THE WORKS OF CHARLES AND MARY LAMB
IV. POEMS AND PLAYS
POEMS AND PLAYS
CHARLES AND MARY LAMB
The earliest poem in this volume bears the date 1794, when Lamb was nineteen, the latest 1834, the year of his death; so that it covers an even longer period of his life than Vol. I.—the "Miscellaneous Prose." The chronological order which was strictly observed in that volume has been only partly observed in the following pages—since it seemed better to keep the plays together and to make a separate section of Lamb's epigrams. These, therefore, will be found to be outside the general scheme. Such of Lamb's later poems as he did not himself collect in volume form will also be found to be out of their chronological position, partly because it has seemed to me best to give prominence to those verses which Lamb himself reprinted, and partly because there is often no indication of the year in which the poem was written.
Another difficulty has been the frequency with which Lamb reprinted some of his earlier poetry. The text of many of his earliest and best poems was not fixed until 1818, twenty years or so after their composition. It had to be decided whether to print these poems in their true order as they were first published—in Coleridge's Poems on Various Subjects, 1796; in Charles Lloyd's ems on the Death of Priscilla Farmer, 1796; in Coleridge's Poems, second edition, 1797; in Blank Verse by Charles Lloyd and Charles Lamb, 1798; and in John Woodvil, 1802—with all their early readings; or whether to disregard chronological sequence, and wait until the time of the Works—1818—had come, and print them all together then. I decided, in the interests of their biographical value, to print them in the order as they first appeared, particularly as Crabb Robinson tells us that Lamb once said of the arrangement of a poet's works: "There is only one good order—and that is the order in which they were written—that is a history of the poet's mind." It then had to be decided whether to print them in their first shape, which, unless I repeated them later, would mean the relegation of Lamb's final text to the Notes, or to print them, at the expense of a slight infringement upon the chronological scheme, in their final 1818 state, and relegate all earlier readings to the Notes. After much deliberation I decided that to print them in their final 1818 state was best, and this therefore I did in the large edition of 1903, to which the student is referred for all variorum readings, fuller notes and many illustrations, and have repeated here. In order, however, that the scheme of Lamb's 1818 edition of his Works might be preserved, I have indicated in the text the position in the Works occupied by all the poems that in the present volume have been printed earlier.
The chronological order, in so far as it has been followed, emphasises the dividing line between Lamb's poetry and his verse. As he grew older his poetry, for the most part, passed into his prose. His best and truest poems, with few exceptions, belong to the years before, say, 1805, when he was thirty. After this, following a long interval of silence, came the brief satirical outburst of 1812, in The Examiner, and the longer one, in 1820, in The Champion; then, after another interval, during which he was busy as Elia, came the period of album verses, which lasted to the end. The impulse to write personal prose, which was quickened in Lamb by the London Magazine in 1820, seems to have taken the place of his old ambition to be a poet. In his later and more mechanical period there were, however, occasional inspirations, as when he wrote the sonnet on "Work," in 1819; on "Leisure," in 1821; the lines in his own Album, in 1827, and, pre-eminently, the poem "On an Infant Dying as Soon as Born," in 1827.
This volume contains, with the exception of the verse for children, which will be found in Vol. III. of this edition, all the accessible poetical work of Charles and Mary Lamb that is known to exist and several poems not to be found in the large edition. There are probably still many copies of album verses which have not yet seen the light. In the London Magazine, April, 1824, is a story entitled "The Bride of Modern Italy," which has for motto the following couplet:—
My heart is fixt: This is the sixt.—Elia.
but the rest of what seems to be a pleasant catalogue is missing. In a letter to Coleridge, December 2, 1796, Lamb refers to a poem which has apparently perished, beginning, "Laugh, all that weep." I have left in the correspondence the rhyming letters to Ayrton and Dibdin, and an epigram on "Coelebs in Search of a Wife." I have placed the dedication to Coleridge at the beginning of this volume, although it belongs properly only to those poems that are reprinted from the Works of 1818, the prose of which Lamb offered to Martin Burney. But it is too fine to be put among the Notes, and it may easily, by a pardonable stretch, be made to refer to the whole body of Lamb's poetical and dramatic work, although Album Verses, 1830, was dedicated separately to Edward Moxon.
