb, At least you'd live—in Marble; You smiled to think that after days, At least, in Bust or Statue, (We all have sick-bed dreams!) would gaze, Not quite incurious, at you.
We gaze; we pity you, be sure! In truth, Death's worst inaction Must be less tedious to endure Than nameless petrifaction; Far better, in some nook unknown, To sleep for once—and soundly, Than still survive in wistful stone, Forgotten more profoundly!
"Now the Graces are four and the Venuses two, And ten is the number of Muses; For a Muse and a Grace and a Venus are you,— My dear little Molly Trefusis!"
So he wrote, the old bard of an "old magazine:" As a study it not without use is, If we wonder a moment who she may have been, This same "little Molly Trefusis!"
She was Cornish. We know that at once by the "Tre;" Then of guessing it scarce an abuse is If we say that where Bude bellows back to the sea Was the birthplace of Molly Trefusis.
And she lived in the era of patches and bows, Not knowing what rouge or ceruse is; For they needed (I trust) but her natural rose, The lilies of Molly Trefusis.
And I somehow connect her (I frankly admit That the evidence hard to produce is) With BATH in its hey-day of Fashion and Wit,— This dangerous Molly Trefusis.
I fancy her, radiant in ribbon and knot, (How charming that old-fashioned puce is!) All blooming in laces, fal-lals and what not, At the PUMP ROOM,—Miss Molly Trefusis.
I fancy her reigning,—a Beauty,—a Toast, Where BLADUD'S medicinal cruse is; And we know that at least of one Bard it could boast,— The Court of Queen Molly Trefusis.
He says she was "VENUS." I doubt it. Beside, (Your rhymer so hopelessly loose is!) His "little" could scarce be to Venus applied, If fitly to Molly Trefusis.
No, no. It was HEBE he had in his mind; And fresh as the handmaid of Zeus is, And rosy, and rounded, and dimpled,—you'll find,— Was certainly Molly Trefusis!
Then he calls her "a MUSE." To the charge I reply That we all of us know what a Muse is; It is something too awful,—too acid,—too dry,— For sunny-eyed Molly Trefusis.
But "a GRACE." There I grant he was probably right; (The rest but a verse-making ruse is) It was all that was graceful,—intangible,—light, The beauty of Molly Trefusis!
Was she wooed? Who can hesitate much about that Assuredly more than obtuse is; For how could the poet have written so pat "My dear little Molly Trefusis!"
And was wed? That I think we must plainly infer, Since of suitors the common excuse is To take to them Wives. So it happened to her, Of course,—"little Molly Trefusis!"
To the Bard? 'Tis unlikely. Apollo, you see, In practical matters a goose is;— 'Twas a knight of the shire, and a hunting J.P., Who carried off Molly Trefusis!
And you'll find, I conclude, in the "Gentleman's Mag.," At the end, where the pick of the news is, "On the (blank), at 'the Bath,' to Sir Hilary Bragg, With a Fortune, MISS MOLLY TREFUSIS."
Thereupon ... But no farther the student may pry: Love's temple is dark as Eleusis; So here, at the threshold, we part, you and I, From "dear little Molly Trefusis."
AT THE CONVENT GATE.
Wistaria blossoms trail and fall Above the length of barrier wall; And softly, now and then, The shy, staid-breasted doves will flit From roof to gateway-top, and sit And watch the ways of men.
The gate's ajar. If one might peep! Ah, what a haunt of rest and sleep The shadowy garden seems! And note how dimly to and fro The grave, gray-hooded Sisters go, Like figures seen in dreams.
Look, there is one that tells her beads; And yonder one apart that reads A tiny missal's page; And see, beside the well, the two That, kneeling, strive to lure anew The magpie to its cage!
Not beautiful—not all! But each With that mild grace, outlying speech, Which comes of even mood;— The Veil unseen that women wear With heart-whole thought, and quiet care, And hope of higher good.
"A placid life—a peaceful life! What need to these the name of Wife? What gentler task (I said)— What worthier—e'en your arts among— Than tend the sick, and teach the young, And give the hungry bread?"
"No worthier task!" re-echoes She, Who (closelier clinging) turns with me To face the road again: —And yet, in that warm heart of hers, She means the doves', for she prefers To "watch the ways of men."
A NEW SONG TO AN OLD TUNE.
Across the grass I see her pass; She comes with tripping pace,— A maid I know,—and March winds blow Her hair across her face;— With a hey, Dolly! ho, Dolly! Dolly shall be mine, Before the spray is white with May, Or blooms the eglantine.
The March winds blow. I watch her go: Her eye is brown and clear; Her cheek is brown, and soft as down, (To those who see it near!)— With a hey, Dolly! ho, Dolly! Dolly shall be mine, Before the spray is white with May, Or blooms the eglantine.
What has she not that those have got,— The dames that walk in silk! If she undo her 'kerchief blue, Her neck is white as milk. With a hey, Dolly! ho, Dolly! Dolly shall be mine, Before the spray is white with May, Or blooms the eglantine.
Let those who will be proud and chill! For me, from June to June, My Dolly's words are sweet as curds— Her laugh is like a tune;— With a hey, Dolly! ho, Dolly! Dolly shall be mine, Before the spray is white with May, Or blooms the eglantine.
Break, break to hear, O crocus-spear! O tall Lent-lilies flame! There'll be a bride at Easter-tide, And Dolly is her name. With a hey, Dolly! ho, Dolly! Dolly shall be mine, Before the spray is white with May, Or blooms the eglantine.
AN OLD FISH POND.
Green growths of mosses drop and bead Around the granite brink; And 'twixt the isles of water-weed The wood-birds dip and drink.
Slow efts about the edges sleep; Swift-darting water-flies Shoot on the surface; down the deep Fast-following bubbles rise.
Look down. What groves that scarcely sway! What "wood obscure," profound! What jungle!—where some beast of prey Might choose his vantage-ground!
* * * * *
Who knows what lurks beneath the tide?— Who knows what tale? Belike, Those "antres vast" and shadows hide Some patriarchal Pike;—
Some tough old tyrant, wrinkle-jawed, To whom the sky, the earth, Have but for aim to look on awed And see him wax in girth;—
Hard ruler there by right of might; An ageless Autocrat, Whose "good old rule" is "Appetite, And subjects fresh and fat;"—
While they—poor souls!—in wan despair Still watch for signs in him; And dying, hand from heir to heir The day undawned and dim,
When the pond's terror too must go; Or creeping in by stealth, Some bolder brood, with common blow, Shall found a Commonwealth.
* * * * *
Or say,—perchance the liker this!— That these themselves are gone; That Amurath in minimis,— Still hungry,—lingers on,
With dwindling trunk and wolfish jaw Revolving sullen things, But most the blind unequal law That rules the food of Kings;—
The blot that makes the cosmic All A mere time-honoured cheat;— That bids the Great to eat the Small, Yet lack the Small to eat!
* * * * *
Who knows! Meanwhile the mosses bead Around the granite brink; And 'twixt the isles of water-weed The wood-birds dip and drink.
AN EASTERN APOLOGUE.
(To E. H. P.)
Melik the Sultan, tired and wan, Nodded at noon on his divan.
Beside the fountain lingered near JAMIL the bard, and the vizier—
Old YUSUF, sour and hard to please; Then JAMIL sang, in words like these.
Slim is Butheina—slim is she As boughs of the Araka tree!
"Nay," quoth the other, teeth between, "Lean, if you will,—I call her lean."
Sweet is Butheina—sweet as wine, With smiles that like red bubbles shine!
"True,—by the Prophet!" YUSUF said, "She makes men wander in the head!"
Dear is Butheina—ah! more dear Than all the maidens of Kashmeer!
"Dear," came the answer, quick as thought, "Dear ... and yet always to be bought."
So JAMIL ceased. But still Life's page Shows diverse unto YOUTH and AGE:
And,—be the song of Ghouls or Gods,— TIME, like the Sultan, sits ... and nods.
TO A MISSAL OF THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY.
Missal of the Gothic age, Missal with the blazoned page, Whence, O Missal, hither come, From what dim scriptorium?
Whose the name that wrought thee thus, Ambrose or Theophilus, Bending, through the waning light, O'er thy vellum scraped and white;
Weaving 'twixt thy rubric lines Sprays and leaves and quaint designs; Setting round thy border scrolled Buds of purple and of gold?
Ah!—a wondering brotherhood, Doubtless, by that artist stood, Raising o'er his careful ways Little choruses of praise;
Glad when his deft hand would paint Strife of Sathanas and Saint, Or in secret coign entwist Jest of cloister humourist.
Well the worker earned his wage, Bending o'er the blazoned page! Tired the hand and tired the wit Ere the final Explicit!
Not as ours the books of old— Things that steam can stamp and fold; Not as ours the books of yore— Rows of type, and nothing more.
Then a book was still a Book, Where a wistful man might look, Finding something through the whole, Beating—like a human soul.
In that growth of day by day, When to labour was to pray, Surely something vital passed To the patient page at last; Something that one still perceives Vaguely present in the leaves; Something from the worker lent; Something mute—but eloquent!
A REVOLUTIONARY RELIC.
Old it is, and worn and battered, As I lift it from the stall; And the leaves are frayed and tattered, And the pendent sides are shattered, Pierced and blackened by a ball.
