A COLLECTION OF POEMS
Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes Fulmina amem silvasque inglorius....
O, qui me gelidis in vallibus Haemi Sistat, et ingenti ramorum protegat umbra!
LEWES: FARNCOMBE & CO.
FARNCOMBE AND CO.,
TO ONE, WHO AT ONCE COMBINES TRUE SENSE WITH TRUE HONOUR, UNSELFISH PRINCIPLES WITH UNSELFISH FRIENDSHIP, WHOSE SPECIAL PROVINCE IS TO SYMPATHIZE AND TRUST, WHOSE ONLY FAULT IS HIS READY CONFIDENCE IN NATURES TOO UNLIKE HIS OWN, TO
THIS WORK IS INSCRIBED, AS A JUST TRIBUTE OF THAT ESTEEM, WHICH ALONE IS THE REAL SOURCE OF ALL FRIENDSHIP, BY HIM WHO HAS VALUED HIS SOCIETY IN THE PAST, AND HOPES HE MAY LONG ENJOY IT IN THE FUTURE.
I am fully aware of the fact that the present volume is but an intrusion at the best; however, I trust my readers will be pleased to overlook the many faults of a bagatelle as insignificant and pitiable as its author.
In the following pages I have introduced the first canto of Midsummer Idylls in a revised form, and it has been my especial care to correct, as far as it was consistent with the meaning of the passage, any hitch in the Iambic Measure which might offend the ear. An author has himself to please as well as his public, and it has been to me a matter of much study that the Iambics should be as pure, or at least as tolerable, as circumstances would allow, though, while I can ill permit an irregular or inharmonious line, I hope I may not be found guilty of sacrificing sense to sound. I beg to tender those my most cordial thanks who have dealt indulgently with my rhymes hitherto, and to acknowledge, with profound gratitude, the kind encouragement of those great men of letters who have condescended to notice so small a bard. The opinions of the Metropolitan, Provincial, and Foreign Press could not have been other than gratifying to me, and it is with a humble hope of favour that I submit the following pages to a discerning public.
MIDSUMMER IDYLLS—CANTO I. 1
" " —CANTO II. 38
" " —CANTO III. 79
BRIGHT SCENES MUST ALL DEPART 97
MY BEAUTY'S HOME 98
AH, HAST THOU GONE? 99
STANZAS TO A LADY COMING OF AGE 100
GOOD NIGHT 101
THE FRIENDS 102
ON PLUCKING A HEDGEROW ROSE 103
THE SHADOW OF A LIFE 104
THE MUSICIAN'S GRAVE 109
THE SUMMER SHOWER 110
WHEN THE TWILIGHT SHADOWS DEEPEN 111
It was the time of year when cockneys fly From town to country, and from there to town. I am not sure, but think it was July; I would not swear it was, nor bet a crown, When, as I told you, cockneys hurry down In two hours' railway journey far away, And rush to places of immense renown, Bright with the thoughts of coming holiday, Full well determined to enjoy it while they may.
They were the days when all who care to wander O'er the rude mountain or the fertile plain, Must snatch the chance, and rush here, there and yonder, And pack their baggage off by early train, To rest the busy over-anxious brain, And take to interests altogether new. Some tear to Italy, and some to Spain, For beneficial air and change of view; What everybody does that I must also do.
The sun was scorching, and the streets were dusty,— Suburban roadways generally are,— And everything seemed disagreeably "fusty," Merely because there was no watering car. It was the weather when we feel at war With all around and everyone we meet; Old dames complained of aches unknown before, Unused to battle with such dreadful heat, Such truly fearful spasms, and such blistered feet.
The 'buses went by clockwork by the appearance; Th' exalted driver, usually so deft, Resented, in his doze, the interference Of any one poor fellow-suff'rer left; Of all his strength and energy bereft, The weary horse dragged listlessly along, And there appeared to be no effort left In the sleepy trilling of the songster's song, Which to the small suburban gardens did belong.
Now the slow music of the organ-grinder Smites the ear feebly at the noon of day, He doffs his hat, as if for a reminder, To those who wish him far enough away; And noisy babes at variance and play Join in the jangle of the grocery vendor, And butcher boys have lots and lots to say To fair domestics, who their hearts surrender To, if not a butcher boy, a kettle mender.
But more especially I would direct Your kind attention, reader, to a square In that locality, tho' more select, So thither now together we'll repair. A bold and lofty tenement stands there With flight of steps and massive portico, Where dwelt three daughters infinitely fair; Their age of course I'm not supposed to know, 'Twas very rude I own to raise the question so.
But as you all seem anxious to discover Their years, their fortune, and the gods know what; To hear if each or all had found a lover, If one engaged or if they all were not, How many aunts and uncles they had got, Their nic-nacs of domestic life beside, Your indignation would be somewhat hot If th' information were to be denied, And since you'll have it so, the truth I will not hide.
You know most ladies have some slight objection, Some strange objection which they always raise, And arm themselves as if for the protection Of the sweet sanctum of their earlier days, Toward those who flatteringly speak their praise And ask in special confidence their years, Who pass the time in fifty pleasant ways And designate them "charms" and "pretty dears," Beset with all those unimaginable fears!
Of course none of my heroines were wed; The eldest—fancy—only twenty-two! At least so all the neighbours' gossip said, And they, of course, were all who really knew; Of medium height, and lovely spinsters too, Charmingly gentle as they well could be, With accomplishments and graces not a few, As generous as one could wish to see, The very pictures of sweet joviality.
A dozen uncles and as many aunts Were the idols of their precious little eyes; And it was whispered that there was a chance With Fate auspicious, of a great surprise At some approaching day; 'tis never wise To form conjectures or to fret and worry, To count your gains before Aunt Some-one dies, E'en though possessed of half the land in Surrey, Or draw your own conclusions in too great a hurry.
All information, as perchance, you know, Is second hand; I write as folks dictate; A Mrs. B. tells Mr. So-and-So Th' extent of some-one's personal estate; He in his turn the same again will prate; A Mr. C. has struck his little wife Is the last movement worthy to relate, 'Tis now affirmed he took away her life, In the next terrace where th' appalling tale is rife.
'Tis sometimes so, for other people's business Wise men and women oft forsake their own, Which may perhaps account for their remissness, A tittle-tattle's never seen alone; And by the time the idle tale has flown From mouth to mouth, the truth in some disguise, A trifling circumstance we find has grown A crime of most unpardonable size, And thunder-struck believers stare in mute surprise.
But, sad to say, our friends were looking pale, Our female friends, at least, I mean to say, We will not try to penetrate the veil Which hides domestic mystery away; It was not often that they looked that way. Perhaps the atmosphere of such a place As the metropolis on such a day Had made them faint, as often is the case: The cause in feminines is often hard to trace.
But still, methinks, it was the want of change That blanched the buxom beauty of their cheeks, The want of some secluded, pleasant grange Away from town, for twelve or thirteen weeks, The hilarity of right down country freaks And rambles in the meadows bright and green, Such as the "pater" usually seeks, With charming walks and panoramic scene And velvet-like ascents with verdant vales between.
'Twas evident the fair ones thought so too, As they suggested to their fond mamma A short peregrination, something new, A rush to country and to town ta-ta, For benefits obtained but from afar; So 'twas arranged, when they could choose the hour, To make a fourfold pounce upon papa, And use the utmost of persuasive "flour," For all such daughters have this undefined power.
'Twould be as well perhaps to mention here A fact you all no doubt are sure to know, 'Tis necessary oftentimes to steer Clear of surrounding difficulties, so When an especial object lies below The precision of your kindness and attention, Snatch the right time (a glance may serve to show If in a mood for jesting or dissension, Domestic trials are too numerous to mention).
It may be p'raps a trifling mauvaise humeur, Papa may worry o'er his own affairs, Or it, perchance, may be a downright "fumer," And judging from the countenance he wears He may be vexed with sundry business cares, A something he would not communicate, In which the happy household never shares, It is not wise it should, at any rate; At least till matters have regained their even state.
The morn which followed this determination Was just such as our damsels did desire, Now all the world was out for its vacation, In truth no opportunity was nigher; All seemed to rise with spirits somewhat higher Which were at most times jocular and gay, And all agreed that they should seize their sire A time befitting on that self-same day, To coax him gently round to let them have their way.
Paterfamilias, in his morning gown And wool-knit slippers, comfortable and pretty, To the radiant breakfast table trotted down, Inclined to have some frolic and be witty (As frolicsome as any in the City) And chaff his daughters in his usual style; Minutiae omitted in this ditty, For to relate 'twould not be worth the while, I therefore must, my reader, meet you with denial.
The window,—French they called it, I'm not sure If such in France are often to be seen, Not quite a window, but more like a door, 'Twould do for both, whichever one they mean,— Opened upon a lawn of smiling green, Which, with a modest rockery behind, Displayed, in fact, a most enchanting scene To those who were at all that way inclined, With such artistic taste was it indeed designed.