In Mr. Bedford's design for the cover of this edition certain Elian symbolism will be found. The upper coat of arms is that of Christ's Hospital, where Lamb was at school; the lower is that of the Inner Temple, where he was born and spent many years. The figures at the bells are those which once stood out from the facade of St. Dunstan's Church in Fleet Street, and are now in Lord Londesborough's garden in Regent's Park. Lamb shed tears when they were removed. The tricksy sprite and the candles (brought by Betty) need no explanatory words of mine.
CONTENTS TEXT NOTE PAGE PAGE
Dedication 1 307 Lamb's earliest poem, "Mille viae mortis" 3 307 Poems in Coleridge's Poems on Various Subjects, 1796:— "As when a child ..." 4 308 "Was it some sweet device ..." 4 309 "Methinks how dainty sweet ..." 5 311 "Oh! I could laugh ..." 5 311 From Charles Lloyd's Poems on the Death of Priscilla Farmer, 1796;— The Grandame 6 312 Poems from Coleridge's Poems, 1797:— "When last I roved ..." 8 315 "A timid grace ..." 8 315 "If from my lips ..." 9 315 "We were two pretty babes ..." 9 315 Childhood 9 315 The Sabbath Bells 10 316 Fancy Employed on Divine Subjects 10 316 The Tomb of Douglas 11 316 To Charles Lloyd 12 316 A Vision of Repentance 13 317 Poems Written in the Years 1795-98, and not Reprinted by Lamb:— "The Lord of Life ..." 16 317 To the Poet Cowper 16 317 Lines addressed to Sara and S.T.C. 17 318 Sonnet to a Friend 18 318 To a Young Lady 18 319 Living Without God in the World 19 319 Poems from Blank Verse, by Charles Lloyd and Charles Lamb, 1798:— To Charles Lloyd 21 320 Written on the Day of My Aunt's Funeral 21 320 Written a Year After the Events 22 321 Written Soon After the Preceding Poem 24 322 Written on Christmas Day, 1797 25 322 The Old Familiar Faces 25 322 Composed at Midnight 26 323 Poems at the End of John Woodvil, 1802:— Helen. By Mary Lamb 28 323 Ballad. From the German 29 324 Hypochondriacus 29 324 A Ballad Noting the Difference of Rich and Poor 30 324 Poems in Charles Lamb's Works, 1818, not Previously Printed in the Present Volume:— Hester 32 325 Dialogue Between a Mother and Child. By Mary Lamb 33 325 A Farewell to Tobacco 34 325 To T.L.H. 38 326 Salome. By Mary Lamb 39 —- Lines Suggested by a Picture of Two Females by Lionardo da Vinci. By Mary Lamb 41 327 Lines on the Same Picture being Removed. By Mary Lamb 41 327 Lines on the Celebrated Picture by Lionardo da Vinci, called "The Virgin of the Rocks" 42 327 On the Same. By Mary Lamb 42 327 To Miss Kelly 43 328 On the Sight of Swans in Kensington Garden 43 328 The Family Name 44 328 To John Lamb, Esq 44 329 To Martin Charles Burney, Esq 45 329 Album Verses, 1830:— Album Verses:— In the Album of a Clergyman's Lady 46 332 In the Autograph Book of Mrs. Sergeant W—— 46 332 In the Album of Lucy Barton 47 332 In the Album of Miss —— 48 332 In the Album of a very Young Lady 48 332 In the Album of a French Teacher 49 332 In the Album of Miss Daubeny 49 333 In the Album of Mrs. Jane Towers 50 333 In My Own Album 50 333 Miscellaneous:— Angel Help 51 333 The Christening 52 333 On an Infant Dying as Soon as Born 53 333 To Bernard Barton 55 334 The Young Catechist 56 334 She is Going 57 335 To a Young Friend 57 335 To the Same 58 335 Sonnets:— Harmony in Unlikeness 58 336 Written at Cambridge 59 336 To a Celebrated Female Performer in the "Blind Boy" 59 336 Work 59 336 Leisure 60 336 To Samuel Rogers, Esq. 60 337 The Gipsy's Malison 61 337 Commendatory Verses:— To the