'Tis the tale of grief and gladness Told by sad St. Pierre of yore, That in front of France's madness Hangs a strange seductive sadness, Grown pathetic evermore.
And a perfume round it hovers, Which the pages half reveal, For a folded corner covers, Interlaced, two names of lovers,— A "Savignac" and "Lucile."
As I read I marvel whether, In some pleasant old chateau, Once they read this book together, In the scented summer weather, With the shining Loire below?
Nooked—secluded from espial, Did Love slip and snare them so, While the hours danced round the dial To the sound of flute and viol, In that pleasant old chateau?
Did it happen that no single Word of mouth could either speak? Did the brown and gold hair mingle, Did the shamed skin thrill and tingle To the shock of cheek and cheek?
Did they feel with that first flushing Some new sudden power to feel, Some new inner spring set gushing At the names together rushing Of "Savignac" and "Lucile"?
Did he drop on knee before her— "Son Amour, son Coeur, sa Reine"— In his high-flown way adore her, Urgent, eloquent implore her, Plead his pleasure and his pain?
Did she turn with sight swift-dimming, And the quivering lip we know, With the full, slow eyelid brimming, With the languorous pupil swimming, Like the love of Mirabeau?
Stretch her hand from cloudy frilling, For his eager lips to press; In a flash all fate fulfilling Did he catch her, trembling, thrilling— Crushing life to one caress?
Did they sit in that dim sweetness Of attained love's after-calm, Marking not the world—its meetness, Marking Time not, nor his fleetness, Only happy, palm to palm?
Till at last she,—sunlight smiting Red on wrist and cheek and hair,— Sought the page where love first lighting, Fixed their fate, and, in this writing, Fixed the record of it there.
* * * * *
Did they marry midst the smother, Shame and slaughter of it all? Did she wander like that other Woful, wistful, wife and mother, Round and round his prison wall;—
Wander wailing, as the plover Waileth, wheeleth, desolate, Heedless of the hawk above her, While as yet the rushes cover, Waning fast, her wounded mate,—
Wander, till his love's eyes met hers, Fixed and wide in their despair? Did he burst his prison fetters, Did he write sweet, yearning letters, "A Lucile,—en Angleterre"?
Letters where the reader, reading, Halts him with a sudden stop, For he feels a man's heart bleeding, Draining out its pain's exceeding— Half a life, at every drop:
Letters where Love's iteration Seems to warble and to rave; Letters where the pent sensation Leaps to lyric exultation, Like a song-bird from a grave.
Where, through Passion's wild repeating, Peep the Pagan and the Gaul, Politics and love competing, Abelard and Cato greeting, Rousseau ramping over all.
Yet your critic's right—you waive it, Whirled along the fever-flood; And its touch of truth shall save it, And its tender rain shall lave it, For at least you read Amavit, Written there in tears of blood.
* * * * *
Did they hunt him to his hiding, Tracking traces in the snow? Did they tempt him out, confiding, Shoot him ruthless down, deriding, By the ruined old chateau?
Left to lie, with thin lips resting Frozen to a smile of scorn, Just the bitter thought's suggesting, At this excellent new jesting Of the rabble Devil-born.
Till some "tiger-monkey," finding These few words the covers bear, Some swift rush of pity blinding, Sent them in the shot-pierced binding "A Lucile, en Angleterre."
* * * * *
Fancies only! Nought the covers, Nothing more the leaves reveal, Yet I love it for its lovers, For the dream that round it hovers Of "Savignac" and "Lucile."
Before me, careless lying, Young Love his ware comes crying; Full soon the elf untreasures His pack of pains and pleasures,— With roguish eye, He bids me buy From out his pack of treasures.
His wallet's stuffed with blisses, With true-love-knots and kisses, With rings and rosy fetters, And sugared vows and letters;— He holds them out With boyish flout, And bids me try the fetters.
Nay, Child (I cry), I know them; There's little need to show them! Too well for new believing I know their past deceiving,— I am too old (I say), and cold, To-day, for new believing!
But still the wanton presses, With honey-sweet caresses, And still, to my undoing, He wins me, with his wooing, To buy his ware With all its care, Its sorrow and undoing.
A SONG TO THE LUTE.
When first I came to Court, Fa la! When first I came to Court, I deemed Dan Cupid but a boy, And Love an idle sport, A sport whereat a man might toy With little hurt and mickle joy— When first I came to Court!
Too soon I found my fault, Fa la! Too soon I found my fault; The fairest of the fair brigade Advanced to mine assault. Alas! against an adverse maid Nor fosse can serve nor palisade— Too soon I found my fault!
When SILVIA'S eyes assail, Fa la! When SILVIA'S eyes assail, No feint the arts of war can show, No counterstroke avail; Naught skills but arms away to throw, And kneel before that lovely foe, When SILVIA'S eyes assail!
Yet is all truce in vain, Fa la! Yet is all truce in vain, Since she that spares doth still pursue To vanquish once again; And naught remains for man to do But fight once more, to yield anew, And so all truce is vain!
A GARDEN SONG.
(To W. E. H.)
Here, in this sequestered close Bloom the hyacinth and rose; Here beside the modest stock Flaunts the flaring hollyhock; Here, without a pang, one sees Ranks, conditions, and degrees.
All the seasons run their race In this quiet resting place; Peach, and apricot, and fig Here will ripen, and grow big; Here is store and overplus,— More had not Alcinoues!
Here, in alleys cool and green, Far ahead the thrush is seen; Here along the southern wall Keeps the bee his festival; All is quiet else—afar Sounds of toil and turmoil are.
Here be shadows large and long; Here be spaces meet for song; Grant, O garden-god, that I, Now that none profane is nigh,— Now that mood and moment please, Find the fair Pierides!
A CHAPTER OF FROISSART.
You don't know Froissart now, young folks. This age, I think, prefers recitals Of high-spiced crime, with "slang" for jokes, And startling titles;
But, in my time, when still some few Loved "old Montaigne," and praised Pope's Homer (Nay, thought to style him "poet" too, Were scarce misnomer),
Sir John was less ignored. Indeed, I can re-call how Some-one present (Who spoils her grandson, Frank!) would read And find him pleasant;
For,—by this copy,—hangs a Tale. Long since, in an old house in Surrey, Where men knew more of "morning ale" Than "Lindley Murray,"
In a dim-lighted, whip-hung hall, 'Neath Hogarth's "Midnight Conversation," It stood; and oft 'twixt spring and fall, With fond elation,
I turned the brown old leaves. For there All through one hopeful happy summer, At such a page (I well knew where), Some secret comer,
Whom I can picture, 'Trix, like you (Though scarcely such a colt unbroken), Would sometimes place for private view A certain token;—
A rose-leaf meaning "Garden Wall," An ivy-leaf for "Orchard corner," A thorn to say "Don't come at all,"— Unwelcome warner!—
Not that, in truth, our friends gainsaid; But then Romance required dissembling, (Ann Radcliffe taught us that!) which bred Some genuine trembling;
Though, as a rule, all used to end In such kind confidential parley As may to you kind Fortune send, You long-legged Charlie,
When your time comes. How years slip on! We had our crosses like our betters; Fate sometimes looked askance upon Those floral letters;
And once, for three long days disdained, The dust upon the folio settled; For some-one, in the right, was pained, And some-one nettled,
That sure was in the wrong, but spake Of fixed intent and purpose stony To serve King George, enlist and make Minced-meat of "Boney,"
Who yet survived—ten years at least. And so, when she I mean came hither, One day that need for letters ceased, She brought this with her!
Here is the leaf-stained Chapter:—How The English King laid Siege to Calais; I think Gran. knows it even now,— Go ask her, Alice.
TO THE MAMMOTH-TORTOISE
OF THE MASCARENE ISLANDS.
"Tuque, Testudo, resonare septem Callida nervis." Hor. iii. 11.
Monster Chelonian, you suggest To some, no doubt, the calm,— The torpid ease of islets drest In fan-like fern and palm;
To some your cumbrous ways, perchance, Darwinian dreams recall; And some your Rip-van-Winkle glance, And ancient youth appal;
So widely varied views dispose: But not so mine,—for me Your vasty vault but simply shows A LYRE immense, per se,
A LYRE to which the Muse might chant A truly "Orphic tale," Could she but find that public want, A Bard—of equal scale!
Oh, for a Bard of awful words, And lungs serenely strong, To sweep from your sonorous chords Niagaras of song,
Till, dinned by that tremendous strain, The grovelling world aghast, Should leave its paltry greed of gain, And mend its ways ... at last!
A ROMAN "ROUND-ROBIN."
("HIS FRIENDS" TO QUINTUS HORATIUS FLACCUS.)
"Haec decies repetita [non] placebit."—Ars Poetica.
Flaccus, you write us charming songs: No bard we know possesses In such perfection what belongs To brief and bright addresses;
No man can say that Life is short With mien so little fretful; No man to Virtue's paths exhort In phrases less regretful;
Or touch, with more serene distress, On Fortune's ways erratic; And then delightfully digress From Alp to Adriatic:
All this is well, no doubt, and tends Barbarian minds to soften; But, HORACE—we, we are your friends— Why tell us this so often?
Why feign to spread a cheerful feast, And then thrust in our faces These barren scraps (to say the least) Of Stoic common-places?