Then with the arbour's rustic-like assistance, And nimble Cupid with his bow close by, The various colours melting in the distance Lent quite a pleasing aspect to the eye, And perhaps produced the very faintest sigh For such-like beauties on a larger scale, Where sweeping meadows meet the azure sky, And florid milk-maids bear their bounteous pail, And breezes waft the sound of winnow and of flail.
'Twas here papa did often love to wander, First in the shade, now in the pleasant sun, And peep at this and that, and hurry yonder, To see some potting properly begun; He strolled to-day, a regular Big Gun, Around the precincts of his bright domain, His egg and toast dispatched. (Forgive the pun, I promise I won't do the same again; Frivolities like these oft run across the grain.)
Recovered? Yes?—So glad! Three daughters knitting, Like three white butterflies upon the breeze With evidently some design, came skipping Round by the arbour in amongst the trees, And if the truth were really known, to seize Their innocent papa just thereabout; 'Tis wonderful how daughters coax and tease At such auspicious times; I have no doubt They stroked his handsome whiskers with a pretty pout.
(No. 1 Daughter.) "Papa dear, don't you find the heat oppressive? So thoroughly enjoyable you say, I really think it's something quite excessive, Much worse, in fact, than it was yesterday; It quite upsets me;—no, I'm not in play, Indeed I've been quite indisposed of late, And vexed with ailments many and many a day, With troublesome ennui and mal-a-tete, The Doctor thinks my nerves are in a wretched state!"
(No. 2 Daughter.) "Indeed 'tis so my dearest dear Papa, We one and all seem quite to be upset, 'Tis hotter than last summer was by far, At least so everybody says, but yet Much hotter than last June it could not be, And that's what I think, what do you think, pet? To sit indoors 'tis like a nunnery, With nought to do but tamely sit and knit, In fact I never liked such quietness a bit!"
(No. 3 Daughter.) "'Tis my impression that we ought to go Away from home, as other people do, The Doctor recommends a change and so Just think how very nice 'twould be for you; I'm sure you must be wanting something new, Away from dusty ledgers, old and brown, You seem quite tired out sometimes—'tis true, You really ought to go away from town, To Hastings or to Deal, and we could all come down.
"Then let us go, Papa dear, I am sure Such bright enjoyment you can ne'er forbid: Now say so darling, is it not so? for You would be very wicked if you did: 'Twould do you good besides in getting rid Of horrid London and incessant noise." Here to her father's side his daughter glid, And kissed his cheek (what girls like from the boys) Just as a baby loves to fondle all its toys.
Papa looked grave but didn't say he couldn't Or put it off until another year, But simply said he saw not why they shouldn't, Then seemed a little pleased at the idea; And to his fav'rite girl said, "Well, my dear, We will discuss this subject at our leisure, I'll see if any hindrances appear, I have at present an unusual pressure Of business to attend to: duty first, then pleasure."
They kissed him fondly, all of them, and flew Straightway indoors to talk the matter o'er, They all were anxious Ma should know it too, And met that worthy matron at the door Who liked the thought of merriment in store, And reveled in it just as much as they, For things a very pleasant aspect bore While all were thinking of the happy day, Talking of all their wants e'er they should start away.
And now of course there was incessant chat Concerning what to take and where to go, To see if this arrangement suited that, Or that arrangement suited so and so; 'Twas well to balance matters thus you know And settle all before the time arrived, To milliners and hairdressers to go, To purchase and have ostrich-plumes revived, Of ornaments like these they could not be deprived.
There was, there naturally would be too In such a case as this, a long debate; One said that Yarmouth was the place, she knew; Another said it was by far too late; And someone else suggested Harrogate; Another sneered at such a daft suggestion, For that above all places she did hate And Torquay was the best there was no question: But listeners evidently wanted good digestion.
"And," quoth the eldest, "there's Llandudno also." "Why," quoth another, "have you got no sense?" Mamma, requesting that they shouldn't bawl so, Pronounced this far too utterly intense. The eldest charm continued in defence, Bespoke the Gulf Stream and the balmy air; Whereon the mater, taking great offence, Declared she wouldn't think of going there— She'd sooner go to Seven Dials, or anywhere.
After which outburst, sweeping through the door, A flood of tears gushed freely from her eyes, And, stretched upon the canape, she swore That she was far too indisposed to rise, Though afterwards she did, with many sighs— A smelling-bottle and some small assistance; Grieved that her daughter to her very eyes Should offer her such resolute resistance. From then she essayed to keep the subject at a distance.
However, after some few days had passed, With their disputes and matters of vexation, They came to something definite at last Without much further tedious altercation; When each one deemed it her own commendation That set the point so thoroughly at rest, And each had come to the determination The course she had adopted was the best; A course, perhaps, my reader never would have guessed.
Ah! would you like to hear? then I will tell. They had arranged to take a country seat; Perhaps the choice was happy—very well, They chose a pretty house and farm complete, Such as where solitude and pleasure meet, With everything that comfort could devise, A smiling garden, sweetly gay and neat, Old-fashioned, though of most convenient size; For such as this precisely did they advertise.
They did not call it as folks love to do, In bustling centres of incessant trade, And leafless acres, though perhaps a few Pet dandelions blossom in the shade Where other vegetation will all fade, And parch to yellow in the smoky court, Where a solitary sunbeam might have strayed, And all the gloomy atmosphere is fraught With all that's dank and filthy of the human sort.
In towns of more than ordinary size Retreats suburban please the public eye; But occupants their villa homes disguise And strive to imitate the great and high By striking names and such-like mimicry; They choose them mainly for a good address, We see it as we pass the villa by, And with a smile we mark its rottenness. This evil's very prevalent you must confess.
Such homes are now designed for outward show, No matter what their quality may be, And many would much rather have it so Preferring to all else the quantity; But everyone most certainly is free To do as he or she considers best, Of course it never has affected me, Yet hollow show I really do detest; But 'tis a theme of no immediate interest.
It is so fashionable now-a-days To give one's dwelling some fantastic name To recommend it to the stranger's gaze, Or afford it an imaginary claim To more gentility than others; 'tis the same In the metropolis, for folks arrange (Flighty mammas, perhaps, are more to blame) To call their homes "The Beeches" or "The Grange," For probably they think 'twill be a little change.
I don't condemn such names upon the gates Of princely piles of luxury and ease, Where the powdered footman silently awaits My lord's commands and wishes, till he sees What he can do to magnify or please; Who sternly checks the smile that he would hide, And reverently bows with straightened knees When perhaps his lord is pleased to coincide, And waits for the dismissal from his master's side.
Where stately griffins guard by day and night The pillared pomp of birth and fortune, whence Reel peals of laughter, where the gasp for might Palls on the throne of vast magnificence; Where halls superbly mirrored, every sense, And every wish, all hope, each separate sigh, With endless epicurean intents, Are planned to please, are reared to gratify, While balmy perfumes float o'er th' marble masonry.
But pardon the allusion; I intended Merely to mention what is but too true. I really hope I may not have offended Any, in short—particularly you, Submissive reader, to whom thanks are due For having borne with my caprice so long, And your forbearance, I hope, you will renew Until the utmost limit of my song; I'll do my best to entertain you all along.
The house of which I spoke to you before Was Elleston Farm, nursed in a lovely vale, Within the music of the shingly shore, And close above full many a snowy sail, On the blue wave, the wand'rer's eye would hail, And the cool breeze from off the glist'ring sea, Would bring soft reminiscence in its trail Of scenes long past, of childhood's jollity, And many a soaking ramble on a holiday.
I must describe. It was a mansion old; Across its walls each black yet mossy beam Gave it the look of years and years untold; In style it did Elizabethan seem, And, with its jutting windows, we should deem It to have been a comf'table repose, Such as, with th' ruddy sunlight's western gleam Upon the small-paned casement, and the rose Above the portal, would dispel all worldly woes.
The chestnut team, the mill pond and the quack Of ducklings discontented with their lot, The grunt of pigs itin'rant, and the stack— All lent a happy charm to such a spot; There might be seen upon the labourer's cot The blooming jess'mine loading all the air With fragrant perfume; and the garden plot Of many colours, grateful for the care Bestowed upon it, of delight gave its full share.
The meadows, bright with buttercups and hues Of ev'ry shade, before the pleased eye Rolled their ripe richness, and the sweeping views, Such as in Eastern England sweetly lie, Smiled far away in vast variety, Tinged with the orange of the sinking sun, Until the distance melted into sky. Such scenes are sweet when even has begun, And rooks are idly cawing, and the day is done.
O God, teach us to feel what joys are these! How dear these pleasures momently renewed! Teach us to humbly fall upon our knees In speechless praise, in silent gratitude; These are the hours, O Lord of Solitude, When hearts in love must upward turn to Thee, With every comfort, every charm imbued, And all that's peaceful; when tranquillity Steals softly o'er the bosom and lulls its rolling sea.