Author of Poems Published under the Name of Barry Cornwall 61 338 To R.S. Knowles, Esq. 62 338 To the Editor of the Every-Day Book 63 338 Acrostics:— To Caroline Maria Applebee 63 339 To Cecilia Catherine Lawton 64 339 Acrostic, to a Lady who Desired Me to Write Her Epitaph 65 339 Another, to Her Youngest Daughter 65 339 Translations from the Latin of Vincent Bourne:— On a Sepulchral Statue of an Infant Sleeping 66 340 The Rival Bells 66 340 Epitaph on a Dog 67 340 The Ballad Singers 67 340 To David Cook 69 340 On a Deaf and Dumb Artist 70 340 Newton's Principia 71 340 The House-keeper 71 340 The Female Orators 72 340 Pindaric Ode to the Tread Mill 72 341 Going or Gone 75 341 New Poems in The Poetical Works of Charles Lamb, 1836:— In the Album of Edith S—— 78 343 To Dora W—— 78 343 In the Album of Rotha Q—— 79 344 In the Album of Catherine Orkney 79 —- To T. Stothard, Esq. 80 344 To a Friend on His Marriage 80 344 The Self-Enchanted 81 344 To Louisa M——, whom I used to call "Monkey" 82 344 Cheap Gifts: a Sonnet 82 344 Free Thoughts on Several Eminent Composers 83 344 Miscellaneous Poems not collected by Lamb:— Dramatic Fragment 85 345 Dick Strype; or, The Force of Habit 86 345 Two Epitaphs on a Young Lady 88 346 The Ape 89 346 In tabulam eximii pictoris B. Haydoni 90 347 Translation of Same 90 347 Sonnet to Miss Burney 91 347 To My Friend the Indicator 91 348 On seeing Mrs. K—— B——, aged upwards of eighty, nurse an infant 92 348 To Emma, Learning Latin, and Desponding 93 349 Lines Addressed to Lieut. R.W.H. Hardy, R.N. 93 349 Lines for a Monument 94 349 To C. Aders, Esq. 94 349 Hercules Pacificatus 95 349 The Parting Speech of the Celestial Messenger to the Poet 98 349 Existence, Considered in Itself, no Blessing 99 350 To Samuel Rogers, Esq. 100 350 To Clara N—— 101 350 The Sisters 101 350 Love Will Come 102 351 To Margaret W—— 102 351 Additional Album Verses and Acrostics:— What is an Album? 104 351 The First Leaf of Spring 105 352 To Mrs. F—— 105 352 To M. L—— F—— 106 352 To Esther Field 106 352 To Mrs. Williams 107 352 To the Book 107 353 To S.F. 108 353 To R.Q. 108 353 To S.L. 109 353 To M.L. 109 353 An Acrostic Against Acrostics 109 353 On Being Asked to Write in Miss Westwood's Album 110 353 In Miss Westwood's Album. By Mary Lamb 110 353 Un Solitaire. To Sarah Lachlan 111 353 To S. T 111 354 To Mrs. Sarah Robinson 111 354 To Sarah 112 354 To Joseph Vale Asbury 112 354 To D.A. 113 354 To Louisa Morgan 113 354 To Sarah James of Beguildy 113 354 To Emma Button 114 354 Written upon the Cover of a Blotting Book 114 354 Political and Other Epigrams:— To Sir James Mackintosh 115 357 Twelfth Night Characters:— Mr. A—— 115 358 Messrs. C——g and F——e 115 358 Count Rumford 116 358 On a Late Empiric of "Balmy" Memory 116 358 Epigrams:— "Princeps his rent ..." 116 359 "Ye Politicians, tell me, pray ..." 116 359 The Triumph of the Whale 116 359 Sonnet. St. Crispin to Mr. Gifford 118 360 The Godlike 118 360 The Three Graves 119 360 Sonnet to Mathew Wood, Esq. 119 361 On a Projected Journey 120 361 Song for the C——-n 120 362 The Unbeloved 120 362 On the Arrival in England of Lord Byron's Remains 121 362 Lines Suggested by a Sight of Waltham Cross 121 363 For the Table Book 122 363 The Royal Wonders 122 363 "Brevis Esse Laboro" 122 363 Suum Cuique 123 363 On the Literary Gazette 123 365 On the Fast-Day 123 365 Nonsense Verses 123 365 On Wawd 124 366 Six Epitaphs 124 366 Time and Eternity 126 366 From the Latin 126 366 Satan in