Recount, and welcome, your pursuits: Sing Lyde's lyre and hair; Sing drums and Berecynthian flutes; Sing parsley-wreaths; but spare,—
O, spare to sing, what none deny, That things we love decay;— That Time and Gold have wings to fly;— That all must Fate obey!
Or bid us dine—on this day week— And pour us, if you can, As soft and sleek as girlish cheek, Your inmost Caecuban;—
Of that we fear not overplus; But your didactic 'tap'— Forgive us!—grows monotonous; Nunc vale! Verbum sap.
VERSES TO ORDER.
(FOR A DRAWING BY E. A. ABBEY.)
How weary 'twas to wait! The year Went dragging slowly on; The red leaf to the running brook Dropped sadly, and was gone; December came, and locked in ice The plashing of the mill; The white snow filled the orchard up; But she was waiting still.
Spring stirred and broke. The rooks once more 'Gan cawing in the loft; The young lambs' new awakened cries Came trembling from the croft; The clumps of primrose filled again The hollows by the way; The pale wind-flowers blew; but she Grew paler still than they.
How weary 'twas to wait! With June, Through all the drowsy street, Came distant murmurs of the war, And rumours of the fleet; The gossips, from the market-stalls, Cried news of Joe and Tim; But June shed all her leaves, and still There came no news of him.
And then, at last, at last, at last, One blessed August morn, Beneath the yellowing autumn elms, Pang-panging came the horn; The swift coach paused a creaking-space, Then flashed away, and passed; But she stood trembling yet, and dazed: The news had come—at last!
And thus the artist saw her stand, While all around her seems As vague and shadowy as the shapes That flit from us in dreams; And naught in all the world is true, Save those few words which tell That he she lost is found again— Is found again—and well!
Ah, Postumus, we all must go: This keen North-Easter nips my shoulder; My strength begins to fail; I know You find me older;
I've made my Will. Dear, faithful friend— My Muse's friend and not my purse's! Who still would hear and still commend My tedious verses,
How will you live—of these deprived? I've learned your candid soul. The venal,— The sordid friend had scarce survived A test so penal;
But you—Nay, nay, 'tis so. The rest Are not as you: you hide your merit; You, more than all, deserve the best True friends inherit;—
Not gold,—that hearts like yours despise; Not "spacious dirt" (your own expression), No; but the rarer, dearer prize— The Life's Confession!
You catch my thought? What! Can't you guess? You, you alone, admired my Cantos;— I've left you, P., my whole MS., In three portmanteaus!
"Little Blue-Ribbons!" We call her that From the ribbons she wears in her favourite hat; For may not a person be only five, And yet have the neatest of taste alive?— As a matter of fact, this one has views Of the strictest sort as to frocks and shoes; And we never object to a sash or bow, When "little Blue-Ribbons" prefers it so.
"Little Blue-Ribbons" has eyes of blue, And an arch little mouth, when the teeth peep through; And her primitive look is wise and grave, With a sense of the weight of the word "behave;" Though now and again she may condescend To a radiant smile for a private friend; But to smile for ever is weak, you know, And "little Blue-Ribbons" regards it so.
She's a staid little woman! And so as well Is her ladyship's doll, "Miss Bonnibelle;" But I think what at present the most takes up The thoughts of her heart is her last new cup; For the object thereon,—be it understood,— Is the "Robin that buried the 'Babes in the Wood'"— It is not in the least like a robin, though, But "little Blue-Ribbons" declares it so.
"Little Blue-Ribbons" believes, I think, That the rain comes down for the birds to drink; Moreover, she holds, in a cab you'd get To the spot where the suns of yesterday set; And I know that she fully expects to meet With a lion or wolf in Regent Street! We may smile, and deny as we like—But, no; For "little Blue-Ribbons" still dreams it so.
Dear "little Blue-Ribbons!" She tells us all That she never intends to be "great" and "tall"; (For how could she ever contrive to sit In her "own, own chair," if she grew one bit!) And, further, she says, she intends to stay In her "darling home" till she gets "quite gray;" Alas! we are gray; and we doubt, you know, But "little Blue-Ribbons" will have it so!
LINES TO A STUPID PICTURE.
"—the music of the moon Sleeps in the plain eggs of the nightingale." Aylmer's Field.
Five geese,—a landscape damp and wild,— A stunted, not too pretty, child, Beneath a battered gingham; Such things, to say the least, require A Muse of more-than-average Fire Effectively to sing 'em.
And yet—Why should they? Souls of mark Have sprung from such;—e'en Joan of Arc Had scarce a grander duty; Not always ('tis a maxim trite) From righteous sources comes the right,— From beautiful, the beauty.
Who shall decide where seed is sown? Maybe some priceless germ was blown To this unwholesome marish; (And what must grow will still increase, Though cackled round by half the geese And ganders in the parish.)
Maybe this homely face may hide A Stael before whose mannish pride Our frailer sex shall tremble; Perchance this audience anserine May hiss (O fluttering Muse of mine!)— May hiss—a future Kemble!
Or say the gingham shadows o'er An undeveloped Hannah More!— A latent Mrs. Trimmer!! Who shall affirm it?—who deny?— Since of the truth nor you nor I Discern the faintest glimmer?
So then—Caps off, my Masters all; Reserve your final word,—recall Your all-too-hasty strictures; Caps off, I say, for Wisdom sees Undreamed potentialities In most unhopeful pictures.
A FAIRY TALE.
"On court, helas! apres la verite; Ah! croyez-moi, l'erreur a son merite." Voltaire.
Curled in a maze of dolls and bricks, I find Miss Mary, aetat six, Blonde, blue-eyed, frank, capricious, Absorbed in her first fairy book, From which she scarce can pause to look, Because it's "so delicious!"
"Such marvels, too. A wondrous Boat, In which they cross a magic Moat, That's smooth as glass to row on— A Cat that brings all kinds of things; And see, the Queen has angel wings— Then OGRE comes"—and so on.
What trash it is! How sad to find (Dear Moralist!) the childish mind, So active and so pliant. Rejecting themes in which you mix Fond truths and pleasing facts, to fix On tales of Dwarf and Giant!
In merest prudence men should teach That cats mellifluous in speech Are painful contradictions; That science ranks as monstrous things Two pairs of upper limbs; so wings— E'en angels' wings!—are fictions:
That there's no giant now but Steam; That life, although "an empty dream," Is scarce a "land of Fairy." "Of course I said all this?" Why, no; I did a thing far wiser, though,— I read the tale with Mary.
TO A CHILD.
(FROM THE "GARLAND OF RACHEL.")
How shall I sing you, Child, for whom So many lyres are strung; Or how the only tone assume That fits a Maid so young?
What rocks there are on either hand! Suppose—'tis on the cards— You should grow up with quite a grand Platonic hate for bards!
How shall I then be shamed, undone, For ah! with what a scorn Your eyes must greet that luckless One Who rhymed you, newly born,—
Who o'er your "helpless cradle" bent His idle verse to turn; And twanged his tiresome instrument Above your unconcern!
Nay,—let my words be so discreet, That, keeping Chance in view, Whatever after fate you meet A part may still be true.
Let others wish you mere good looks,— Your sex is always fair; Or to be writ in Fortune's books,— She's rich who has to spare:
I wish you but a heart that's kind, A head that's sound and clear; (Yet let the heart be not too blind, The head not too severe!)
A joy of life, a frank delight; A not-too-large desire; And—if you fail to find a Knight— At least ... a trusty Squire.
"Mine be a cot," for the hours of play, Of the kind that is built by MISS GREENAWAY; Where the walls are low, and the roofs are red, And the birds are gay in the blue o'erhead; And the dear little figures, in frocks and frills, Go roaming about at their own sweet wills, And "play with the pups," and "reprove the calves," And do nought in the world (but Work) by halves, From "Hunt the Slipper" and "Riddle-me-ree" To watching the cat in the apple-tree.
O Art of the Household! Men may prate Of their ways "intense" and Italianate,— They may soar on their wings of sense, and float To the au dela and the dim remote,— Till the last sun sink in the last-lit West, 'Tis the Art at the Door that will please the best; To the end of Time 'twill be still the same, For the Earth first laughed when the children came!
THE DISTRESSED POET.
A SUGGESTION FROM HOGARTH.
One knows the scene so well,—a touch, A word, brings back again That room, not garnished overmuch, In gusty Drury Lane;
The empty safe, the child that cries, The kittens on the coat, The good-wife with her patient eyes, The milkmaid's tuneless throat;
And last, in that mute woe sublime, The luckless verseman's air: The "Bysshe," the foolscap and the rhyme,— The Rhyme ... that is not there!
Poor Bard! to dream the verse inspired— With dews Castalian wet— Is built from cold abstractions squired By "Bysshe," his epithet!
Ah! when she comes, the glad-eyed Muse, No step upon the stair Betrays the guest that none refuse,— She takes us unaware;
And tips with fire our lyric lips, And sets our hearts a-flame, And then, like Ariel, off she trips, And none know how she came.
Only, henceforth, for right or wrong, By some dull sense grown keen, Some blank hour blossomed into song, We feel that she has been.
In our hearts is the Great One of Avon Engraven, And we climb the cold summits once built on By Milton.
But at times not the air that is rarest Is fairest, And we long in the valley to follow Apollo.
Then we drop from the heights atmospheric To Herrick, Or we pour the Greek honey, grown blander, Of Landor;
Or our cosiest nook in the shade is Where Praed is, Or we toss the light bells of the mocker With Locker.