Such scenes are dear, for they have pow'r to allay Fears of the fearful, troubles of the tried, To smooth each anxious pain, all griefs, away, That ceaseless in the human heart abide, Have power to soothe, to cast cold care aside; Bid cords of Hope inanimate vibrate, Th' insatiate longings of the soul subside, And curb the stormy passions of the great, Make earth a heaven, and holiness preponderate.
What is Ambition? what is Pride? and this That boils the blood and parches all the frame; That stirs the breast to ecstasies? What bliss, What bursts of glory in a mighty Name! But what of these! to me 'tis all the same Whether a humble cottage or a throne. What, what to me is Glory? what is Fame? Give me the woods and let me be alone; I want no marble bust, I ask no graven stone!
I err,—but pardon me, I am a fool, Like some few others that I used to know; The truth is, I was taught to be at school, So Precept and Example tend to show. But never mind, I deem it quite below The faintest notice of a rusty pen; 'Twill tell my readers what respect I owe, How very much I thought of people then, Who should have been exhibited in a cattle-pen.
I wish them well, of course, but must proceed. The cook was really to be left behind, Which doubtless she thought very nice indeed. She was a cook so jolly, yet refined, Wore bright kid gloves (the colour undefined), And finery of every sort and hue (I couldn't tell you if I had a mind), Like wealthy folks, as servants always do; And terrible mistakes sometimes embarrass you.
The morn was brilliant and the packing done, And all were in the very liveliest mood, Although, of course, there was no time for fun, And jokes were too untimely to be good. The first cabdriver must have been endued With strength, for this occasion, from above He was so mighty, and his attitude Betokened he was instantly in love With cooky, smiling on her, charming little dove!
He quite forgot (although perhaps you doubt it), With love for cook, what he'd to sup'rintend; They had two cabs, that's all I know about it, And, Gracious knows, their luggage had no end. And everybody thought they did intend To find th' remotest corner of the earth, Wherever that was. I can't comprehend Who in the dickens gave such stories birth, Still of frivolities like these there is no dearth.
Then servants, two, Pa, Ma, and daughters three, All drove in madcap hurry to the station, In fact, they might have tittered "Seven are we" Had they remembered the superb quotation; But Julia (housemaid) made some lamentation About some best back hair she'd left behind, But all was done to soothe her perturbation Till she became more quietly inclined; This nat'rally destroyed her usual peace of mind.
* * * * *
They had arrived, and all was, out and in, Superlatively pleasant to behold; The views themselves were highly int'resting, As well as all the creatures of the fold With which they all were pleased, so I am told, Which was a comfort for their cherished pater, Who was just then quite worth his weight in gold, His bed-room full of bank notes; from these data I must defer the calculations until later.
They laughed and chatted and explored the house, With its dark oaken gallery, and flight Of massy polished stairs, and saw a mouse, P'raps three or four appalled their wond'ring sight; But each new comfort gave them fresh delight, And as they peeped through each dark-curtained door All seemed so perfectly compact and bright, Indeed they seemed to like it more and more, For they had never entered such a house before.
The furniture was heavy in its kind, And all the drap'ry was of sombre shade, Evidently in days long past designed, And diamond casements, I before have said, Looked on a lawn, in richest green arrayed, And lands beyond unto the distance blue Where king-cups blossom'd in the silent glade, And all the flow'rets of the forest grew, And pearly streams were tinged with their reflected hue.
Upstairs the rooms were hung with glace chintz (So like the good old farm-house of past days), Which gave them a variety of tints, And pleased at once the weary stranger's gaze; The doors themselves were covered with green baize Hidden with crimson curtains, and each bed Was draped in style that claimed the greatest praise In charming sky-blue intermixed with red, With pockets of unique design above the head.
They fed the pigs with biscuits, and the fowls Were soon quite reconciled to their new friends, And the great shepherd-dog's uncivil growls Had quite subsided and, instead, he sends His kind regards for various means and ends; And I expect, if th' real truth were known, He had an appetite, which always tends To make uncouth pups civil for a bone; To use civility in this way some are prone.
Sometimes, like others do, they drove about With a recherche little chaise and pair, And they enjoyed a pic-nic oft no doubt In pretty spots now here and sometimes there; And we all know the fingers of the fair Arrange these matters sweetly, for they suit Matters requiring delicacy and care, The choice of flowers, the arrangement of the fruit, And digging ferns up without injuring the root.
They loved to play at croquet on the lawn, Adventurously rove a league away, Or bend their steps upon the summer morn (A mile it was, I fancy), to the bay, Taking a biscuit-luncheon on the way. To wander o'er the shining, yellow sands, Quiet and lone, and watch the snowy spray; And take the curious seaweeds in their hands, Then homeward turn obedient to Papa's commands.
Yes, those were jolly days; and now the fields With happy haymakers were scattered o'er, And Papa went to know their different yields Through quite a hundred acres, if not more, Not less, at any rate, I am quite sure; And all his daughters had some first-rate fun (They always had some merriment in store) For haymaking to learn they had begun, And often had a romp beneath the baking sun.
In fact it gave them something nice to do, Moreover 'twas a fav'rite occupation, And that chanced very fortunately too; Meanwhile they liked some light confabulation, Making arrangements for their bright vacation, And plans far too entangled, I'm afraid, To enumerate in this uncouth narration, For if upon such topics here I strayed, 'Twould take from now till doomsday, so it's best unsaid.
They'd had a call or two from neighbours near Whose company was jovial as could be; So their Mamma first started the idea That they should ask three gentlemen to tea Out in the hayfield, where they would be free, To help in tossing o'er the scented hay; Then all assemble underneath the tree, And chatter anything they'd like to say, While Julia handed round refreshment on a tray.
All was decided, and a note was sent, Penned with Mamma's gold pen and sealed with care, And Julia brought a note to the intent That they would be most happy to be there; And whereon everybody did declare They were the nicest folks beneath the sun, And Julia did most naturally stare To hear the happy thing that they had done, And longed to see arrangements instantly begun.
The daughters three received exact directions How to do all things and go everywhere: Concerning all their musical selections And all about the "skirts" they had to wear, How they should dress and e'en adorn their hair, What rings to show, whether diamond or not; Injunctions to observe the greatest care In choice of stockings, and I don't know what. (They were to be like fairies in Calypso's grot.)
Of daughters all they were the most adored I honestly believe. Mamma impressed The fact upon them that a certain Lord Was of her family, tho' dispossessed Of all he had: of course you know the rest, He had been acting very ill, you see. But they should make acquaintance with the best, For think what claims they had of pedigree! (Misfortune always lends a grace to dignity.)
They were to see the maid decant the wines, They were to give the gentlemen their dues, They were to be distinguees to the nines, They were, in short, to mind their p's and q's. Their darling mother never would excuse A breach of etiquette, however small, 'Twere better far, if e'en they fail'd t' amuse, To do the honours well or not at all, No matter when or where, at any festival.
In fact, 'twas this my reader, as you see, For one high-born like her all must be right; For she was of the aristocracy And therefore quite expected to her sight None would present himself, unless the height Of spotless honour and of gentle birth, In fewer words—and everything polite. She was of more than ordinary worth, One of the noblest from Thanet's Isle to Solway Firth.
But she had seen her fifty years of life, So her young days for ever had swept by, And back to days e'er she became a wife She looked and for them breathed a lingering sigh, (As women often do upon the sly.) To tell the truth, my reader, I don't blame 'em For thinking hardly of the marriage tie, Most men's delight is not to love but tame 'em, I know a score but 'twouldn't do to name 'em.
No doubt she'd danced with all the proud and high And revelled in the pomp of this vain earth, Enjoyed that mimic farce—Society, Entitled by significance of birth, But what of this! Society's not mirth, It has its fairer and its darker side, The one is worth, the other—want of worth, What are the hollow luxuries of Pride? Oh gaze not on the gloom its dazzling tinsels hide!
How nice it is to dash about in style With prancing steeds thro' all the whirling west Of mighty London, under Fashion's smile, (Tho' redundant pleasures even can molest) And feel one's happy self supremely blest, And bowed to by a "humble flunkey flat," With endless formal courtesies oppressed; To flirt with Baron this or Lady that, And mix with all the great, the honoured of the state.
Roll to the theatre, too. Upon the board Gaze on the actor—paralyzed and dumb, Till, like one man, ten thousand hands applaud, From the palpitating auditorium. See from the boxes all the purses come! How riveted admirers pause aghast! Hear the excitement in the stifled hum! And see the tears of each enthusiast! Look! ere the actor has before the curtain passed.
Turn on the lights! Let the besweated crowds Shriek as the music swells, now high, now low For all to-morrow slumber in their shrouds Who drained excitement's cup an hour ago! Watch flitting beauty, nymph-like, come and go, Fan the scorched cheek and quaff the bright champagne, Around the circles see the diamond-glow, Revel in laughter, think no more of pain! See! see! the blind ascends and all begins again!
