PETER BELL THE THIRD.
By Miching Mallecho
Is it a party in a parlour, Crammed just as they on earth were crammed, Some sipping punch—some sipping tea; But, as you by their faces see, All silent, and all—damned! "Peter Bell", by W. WORDSWORTH.
OPHELIA.—What means this, my lord? HAMLET.—Marry, this is Miching Mallecho; it means mischief. SHAKESPEARE.
TO THOMAS BROWN, ESQ., THE YOUNGER, H.F.
DEAR TOM—Allow me to request you to introduce Mr. Peter Bell to the respectable family of the Fudges. Although he may fall short of those very considerable personages in the more active properties which characterize the Rat and the Apostate, I suspect that even you, their historian, will confess that he surpasses them in the more peculiarly legitimate qualification of intolerable dulness.
You know Mr. Examiner Hunt; well—it was he who presented me to two of the Mr. Bells. My intimacy with the younger Mr. Bell naturally sprung from this introduction to his brothers. And in presenting him to you, I have the satisfaction of being able to assure you that he is considerably the dullest of the three.
There is this particular advantage in an acquaintance with any one of the Peter Bells, that if you know one Peter Bell, you know three Peter Bells; they are not one, but three; not three, but one. An awful mystery, which, after having caused torrents of blood, and having been hymned by groans enough to deafen the music of the spheres, is at length illustrated to the satisfaction of all parties in the theological world, by the nature of Mr. Peter Bell.
Peter is a polyhedric Peter, or a Peter with many sides. He changes colours like a chameleon, and his coat like a snake. He is a Proteus of a Peter. He was at first sublime, pathetic, impressive, profound; then dull; then prosy and dull; and now dull—oh so very dull! it is an ultra-legitimate dulness.
You will perceive that it is not necessary to consider Hell and the Devil as supernatural machinery. The whole scene of my epic is in 'this world which is'—so Peter informed us before his conversion to "White Obi"—
'The world of all of us, AND WHERE WE FIND OUR HAPPINESS, OR NOT AT ALL.'
Let me observe that I have spent six or seven days in composing this sublime piece; the orb of my moonlike genius has made the fourth part of its revolution round the dull earth which you inhabit, driving you mad, while it has retained its calmness and its splendour, and I have been fitting this its last phase 'to occupy a permanent station in the literature of my country.'
Your works, indeed, dear Tom, sell better; but mine are far superior. The public is no judge; posterity sets all to rights.
Allow me to observe that so much has been written of Peter Bell, that the present history can be considered only, like the Iliad, as a continuation of that series of cyclic poems, which have already been candidates for bestowing immortality upon, at the same time that they receive it from, his character and adventures. In this point of view I have violated no rule of syntax in beginning my composition with a conjunction; the full stop which closes the poem continued by me being, like the full stops at the end of the Iliad and Odyssey, a full stop of a very qualified import.
Hoping that the immortality which you have given to the Fudges, you will receive from them; and in the firm expectation, that when London shall be an habitation of bitterns; when St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey shall stand, shapeless and nameless ruins, in the midst of an unpeopled marsh; when the piers of Waterloo Bridge shall become the nuclei of islets of reeds and osiers, and cast the jagged shadows of their broken arches on the solitary stream, some transatlantic commentator will be weighing in the scales of some new and now unimagined system of criticism, the respective merits of the Bells and the Fudges, and their historians. I remain, dear Tom, yours sincerely,
December 1, 1819.
P.S.—Pray excuse the date of place; so soon as the profits of the publication come in, I mean to hire lodgings in a more respectable street.