Oh, the song where not one of the Graces Tight-laces,— Where we woo the sweet Muses not starchly, But archly,—
Where the verse, like a piper a-Maying, Comes playing,— And the rhyme is as gay as a dancer In answer,—
It will last till men weary of pleasure In measure! It will last till men weary of laughter ... And after!
They dwell in the odour of camphor, They stand in a Sheraton shrine, They are "warranted early editions," These worshipful tomes of mine;—
In their creamiest "Oxford vellum," In their redolent "crushed Levant," With their delicate watered linings, They are jewels of price, I grant;—
Blind-tooled and morocco-jointed, They have Zaehnsdorf's daintiest dress, They are graceful, attenuate, polished, But they gather the dust, no less;—
For the row that I prize is yonder, Away on the unglazed shelves, The bulged and the bruised octavos, The dear and the dumpy twelves,—
Montaigne with his sheepskin blistered, And Howell the worse for wear, And the worm-drilled Jesuits' Horace, And the little old cropped Moliere,
And the Burton I bought for a florin, And the Rabelais foxed and flea'd,— For the others I never have opened, But those are the books I read.
THE BOOK-PLATE'S PETITION.
BY A GENTLEMAN OF THE TEMPLE.
While cynic CHARLES still trimm'd the vane 'Twixt Querouaille and Castlemaine, In days that shocked JOHN EVELYN, My First Possessor fixed me in. In days of Dutchmen, and of frost, The narrow sea with JAMES I cross'd, Returning when once more began The Age of Saturn and of ANNE. I am a part of all the past; I knew the GEORGES, first and last; I have been oft where else was none Save the great wig of ADDISON; And seen on shelves beneath me grope The little eager form of POPE. I lost the Third that owned me when French NOAILLES fled at Dettingen; The year JAMES WOLFE surpris'd Quebec, The Fourth in hunting broke his neck; The day that WILLIAM HOGARTH dy'd, The Fifth one found me in Cheapside. This was a Scholar, one of those Whose Greek is sounder than their hose; He lov'd old Books and nappy ale, So liv'd at Streatham, next to THRALE. 'Twas there this stain of grease I boast Was made by Dr. JOHNSON'S toast. (He did it, as I think, for Spite; My Master call'd him Jacobite!) And now that I so long to-day Have rested post discrimina, Safe in the brass-wir'd book-case where I watch'd the Vicar's whit'ning hair, Must I these travell'd bones inter In some Collector's sepulchre! Must I be torn herefrom and thrown With frontispiece and colophon! With vagrant E's, and I's, and O's, The spoil of plunder'd Folios! With scraps and snippets that to ME Are naught but kitchen company! Nay, rather, FRIEND, this favour grant me: Tear me at once; but don't transplant me.
Cheltenham, Sept. 31, 1792.
Him best in all the dim Arthuriad, Of lovers of fair women, him I prize,— The Pagan Palomydes. Never glad Was he with sweetness of his lady's eyes, Nor joy he had.
But, unloved ever, still must love the same, And riding ever through a lonely world, Whene'er on adverse shield or crest he came, Against the danger desperately hurled, Crying her name.
So I, who strove to You I may not earn, Methinks, am come unto so high a place, That though from hence I can but vainly yearn For that averted favour of your face, I shall not turn.
No, I am come too high. Whate'er betide, To find the doubtful thing that fights with me, Toward the mountain tops I still shall ride, And cry your name in my extremity, As Palomyde, Until the issue come. Will it disclose No gift of grace, no pity made complete, After much labour done,—much war with woes? Will you deny me still in Heaven, my sweet;— Ah, Death—who knows?
ANDRE LE CHAPELAIN.
(Clerk of Love, 1170.)
HIS PLAINT TO VENUS OF THE COMING YEARS.
"Plus ne suis ce que j'ay este Et ne le scaurois jamais estre; Mon beau printemps et mon este Ont fait le saut par la fenestre."
Queen Venus, round whose feet, To tend thy sacred fire, With service bitter-sweet Nor youths nor maidens tire;— Goddess, whose bounties be Large as the un-oared sea;—
Mother, whose eldest born First stirred his stammering tongue, In the world's youngest morn, When the first daisies sprung:— Whose last, when Time shall die, In the same grave shall lie:—
Hear thou one suppliant more! Must I, thy Bard, grow old, Bent, with the temples frore, Not jocund be nor bold, To tune for folk in May Ballad and virelay?
Shall the youths jeer and jape, "Behold his verse doth dote,— Leave thou Love's lute to scrape, And tune thy wrinkled throat To songs of 'Flesh is Grass,'"— Shall they cry thus and pass?
And the sweet girls go by? "Beshrew the grey-beard's tune!— What ails his minstrelsy To sing us snow in June!" Shall they too laugh, and fleet Far in the sun-warmed street?
But Thou, whose beauty bright, Upon thy wooded hill, With ineffectual light The wan sun seeketh still;— Woman, whose tears are dried, Hardly, for Adon's side,—
Have pity, Erycine! Withhold not all thy sweets; Must I thy gifts resign For Love's mere broken meats; And suit for alms prefer That was thine Almoner?
Must I, as bondsman, kneel That, in full many a cause, Have scrolled thy just appeal? Have I not writ thy Laws? That none from Love shall take Save but for Love's sweet sake;—
That none shall aught refuse To Love of Love's fair dues;— That none dear Love shall scoff Or deem foul shame thereof;— That none shall traitor be To Love's own secrecy;—
Avert,—avert it, Queen! Debarred thy listed sports, Let me at least be seen An usher in thy courts, Outworn, but still indued With badge of servitude.
When I no more may go, As one who treads on air, To string-notes soft and slow, By maids found sweet and fair— When I no more may be Of Love's blithe company;—
When I no more may sit Within thine own pleasance, To weave, in sentence fit, Thy golden dalliance; When other hands than these Record thy soft decrees;—
Leave me at least to sing About thine outer wall, To tell thy pleasuring, Thy mirth, thy festival; Yea, let my swan-song be Thy grace, thy sanctity.
[Here ended Andre's words: But One that writeth, saith— Betwixt his stricken chords He heard the Wheels of Death; And knew the fruits Love bare But Dead-Sea apples were.]
THE WATER OF GOLD.
"Buy,—who'll buy?" In the market-place, Out of the market din and clatter, The quack with his puckered persuasive face Patters away in the ancient patter.
"Buy,—who'll buy? In this flask I hold— In this little flask that I tap with my stick, Sir— Is the famed, infallible Water of Gold,— The One, Original, True Elixir!
"Buy—who'll buy? There's a maiden there,— She with the ell-long flaxen tresses,— Here is a draught that will make you fair, Fit for an emperor's own caresses!
"Buy,—who'll buy? Are you old and gray? Drink but of this, and in less than a minute, Lo! you will dance like the flowers in May, Chirp and chirk like a new-fledged linnet!
"Buy,—who'll buy? Is a baby ill? Drop but a drop of this in his throttle, Straight he will gossip and gorge his fill, Brisk as a burgher over a bottle!
"Here is wealth for your life,—if you will but ask; Here is health for your limb, without lint or lotion; Here is all that you lack, in this tiny flask; And the price is a couple of silver groschen!
"Buy,—who'll buy?" So the tale runs on: And still in the great world's market-places The Quack, with his quack catholicon, Finds ever his crowd of upturned faces;
For he plays on our hearts with his pipe and drum, On our vague regret, on our weary yearning; For he sells the thing that never can come, Or the thing that has vanished, past returning.
A FANCY FROM FONTENELLE.
"De memoires de Roses on n'a point vu mourir le Jardinier."
The Rose in the garden slipped her bud, And she laughed in the pride of her youthful blood, As she thought of the Gardener standing by— "He is old,—so old! And he soon must die!"
The full Rose waxed in the warm June air, And she spread and spread till her heart lay bare; And she laughed once more as she heard his tread— "He is older now! He will soon be dead!"
But the breeze of the morning blew, and found That the leaves of the blown Rose strewed the ground; And he came at noon, that Gardener old, And he raked them gently under the mould.
And I wove the thing to a random rhyme, For the Rose is Beauty, the Gardener, Time.
Behind thy pasteboard, on thy battered hack, Thy lean cheek striped with plaster to and fro, Thy long spear levelled at the unseen foe, And doubtful Sancho trudging at thy back, Thou wert a figure strange enough, good lack! To make Wiseacredom, both high and low, Rub purblind eyes, and (having watched thee go) Dispatch its Dogberrys upon thy track: Alas! poor Knight! Alas! poor soul possest? Yet would to-day when Courtesy grows chill, And life's fine loyalties are turned to jest, Some fire of thine might burn within us still! Ah, would but one might lay his lance in rest, And charge in earnest—were it but a mill!
A BROKEN SWORD.
(To A. L.)
The shopman shambled from the doorway out And twitched it down— Snapped in the blade! 'Twas scarcely dear, I doubt, At half-a-crown.
Useless enough! And yet can still be seen, In letters clear, Traced on the metal's rusty damaskeen— "Povr Paruenyr."
Whose was it once?—Who manned it once in hope His fate to gain? Who was it dreamed his oyster-world should ope To this—in vain?
Maybe with some stout Argonaut it sailed The Western Seas; Maybe but to some paltry Nym availed For toasting cheese!