Put up the opera-glass and scan the stage, On crimson piles luxuriantly recline, And see the premature decay of age Transformed to youth, a lovely columbine! While th' gorgeous tapestries of rare design In rich profusion hang in heavy fold; See every pantomimic splendour shine Like glist'ring starlight, opal, pearl, and gold, Mirrors reflecting mirrors, countless and untold!
But some folks always spend the night in gaming, Or very nearly so, at any rate, And other vices hardly worth the naming (But we, of course, are not immaculate), Then think of rising very, very late After a night's debauch and dissipation And rolling homewards with unsteady gait (Perhaps 'twas after the red-hot gyration Of the previous evening). Ours is a sad nation!
The breakfast lies untasted, for the tea Is not the nectar-like concoction (such As accompanies the dice and play-room) we Are very fond of (for we take too much), And therefore home supplies we cannot touch; In all and everything we are undone, Lips parch, head whirls, was never such A wretched plight; indeed we're not A 1. We think we have remaining money but have none.
But 'tis too bad I know;—again I've erred And deviated sadly from my tale; I'm sorry that it should have thus occurred, I know, and you know too, that I am frail And everything I've said is very stale, At least it is to me, I daresay too To some of you on p'raps a different scale, Much more familiar, if one only knew. It is quite marvellous what some can bustle through!
The day arrived; the sun was shining brightly As it was necessary that it should, The rooms were swept and all that was unsightly They hid away as quickly as they could; And then the edibles, both many and good, Julia and Hannah carried to the spot (The nearest way was through the primrose-wood) And then turned homeward with a merry trot, And waited for the time t' arrive; and who would not?
The edibles consisted of a ham, A vase of clotted cream, two pigeon pies, Some cakes of every sort, a breast of lamb, Eggs, bread and butter, as you would surmise, A calf's head, too, of an enormous size, Ripe strawberries and currants red they laid On fresh green leaves (so nice to hungry eyes), Oporto iced, some "pop" and lemonade; Besides some other delicacies they had made.
They, too, supplied some cans of country beer For the lab'ring men, and half-a-crown apiece For them to have some downright merry cheer; The question was—where did their bounty cease? So fast their acts of kindness did increase, So welcome were they to the neighb'ring poor To whom their homely smile was joy and peace, And to whose cottages they often bore Some small addition to their little cupboard store.
I picture, as I write, the little scene: The dwelling clustered o'er with roses white, The parlour with its ruby bricks so clean, And all within so happy and so bright. I would exchange my being, if I might, With him whose life-long day is so serene, Whose eve knows no lament, whose morn no blight, Whose every hour is tranquil in between, Whose hopes are ever fair, whose joys are ever green.
But other bards are present, let them sing Of such as these; each condescending Muse Shall teach her fondling how t' awake each string, And tinge each mouthful with ambrosial hues, And keep him very well in boots and shoes. Here some dwarfed harmless poetaster rhymes Whose very name gives list'ning fools the "blues," Not only here, alas in other climes, Which must not be, of course, in these prolific times.
There's Francis Palgrave, there's Rosetti too; Trill on, ye two, the song of future years, Move, Palgrave, move, with bosom rent anew, An audience multitudinous to tears; Scratch on with quill unwearied and no fears, The world shall fling thee thy resplendent bays, For Popular Opinion safely steers His barque upon the river of thy praise. The stars themselves shall pause to listen to thy lays.
The visitors expected smartly drove Up to the gate, and Julia showed them in, Dressed in her best (a sickly-looking mauve); She also wore a most audacious grin, Which Mistress too was far from favouring, And it was clear a "lecture" was in store, Most of us know what that means; for some sin Many have I myself received before; I'm never naughty now; that was in days of yore.
Full twelve or fifteen minutes had expired, Before the salutation part was done, And they, poor chaps, were doubtless very tired, Quite tired enough, before it had begun. (Just think of all that distance in the sun!) As usual, everlasting "hows" and "whens," And kind inquiries mixed with pretty fun Were passed from mouth to mouth, which always tends To show how much our joy on others' joy depends (?).
But really and truly, joking all aside, One of our friends, the tallest of the three I think it was, but cannot quite decide, Was handsome as a man could hope to be, I only wish that he'd exchanged with me; Such depth of eye and such a princely frown! I wish, my friends, that you'd been there to see His small white hands and his moustache of brown, Indeed 'twas worth a journey all the way from town.
It is, I think, a matter of opinion What style of face is sweetest to behold, Whether Malay or Greek or Abyssinian, Italian I have oftentimes been told: Malay I think expressionless and cold, Tho' some admire its sweet simplicity, But I'll observe, if I may be so bold, It must be far-fetched eccentricity; At least I can't discover such felicity.
Down to the hayfield numerous forks were sent, The ladies took the lighter ones to use, And all were jovial to a great extent; The gentlemen related all the news And cheerfully did everything t' amuse, When a mischance occurred, picked up the forks, (What gentleman I wonder could refuse) And helped t' unload and pull out all the corks And arranged some ladies' nosegays, cutting off superfluous stalks.
Upon the grass the damask cloth was laid, And the repast looked wonderfully nice, Spread, as I said it would be, in the shade, With every summer dainty to entice, Especially the lemonade and ice (Coffee for those who coffee did prefer), And Julia, too, was charmingly precise, (To which it is but justice to refer) Than her sweet smile nought could have been much prettier.
From three crossed sticks above a faggot fire The water-vessel sent they did suspend As people mostly do, with twisted wire; Much care and labour too they did expend, Determined that their visitors should spend A very merry evening, which they had, For there was merry-making without end, And all the company made very glad; Considering all things, its success was not so bad.
The host was irresistibly polite; "Now do try this" he pressingly would say, Until it was a positive delight To pass your plate and let him have his way; Indeed he scorned the very thought of "Nay;" The ladies, though they chatted gaily, thought Of lots and lots of things they'd like to say, But couldn't then, you know, for they'd been taught At such a time to smother feelings of the sort.
Pop went the corks, the ladies screamed with fear And put their handkerchiefs before their face, Then stuffed their ears so full they couldn't hear And each one made a terrible grimace, Begging that to some farther distant place The bottles should be pointed; then, alas! All ran away as though they ran a race, When each had managed to upset her glass On the corks banging, like a timid little (l)ass.
The ladies then, with one consent, declared The gentlemen to be too good by half, That angels with them could not be compared; Then everybody had a hearty laugh; The "charms" indulged in various little chaff And gave the gentlemen some dreadful "whacks," I do not mean with their Papa's old staff But with their little hands, across their backs, Observing they deserved quite twice as many smacks.
Rowland, our handsome friend, pronounced the pies Of all he ever liked to be the best; Lionel, too, bespoke the strawberries, And Gilbert loved the currants, he confessed; In short, the gathering was the loveliest Of all the gatherings they had ever known, And each, of course, was proud to be a guest; The ladies sighed how fast the time had flown; That they were sorry everybody there did own.
Then (at the special signal of Mamma) The labourers came to take some little cheer; They doffed their hats and shouted thrice "Hurrah!" When they had polished off a little beer; But took the treasure while a burning tear, Unchecked and gentle, trembled on the cheek And damped the furrows of full many a year, And fettered up the lips; thankful and meek, Each rustic bent his toil-worn brow, but could not speak.
And each one passed his rough and heavy sleeve Up to his face, across his briny eye; What human breast that tears may not relieve? What cheek that tears can never beautify? They moved away and sauntered leisurely Back to their toil, back to their daily bread, Then homewards. In the evening's streaky sky The crescent moon gleamed faintly overhead And whispered that their little ones were hushed in bed.
Our friends and visitors withdrew inside Now they had tossed the hay and had their fill, And it was proper time they should, beside— The fields were getting positively chill; The gentlemen sat down and rested till The trap was ready, and the lamps were lighted, And pleased they were to chat awhile, but still It made the journey tedious if benighted; Of course they mentioned they'd been thoroughly delighted.
Then scribbling autographs seemed all the go, And music took the place of tossing hay, With various small etcetera, and so It came about they should not go away Before they'd promised for another day. Of course what could they say? they said they would, And highly pleased they all were I daresay; And so between them all 'twas understood They had arranged a pic-nic near some distant wood.
Meanwhile the horse was getting slightly frisky, Impatient quite to trot his homeward road; Of course our friends must have a glass of whisky, The frisky horse, the trap, and all be blowed: As long as they arrived at their abode It didn't matter and they didn't care, And all these circumstances only showed They were in no great hurry to be there, Perhaps preferring to remain just where they were.
But still the parting came: as for adieus, They lasted just as long, I do believe, As all the "Hows" and "Whens" and "How d'ye dos" On their arrival,—no, I don't deceive; They all took "quite excruciating" leave, And Julia hurried up and held the gate, For which a florin-piece she did receive, Then hurried back in quite a frantic state, Indeed her eyes with very pleasure did dilate.