Peter Bells, one, two and three, O'er the wide world wandering be.— First, the antenatal Peter, Wrapped in weeds of the same metre, The so-long-predestined raiment 5 Clothed in which to walk his way meant The second Peter; whose ambition Is to link the proposition, As the mean of two extremes— (This was learned from Aldric's themes) 10 Shielding from the guilt of schism The orthodoxal syllogism; The First Peter—he who was Like the shadow in the glass Of the second, yet unripe, 15 His substantial antitype.—
Then came Peter Bell the Second, Who henceforward must be reckoned The body of a double soul, And that portion of the whole 20 Without which the rest would seem Ends of a disjointed dream.— And the Third is he who has O'er the grave been forced to pass To the other side, which is,— 25 Go and try else,—just like this.
Peter Bell the First was Peter Smugger, milder, softer, neater, Like the soul before it is Born from THAT world into THIS. 30 The next Peter Bell was he, Predevote, like you and me, To good or evil as may come; His was the severer doom,— For he was an evil Cotter, 35 And a polygamic Potter. And the last is Peter Bell, Damned since our first parents fell, Damned eternally to Hell— Surely he deserves it well! 40
PART 1. DEATH.
1. And Peter Bell, when he had been With fresh-imported Hell-fire warmed, Grew serious—from his dress and mien 'Twas very plainly to be seen Peter was quite reformed. 5
2. His eyes turned up, his mouth turned down; His accent caught a nasal twang; He oiled his hair; there might be heard The grace of God in every word Which Peter said or sang. 10
3. But Peter now grew old, and had An ill no doctor could unravel: His torments almost drove him mad;— Some said it was a fever bad— Some swore it was the gravel. 15
4. His holy friends then came about, And with long preaching and persuasion Convinced the patient that, without The smallest shadow of a doubt, He was predestined to damnation. 20
5. They said—'Thy name is Peter Bell; Thy skin is of a brimstone hue; Alive or dead—ay, sick or well— The one God made to rhyme with hell; The other, I think, rhymes with you. 25
6. Then Peter set up such a yell!— The nurse, who with some water gruel Was climbing up the stairs, as well As her old legs could climb them—fell, And broke them both—the fall was cruel. 30
7. The Parson from the casement lept Into the lake of Windermere— And many an eel—though no adept In God's right reason for it—kept Gnawing his kidneys half a year. 35
8. And all the rest rushed through the door And tumbled over one another, And broke their skulls.—Upon the floor Meanwhile sat Peter Bell, and swore, And cursed his father and his mother; 40
9. And raved of God, and sin, and death, Blaspheming like an infidel; And said, that with his clenched teeth He'd seize the earth from underneath, And drag it with him down to hell. 45
10. As he was speaking came a spasm, And wrenched his gnashing teeth asunder; Like one who sees a strange phantasm He lay,—there was a silent chasm Between his upper jaw and under. 50
11. And yellow death lay on his face; And a fixed smile that was not human Told, as I understand the case, That he was gone to the wrong place:— I heard all this from the old woman. 55
12. Then there came down from Langdale Pike A cloud, with lightning, wind and hail; It swept over the mountains like An ocean,—and I heard it strike The woods and crags of Grasmere vale. 60
13. And I saw the black storm come Nearer, minute after minute; Its thunder made the cataracts dumb; With hiss, and clash, and hollow hum, It neared as if the Devil was in it. 65
14. The Devil WAS in it:—he had bought Peter for half-a-crown; and when The storm which bore him vanished, nought That in the house that storm had caught Was ever seen again. 70
15. The gaping neighbours came next day— They found all vanished from the shore: The Bible, whence he used to pray, Half scorched under a hen-coop lay; Smashed glass—and nothing more! 75
PART 2. THE DEVIL.