Or decked by Beauty on some morning lawn With silken knot, Perchance, ere night, for Church and King 'twas drawn— Perchance 'twas not!
Who knows—or cares? To-day, 'mid foils and gloves Its hilt depends, Flanked by the favours of forgotten loves,— Remembered friends;—
And oft its legend lends, in hours of stress, A word to aid; Or like a warning comes, in puffed success, Its broken blade.
THE POET'S SEAT.
AN IDYLL OF THE SUBURBS.
"Ille terrarum mihi praeter omnes Angulus Ridet." —Hor. ii. 6.
It was an elm-tree root of yore, With lordly trunk, before they lopped it, And weighty, said those five who bore Its bulk across the lawn, and dropped it Not once or twice, before it lay. With two young pear-trees to protect it, Safe where the Poet hoped some day The curious pilgrim would inspect it.
He saw him with his Poet's eye, The stately Maori, turned from etching The ruin of St. Paul's, to try Some object better worth the sketching:— He saw him, and it nerved his strength What time he hacked and hewed and scraped it, Until the monster grew at length The Master-piece to which he shaped it.
To wit—a goodly garden seat, And fit alike for Shah or Sophy, With shelf for cigarettes complete, And one, but lower down, for coffee; He planted pansies 'round its foot,— "Pansies for thoughts!" and rose and arum; The Motto (that he meant to put) Was "Ille angulus terrarum."
But "Oh! the change" (as Milton sings)— "The heavy change!" When May departed, When June with its "delightful things" Had come and gone, the rough bark started,— Began to lose its sylvan brown, Grew parched, and powdery, and spotted; And, though the Poet nailed it down, It still flapped up, and dropped, and rotted.
Nor was this all. 'Twas next the scene Of vague (and viscous) vegetations; Queer fissures gaped, with oozings green, And moist, unsavoury exhalations,— Faint wafts of wood decayed and sick, Till, where he meant to carve his Motto, Strange leathery fungi sprouted thick, And made it like an oyster grotto.
Briefly, it grew a seat of scorn, Bare,—shameless,—till, for fresh disaster, From end to end, one April morn, 'Twas riddled like a pepper caster,— Drilled like a vellum of old time; And musing on this final mystery, The Poet left off scribbling rhyme, And took to studying Natural History.
This was the turning of the tide; His five-act play is still unwritten; The dreams that now his soul divide Are more of Lubbock than of Lytton; "Ballades" are "verses vain" to him Whose first ambition is to lecture (So much is man the sport of whim!) On "Insects and their Architecture."
THE LOST ELIXIR.
"One drop of ruddy human blood puts more life into the veins of a poem than all the delusive 'aurum potabile' that can be distilled out of the choicest library."—Lowell.
Ah, yes, that "drop of human blood!"— We had it once, may be, When our young song's impetuous flood First poured its ecstasy; But now the shrunk poetic vein Yields not that priceless drop again.
We toil,—as toiled we not of old; Our patient hands distil The shining spheres of chemic gold With hard-won, fruitless skill; But that red drop still seems to be Beyond our utmost alchemy.
Perchance, but most in later age, Time's after-gift, a tear, Will strike a pathos on the page Beyond all art sincere; But that "one drop of human blood" Has gone with life's first leaf and bud.
TO THE MEMORY OF MR. ALEXANDER POPE.
"Non injussa cano." Virg.
POET. I sing of POPE—
FRIEND. What, POPE, the Twitnam Bard, Whom Dennis, Cibber, Tibbald push'd so hard! POPE of the Dunciad! POPE who dar'd to woo, And then to libel, Wortley-Montagu! POPE of the Ham-walks story—
P. Scandals all! Scandals that now I care not to recall. Surely a little, in two hundred Years, One may neglect Contemporary Sneers:— Surely Allowance for the Man may make That had all Grub-street yelping in his Wake! And who (I ask you) has been never Mean, When urged by Envy, Anger or the Spleen? No: I prefer to look on POPE as one Not rightly happy till his Life was done; Whose whole Career, romance it as you please, Was (what he call'd it) but a "long Disease:" Think of his Lot,—his Pilgrimage of Pain, His "crazy Carcass" and his restless Brain; Think of his Night-Hours with their Feet of Lead, His dreary Vigil and his aching Head; Think of all this, and marvel then to find The "crooked Body with a crooked Mind!" Nay rather, marvel that, in Fate's Despite, You find so much to solace and delight,— So much of Courage, and of Purpose high In that unequal Struggle not to die. I grant you freely that POPE played his Part Sometimes ignobly—but he lov'd his Art; I grant you freely that he sought his Ends Not always wisely—but he lov'd his Friends; And who of Friends a nobler Roll could show— Swift, St. John, Bathurst, Marchmont, Peterb'ro', Arbuthnot—
P. Well (entre nous), Most that he said of Addison was true. Plain Truth, you know—
FR. Is often not polite (So Hamlet thought)—
P. And Hamlet (Sir) was right. But leave POPE'S Life. To-day, methinks, we touch The Work too little and the Man too much. Take up the Lock, the Satires, Eloise— What Art supreme, what Elegance, what Ease! How keen the Irony, the Wit how bright, The Style how rapid, and the Verse how light! Then read once more, and you shall wonder yet At Skill, at Turn, at Point, at Epithet. "True Wit is Nature to Advantage dress'd"— Was ever Thought so pithily express'd? "And ten low Words oft creep in one dull Line"— Ah, what a Homily on Yours ... and Mine! Or take—to choose at Random—take but This— "Ten censure wrong for one that writes amiss."
FR. Pack'd and precise, no Doubt. Yet surely those Are but the Qualities we ask of Prose, Was he a POET?
P. Yes: if that be what Byron was certainly and Bowles was not; Or say you grant him, to come nearer Date, What Dryden had, that was denied to Tate—
FR. Which means, you claim for him the Spark divine, Yet scarce would place him on the highest Line—
P. True, there are Classes. POPE was most of all Akin to Horace, Persius, Juvenal; POPE was, like them, the Censor of his Age, An Age more suited to Repose than Rage; When Rhyming turn'd from Freedom to the Schools, And shock'd with Licence, shudder'd into Rules; When Phoebus touch'd the Poet's trembling Ear With one supreme Commandment Be thou Clear; When Thought meant less to reason than compile, And the Muse labour'd ... chiefly with the File. Beneath full Wigs no Lyric drew its Breath As in the Days of great ELIZABETH; And to the Bards of ANNA was denied The Note that Wordsworth heard on Duddon-side. But POPE took up his Parable, and knit The Woof of Wisdom with the Warp of Wit; He trimm'd the Measure on its equal Feet, And smooth'd and fitted till the Line was neat; He taught the Pause with due Effect to fall; He taught the Epigram to come at Call; He wrote——
FR. His Iliad!
P. Well, suppose you own You like your Iliad in the Prose of Bohn,— Tho' if you'd learn in Prose how Homer sang, 'Twere best to learn of Butcher and of Lang,— Suppose you say your Worst of POPE, declare His Jewels Paste, his Nature a Parterre, His Art but Artifice—I ask once more Where have you seen such Artifice before? Where have you seen a Parterre better grac'd, Or gems that glitter like his Gems of Paste? Where can you show, among your Names of Note, So much to copy and so much to quote? And where, in Fine, in all our English Verse, A Style more trenchant and a Sense more terse?
So I, that love the old Augustan Days Of formal Courtesies and formal Phrase; That like along the finish'd Line to feel The Ruffle's Flutter and the Flash of Steel; That like my Couplet as compact as clear; That like my Satire sparkling tho' severe, Unmix'd with Bathos and unmarr'd by Trope, I fling my Cap for Polish—and for POPE!
A FAMILIAR EPISTLE
To * * Esq. of * * with a Life of the late Ingenious M^r. W^m. Hogarth.
Dear Cosmopolitan,—I know I should address you a Rondeau, Or else announce what I've to say At least en Ballade fratrisee; But No: for once I leave Gymnasticks, And take to simple Hudibrasticks; Why should I choose another Way, When this was good enough for GAY?
You love, my FRIEND, with me, I think, That Age of Lustre and of Link; Of Chelsea China and long "s"es, Of Bag-wigs and of flowered Dresses; That Age of Folly and of Cards, Of Hackney Chairs and Hackney Bards; —No H—LTS, no K—G—N P—LS were then Dispensing Competence to Men; The gentle Trade was left to Churls, Your frowsy TONSONS and your CURLLS; Mere Wolves in Ambush to attack The AUTHOR in a Sheep-skin Back; Then SAVAGE and his Brother-Sinners In Porridge-Island div'd for Dinners; Or doz'd on Covent Garden Bulks, And liken'd Letters to the Hulks;— You know that by-gone Time, I say, That aimless easy-moral'd Day, When rosy Morn found MADAM still Wrangling at Ombre or Quadrille, When good Sir JOHN reel'd Home to Bed, From Pontack's or the Shakespear's Head; When TRIP convey'd his Master's Cloaths, And took his Titles and his Oaths; While BETTY, in a cast Brocade, Ogled MY LORD at Masquerade; When GARRICK play'd the guilty Richard, Or mouth'd Macbeth with Mrs. PRITCHARD; When FOOTE grimac'd his snarling Wit; When CHURCHILL bullied in the Pit; When the CUZZONI sang— But there! The further Catalogue I spare, Having no Purpose to eclipse That tedious Tale of HOMER'S Ships;— This is the MAN that drew it all From Pannier Alley to the Mall, Then turn'd and drew it once again From Bird-Cage Walk to Lewknor's Lane;— Its Rakes and Fools, its Rogues and Sots; Its brawling Quacks, its starveling Scots; Its Ups and Downs, its Rags and Garters, Its HENLEYS, LOVATS, MALCOLMS, CHARTRES; Its Splendour, Squalor, Shame, Disease; Its quicquid agunt Homines;— Nor yet omitted to pourtray Furens quid possit Foemina;— In short, held up to ev'ry Class NATURE'S unflatt'ring looking-Glass; And, from his Canvass, spoke to All The Message of a JUVENAL.