Search of a Wife 127 366 Part 1 128 —- Part II 133 —- Prologues and Epilogues:— Epilogue to Godwin's Tragedy of "Antonio" 138 368 Prologue to Godwin's Tragedy of "Faulkener" 140 369 Epilogue to Henry Siddons' Farce, "Time's a Tell-Tale" 140 369 Prologue to Coleridge's Tragedy of "Remorse" 142 369 Epilogue to Kenney's Farce, "Debtor and Creditor" 143 371 Epilogue to an Amateur Performance of "Richard II." 145 371 Prologue to Sheridan Knowles' Comedy, "The Wife" 146 372 Epilogue to Sheridan Knowles' Comedy, "The Wife" 147 372 John Woodvil 149 372 The Witch 199 392 Mr. H——— 202 392 The Pawnbroker's Daughter 238 397 The Wife's Trial 273 —- Poems in the Notes:— Lines to Dorothy Wordsworth. By Mary Lamb 328 Lines on Lamb's Want of Ear. By Mary Lamb 345 A Lady's Sapphic. By Mary Lamb (?) 356 An English Sapphic. By Charles Lamb (?) 357 Two Epigrams. By Charles Lamb (?) 359 The Poetical Cask. By Charles Lamb (?) 363
INDEX OF FIRST LINES 409
CHARLES LAMB (AGE 23)
From the Drawing by Robert Hancock, now in the National Portrait Gallery.
DEDICATION (1818) TO S.T. COLERIDGE, ESQ.
My Dear Coleridge,
You will smile to see the slender labors of your friend designated by the title of Works; but such was the wish of the gentlemen who have kindly undertaken the trouble of collecting them, and from their judgment could be no appeal.
It would be a kind of disloyalty to offer to any one but yourself a volume containing the early pieces, which were first published among your poems, and were fairly derivatives from you and them. My friend Lloyd and myself came into our first battle (authorship is a sort of warfare) under cover of the greater Ajax. How this association, which shall always be a dear and proud recollection to me, came to be broken, —who snapped the three-fold cord,—whether yourself (but I know that was not the case) grew ashamed of your former companions,—or whether (which is by much the more probable) some ungracious bookseller was author of the separation,—I cannot tell;—but wanting the support of your friendly elm, (I speak for myself,) my vine has, since that time, put forth few or no fruits; the sap (if ever it had any) has become, in a manner, dried up and extinct; and you will find your old associate, in his second volume, dwindled into prose and criticism.
Am I right in assuming this as the cause? or is it that, as years come upon us, (except with some more healthy-happy spirits,) Life itself loses much of its Poetry for us? we transcribe but what we read in the great volume of Nature; and, as the characters grow dim, we turn off, and look another way. You yourself write no Christabels, nor Ancient Mariners, now.
Some of the Sonnets, which shall be carelessly turned over by the general reader, may happily awaken in you remembrances, which I should be sorry should be ever totally extinct—the memory
Of summer days and of delightful years—
even so far back as to those old suppers at our old ****** Inn,—when life was fresh, and topics exhaustless,—and you first kindled in me, if not the power, yet the love of poetry, and beauty, and kindliness.—
What words have I heard Spoke at the Mermaid!
The world has given you many a shrewd nip and gird since that time, but either my eyes are grown dimmer, or my old friend is the same, who stood before me three and twenty years ago—his hair a little confessing the hand of time, but still shrouding the same capacious brain,—his heart not altered, scarcely where it "alteration finds."