1. The Devil, I safely can aver, Has neither hoof, nor tail, nor sting; Nor is he, as some sages swear, A spirit, neither here nor there, In nothing—yet in everything. 80
2. He is—what we are; for sometimes The Devil is a gentleman; At others a bard bartering rhymes For sack; a statesman spinning crimes; A swindler, living as he can; 85
3. A thief, who cometh in the night, With whole boots and net pantaloons, Like some one whom it were not right To mention;—or the luckless wight From whom he steals nine silver spoons. 90
4. But in this case he did appear Like a slop-merchant from Wapping, And with smug face, and eye severe, On every side did perk and peer Till he saw Peter dead or napping. 95
5. He had on an upper Benjamin (For he was of the driving schism) In the which he wrapped his skin From the storm he travelled in, For fear of rheumatism. 100
6. He called the ghost out of the corse;— It was exceedingly like Peter,— Only its voice was hollow and hoarse— It had a queerish look of course— Its dress too was a little neater. 105
7. The Devil knew not his name and lot; Peter knew not that he was Bell: Each had an upper stream of thought, Which made all seem as it was not; Fitting itself to all things well. 110
8. Peter thought he had parents dear, Brothers, sisters, cousins, cronies, In the fens of Lincolnshire; He perhaps had found them there Had he gone and boldly shown his 115
9. Solemn phiz in his own village; Where he thought oft when a boy He'd clomb the orchard walls to pillage The produce of his neighbour's tillage, With marvellous pride and joy. 120
10. And the Devil thought he had, 'Mid the misery and confusion Of an unjust war, just made A fortune by the gainful trade Of giving soldiers rations bad— 125 The world is full of strange delusion—
11. That he had a mansion planned In a square like Grosvenor Square, That he was aping fashion, and That he now came to Westmoreland 130 To see what was romantic there.
12. And all this, though quite ideal,— Ready at a breath to vanish,— Was a state not more unreal Than the peace he could not feel, 135 Or the care he could not banish.
13. After a little conversation, The Devil told Peter, if he chose, He'd bring him to the world of fashion By giving him a situation 140 In his own service—and new clothes.
14. And Peter bowed, quite pleased and proud, And after waiting some few days For a new livery—dirty yellow Turned up with black—the wretched fellow 145 Was bowled to Hell in the Devil's chaise.
PART 3. HELL.
1. Hell is a city much like London— A populous and a smoky city; There are all sorts of people undone, And there is little or no fun done; 150 Small justice shown, and still less pity.
2. There is a Castles, and a Canning, A Cobbett, and a Castlereagh; All sorts of caitiff corpses planning All sorts of cozening for trepanning 155 Corpses less corrupt than they.
3. There is a ***, who has lost His wits, or sold them, none knows which; He walks about a double ghost, And though as thin as Fraud almost— 160 Ever grows more grim and rich.
4. There is a Chancery Court; a King; A manufacturing mob; a set Of thieves who by themselves are sent Similar thieves to represent; 165 An army; and a public debt.
5. Which last is a scheme of paper money, And means—being interpreted— 'Bees, keep your wax—give us the honey, And we will plant, while skies are sunny, 170 Flowers, which in winter serve instead.'
6. There is a great talk of revolution— And a great chance of despotism— German soldiers—camps—confusion— Tumults—lotteries—rage—delusion— 175 Gin—suicide—and methodism;
7. Taxes too, on wine and bread, And meat, and beer, and tea, and cheese, From which those patriots pure are fed, Who gorge before they reel to bed 180 The tenfold essence of all these.
8. There are mincing women, mewing, (Like cats, who amant misere,) Of their own virtue, and pursuing Their gentler sisters to that ruin, 185 Without which—what were chastity?
9. Lawyers—judges—old hobnobbers Are there—bailiffs—chancellors— Bishops—great and little robbers— Rhymesters—pamphleteers—stock-jobbers— 190 Men of glory in the wars,—
10. Things whose trade is, over ladies To lean, and flirt, and stare, and simper, Till all that is divine in woman Grows cruel, courteous, smooth, inhuman, 195 Crucified 'twixt a smile and whimper.
11. Thrusting, toiling, wailing, moiling, Frowning, preaching—such a riot! Each with never-ceasing labour, Whilst he thinks he cheats his neighbour, 200 Cheating his own heart of quiet.