Now they were all alone, the day was o'er, The blinds were down and all the shutters closed, Julia was sent to bolt the garden door, And all did whatsoe'er they felt disposed; Mamma, with covered face, lay down and dozed, Papa and his three daughters played at loo, It was a pleasant pastime they supposed, I almost think it must have been, don't you? But everybody wished the day would dawn anew.
They went to bed, as weary people must, Earlier than usual, after having played Three lovely games at loo, and then discussed The nice refreshment in the pleasant shade; And I am sure they must have been repaid Quite amply for their trouble in the pleasure Of hearing all the gentlemen had said, For Dora seemed amused beyond all measure— (She was the eldest one, you know, and such a treasure!)
The household said good night to chat and cards, They were, at least they seemed to be, worn out; And 'tis the same, I think, with tiny bards, For they, too, must leave off sometimes, no doubt, Most folks, I know, would rather be without Such nuisances as we are at the most, And I myself am but a lazy lout, For dallying all my time amongst the host Of scribbling dolts; but writing verse is not my boast.
Good-bye, my friends, for now, I really think, 'Tis time to pause for I have croaked so long, To lay aside my paper, pen and ink, And hush the grating measure of my song, Your kind applause may not to me belong, It might have been much better I'll agree, But if you'll just decide to come along— With a forgiving heart—along with me, We'll both shake hands upon the subject merrily.
It is a pity fools are prone to scribble, Such pigmy rhymesters as sincerely yours, Who flabbergast their nursery-maids and dribble All down their literary pinafores. All men form two divisions—first, the Bores, Next, those who must incessantly be bored; To those who can explain I leave the cause, Or him who said so ('twas a certain Lord) His name it is not necessary to record.
I want a rest, I blink, I see some authors, And laurel wreaths and pens both great and small, But weirdly mixed with inkpots, cups and saucers, Floating in air like things ethereal; How dare such stupid things intrude at all! There, let me sleep for Goodness' Gracious' sake, I really shall not answer if you call, I'll finish up my story when I wake; Hush, hush, my darling, hush, else rest I cannot take.
Good day, and how d'ye do my friends and neighbours? I must have dozed upon my easy chair; I feel refreshed and recommence my labours, And urge my soaring Pegasus through air, Nor ask his destination or his fare, It matters not to me, and I resume; But not to dose you more than you can bear, To take my flight with others, I presume, And why not so, my friends, since there's no lack of room?
You know I am a careless sort of fellow On whom no living being spends a wink, So stand aside and let me have my bellow, You surely will not grudge me pen and ink! I've little doubt that if you stop to think You'll recollect I've met you once before, I'm not the humbug who would wish to shrink From friends of old, and so let's have your paw; Of course 'twere better we were friendly to be sure.
You know my failing and you will forgive it, Or "lump it" p'raps (to use a common phrase), Yet, as with most objections, you'll outlive it Before the lapse of very many days; The fact is this, I never look for praise And never want it, for I quite intend To abandon rhyming and amend my ways, And utilise the moments that I spend In such-like nonsense, towards a more befitting end.
I have my likes, great likes, great dislikes too, 'Twere well did I just one or two rehearse; I hate to see a fool his ways renew, I hate to see a youngster scribbling verse; And now, my friends, just think, what can be worse Than wasting time when we've so little of it? But waywardness will surely prove a curse, They tell me that I ought to be above it, That is to say, my kinsfolk and beloved.
But something strange impels me to the task, And here am I complaining while I write Of human nature. Of myself I ask— Now am I doing wrong or doing right? 'Tis hard indeed (I find it so) to fight (However perseveringly I try, And more particularly so to-night) Against this most uncouth propensity: Most likely tho' I shall grow wiser by and bye.
But I'll proceed—I never see the use Of giving up a task when once begun, Besides it's nonsense urging an excuse, Just let me end my tale and I am done. Why, there's the breakfast bell, and, ten to one, Those girls are fast asleep, and what d'ye bet? And Julia's just been waking them, what fun! Ah, very well, you've lost, and don't forget That you are now, let's see, a florin in my debt.
The girls were late indeed and no mistake; Unutterably tired I should say, But Julia said they all were wide awake, And so 'twas useless making more delay. Mamma proceeded in her usual way To order in the breakfast then and there, Concluding 'twas the excitement yesterday, For waiting long was more than she could bear; So after having kissed papa she took her chair.
Papa consulted the barometer To gain some knowledge of the coming weather, Then stared and took out his chronometer, Remarking it was funny altogether; He rang the bell in order to know whether His daughters really had begun to dress, And Julia, quite as light as any feather, Swept in and pertly answered, "Yes, Sir, yes," Much to his satisfaction, doubtless, you may guess.
They all came down to find the breakfast cold, And there was then and there a great "to-do," Mamma felt very much disposed to scold, And answered their excuses with "pooh-pooh:" I think 'twas rather too bad tho', don't you, Since they had done the very best they could To entertain their visitors all through? But there! she only scolded for their good, And 'twas not well for them o'er such-like things to brood.
For several days they were not quite the thing, To judge from all appearances at least; Their youthful levity had taken wing, And all excursions for the present ceased; And momently their restlessness increased, The sketch was left unheeded: incomplete The slippers they were knitting ere the feast, And faded garlands strewed the arbour seat, Now silent and neglected was that cool retreat.
But still this feeling's always more or less Shortlived, I find it so, at any rate, Altho' not always easy to repress, We very soon reclaim our normal state: 'Twas so in this case, happy to relate, For soon they all were lark-like as before, With all their usual buoyancy innate, Indeed they took to frolic more and more; They were the liveliest feminines one ever saw.
It somehow chanced one night they could not sleep, They did not even doze, but wakeful lay; Oblivion's mists their senses did not steep; Whatever was the cause I cannot say; So they commenced to chat the time away, Their rooms were quite convenient for it too, Then on to various topics did they stray, And long forgotten converse did renew: No doubt 'twas quite enjoyable, they thought so too.
At last, of course, they didn't wish to doze, Preferring to prolong the conversation; And still suggestions one by one arose Which only met with their disapprobation; And jokes were cracked in lively alternation: From sundry rappings "peal on peal afar" Occasioning surprise and consternation I'm half afraid that they awoke Mama, And, dozing sweetly too, most likely their papa.
This was effectual to some extent, They brought their voices down to somewhat low. T' arouse the slumb'ring folks they never meant, Whom they'd disturbed so much a while ago; So they arranged at once that both should go To Dora's bedroom if they wished to speak, And "trip it on the light fantastic toe," But, oh dear, how those stupid boards did creak As both of them their darling sister's room did seek!
The lamp was lighted and the apparatus For making coffee speedily prepared, The cups were steaming with an odor gratus, They thought not of the hour and little cared How far advanced the night, and gaily fared On Spanish rusks and coffee, whilst the cry Of cockerel answered cockerel, and they shared The bountiful repast delightedly, And chatted over several matters merrily.
With robe de chambre and slippers, each one seemed To be exactly in her element, While from each dimpled cheek a beauty beamed, A rosy flush, of blossoms redolent; Moreover each one's deshabille had lent A careless grace which numbers can't convey, As tho' fair Venus all her arts had spent In rendering them beautiful as day, Or had transformed each fondling to a fairy-fay.
And there they sweetly lounged in statu quo, More beautiful than words can ever tell, In fact a tiny sprig of mistletoe I should have deemed quite indispensable, So greatly did their excellence excel All evanescent beauty in man's eyes, The loveliest primrose in the greenest dell, The lithest form man e'er did idolize: Fairer than fleece-like cloudlets of the southern skies.
Now Flora oped the casement, for she sought The realm of silent Night. The breezes soft Swept o'er her brow and cooled each burning thought, And calmly bore each tranquil prayer aloft; She sniffed the balmy air and lightly quaffed The faint and mellow perfumes as they came, And gazed abstractedly, as she so oft Had done before. Who would not do the same, And fondly praise his Maker's most beloved name?
Below, the pebbly rill, like the fond sigh Of maiden's love, was whispering to the night, While on its breast the star-lit canopy, Reflected clear, the bosom did invite To share its holy peace, its still delight, And join the drowsy nocturnes that arose, Hushing all nature to a slumber light, And soothing down on pillows of repose All weary mortals' earthly turmoils, cares and woes.
And summer dews had steeped the verdant sod, The moon-rays shimmered o'er the spangled lea, And taught the soul the eloquence of God, Tinging the far horizon o'er the sea With silver film and sheeny filigree, While o'er the gray expanse with trembling wing The ling'ring zephyr hovered sleepily, And faintly breathed o'er every dormant thing Its soft, sad benediction. This did Flora sing:—
Oh Night, beneath thy dark domain How oft the human heart has bled! But here a holy peace doth reign, And now my soul is comforted.
Sublimest Monarch, teach my breast To speak the phantasy it feels, O take my heart to be thy guest, And stay thy sombre chariot-wheels!
Thy course is bent thro' clouds—on them Thy path thou takest o'er the sea, Ten myriad worlds thy diadem, Oh take me to abide with thee!