One piece, Coleridge, I have ventured to publish in its original form, though I have heard you complain of a certain over-imitation of the antique in the style. If I could see any way of getting rid of the objection, without re-writing it entirely, I would make some sacrifices. But when I wrote John Woodvil, I never proposed to myself any distinct deviation from common English. I had been newly initiated in the writings of our elder dramatists; Beaumont and Fletcher, and Massinger, were then a first love; and from what I was so freshly conversant in, what wonder if my language imperceptibly took a tinge? The very time, which I have chosen for my story, that which immediately followed the Restoration, seemed to require, in an English play, that the English should be of rather an older cast, than that of the precise year in which it happened to be written. I wish it had not some faults, which I can less vindicate than the language.
I remain, My dear Coleridge, Your's, With unabated esteem, C. LAMB.
LAMB'S EARLIEST POEM
MILLE VIAE MORTIS
What time in bands of slumber all were laid, To Death's dark court, methought I was convey'd; In realms it lay far hid from mortal sight, And gloomy tapers scarce kept out the night.
On ebon throne the King of Terrors sate; Around him stood the ministers of Fate; On fell destruction bent, the murth'rous band Waited attentively his high command.
Here pallid Fear & dark Despair were seen. And Fever here with looks forever lean, Swoln Dropsy, halting Gout, profuse of woes, And Madness fierce & hopeless of repose,
Wide-wasting Plague; but chief in honour stood More-wasting War, insatiable of blood; With starting eye-balls, eager for the word; Already brandish'd was the glitt'ring sword.
Wonder and fear alike had fill'd my breast, And thus the grisly Monarch I addrest—
"Of earth-born Heroes why should Poets sing, And thee neglect, neglect the greatest King? To thee ev'n Caesar's self was forc'd to yield The glories of Pharsalia's well-fought field."
When, with a frown, "Vile caitiff, come not here," Abrupt cried Death; "shall flatt'ry soothe my ear?" "Hence, or thou feel'st my dart!" the Monarch said. Wild terror seiz'd me, & the vision fled.
POEMS IN COLERIDGE'S POEMS ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS, 1796
(Written late in 1794. Text of 1797)
As when a child on some long winter's night Affrighted clinging to its Grandam's knees With eager wond'ring and perturb'd delight Listens strange tales of fearful dark decrees Mutter'd to wretch by necromantic spell; Or of those hags, who at the witching time Of murky midnight ride the air sublime, And mingle foul embrace with fiends of Hell: Cold Horror drinks its blood! Anon the tear More gentle starts, to hear the Beldame tell Of pretty babes, that lov'd each other dear, Murder'd by cruel Uncle's mandate fell: Ev'n such the shiv'ring joys thy tones impart, Ev'n so thou, SIDDONS! meltest my sad heart!
(Probably 1795. Text of 1818)
Was it some sweet device of Faery That mocked my steps with many a lonely glade, And fancied wanderings with a fair-hair'd maid? Have these things been? or what rare witchery, Impregning with delights the charmed air, Enlighted up the semblance of a smile In those fine eyes? methought they spake the while Soft soothing things, which might enforce despair To drop the murdering knife, and let go by His foul resolve. And does the lonely glade Still court the foot-steps of the fair-hair'd maid? Still in her locks the gales of summer sigh? While I forlorn do wander reckless where, And 'mid my wanderings meet no Anna there.
(Probably 1795. Text of 1818)
Methinks how dainty sweet it were, reclin'd Beneath the vast out-stretching branches high Of some old wood, in careless sort to lie, Nor of the busier scenes we left behind Aught envying. And, O Anna! mild-eyed maid! Beloved! I were well content to play With thy free tresses all a summer's day, Losing the time beneath the greenwood shade. Or we might sit and tell some tender tale Of faithful vows repaid by cruel scorn, A tale of true love, or of friend forgot; And I would teach thee, lady, how to rail In gentle sort, on those who practise not Or love or pity, though of woman born.
(1794. Text of 1818)
O! I could laugh to hear the midnight wind, That, rushing on its way with careless sweep, Scatters the ocean waves. And I could weep Like to a child. For now to my raised mind On wings of winds comes wild-eyed Phantasy, And her rude visions give severe delight. O winged bark! how swift along the night Pass'd thy proud keel! nor shall I let go by Lightly of that drear hour the memory, When wet and chilly on thy deck I stood, Unbonnetted, and gazed upon the flood, Even till it seemed a pleasant thing to die,— To be resolv'd into th' elemental wave, Or take my portion with the winds that rave.