12. And all these meet at levees;— Dinners convivial and political;— Suppers of epic poets;—teas, Where small talk dies in agonies;— 205 Breakfasts professional and critical;
13. Lunches and snacks so aldermanic That one would furnish forth ten dinners, Where reigns a Cretan-tongued panic, Lest news Russ, Dutch, or Alemannic 210 Should make some losers, and some winners—
45. At conversazioni—balls— Conventicles—and drawing-rooms— Courts of law—committees—calls Of a morning—clubs—book-stalls— 215 Churches—masquerades—and tombs.
15. And this is Hell—and in this smother All are damnable and damned; Each one damning, damns the other; They are damned by one another, 220 By none other are they damned.
16. 'Tis a lie to say, 'God damns'! Where was Heaven's Attorney General When they first gave out such flams? Let there be an end of shams, 225 They are mines of poisonous mineral.
17. Statesmen damn themselves to be Cursed; and lawyers damn their souls To the auction of a fee; Churchmen damn themselves to see 230 God's sweet love in burning coals.
18. The rich are damned, beyond all cure, To taunt, and starve, and trample on The weak and wretched; and the poor Damn their broken hearts to endure 235 Stripe on stripe, with groan on groan.
19. Sometimes the poor are damned indeed To take,—not means for being blessed,— But Cobbett's snuff, revenge; that weed From which the worms that it doth feed 240 Squeeze less than they before possessed.
20. And some few, like we know who, Damned—but God alone knows why— To believe their minds are given To make this ugly Hell a Heaven; 245 In which faith they live and die.
21. Thus, as in a town, plague-stricken, Each man be he sound or no Must indifferently sicken; As when day begins to thicken, 250 None knows a pigeon from a crow,—
22. So good and bad, sane and mad, The oppressor and the oppressed; Those who weep to see what others Smile to inflict upon their brothers; 255 Lovers, haters, worst and best;
23. All are damned—they breathe an air, Thick, infected, joy-dispelling: Each pursues what seems most fair, Mining like moles, through mind, and there 260 Scoop palace-caverns vast, where Care In throned state is ever dwelling.
PART 4. SIN.
1. Lo. Peter in Hell's Grosvenor Square, A footman in the Devil's service! And the misjudging world would swear 265 That every man in service there To virtue would prefer vice.
2. But Peter, though now damned, was not What Peter was before damnation. Men oftentimes prepare a lot 270 Which ere it finds them, is not what Suits with their genuine station.
3. All things that Peter saw and felt Had a peculiar aspect to him; And when they came within the belt 275 Of his own nature, seemed to melt, Like cloud to cloud, into him.
4. And so the outward world uniting To that within him, he became Considerably uninviting 280 To those who, meditation slighting, Were moulded in a different frame.
5. And he scorned them, and they scorned him; And he scorned all they did; and they Did all that men of their own trim 285 Are wont to do to please their whim, Drinking, lying, swearing, play.
6. Such were his fellow-servants; thus His virtue, like our own, was built Too much on that indignant fuss 290 Hypocrite Pride stirs up in us To bully one another's guilt.
7. He had a mind which was somehow At once circumference and centre Of all he might or feel or know; 295 Nothing went ever out, although Something did ever enter.
8. He had as much imagination As a pint-pot;—he never could Fancy another situation, 300 From which to dart his contemplation, Than that wherein he stood.
9. Yet his was individual mind, And new created all he saw In a new manner, and refined 305 Those new creations, and combined Them, by a master-spirit's law.
10. Thus—though unimaginative— An apprehension clear, intense, Of his mind's work, had made alive 310 The things it wrought on; I believe Wakening a sort of thought in sense.
11. But from the first 'twas Peter's drift To be a kind of moral eunuch, He touched the hem of Nature's shift, 315 Felt faint—and never dared uplift The closest, all-concealing tunic.
12. She laughed the while, with an arch smile, And kissed him with a sister's kiss, And said—My best Diogenes, 320 I love you well—but, if you please, Tempt not again my deepest bliss.