Take Him. His Merits most aver: His weak Point is—his Chronicler!
Nov^r. 1, 1879.
(To James Russell Lowell.)
Not from the ranks of those we call Philosopher or Admiral,— Neither as LOCKE was, nor as BLAKE, Is that Great Genius for whose sake We keep this Autumn festival.
And yet in one sense, too, was he A soldier—of humanity; And, surely, philosophic mind Belonged to him whose brain designed That teeming COMIC EPOS where, As in CERVANTES and MOLIERE, Jostles the medley of Mankind.
Our ENGLISH NOVEL'S pioneer! His was the eye that first saw clear How, not in natures half-effaced By cant of Fashion and of Taste,— Not in the circles of the Great, Faint-blooded and exanimate,— Lay the true field of Jest and Whim, Which we to-day reap after him. No:—he stepped lower down and took The piebald PEOPLE for his Book!
Ah, what a wealth of Life there is In that large-laughing page of his! What store and stock of Common-Sense, Wit, Wisdom, Books, Experience! How his keen Satire flashes through, And cuts a sophistry in two! How his ironic lightning plays Around a rogue and all his ways! Ah, how he knots his lash to see That ancient cloak, Hypocrisy!
Whose are the characters that give Such round reality?—that live With such full pulse? Fair SOPHY yet Sings Bobbing Joan at the spinet; We see AMELIA cooking still That supper for the recreant WILL; We hear Squire WESTERN'S headlong tones Bawling "Wut ha?—wut ha?" to JONES. Are they not present now to us,— The Parson with his AEschylus? SLIPSLOP the frail, and NORTHERTON, PARTRIDGE, and BATH, and HARRISON?— Are they not breathing, moving,—all The motley, merry carnival That FIELDING kept, in days agone?
He was the first who dared to draw Mankind the mixture that he saw; Not wholly good nor ill, but both, With fine intricacies of growth. He pulled the wraps of flesh apart, And showed the working human heart; He scorned to drape the truthful nude With smooth, decorous platitude!
He was too frank, may be; and dared Too boldly. Those whose faults he bared, Writhed in the ruthless grasp that brought Into the light their secret thought. Therefore the TARTUFFE-throng who say "Couvrez ce sein," and look that way,— Therefore the Priests of Sentiment Rose on him with their garments rent. Therefore the gadfly swarm whose sting Plies ever round some generous thing, Buzzed of old bills and tavern-scores, Old "might-have-beens" and "heretofores";— Then, from that garbled record-list, Made him his own Apologist.
And was he? Nay,—let who has known Nor Youth nor Error, cast the stone! If to have sense of Joy and Pain Too keen,—to rise, to fall again, To live too much,—be sin, why then, This was no pattern among men. But those who turn that later page, The Journal of his middle-age, Watch him serene in either fate,— Philanthropist and Magistrate; Watch him as Husband, Father, Friend, Faithful, and patient to the end; Grieving, as e'en the brave may grieve, But for the loved ones he must leave: These will admit—if any can— That 'neath the green Estrella trees, No Artist merely, but a MAN, Wrought on our noblest island-plan, Sleeps with the alien Portuguese.
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW.
"Nec turpem senectam Degere, nec cithara carentem." —Hor. i. 31.
"Not to be tuneless in old age!" Ah! surely blest his pilgrimage, Who, in his Winter's snow, Still sings with note as sweet and clear As in the morning of the year When the first violets blow!
Blest!—but more blest, whom Summer's heat, Whom Spring's impulsive stir and beat, Have taught no feverish lure; Whose Muse, benignant and serene, Still keeps his Autumn chaplet green Because his verse is pure!
Lie calm, O white and laureate head! Lie calm, O Dead, that art not dead, Since from the voiceless grave, Thy voice shall speak to old and young While song yet speaks an English tongue By Charles' or Thamis' wave!
CHARLES GEORGE GORDON.
"Rather be dead than praised," he said, That hero, like a hero dead, In this slack-sinewed age endued With more than antique fortitude!
"Rather be dead than praised!" Shall we, Who loved thee, now that Death sets free Thine eager soul, with word and line Profane that empty house of thine?
Nay,—let us hold, be mute. Our pain Will not be less that we refrain; And this our silence shall but be A larger monument to thee.
He set the trumpet to his lips, and lo! The clash of waves, the roar of winds that blow, The strife and stress of Nature's warring things, Rose like a storm-cloud, upon angry wings.
He set the reed-pipe to his lips, and lo! The wreck of landscape took a rosy glow, And Life, and Love, and gladness that Love brings Laughed in the music, like a child that sings.
Master of each, Arch-Master! We that still Wait in the verge and outskirt of the Hill Look upward lonely—lonely to the height Where thou has climbed, for ever, out of sight!
ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON.
EMIGRAVIT, OCTOBER VI., MDCCCXCII.
Grief there will be, and may, When King Apollo's bay Is cut midwise; Grief that a song is stilled, Grief for the unfulfilled Singer that dies.
Not so we mourn thee now, Not so we grieve that thou, MASTER, art passed, Since thou thy song didst raise, Through the full round of days, E'en to the last.
Grief there may be, and will, When that the Singer still Sinks in the song; When that the winged rhyme Fails of the promised prime, Ruined and wrong.
Not thus we mourn thee—we— Not thus we grieve for thee, MASTER and Friend; Since, like a clearing flame, Clearer thy pure song came E'en to the end.
Nay—nor for thee we grieve E'en as for those that leave Life without name; Lost as the stars that set, Empty of men's regret, Empty of fame.
Rather we count thee one Who, when his race is run, Layeth him down, Calm—through all coming days, Filled with a nation's praise, Filled with renown.
FABLES OF LITERATURE AND ART.
THE POET AND THE CRITICS.
If those who wield the Rod forget, 'Tis truly—Quis custodiet?
A certain Bard (as Bards will do) Dressed up his Poems for Review. His Type was plain, his Title clear; His Frontispiece by FOURDRINIER. Moreover, he had on the Back A sort of sheepskin Zodiac;— A Mask, a Harp, an Owl,—in fine, A neat and "classical" Design. But the in-Side?—Well, good or bad, The Inside was the best he had: Much Memory,—more Imitation;— Some Accidents of Inspiration;— Some Essays in that finer Fashion Where Fancy takes the place of Passion;— And some (of course) more roughly wrought To catch the Advocates of Thought.
In the less-crowded Age of ANNE, Our Bard had been a favoured Man; Fortune, more chary with the Sickle, Had ranked him next to GARTH or TICKELL;— He might have even dared to hope A Line's Malignity from POPE! But now, when Folks are hard to please, And Poets are as thick as—Peas, The Fates are not so prone to flatter, Unless, indeed, a Friend ... No Matter.
The Book, then, had a minor Credit: The Critics took, and doubtless read it. Said A.—These little Songs display No lyric Gift; but still a Ray,— A Promise. They will do no Harm. 'Twas kindly, if not very warm. Said B.—The Author may, in Time, Acquire the Rudiments of Rhyme: His Efforts now are scarcely Verse. This, certainly, could not be worse.
Sorely discomfited, our Bard Worked for another ten Years—hard. Meanwhile the World, unmoved, went on; New Stars shot up, shone out, were gone; Before his second Volume came His Critics had forgot his Name:
And who, forsooth, is bound to know Each Laureate in embryo! They tried and tested him, no less,- The sworn Assayers of the Press. Said A.—The Author may, in Time.... Or much what B. had said of Rhyme. Then B.—These little Songs display.... And so forth, in the sense of A. Over the Bard I throw a Veil.
There is no MORAL to this Tale.
With Verse, is Form the first, or Sense? Hereon men waste their Eloquence.
"Sense (cry the one Side), Sense, of course. How can you lend your Theme its Force? How can you be direct and clear, Concise, and (best of all) sincere, If you must pen your Strain sublime In Bonds of Measure and of Rhyme? Who ever heard true Grief relate Its heartfelt Woes in 'six' and 'eight'? Or felt his manly Bosom swell Beneath a French-made Villanelle? How can your Mens divinior sing Within the Sonnet's scanty Ring, Where she must chant her Orphic Tale In just so many Lines, or fail?..."
"Form is the first (the Others bawl); If not, why write in Verse at all? Why not your throbbing Thoughts expose (If verse be such Restraint) in Prose? For surely if you speak your Soul Most freely where there's least Control, It follows you must speak it best By Rhyme (or Reason) unreprest. Blest Hour! be not delayed too long, When Britain frees her Slaves of Song; And barred no more by Lack of Skill, The Mob may crowd Parnassus Hill!..."