FROM CHARLES LLOYD'S POEMS ON THE DEATH OF PRISCILLA FARMER, 1796
(Summer, 1796. Text of 1818)
On the green hill top, Hard by the house of prayer, a modest roof, And not distinguish'd from its neighbour-barn, Save by a slender-tapering length of spire, The Grandame sleeps. A plain stone barely tells The name and date to the chance passenger. For lowly born was she, and long had eat, Well-earned, the bread of service:—her's was else A mounting spirit, one that entertained Scorn of base action, deed dishonorable, Or aught unseemly. I remember well Her reverend image: I remember, too, With what a zeal she served her master's house; And how the prattling tongue of garrulous age Delighted to recount the oft-told tale Or anecdote domestic. Wise she was, And wondrous skilled in genealogies, And could in apt and voluble terms discourse Of births, of titles, and alliances; Of marriages, and intermarriages; Relationship remote, or near of kin; Of friends offended, family disgraced— Maiden high-born, but wayward, disobeying Parental strict injunction, and regardless Of unmixed blood, and ancestry remote, Stooping to wed with one of low degree. But these are not thy praises; and I wrong Thy honor'd memory, recording chiefly Things light or trivial. Better 'twere to tell, How with a nobler zeal, and warmer love, She served her heavenly master. I have seen That reverend form bent down with age and pain And rankling malady. Yet not for this Ceased she to praise her maker, or withdrew Her trust in him, her faith, and humble hope— So meekly had she learn'd to bear her cross— For she had studied patience in the school Of Christ, much comfort she had thence derived, And was a follower of the NAZARENE.
POEMS FROM COLERIDGE'S POEMS, 1797
(Summer, 1795. Text of 1818)
When last I roved these winding wood-walks green, Green winding walks, and shady pathways sweet, Oft-times would Anna seek the silent scene, Shrouding her beauties in the lone retreat. No more I hear her footsteps in the shade: Her image only in these pleasant ways Meets me self-wandering, where in happier days I held free converse with the fair-hair'd maid. I passed the little cottage which she loved, The cottage which did once my all contain; It spake of days which ne'er must come again, Spake to my heart, and much my heart was moved. "Now fair befall thee, gentle maid!" said I, And from the cottage turned me with a sigh.
(1795 or 1796. Text of 1818)
A timid grace sits trembling in her eye, As both to meet the rudeness of men's sight, Yet shedding a delicious lunar light, That steeps in kind oblivious ecstasy The care-crazed mind, like some still melody: Speaking most plain the thoughts which do possess Her gentle sprite: peace, and meek quietness, And innocent loves, and maiden purity: A look whereof might heal the cruel smart Of changed friends, or fortune's wrongs unkind; Might to sweet deeds of mercy move the heart Of him who hates his brethren of mankind. Turned are those lights from me, who fondly yet Past joys, vain loves, and buried hopes regret.
(End of 1795. Text of 1818)
If from my lips some angry accents fell, Peevish complaint, or harsh reproof unkind, 'Twas but the error of a sickly mind And troubled thoughts, clouding the purer well, And waters clear, of Reason; and for me Let this my verse the poor atonement be— My verse, which thou to praise wert ever inclined Too highly, and with a partial eye to see No blemish. Thou to me didst ever shew Kindest affection; and would oft-times lend An ear to the desponding love-sick lay, Weeping my sorrows with me, who repay But ill the mighty debt of love I owe, Mary, to thee, my sister and my friend.
(1795. Text of 1818)
We were two pretty babes, the youngest she, The youngest, and the loveliest far, I ween, And INNOCENCE her name. The time has been, We two did love each other's company; Time was, we two had wept to have been apart. But when by show of seeming good beguil'd, I left the garb and manners of a child, And my first love for man's society, Defiling with the world my virgin heart— My loved companion dropped a tear, and fled, And hid in deepest shades her awful head. Beloved, who shall tell me where thou art— In what delicious Eden to be found— That I may seek thee the wide world around?