13. ''Tis you are cold—for I, not coy, Yield love for love, frank, warm, and true; And Burns, a Scottish peasant boy— 325 His errors prove it—knew my joy More, learned friend, than you.
14. 'Boeca bacciata non perde ventura, Anzi rinnuova come fa la luna:— So thought Boccaccio, whose sweet words might cure a 330 Male prude, like you, from what you now endure, a Low-tide in soul, like a stagnant laguna.
15. Then Peter rubbed his eyes severe. And smoothed his spacious forehead down With his broad palm;—'twixt love and fear, 335 He looked, as he no doubt felt, queer, And in his dream sate down.
16. The Devil was no uncommon creature; A leaden-witted thief—just huddled Out of the dross and scum of nature; 340 A toad-like lump of limb and feature, With mind, and heart, and fancy muddled.
17. He was that heavy, dull, cold thing, The spirit of evil well may be: A drone too base to have a sting; 345 Who gluts, and grimes his lazy wing, And calls lust, luxury.
18. Now he was quite the kind of wight Round whom collect, at a fixed aera, Venison, turtle, hock, and claret,— 350 Good cheer—and those who come to share it— And best East Indian madeira!
19. It was his fancy to invite Men of science, wit, and learning, Who came to lend each other light; 355 He proudly thought that his gold's might Had set those spirits burning.
20. And men of learning, science, wit, Considered him as you and I Think of some rotten tree, and sit 360 Lounging and dining under it, Exposed to the wide sky.
21. And all the while with loose fat smile, The willing wretch sat winking there, Believing 'twas his power that made 365 That jovial scene—and that all paid Homage to his unnoticed chair.
22. Though to be sure this place was Hell; He was the Devil—and all they— What though the claret circled well, 370 And wit, like ocean, rose and fell?— Were damned eternally.
PART 5. GRACE.
1. Among the guests who often stayed Till the Devil's petits-soupers, A man there came, fair as a maid, 375 And Peter noted what he said, Standing behind his master's chair.
2. He was a mighty poet—and A subtle-souled psychologist; All things he seemed to understand, 380 Of old or new—of sea or land— But his own mind—which was a mist.
3. This was a man who might have turned Hell into Heaven—and so in gladness A Heaven unto himself have earned; 385 But he in shadows undiscerned Trusted.—and damned himself to madness.
4. He spoke of poetry, and how 'Divine it was—a light—a love— A spirit which like wind doth blow 390 As it listeth, to and fro; A dew rained down from God above;
5. 'A power which comes and goes like dream, And which none can ever trace— Heaven's light on earth—Truth's brightest beam.' 395 And when he ceased there lay the gleam Of those words upon his face.
6. Now Peter, when he heard such talk, Would, heedless of a broken pate, Stand like a man asleep, or balk 400 Some wishing guest of knife or fork, Or drop and break his master's plate.
7. At night he oft would start and wake Like a lover, and began In a wild measure songs to make 405 On moor, and glen, and rocky lake, And on the heart of man—
8. And on the universal sky— And the wide earth's bosom green,— And the sweet, strange mystery 410 Of what beyond these things may lie, And yet remain unseen.
9. For in his thought he visited The spots in which, ere dead and damned, He his wayward life had led; 415 Yet knew not whence the thoughts were fed Which thus his fancy crammed.
10. And these obscure remembrances Stirred such harmony in Peter, That, whensoever he should please, 420 He could speak of rocks and trees In poetic metre.
11. For though it was without a sense Of memory, yet he remembered well Many a ditch and quick-set fence; 425 Of lakes he had intelligence, He knew something of heath and fell.
12. He had also dim recollections Of pedlars tramping on their rounds; Milk-pans and pails; and odd collections 430 Of saws, and proverbs; and reflections Old parsons make in burying-grounds.