Thy sceptre—'tis with points of light Begemmed; thy retinues advance, And feeble Nature owns thy might, The splendour of thy countenance.
The moon thy lamp, the flaming sun Thy harbinger; take thou my soul, Now bounding forth thy race to run, To thy Imperial Capitol!
O let my spirit wander o'er Thy sable woods and feel their sighs, And float upon thy Stygian shore, And revel in its mysteries!
O but to mingle with thy throng, Partaker in thy flight to be, A portion of that spirit-song, A spirit minister to thee!
They soon were rather weary and methinks Their chirp-like chatter did grow somewhat less, Now one would rouse herself from forty winks, Another doze in sweet unconsciousness; Indeed it was high time, as you may guess, They should disperse—they wisely thought so too, Then kissed and smiled and each one did confess Such pranks as these would never, never do; Of course they'd have to meet the scolding, that they knew.
Their dreams were peopled with all forms and shapes That nightmare with its horrors can conceive, Egyptian sphynxes down to Barb'ry apes: Entangled in all nets that dreams can weave They struggled to get liberty and leave The meshy maze, yet struggled all in vain, Such horribles you never could believe I wonder if they all transgressed again As then; thus pleasure's always found preceding pain.
Rose, like the others, saw the wrong she did Personified in dreams, while on her chest, In slow descent, an Eastern Pyramid Came down to crush her flat, she did her best, Like dreaming people do when so distressed, To move from underneath the cruel thing, When up came Ju to know if she were dressed And if she heard the bell for breakfast ring, Surprised indeed so late to find her slumbering.
She heard it, yes, but with a dreaming ear, Just as the pile above her did descend; She heard the funeral knell, she saw the bier, Which was to seal her most unpleasant end; But fortunately then Mama did send The housemaid to inform the time of day, The Spinx etcetera did their ways amend, Politely bowed, took wing, and flew away; Rose wished them all good morning with no more delay.
The girls went down to breakfast with a look Which spoke guilt, shame and terror all in one, Each sigh was language and each glance a book Narrating all the mischief they had done; And cowering conscience cautioned them to shun The searching lectures of parental eyes, But still the dark ordeal had begin, For Mama swelled to a terrific size, And Pater looked around the room in mute surprise.
Then glances were exchanged, and both declared Such freaks as these again must never be, Their Ma demanded how they even dared, Since they'd been naughty to the last degree, Ejaculating faintly "Goodness me!" With various interjections of alarm, Stamping with anger at the guilty three, But 'twas not long e'er she again was calm, And all her daughters knew of course she meant no harm.
But this unhappy circumstance was soon— Like such unpleasantnesses were—forgotten, All things were tolerably straight by noon, (For family disputes are hell-begotten); So they betook them to their knitting-cotton, And felt themselves forgiven, as they were, They said that lesson should be unforgotten, Such nonsense never should again occur, So they had asked their parents' pardon I infer.
Days had not only sped but galloped on, As they expressed it, e'er they could "turn round;" Before they were aware, the month had gone, The first of August, too, had come they found, (A fact which seemed the household to astound) On which date, I imagine, they designed A short excursion, by the pleasant sound Of tossing waters wild and unconfined: In following this suggestion they were not behind.
It was the first of August, now I know, A day that's most unlucky I believe, As I, for one, have always found it so, Then ask Astrologers who can't deceive; For I myself was surely doomed to grieve, Selected by some most ill-omened star, 'Twas then (but why, I really can't conceive) That I was introduced to my Mama, From then she always wished me over at Malabar.
I mean to say that I was born unlucky, My mother never danced me up and down, I never once was designated "ducky," Nor rolled within the doubles of her gown, Nor dandled as when fondlings "go to town," Nor kissed and snuggled when I went to bed, Or rather when conveyed there with a frown, A downright shaking and a smarting head; To me no coaxing sweet appeal was made when fed.
I don't know if the Pythagorean theory Is quite to be relied upon or spurned, I'm half afraid this must remain a query As far as my enquiries are concerned; For theories are by theories overturned, And what a wise man says a coon disputes, For my part I must leave it with the learned, And those who play the fool with such pursuits, I take the first that comes, or anyone which suits.
But if that version of the matter's true I must have suffered for my previous sin, Some former life of follies, what think you? Some other mischief I've been joining in; But what's the use of idle pondering On things so troublesome and as abstruse, It were prepost'rous even to begin, What was there that could possibly induce Pythagoras to turn his pen to such a use?
The thought of spiritual transmigration Is somewhat pleasant, therefore let it be; It seems delightful to my contemplation But what of that, it's all the same to me! In fact, to tell the truth, I cannot see Wherefore Pythagoras did puzzle o'er This tiresome philosophy when he Must truly have considered it a bore, I think it so, and, doubtless, so do many more.
"One fool makes many," as the saying goes, And he was quite as bad as any Plato, There was some slight resemblance I suppose, As Alcibiades resembled Cato; But I must hurry on and not delay so On themes unnecessary to my tale, I'm sure you will agree with me and say so, I'm prone to 'light on topics that are stale, As I have said before, I know that I am frail.
Well laden with good things by way of luncheon, Our heroines were starting on their way, With ham and tongue, and wine an infant puncheon, With spirits buoyant, and a jolly day; The sun upon them shot his summer ray, Above, the pendent lark was on the wing, The fair ones, each and all, had lots to say, And absolutely laughed like anything; The very air with their blithe merriment did ring.
'Twas early yet, and, as they were proceeding, On some poor widow they'd arranged to call, To give her heart the comfort she was needing, Whose open bible was her hope, her all; And Dora in her basket bore a shawl, A gift from Ma to the disabled dame, Together with some stockings and a ball Of worsted. To the cottage gate they came, And, doubtless, reader, you have often done the same.
They knocked, then pressed the latch and entered. There Her grandchild sat; oh, she was sweet to see! Her cheek was bright, and fairer than the fair, Each tress the sungleam shimmering o'er the sea; An open bible lay upon her knee, She had been reading from the volume old In meek and innocent simplicity, And tinging all things earthly with the gold The calmer, holier radiance of that other fold.
"I will be with you even unto death." "Come unto Me and I will give you rest." "I, even I, am He that comforteth." What words are these! how beautiful, how blest! And Granny, as she listened, fondly pressed Her darling's little hand, did she not bring Sweet consolation to her aged breast When th' sun of life was low—towards evening, And life's fast fleeting pleasures, all had taken wing?
But dim were Granny's glasses with a tear While listening to that voice so soft, so low, Oh! what upon this weary earth so dear? Oh! what so cherished as that smile below? The depth of human fondness who can know? She dried her tears, imprinting a slow kiss Upon her beauty's cheek, she loved her so, Oh! what more tender, more sublime than this? Beside that hearth there reigned such still, such sacred bliss.
Our visitors had entered. Granny seemed Right down delighted that they should have come, For from her eyes a nameless pleasure beamed, Which seemed of all delights to be the sum; She tried to make them cosy interdum, And to their kind enquiries she replied, "I'm bonny in my way, I thank you, Mum, And how's yourselves and those at home beside?" Then to them several little matters did confide.
The cot, consisting of two rooms, was thatched; Each room was on the ground. Above the door Clung vines and roses, and the wall was patched, And all an aspect of contentment bore, The prettiest little scene you ever saw, Within, above the mantel, hung the gun Which there had hung for fifteen years or more, Memento of that dear departed one, Telling of how much service it before had done.
Within the corner stood the eight-day clock Which had recounted time for years and years, And even then was going "tick-a-tock," Tho' it had seen so many smiles and tears; There is a something which, I fancy, cheers In the slow ditty which those songsters sing, Some sweet responsion which the bosom hears, Whose echo is so soft and comforting, Winding a stilly peace round each familiar thing.
The bacon hung suspended from a beam, And ancient china made the parlour gay; The picture of a little mountain stream Called Rose's admiration into play; And, basking in the sun's delightful ray, A favourite kitten purred with sleepy air, The polished flags were spotless as the day, And groups of flowering plants stood here and there, And industry was most apparent everywhere.
Our ladies three had had their little chat, Had likewise done the good they had to do, Moreover had admired and stroked the cat, And then they thought 'twas time that they withdrew; The widow was more thankful than they knew, And twenty times expressed her firm conviction They were disguised archangels (what think you?) Then twenty times pronounced her benediction, Hoping they'd never live to suffer her affliction.
Her little grandchild courtesied at the gate, Showed them the way and courtesied once again, They sauntered on at just their former rate And chattered in their usual lively strain; Passing along an elevated plain They paused to look around them for the scene Delighted them enormously and fain Would they have been to rest mid-way between, But forward gaily pressed o'er silent tracts of green.
The view was bounded on their right by hills, Those gentle hills that border on the sea, Ah! as I write a thought my bosom stills, That thought, Oh Berwick, is the thought of thee! How kind, how tranquil were thine hours to me, Those hours amongst thy silent valleys cast, O moments gone, come back and let me be Enfolded in the visions of the Past, While other hours and days and years are fleeting fast!