Just at this Point—for you must know, All this was but the To-and-fro Of MATT and DICK who played with Thought, And lingered longer than they ought (So pleasant 'tis to tap one's Box And trifle round a Paradox!)— There came—but I forgot to say, 'Twas in the Mall, the Month was May— There came a Fellow where they sat, His Elf-locks peeping through his Hat, Who bore a Basket. Straight his Load He set upon the Ground, and showed His newest Toy—a Card with Strings. On this side was a Bird with Wings, On that, a Cage. You twirled, and lo! The Twain were one. Said MATT, "E'en so. Here's the Solution in a Word:— Form is the Cage and Sense the Bird. The Poet twirls them in his Mind, And wins the Trick with both combined."
THE SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR.
When Fate presents us with the Bays, We prize the Praiser, not the Praise. We scarcely think our Fame eternal If vouched for by the Farthing Journal; But when the Craftsman's self has spoken, We take it for a certain Token. This an Example best will show, Derived from DENNIS DIDEROT.
A hackney Author, who'd essayed All Hazards of the scribbling Trade; And failed to live by every Mode, From Persian Tale to Birthday Ode; Embarked at last, thro' pure Starvation, In Theologic Speculation. 'Tis commonly affirmed his Pen Had been most orthodox till then; But oft, as SOCRATES has said, The Stomach's stronger than the Head; And, for a sudden Change of Creed, There is no Jesuit like Need. Then, too, 'twas cheap; he took it all, By force of Habit, from the Gaul. He showed (the Trick is nowise new) That Nothing we believe is true; But chiefly that Mistake is rife Touching the point of After-Life; Here all were wrong from PLATO down: His Price (in Boards) was Half-a-Crown. The Thing created quite a Scare:— He got a Letter from VOLTAIRE, Naming him Ami and Confrere; Besides two most attractive Offers Of Chaplaincies from noted Scoffers. He fell forthwith his Head to lift, To talk of "I and DR. SW—FT;" And brag, at Clubs, as one who spoke, On equal Terms, with BOLINGBROKE. But, at the last, a Missive came That put the Copestone to his Fame. The Boy who brought it would not wait: It bore a Covent-Garden Date;— A woful Sheet with doubtful Ink. And Air of Bridewell or the Clink, It ran in this wise:—Learned Sir! We, whose Subscriptions follow here, Desire to state our Fellow-feeling In this Religion you're revealing. You make it plain that if so be We 'scape on Earth from Tyburn Tree, There's nothing left for us to fear In this—or any other Sphere. We offer you our Thanks; and hope Your Honor, too, may cheat the Rope! With that came all the Names beneath, As BLUESKIN, JERRY CLINCH, MACHEATH, BET CARELESS, and the Rest—a Score Of Rogues and Bona Robas more.
This Newgate Calendar he read: 'Tis not recorded what he said.
The most oppressive Form of Cant Is that of your Art-Dilettant:— Or rather "was." The Race, I own, To-day is, happily, unknown.
A Painter, now by Fame forgot, Had painted—'tis no matter what; Enough that he resolved to try The Verdict of a critic Eye. The Friend he sought made no Pretence To more than candid Common-sense, Nor held himself from Fault exempt. He praised, it seems, the whole Attempt. Then, pausing long, showed here and there That Parts required a nicer Care,— A closer Thought. The Artist heard, Expostulated, chafed, demurred.
Just then popped in a passing Beau, Half Pertness, half Pulvilio;— One of those Mushroom Growths that spring From Grand Tours and from Tailoring;— And dealing much in terms of Art Picked up at Sale and auction Mart. Straight to the Masterpiece he ran With lifted Glass, and thus began, Mumbling as fast as he could speak:— "Sublime!—prodigious!—truly Greek! That 'Air of Head' is just divine; That contour GUIDO, every line; That Forearm, too, has quite the Gusto Of the third Manner of ROBUSTO...." Then, with a Simper and a Cough, He skipped a little farther off:— "The middle Distance, too, is placed Quite in the best Italian Taste; And Nothing could be more effective Than the Ordonnance and Perspective.... You've sold it?—No?—Then take my word, I shall speak of it to MY LORD. What!—I insist. Don't stir, I beg. Adieu!" With that he made a Leg, Offered on either Side his Box,— So took his Virtu off to COCK'S.
The Critic, with a Shrug, once more Turned to the Canvas as before. "Nay,"—said the Painter—"I allow The Worst that you can tell me now. 'Tis plain my Art must go to School, To win such Praises—from a FOOL!"
THE TWO PAINTERS.
In Art some hold Themselves content If they but compass what they meant; Others prefer, their Purpose gained, Still to find Something unattained— Something whereto they vaguely grope With no more Aid than that of Hope. Which are the Wiser? Who shall say! The prudent Follower of GAY Declines to speak for either View, But sets his Fable 'twixt the two.
Once—'twas in good Queen ANNA'S Time— While yet in this benighted Clime The GENIUS of the ARTS (now known On mouldy Pediments alone) Protected all the Men of Mark, Two Painters met Her in the Park. Whether She wore the Robe of Air Portrayed by VERRIO and LAGUERRE; Or, like BELINDA, trod this Earth, Equipped with Hoop of monstrous Girth, And armed at every Point for Slaughter With Essences and Orange-water, I know not: but it seems that then, After some talk of Brush and Pen,— Some chat of Art both High and Low, Of VAN'S "Goose-Pie" and KNELLER'S "Mot,"— The Lady, as a Goddess should, Bade Them ask of Her what They would. "Then, Madam, my request," says BRISK, Giving his Ramillie a whisk, "Is that your Majesty will crown My humble Efforts with Renown. Let me, I beg it—Thanks to You— Be praised for Everything I do, Whether I paint a Man of Note, Or only plan a Petticoat." "Nay," quoth the other, "I confess" (This One was plainer in his Dress, And even poorly clad), "for me, I scorn Your Popularity. Why should I care to catch at once The Point of View of every Dunce? Let me do well, indeed, but find The Fancy first, the Work behind; Nor wholly touch the thing I wanted...." The Goddess both Petitions granted.
Each in his Way, achieved Success; But One grew Great. And which One? Guess.
THE CLAIMS OF THE MUSE.
Too oft we hide our Frailties' Blame Beneath some simple-sounding Name! So Folks, who in gilt Coaches ride, Will call Display but Proper Pride; So Spendthrifts, who their Acres lose, Curse not their Folly but the Jews; So Madam, when her Roses faint, Resorts to ... anything but Paint.
An honest Uncle, who had plied His Trade of Mercer in Cheapside, Until his Name on 'Change was found Good for some Thirty Thousand Pound, Was burdened with an Heir inclined To thoughts of quite a different Kind. His Nephew dreamed of Naught but Verse From Morn to Night, and, what was worse, He quitted all at length to follow That "sneaking, whey-faced God, APOLLO." In plainer Words, he ran up Bills At Child's, at Batson's and at Will's; Discussed the Claims of rival Bards At Midnight,—with a Pack of Cards; Or made excuse for "t'other Bottle" Over a point in ARISTOTLE. This could not last, and like his Betters He found, too soon, the Cost of Letters. Back to his Uncle's House he flew, Confessing that he'd not a Sou. 'Tis true, his Reasons, if sincere, Were more poetical than clear: "Alas!" he said, "I name no Names: The Muse, dear Sir, the Muse has claims." His Uncle, who, behind his Till, Knew less of Pindus than Snow-Hill, Looked grave, but thinking (as Men say) That Youth but once can have its Day, Equipped anew his Pride and Hope To frisk it on Parnassus Slope. In one short Month he sought the Door More shorn and ragged than before. This Time he showed but small Contrition, And gloried in his mean Condition. "The greatest of our Race," he said, "Through Asian Cities begged his Bread. The Muse—the Muse delights to see Not Broadcloth but Philosophy! Who doubts of this her Honour shames, But (as you know) she has her Claims...." "Friend," quoth his Uncle then, "I doubt This scurvy Craft that you're about Will lead your philosophic Feet Either to Bedlam or the Fleet. Still, as I would not have you lack, Go get some Broadcloth to your Back, And—if it please this precious Muse— 'Twere well to purchase decent Shoes. Though harkye, Sir...." The Youth was gone, Before the good Man could go on.
And yet ere long again was seen That Votary of Hippocrene. As along Cheap his Way he took, His Uncle spied him by a Brook, Not such as Nymphs Castalian pour,— 'Twas but the Kennel, nothing more. His Plight was plain by every Sign Of Idiot Smile and Stains of Wine. He strove to rise, and wagged his Head— "The Muse, dear Sir, the Muse—" he said. "Muse!" quoth the Other, in a Fury, "The Muse shan't serve you, I assure ye. She's just some wanton, idle Jade That makes young Fools forget their Trade,— Who should be whipped, if I'd my Will, From Charing Cross to Ludgate Hill. She's just...." But he began to stutter, So left SIR GRACELESS in the Gutter.
THE 'SQUIRE AT VAUXHALL.