13. But Peter's verse was clear, and came Announcing from the frozen hearth Of a cold age, that none might tame 435 The soul of that diviner flame It augured to the Earth:
14. Like gentle rains, on the dry plains, Making that green which late was gray, Or like the sudden moon, that stains 440 Some gloomy chamber's window-panes With a broad light like day.
15. For language was in Peter's hand Like clay while he was yet a potter; And he made songs for all the land, 445 Sweet both to feel and understand, As pipkins late to mountain Cotter.
16. And Mr. —, the bookseller, Gave twenty pounds for some;—then scorning A footman's yellow coat to wear, 450 Peter, too proud of heart, I fear, Instantly gave the Devil warning.
17. Whereat the Devil took offence, And swore in his soul a great oath then, 'That for his damned impertinence 455 He'd bring him to a proper sense Of what was due to gentlemen!'
PART 6. DAMNATION.
1. 'O that mine enemy had written A book!'—cried Job:—a fearful curse, If to the Arab, as the Briton, 460 'Twas galling to be critic-bitten:— The Devil to Peter wished no worse.
2. When Peter's next new book found vent, The Devil to all the first Reviews A copy of it slyly sent, 465 With five-pound note as compliment, And this short notice—'Pray abuse.'
3. Then seriatim, month and quarter, Appeared such mad tirades.—One said— 'Peter seduced Mrs. Foy's daughter, 470 Then drowned the mother in Ullswater, The last thing as he went to bed.'
4. Another—'Let him shave his head! Where's Dr. Willis?—Or is he joking? What does the rascal mean or hope, 475 No longer imitating Pope, In that barbarian Shakespeare poking?'
5. One more, 'Is incest not enough? And must there be adultery too? Grace after meat? Miscreant and Liar! 480 Thief! Blackguard! Scoundrel! Fool! hell-fire Is twenty times too good for you.
6. 'By that last book of yours WE think You've double damned yourself to scorn; We warned you whilst yet on the brink 485 You stood. From your black name will shrink The babe that is unborn.'
7. All these Reviews the Devil made Up in a parcel, which he had Safely to Peter's house conveyed. 490 For carriage, tenpence Peter paid— Untied them—read them—went half mad.
8. 'What!' cried he, 'this is my reward For nights of thought, and days, of toil? Do poets, but to be abhorred 495 By men of whom they never heard, Consume their spirits' oil?
9. 'What have I done to them?—and who IS Mrs. Foy? 'Tis very cruel To speak of me and Betty so! 500 Adultery! God defend me! Oh! I've half a mind to fight a duel.
10. 'Or,' cried he, a grave look collecting, 'Is it my genius, like the moon, Sets those who stand her face inspecting, 505 That face within their brain reflecting, Like a crazed bell-chime, out of tune?'
11. For Peter did not know the town, But thought, as country readers do, For half a guinea or a crown, 510 He bought oblivion or renown From God's own voice in a review.
12. All Peter did on this occasion Was, writing some sad stuff in prose. It is a dangerous invasion 515 When poets criticize; their station Is to delight, not pose.
13. The Devil then sent to Leipsic fair For Born's translation of Kant's book; A world of words, tail foremost, where 520 Right—wrong—false—true—and foul—and fair As in a lottery-wheel are shook.
14. Five thousand crammed octavo pages Of German psychologics,—he Who his furor verborum assuages 525 Thereon, deserves just seven months' wages More than will e'er be due to me.
15. I looked on them nine several days, And then I saw that they were bad; A friend, too, spoke in their dispraise,— 530 He never read them;—with amaze I found Sir William Drummond had.
16. When the book came, the Devil sent It to P. Verbovale, Esquire, With a brief note of compliment, 535 By that night's Carlisle mail. It went, And set his soul on fire.
17. Fire, which ex luce praebens fumum, Made him beyond the bottom see Of truth's clear well—when I and you, Ma'am, 540 Go, as we shall do, subter humum, We may know more than he.