Anon the summit of the cliff they gained, Above the vast expanse the eye is bent, Where Beauty's finger wanders unrestrained With its fantastical embellishment; The mind is riveted, the gaze is spent Where lavish Nature pours her richest spoil, The tongue is voiceless with bewilderment, Far, far below the ocean's ceaseless toil Makes bosoms inly shudder and all eyes recoil.
Our little thoughts are staggered at the scene, That splendour so unspeakably intense, And dazzled by its brilliancy of sheen, The senses reel with its magnificence; Below the surgy yeast was boiling, whence Rose on the summer air its restless roar, It smote the broken cliff's bold battlements, Unmoted like the warriors of yore, And plunged upon the moss-clad boulders of the shore.
The feathery clouds moved slowly through the sky, The coast-line melted into tender blue, The storm-bleared headland stood defiantly The boldest feature of that boundless view; In contrast with its chalky front, the hue Of the green sea swept freely far and wide, And o'er the promontory's base there grew, As though its time-torn nakedness to hide, Some shaggy weeds that floated on the swelling tide.
It was the ebb. They could not yet descend; So Rose suggested that they should proceed In the direction of the headland's end, There straightway squat them on the grass and read The books they'd brought; to this they all agreed, Then hastened onward though the sun was hot, And there beneath their sunshades with much speed And very much more chatter did they squat; In those parts foliage umbrageous there was not.
They must have read an hour when they discovered Exactly simultaneously that they Were really hungry, so they all uncovered Their baskets of refreshment for the day, And laughed to see the paper fly away; They must, I think, have quite enjoyed their fare So close above the music of the bay, No doubt it was delightful to be there Fanned by the soothing breath of the ozonic air.
They chatted, read, and dozed in alternation, And time had flitted as it always will, Flo recommended change of situation, Not pleased that they were tarrying there still; So all arose and forward urged until They saw afar some narrow steps and rude, Beginning some short distance up the hill, And which of course no sooner had they viewed Than thither they repaired as quickly as they could.
Descending, they discovered that the sea Had much subsided since they saw it last, Then down they hopped with more than usual glee To note the waters thus receding fast; Upon the narrow strip of sand were cast Weeds, star-fish, and all sorts of shells around, And, as along the level stretch they passed, Most interesting articles they found Which lay all washed and wet upon the solid ground.
They cut their names upon the cliff and wrote All sorts of hieroglyphics on the sand, And rhymes that I'm unable now to quote; All found amusement there on every hand; They thought a life at sea was truly grand As very many ladies often do, Perhaps it is when strolling on the strand, At least I find it passable, don't you? In fact, I think, much more so than in transitu.
They deemed it a misfortune they were girls; Rose wished she'd been a boy and gone abroad, Flo wished she'd been a sailor lad with curls By all the fair of Christendom adored; Then Dora too her present state deplored And also would have been a tar (because She loved to listen when the waters roared) Or any blessed thing but what she was; All these ideas were most enjoyable of course.
At some short distance was a vessel hurled, A dismal wreck, upon the rockbound shoal, Around its hulk th' encircling billows curled, Now thro' its splintered deck the wavelet stole, Then, issuing forth, it gurgled through a hole Staved by the tempest's fury in its side, Afar off did its shattered timbers roll, Its treasures all were scattered in the tide. The headland gained, the swaying wreck they soon espied.
Soon as the waves permitted them to go Across the smooth white rocks, they to it went; The raging brine had torn off half the bow, Its starboard shivered and its cordage rent; The warring waters had their anger spent And flung its fragments to the cruel blast, Its iron bands were burst apart and bent, And all around in dire disorder cast; There, shattered, at some little distance, lay the mast.
When gazing pensively o'er ocean's realm Its wide destruction, its unspoken might, There is a something which doth overwhelm, As day is overshadowed by the night; This was, forsooth, an interesting sight To them, yet no less dreadful, for the scene Was one such as could never yield delight, And so delighted they could not have been, Before they never such a spectacle had seen.
They picked up curious items, three or four, And placed them in their baskets to take home, The wreck and its surroundings did explore, Upon the slimy reefs, too, did they roam, While backward and still backward rolled the foam, While faster flew each hour, one after one, And they discovered evening had come, 'Twas time they put an end to all their fun, And so to think of their return they had begun.
The time indeed had gone exceeding fast, But how it had gone—that they could not say, And nor could I, my reader, if you asked, They tell me that for no man Time will stay: Oh! not for womankind—for such as they? I'm half afraid old Chronos doth forget As he goes tearing on from day to day The right and just demands of etiquette Which is, as you'll agree, a matter of regret.
They finished their refreshments seated nicely Upon a spar (just what they all required), Which seemed as if put for them—so precisely Was it the very thing that they desired; They were (or should have been) intensely tired, But luckily they had not far to go, A lot of pleasant matters had transpired, And all had cracked their lively joke or so; But now the day was o'er, the sun was getting low.
Behind the cliff they wished to see him fall, And therefore with that object did they wait, There was no need to hurry home at all, And they could walk it well by half-past eight, And surely that was not so very late. They each detached a portion of the wood, For Dora took much pains to demonstrate, It was most necessary that they should (For a memento be it clearly understood).
There can be nothing dearer that I know (When thus I speak of course I mean—to me) Than wand'ring slowly when the tide is low, Alone and silent by the gentle sea; Each winding cranny of the rock may be Enjoyment's wealth. There, is a world of thought, Of joys unbounded for a heart as free, A universe of life if only sought; Each breath, each dreaming ripple is with music fraught.
Give me the ocean: let me hear its roll, For ever let me wander by its side, There is a voice that murmurs to the soul, A strength which thunders in its mighty tide: There let me but my lonely footsteps guide, Or hasten to some far neglected glen, Wherein myself for ever I can hide, And rest a stranger to the ways of men, And find a refuge dear beyond all human ken.
There let me be, nor friend nor kinsman near, For earthly friends and kinsmen—what are they? There let me unbefriended drop a tear And spend in solitude life's little day, Where strange, strange voices all—all pass away And mingle with the voices that have been, There in those stilly valleys let me stray, Where all is soundless, all is fair and green, And peace, that holy peace, surrounds each smiling scene.
Within me is a craving, and for what? A lingering longing, dark and ill-defined, A something wanting, but I know it not, A missing link it is not mine to find, A flaming fire that scorches up the mind And goads me ever onward—onward where? I pray—I gasp for light—for I am blind, The light that never, never will be there; What can that something be my spirit may not share?
Oh let me be, for mine is Nature's praise; I leave the world for those it doth invite, For those who are untaught in Nature's ways, Who seek their pleasures in the boast of might; Give me the wood, the ocean, and the night, I ask no more, these, these shall be my all, And wield my cornucopia of delight; The crested helmet and the kingly hall Are not for me, for them I neither care nor call.
I ask not Wealth, nor wish one single hour Where Splendour gilds the trophies of the brave, Of purse-proud pomp, of pageantry and power Whose flaunting grandeur can but deck the grave; To me 'tis hollow—all is nothing save The pine-capped mountain and the heathery plain, The rolling forest and the leaping wave, Oh give me back their sweetnesses again, Those dear, those silent pleasures which can never wane!
Far have I wandered when the even fills The bosom with sweet sadnesses and sighs, When life was like the mellow on far hills Bathed in the sunset of the summer skies And tinged with purple—when the spirit cries And gasps for very language but in vain, When wavelets whisper and the heart replies, When the soul sobs and all is hushed again Save Tritons chanting to this pathless world of pain.
Stay, stay thy footsteps, o'er the waters see How calm the weary elements, how still— For Nature too herself forgets to be, While holy thoughts and prayers the bosom fill, And dim the daylight quivers o'er the hill, The creatures of the air to home and rest Have winged their lonely journey at their will, And no alarms alarm the human breast And all, yea all, with heavenly quietude is blest.
They'd seen the sun descend, the blending hues, Rich, in succession, come, then fade away, Regretting that such splendour they should lose With the departure of the solar ray; Do we not note this every dawning day— That beauty is short-lived and soon must pass? More beautiful, more wasted by decay, We see it and we cry "Alas! Alas! Our days are as a tale that is told—we are but grass!"
I will apply a philosophic rule Which, like most rules, admits of some exception, But I was no philosopher at school, I'll tell you that much so there's no deception, In fact, a perfect dunce, you've no conception— But that you'll say is foreign to my tail, I thank you for your generous correction, I copied all my masters to a nail, Yet no one ever asked me if I was for sale.
Who was it said Variety was Beauty Or Beauty was Variety?—no matter, To recollect his name is not my duty, It may have been Theocritus's hatter, For aught I know, my brains are in a batter, I'm older than I used to be by far, Yet, joking all aside, myself I flatter My faculties are lively as they are, And yet—let's see—who was that Philosophic Star?