(Summer, 1796. Text of 1818)
In my poor mind it is most sweet to muse Upon the days gone by; to act in thought Past seasons o'er, and be again a child; To sit in fancy on the turf-clad slope, Down which the child would roll; to pluck gay flowers, Make posies in the sun, which the child's hand, (Childhood offended soon, soon reconciled,) Would throw away, and strait take up again, Then fling them to the winds, and o'er the lawn Bound with so playful and so light a foot, That the press'd daisy scarce declined her head.
THE SABBATH BELLS
(Summer, 1796. Text of 1818)
The cheerful sabbath bells, wherever heard, Strike pleasant on the sense, most like the voice Of one, who from the far-off hills proclaims Tidings of good to Zion: chiefly when Their piercing tones fall sudden on the ear Of the contemplant, solitary man, Whom thoughts abstruse or high have chanced to lure Forth from the walks of men, revolving oft, And oft again, hard matter, which eludes And baffles his pursuit—thought-sick and tired Of controversy, where no end appears, No clue to his research, the lonely man Half wishes for society again. Him, thus engaged, the sabbath bells salute Sudden! his heart awakes, his ears drink in The cheering music; his relenting soul Yearns after all the joys of social life, And softens with the love of human kind.
FANCY EMPLOYED ON DIVINE SUBJECTS
(Summer, 1796. Text of 1818)
The truant Fancy was a wanderer ever, A lone enthusiast maid. She loves to walk In the bright visions of empyreal light, By the green pastures, and the fragrant meads, Where the perpetual flowers of Eden blow; By chrystal streams, and by the living waters, Along whose margin grows the wondrous tree Whose leaves shall heal the nations; underneath Whose holy shade a refuge shall be found From pain and want, and all the ills that wait On mortal life, from sin and death for ever.
THE TOMB OF DOUGLAS See the Tragedy of that Name
When her son, her Douglas died, To the steep rock's fearful side Fast the frantic Mother hied—
O'er her blooming warrior dead Many a tear did Scotland shed, And shrieks of long and loud lament From her Grampian hills she sent.
Like one awakening from a trance, She met the shock of Lochlin's lance; On her rude invader foe Return'd an hundred fold the blow, Drove the taunting spoiler home; Mournful thence she took her way To do observance at the tomb Where the son of Douglas lay.
Round about the tomb did go In solemn state and order slow, Silent pace, and black attire, Earl, or Knight, or good Esquire; Whoe'er by deeds of valour done In battle had high honours won; Whoe'er in their pure veins could trace The blood of Douglas' noble race.
With them the flower of minstrels came, And to their cunning harps did frame In doleful numbers piercing rhymes, Such strains as in the older times Had sooth'd the spirit of Fingal, Echoing thro' his father's hall.
"Scottish maidens, drop a tear O'er the beauteous Hero's bier! Brave youth, and comely 'bove compare, All golden shone his burnish'd hair; Valour and smiling courtesy Play'd in the sun-beams of his eye. Clos'd are those eyes that shone so fair, And stain'd with blood his yellow hair. Scottish maidens, drop a tear O'er the beauteous Hero's bier!"
"Not a tear, I charge you, shed For the false Glenalvon dead; Unpitied let Glenalvon lie, Foul stain to arms and chivalry!"
"Behind his back the traitor came, And Douglas died without his fame. Young light of Scotland early spent, Thy country thee shall long lament; And oft to after-times shall tell, In Hope's sweet prime my Hero fell."
[Footnote 1: Denmark.]
TO CHARLES LLOYD
An Unexpected Visitor
(January, 1797. Text of 1818)
Alone, obscure, without a friend, A cheerless, solitary thing, Why seeks, my Lloyd, the stranger out? What offering can the stranger bring
Of social scenes, home-bred delights, That him in aught compensate may For Stowey's pleasant winter nights, For loves and friendships far away?