18. Now Peter ran to seed in soul Into a walking paradox; For he was neither part nor whole, 545 Nor good, nor bad—nor knave nor fool; —Among the woods and rocks
19. Furious he rode, where late he ran, Lashing and spurring his tame hobby; Turned to a formal puritan, 550 A solemn and unsexual man,— He half believed "White Obi".
20. This steed in vision he would ride, High trotting over nine-inch bridges, With Flibbertigibbet, imp of pride, 555 Mocking and mowing by his side— A mad-brained goblin for a guide— Over corn-fields, gates, and hedges.
21. After these ghastly rides, he came Home to his heart, and found from thence 560 Much stolen of its accustomed flame; His thoughts grew weak, drowsy, and lame Of their intelligence.
22. To Peter's view, all seemed one hue; He was no Whig, he was no Tory; 565 No Deist and no Christian he;— He got so subtle, that to be Nothing, was all his glory.
23. One single point in his belief From his organization sprung, 570 The heart-enrooted faith, the chief Ear in his doctrines' blighted sheaf, That 'Happiness is wrong';
24. So thought Calvin and Dominic; So think their fierce successors, who 575 Even now would neither stint nor stick Our flesh from off our bones to pick, If they might 'do their do.'
25. His morals thus were undermined:— The old Peter—the hard, old Potter— 580 Was born anew within his mind; He grew dull, harsh, sly, unrefined, As when he tramped beside the Otter.
26. In the death hues of agony Lambently flashing from a fish, 585 Now Peter felt amused to see Shades like a rainbow's rise and flee, Mixed with a certain hungry wish.
27. So in his Country's dying face He looked—and, lovely as she lay, 590 Seeking in vain his last embrace, Wailing her own abandoned case, With hardened sneer he turned away:
28. And coolly to his own soul said;— 'Do you not think that we might make 595 A poem on her when she's dead:— Or, no—a thought is in my head— Her shroud for a new sheet I'll take:
29. 'My wife wants one.—Let who will bury This mangled corpse! And I and you, 600 My dearest Soul, will then make merry, As the Prince Regent did with Sherry,—' 'Ay—and at last desert me too.'
30. And so his Soul would not be gay, But moaned within him; like a fawn 605 Moaning within a cave, it lay Wounded and wasting, day by day, Till all its life of life was gone.
31. As troubled skies stain waters clear, The storm in Peter's heart and mind 610 Now made his verses dark and queer: They were the ghosts of what they were, Shaking dim grave-clothes in the wind.
32. For he now raved enormous folly, Of Baptisms, Sunday-schools, and Graves, 615 'Twould make George Colman melancholy To have heard him, like a male Molly, Chanting those stupid staves.
33. Yet the Reviews, who heaped abuse On Peter while he wrote for freedom, 620 So soon as in his song they spy The folly which soothes tyranny, Praise him, for those who feed 'em.
34. 'He was a man, too great to scan;— A planet lost in truth's keen rays:— 625 His virtue, awful and prodigious;— He was the most sublime, religious, Pure-minded Poet of these days.'
35. As soon as he read that, cried Peter, 'Eureka! I have found the way 630 To make a better thing of metre Than e'er was made by living creature Up to this blessed day.'
36. Then Peter wrote odes to the Devil;— In one of which he meekly said: 635 'May Carnage and Slaughter, Thy niece and thy daughter, May Rapine and Famine, Thy gorge ever cramming, Glut thee with living and dead! 640
37. 'May Death and Damnation, And Consternation, Flit up from Hell with pure intent! Slash them at Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds, and Chester; 645 Drench all with blood from Avon to Trent.
38. 'Let thy body-guard yeomen Hew down babes and women, And laugh with bold triumph till Heaven be rent! When Moloch in Jewry 650 Munched children with fury, It was thou, Devil, dining with pure intent.
PART 7. DOUBLE DAMNATION.