Nothing so idle as to waste This Life disputing upon Taste; And most—let that sad Truth be written— In this contentious Land of Britain, Where each one holds "it seems to me" Equivalent to Q. E. D., And if you dare to doubt his Word Proclaims you Blockhead and absurd. And then, too often, the Debate Is not 'twixt First and Second-rate, Some narrow Issue, where a Touch Of more or less can't matter much, But, and this makes the Case so sad, Betwixt undoubted Good and Bad. Nay,—there are some so strangely wrought,— So warped and twisted in their Thought,— That, if the Fact be but confest, They like the baser Thing the best. Take BOTTOM, who for one, 'tis clear, Possessed a "reasonable Ear;" He might have had at his Command The Symphonies of Fairy-Land; Well, our immortal SHAKESPEAR owns The Oaf preferred the "Tongs and Bones!"
'Squire HOMESPUN from Clod-Hall rode down, As the Phrase is—"to see the Town;" (The Town, in those Days, mostly lay Betwixt the Tavern and the Play.) Like all their Worships the J.P.'s, He put up at the Hercules; Then sallied forth on Shanks his Mare, Rather than jolt it in a Chair,— A curst, new-fangled Little-Ease, That knocks your Nose against your Knees. For the good 'Squire was Country-bred, And had strange Notions in his Head, Which made him see in every Cur The starveling Breed of Hanover; He classed your Kickshaws and Ragoos With Popery and Wooden Shoes; Railed at all Foreign Tongues as Lingo, And sighed o'er Chaos Wine for Stingo.
Hence, as he wandered to and fro, Nothing could please him, high or low. As Savages at Ships of War He looked unawed on Temple-Bar; Scarce could conceal his Discontent With Fish-Street and the Monument; And might (except at Feeding-Hour) Have scorned the Lion in the Tower, But that the Lion's Race was run, And—for the Moment—there was none.
At length, blind Fate, that drives us all, Brought him at Even to Vauxhall, What Time the eager Matron jerks Her slow Spouse to the Water-Works, And the coy Spinster, half-afraid Consults the Hermit in the Shade. Dazed with the Din and Crowd, the 'Squire Sank in a Seat before the Choir. The FAUSTINETTA, fair and showy, Warbled an Air from Arsinoe, Playing her Bosom and her Eyes As Swans do when they agonize. Alas! to some a Mug of Ale Is better than an Orphic Tale! The 'Squire grew dull, the 'Squire grew bored; His chin dropt down; he slept; he snored. Then, straying thro' the "poppied Reign," He dreamed him at Clod-Hall again; He heard once more the well-known Sounds, The Crack of Whip, the Cry of Hounds.
He rubbed his Eyes, woke up, and lo! A Change had come upon the Show. Where late the Singer stood, a Fellow, Clad in a Jockey's Coat of Yellow, Was mimicking a Cock that crew. Then came the Cry of Hounds anew, Yoicks! Stole Away! and harking back; Then Ringwood leading up the Pack. The 'Squire in Transport slapped his Knee At this most hugeous Pleasantry. The sawn Wood followed; last of all The Man brought something in a Shawl,— Something that struggled, scraped, and squeaked As Porkers do, whose tails are tweaked. Our honest 'Squire could scarcely sit So excellent he thought the Wit. But when Sir Wag drew off the Sheath And showed there was no Pig beneath, His pent-up Wonder, Pleasure, Awe, Exploded in a long Guffaw: And, to his dying Day, he'd swear That Naught in Town the Bell could bear From "Jockey wi' the Yellow Coat That had a Farm-Yard in his Throat!"
MORAL THE FIRST you may discover: The 'Squire was like TITANIA'S lover; He put a squeaking Pig before The Harmony of CLAYTON'S Score.
MORAL THE SECOND—not so clear; But still it shall be added here: He praised the Thing he understood; 'Twere well if every Critic would.
When do the reasoning Powers decline? The Ancients said at Forty-Nine. At Forty-Nine behoves it then To quit the Inkhorn and the Pen, Since ARISTOTLE so decreed. Premising thus, we now proceed.
In that thrice-favoured Northern Land, Where most the Flowers of Thought expand, And all things nebulous grow clear, Through Spectacles and Lager-Beer, There lived, at Dumpelsheim the Lesser, A certain High-Dutch Herr Professor. Than GROTIUS more alert and quick, More logical than BURGERSDYCK, His Lectures both so much transcended, That far and wide his Fame extended, Proclaiming him to every clime Within a Mile of Dumpelsheim. But chief he taught, by Day and Night, The Doctrine of the Stagirite, Proving it fixed beyond Dispute, In Ways that none could well refute; For if by Chance 'twas urged that Men O'er-stepped the Limit now and then, He'd show unanswerably still Either that all they did was "Nil," Or else 'twas marked by Indication Of grievous mental Degradation: Nay—he could even trace, they say, That Degradation to a Day.
The Years rolled on, and as they flew, More famed the Herr Professor grew, His "Locus of the Pineal Gland" (A Masterpiece he long had planned) Had reached the End of Book Eleven, And he was nearing Forty-Seven. Admirers had not long to wait; The last Book came at Forty-Eight, And should have been the Heart and Soul— The Crown and Summit—of the whole. But now the oddest Thing ensued; 'Twas so insufferably crude, So feeble and so poor, 'twas plain The Writer's Mind was on the wane. Nothing could possibly be said; E'en Friendship's self must hang the head, While jealous Rivals, scarce so civil, Denounced it openly as "Drivel." Never was such Collapse. In brief, The poor Professor died of Grief.
With fitting mortuary Rhyme They buried him at Dumpelsheim, And as they sorrowing set about A "Short Memoir," the Truth came out. He had been older than he knew. The Parish Clerk had put a "2" In place of "Nought," and made his Date Of Birth a Brace of Years too late. When he had written Book the Last, His true Climacteric had past!
MORAL.—To estimate your Worth, Be certain as to date of Birth.
TALES IN RHYME.
THE VIRGIN WITH THE BELLS.
Much strange is true. And yet so much Dan Time thereto of doubtful lays He blurs them both beneath his touch:—
In this our tale his part he plays. At Florence, so the legend tells, There stood a church that men would praise
(Even where Art the most excels) For works of price; but chief for one They called the "Virgin with the Bells."
Gracious she was, and featly done, With crown of gold about the hair, And robe of blue with stars thereon,
And sceptre in her hand did bear; And o'er her, in an almond tree, Three little golden bells there were,
Writ with Faith, Hope, and Charity. None knew from whence she came of old, Nor whose the sculptor's name should be
Of great or small. But this they told:— That once from out the blaze of square, And bickering folk that bought and sold,
More moved no doubt of heat than prayer, Came to the church an Umbrian, Lord of much gold and champaign fair,
But, for all this, a hard, haught man. To whom the priests, in humbleness, At once to beg for alms began,
Praying him grant of his excess Such as for poor men's bread might pay, Or give their saint a gala-dress.
Thereat with scorn he answered—"Nay, Most Reverend! Far too well ye know, By guile and wile, the fox's way
"To swell the Church's overflow. But ere from me the least carline Ye win, this summer's sky shall snow;
"Or, likelier still, your doll's-eyed queen Shall ring her bells ... but not of craft. By Bacchus! ye are none too lean
"For fasting folk!" With that he laughed, And so, across the porphyry floor, His hand upon his dagger-haft,
Strode, and of these was seen no more. Nor, of a truth, much marvelled they At those his words, since gear and store
Oft dower shrunk souls. But, on a day, While yet again throughout the square, The buyers in their noisy way,
Chaffered around the basket ware, It chanced (I but the tale reveal, Nor true nor false therein declare)—
It chanced that when the priest would kneel Before the taper's flickering flame, Sudden a little tremulous peal
From out the Virgin's altar came. And they that heard must fain recall The Umbrian, and the words of shame
Spoke in his pride, and therewithal Came news how, at that very date And hour of time was fixed his fall,
Who, of the Duke, was banned the State, And all his goods, and lands as well, To Holy Church were confiscate.
Such is the tale the Frati tell.
A TALE OF POLYPHEME.
"There's nothing new"—Not that I go so far As he who also said "There's nothing true," Since, on the contrary, I hold there are Surviving still a verity or two; But, as to novelty, in my conviction, There's nothing new,—especially in fiction.
Hence, at the outset, I make no apology, If this my story is as old as Time, Being, indeed, that idyll of mythology,— The Cyclops' love,—which, somewhat varied, I'm To tell once more, the adverse Muse permitting, In easy rhyme, and phrases neatly fitting.
"Once on a time"—there's nothing new, I said— It may be fifty years ago or more, Beside a lonely posting-road that led Seaward from Town, there used to stand of yore, With low-built bar and old bow-window shady, An ancient Inn, the "Dragon and the Lady."
Say that by chance, wayfaring Reader mine, You cast a shoe, and at this dusty Dragon, Where beast and man were equal on the sign, Inquired at once for Blacksmith and for flagon: The landlord showed you, while you drank your hops, A road-side break beyond the straggling shops.
And so directed, thereupon you led Your halting roadster to a kind of pass, This you descended with a crumbling tread, And found the sea beneath you like a glass; And soon, beside a building partly walled— Half hut, half cave—you raised your voice and called.
Then a dog growled; and straightway there began Tumult within—for, bleating with affright, A goat burst out, escaping from the can; And, following close, rose slowly into sight— Blind of one eye, and black with toil and tan— An uncouth, limping, heavy-shouldered man.
Part smith, part seaman, and part shepherd too: You scarce knew which, as, pausing with the pail Half filled with goat's milk, silently he drew An anvil forth, and reaching shoe and nail, Bared a red forearm, bringing into view Anchors and hearts in shadowy tattoo.