I can't think—never mind. But I maintain That Beauty is Variety (and I Emphatically say the same again) Just now it doesn't matter how or why: If anybody wishes to deny That this is true—then—let him come and prove it, If anyone has doubt of it, I'll try— I'll do my very utmost to remove it. If 'twere a lie most certainly I should reprove it.
It is when Autumn sweeps the frosty plain And tips the woods with flaming hues, that I Delight to pause and gaze and gaze again Where varied tints the landscape beautify; It is the smirking maiden's nut-brown eye, Fair skin all traversed by the tender blue, Her cherry cheeks and lips that make me sigh, Besides her snowy teeth—now don't they you? That's right, I knew that you'd agree, of course they do.
Ah, what is that which makes the sunset dear? It is each varying tinge that stains the air, While ever-changing colours still appear, And fairy-flecks float forward calm and fair. But still our weary ladies lingered there, For Flo their fav'rite trio did propose, And Dora, as was usual, sang the air; The eve was still, the day began to close As on the gentle breeze the following words arose:
THE CHORUS OF THE NEREIDES.
We are ever ever merry as we frolic in the ocean, As we dive beneath the waters to its gem-bestudded floor; And we dance within its grottoes with an ever-whirling motion, And we roll the little wavelets one by one upon the shore.
From beneath the leaves in caverns adamantine we are peeping, Now along the blazing pearl and ruby corridors we glide, And amongst the tall fantastic arches slily are we creeping, There within their dark, mysterious recesses do we hide.
We recline within the bowers of the ever-rolling billow, We repose upon its bosom with a calm and cool delight, While ecstacies enrapture on its tranquillizing pillow, And we raise a myriad voices to the canopy of Night.
Then up they started; 'twas already dim, Still 'twas but half an hour's walk at the most, Altho' they were not quite in walking trim, Fatigued by all their rambles on the coast; In clambering o'er the rocks no time they lost, Altho' their small bottines got somewhat wet, And their incautiousness some duckings cost, But over soaking hose they didn't fret, For, jumping slippery rocks, what could they hope to get?
But, sad to say, as Dora took a leap Across a little channel full of water, A channel which was more than ankle-deep, She slipped and fell ere either could have caught her; Her sisters shrieked and, bending, they besought her, To say if any hurt she had sustained, And Flora, much alarmed, at once bethought her "What if she has?"—for Dora there remained, And most distressingly she moaned but nought explained.
But as she spoke not, what could they surmise, While with red blood bedabbled was her cheek? She fell back helpless when she tried to rise, And seemed unable, tho' she strove, to speak: Upon her forehead gaped a crimson streak, And stretched upon th' unyielding rock she lay, To soothe her pain both sisterlike did seek, They washed the bloody finger-prints away; Alas that such as this should end so bright a day!
What could they do? where could they fly for aid With night fast closing over all around? Where could they go, bewildered and afraid, With not the comfort of a single sound? They looked aghast with lips all horror-bound, With none to help and not a cottage near Where they could take her, prostrate on the ground, Where they might bind her brow who was so dear; And stirred they had not with embarrassment and fear.
Now clearly, as was apprehensible From the sad nature of the wound received, To all around she lay insensible, And Rose and Flora were most sorely grieved; Their inward terror could not be conceived, They tried to raise her but they tried in vain, And many sighs of disappointment heaved As down she sank upon the rock again; Each asked what should be done, they must not there remain.
That was a question which they could not solve, She was too heavy for their strength to bear, But Rose to fly for succour did resolve, Rushed up the cliff and left her sisters there; Within her heart there lurked a trembling prayer For her dear Dora's safety as she sped Along the soundless road, she knew not where, While darkness quickly gathered overhead, On, on she ran, half overcome, and pale with dread.
The first she met—to him she did appeal, He was a neighbouring cottager who bore A right good heart which others' woes could feel, To whom, too, she was not unknown before; At the sad news he hastened to his door, Brought forth a lighted lantern and a phial, And both strode quickly forward to the shore, He tried to soothe poor Rose's grief the while, Whose agitation told how terrible the trial.
They reached the cliff and cautious did descend, They indistinctly saw a group of three, In Rose's breast alarm and joy did blend While wondering who the welcome third might be; Impatiently she hurried on to see, 'Twas Rowland kneeling at her sister's side To whom he ministered relief for he The waving kerchief from the cliff had spied, Had heard the call for help and to the beach had hied.
His brother Gilbert by some happy chance Had accompanied his brother on his way, Both saw what was the matter at a glance As Dora on the ground unconscious lay; Flora with tears besought them both to stay But they'd arranged that Gilbert home should fly (They lived three-quarters of a mile away) And bring restoratives immediately, And chaise, of course, which was a great necessity.
Now Dora upright sat and looked around, Much better than she was a time ago, With a damp handkerchief her head was bound, And now and then she took a draught or so The cottager supplied, as you all know, Till on the road above the chaise arrived; Gilbert his brother called from down below, Gave him the flask and asked if she'd revived And how her safe removal was to be contrived.
There Gilbert waited while his brother went To offer his support to Dora who Seemed nothing else but sweet bewilderment, And, at this juncture, so did Rowland too. Since Gilbert brought one, they had lanterns two Which much assisted them their way to see, As well as what they were about to do In this unfortunate emergency; For 'twas a matter of the utmost urgency.
Now Rowland on the left supported Dora, The cottager was stationed on the right, One of the lights did they entrust to Flora, And one to Rose who was exhausted quite; Then on they passed beneath the sultry night, Safe o'er the rocks, upon the hardened sand— Tho' Dora was in most unhappy plight— With all the haste they could just then command, Befitted to the circumstance you understand.
The steps were steep and narrow, and a rail, For wanderers' protection was placed there, Yet it was at the best so very frail That it was necessary to beware; With narrow limits they did not despair, But managed somehow to go three abreast And at the summit safely lodge their care; To render her relief all did their best, They knew their parents would be very much distressed.
It chanced auspiciously that ladies' dress Was then not as we know it to have been, That concentration of all ugliness— That awful bustle and the crinoline— It would have been unfortunate, I mean, For their ascent, and with me you'll agree, It would have proved a hopeless case, I ween, And ended in a dire catastrophe, Which simply would have been embarrassing you see.
The cottager sought nothing for his pains And proffered trifles thankfully declined; Ah! happy they who think not of their gains, Who for the kindness only would be kind; But there are very few of such a mind, That is as far as my experience goes, For love of self more often lurks behind A worthy action, and one seldom knows The true and real source from which a kindness flows.
Now with his charges three was Rowland seated, Then all and everyone exchanged "good night," And when that ceremony was completed The cottager bent homeward with his light And so did Gilbert. 'Twas a blessing quite That matters were all settled as they were In their most awkward and distressing plight,— As Dora thought especially for her It was indeed unfortunate it should occur.
When they arrived at Elleston Farm they found Such dire dismay as ne'er before was seen, Papa dispatching to the places round Some messengers to know where they had been, It really was a most excited scene, With Julia, Ma, and Hannah at the gate To see if information they could glean In much alarm since it was now so late, For Dora told them that they should return by eight.
Ma gave a dismal shriek and swooned away, And Julia (bless her!) tried to do so too, Most naturally so, for truth to say It was a dreary spectacle to view; Soon to the house they hurriedly withdrew, All those who kept their footing and were able; With Ma and Julia there was much ado Since they between them made a little Babel, While Hannah screamed and staggered back upon the table.
To Dora Rowland was, of course, attentive, Yes, very so; he also did his best For th' others, using every preventive Against a second swoon one could suggest; His efforts I am glad to say were blest, Tho' Dora was quite helpless from the fall, But Hannah went on just like one possessed, While Julia did the lackadaisical And wagged her head most drearily against the wall.
Ere long there was an end to the confusion, And everyone came back to common sense, Then all the household joined in the conclusion It was a fearful blow, at all events Poor Dora's sufferings were most intense, And prudently she was despatched to bed, Permitted to remain on no pretence, And there the household bandaged up her head, For all lent their assistance as I should have said.
Respecting how they spent their length of time There was a lot to say as you'd suppose, (Which I will not repeat to you in rhyme) Concerning their enjoyments and their woes, And all such trivialities as those, Or thanks to him to whom such thanks were due, And query after query then arose, And pleasant incidents by no means few, As under the like circumstances always do.
Supper despatched, our Rowland started back Loaded with thanks and all that words could speak, The stars were overcast, the night was black, The wind arose as from some sudden freak; At intervals was seen a livid streak, And distant rumblings fell upon the ear; 'Twas true a storm had threatened all the week And lurked about the sultry atmosphere, Then was the time they were to have it, it was clear.
Yet these were tokens Rowland did not heed, Such trifles then he little cared about, As he upon his journey did proceed He was disturbed within more than without And dead to all around I've not a doubt, Absorbed in thoughts that words can ne'er define, Yet you can guess, my reader, what about, Most likely such as those have once been thine, I really fail to count how often they've been mine.