1. The Devil now knew his proper cue.— Soon as he read the ode, he drove To his friend Lord MacMurderchouse's, 655 A man of interest in both houses, And said:—'For money or for love,
2. 'Pray find some cure or sinecure; To feed from the superfluous taxes A friend of ours—a poet—fewer 660 Have fluttered tamer to the lure Than he.' His lordship stands and racks his
3. Stupid brains, while one might count As many beads as he had boroughs,— At length replies; from his mean front, 665 Like one who rubs out an account, Smoothing away the unmeaning furrows:
4. 'It happens fortunately, dear Sir, I can. I hope I need require No pledge from you, that he will stir 670 In our affairs;—like Oliver. That he'll be worthy of his hire.'
5. These words exchanged, the news sent off To Peter, home the Devil hied,— Took to his bed; he had no cough, 675 No doctor,—meat and drink enough.— Yet that same night he died.
6. The Devil's corpse was leaded down; His decent heirs enjoyed his pelf, Mourning-coaches, many a one, 680 Followed his hearse along the town:— Where was the Devil himself?
7. When Peter heard of his promotion, His eyes grew like two stars for bliss: There was a bow of sleek devotion 685 Engendering in his back; each motion Seemed a Lord's shoe to kiss.
8. He hired a house, bought plate, and made A genteel drive up to his door, With sifted gravel neatly laid,— 690 As if defying all who said, Peter was ever poor.
9. But a disease soon struck into The very life and soul of Peter— He walked about—slept—had the hue 695 Of health upon his cheeks—and few Dug better—none a heartier eater.
10. And yet a strange and horrid curse Clung upon Peter, night and day; Month after month the thing grew worse, 700 And deadlier than in this my verse I can find strength to say.
11. Peter was dull—he was at first Dull—oh, so dull—so very dull! Whether he talked, wrote, or rehearsed— 705 Still with this dulness was he cursed— Dull—beyond all conception—dull.
12. No one could read his books—no mortal, But a few natural friends, would hear him; The parson came not near his portal; 710 His state was like that of the immortal Described by Swift—no man could bear him.
13. His sister, wife, and children yawned, With a long, slow, and drear ennui, All human patience far beyond; 715 Their hopes of Heaven each would have pawned, Anywhere else to be.
14. But in his verse, and in his prose, The essence of his dulness was Concentred and compressed so close, 720 'Twould have made Guatimozin doze On his red gridiron of brass.
15. A printer's boy, folding those pages, Fell slumbrously upon one side; Like those famed Seven who slept three ages. 725 To wakeful frenzy's vigil—rages, As opiates, were the same applied.
16. Even the Reviewers who were hired To do the work of his reviewing, With adamantine nerves, grew tired;— 730 Gaping and torpid they retired, To dream of what they should be doing.
17. And worse and worse, the drowsy curse Yawned in him, till it grew a pest— A wide contagious atmosphere, 735 Creeping like cold through all things near; A power to infect and to infest.
18. His servant-maids and dogs grew dull; His kitten, late a sportive elf; The woods and lakes, so beautiful, 740 Of dim stupidity were full. All grew dull as Peter's self.
19. The earth under his feet—the springs, Which lived within it a quick life, The air, the winds of many wings, 745 That fan it with new murmurings, Were dead to their harmonious strife.
20. The birds and beasts within the wood, The insects, and each creeping thing, Were now a silent multitude; 750 Love's work was left unwrought—no brood Near Peter's house took wing.
21. And every neighbouring cottager Stupidly yawned upon the other: No jackass brayed; no little cur 755 Cocked up his ears;—no man would stir To save a dying mother.
22. Yet all from that charmed district went But some half-idiot and half-knave, Who rather than pay any rent, 760 Would live with marvellous content, Over his father's grave.
23. No bailiff dared within that space, For fear of the dull charm, to enter; A man would bear upon his face, 765 For fifteen months in any case, The yawn of such a venture.
24. Seven miles above—below—around— This pest of dulness holds its sway; A ghastly life without a sound; 770 To Peter's soul the spell is bound— How should it ever pass away?