In brief oblivion to forego Friends, such as thine, so justly dear, And be awhile with me content To stay, a kindly loiterer, here:
For this a gleam of random joy Hath flush'd my unaccustom'd cheek; And, with an o'er-charg'd bursting heart, I feel the thanks I cannot speak.
Oh! sweet are all the Muses' lays, And sweet the charm of matin bird; 'Twas long since these estranged ears The sweeter voice of friend had heard.
The voice hath spoke: the pleasant sounds In memory's ear in after time Shall live, to sometimes rouse a tear, And sometimes prompt an honest rhyme.
For, when the transient charm is fled, And when the little week is o'er, To cheerless, friendless, solitude When I return, as heretofore,
Long, long, within my aching heart The grateful sense shall cherish'd be; I'll think less meanly of myself, That Lloyd will sometimes think on me.
A VISION OF REPENTANCE
(1796? Text of 1818)
I saw a famous fountain, in my dream, Where shady path-ways to a valley led; A weeping willow lay upon that stream, And all around the fountain brink were spread Wide branching trees, with dark green leaf rich clad, Forming a doubtful twilight-desolate and sad.
The place was such, that whoso enter'd in Disrobed was of every earthly thought, And straight became as one that knew not sin, Or to the world's first innocence was brought; Enseem'd it now, he stood on holy ground, In sweet and tender melancholy wrapt around.
A most strange calm stole o'er my soothed sprite; Long time I stood, and longer had I staid, When, lo! I saw, saw by the sweet moon-light, Which came in silence o'er that silent shade, Where, near the fountain, SOMETHING like DESPAIR Made, of that weeping willow, garlands for her hair.
And eke with painful fingers she inwove Many an uncouth stem of savage thorn— "The willow garland, that was for her love, And these her bleeding temples would adorn." With sighs her heart nigh burst, salt tears fast fell, As mournfully she bended o'er that sacred well.
To whom when I addrest myself to speak, She lifted up her eyes, and nothing said; The delicate red came mantling o'er her cheek, And, gath'ring up her loose attire, she fled To the dark covert of that woody shade, And in her goings seem'd a timid gentle maid.
Revolving in my mind what this should mean, And why that lovely lady plained so; Perplex'd in thought at that mysterious scene, And doubting if 'twere best to stay or go, I cast mine eyes in wistful gaze around, When from the shades came slow a small and plaintive sound:
"PSYCHE am I, who love to dwell In these brown shades, this woody dell, Where never busy mortal came, Till now, to pry upon my shame.
"At thy feet what thou dost see The waters of repentance be, Which, night and day, I must augment With tears, like a true penitent,
"If haply so my day of grace Be not yet past; and this lone place, O'er-shadowy, dark, excludeth hence All thoughts but grief and penitence."
"Why dost thou weep, thou gentle maid! And wherefore in this barren shade Thy hidden thoughts with sorrow feed? Can thing so fair repentance need?"
"O! I have done a deed of shame, And tainted is my virgin fame, And stain'd the beauteous maiden white, In which my bridal robes were dight."
"And who the promised spouse, declare: And what those bridal garments were."
"Severe and saintly righteousness Compos'd the clear white bridal dress; JESUS, the son of Heaven's high king, Bought with his blood the marriage ring.
"A wretched sinful creature, I Deem'd lightly of that sacred tie, Gave to a treacherous WORLD my heart, And play'd the foolish wanton's part.
"Soon to these murky shades I came, To hide from the sun's light my shame. And still I haunt this woody dell, And bathe me in that healing well, Whose waters clear have influence From sin's foul stains the soul to cleanse; And, night and day, I them augment With tears, like a true penitent, Until, due expiation made, And fit atonement fully paid, The lord and bridegroom me present, Where in sweet strains of high consent, God's throne before, the Seraphim Shall chaunt the extatic marriage hymn."
"Now Christ restore thee soon "—I said, And thenceforth all my dream was fled.
POEMS WRITTEN IN THE YEARS 1795-98, AND NOT REPRINTED BY LAMB
The Lord of Life shakes off his drowsihed, And 'gins to sprinkle on the earth below Those rays that from his shaken locks do flow; Meantime, by truant love of rambling led, I turn my back on thy detested walls, Proud City! and thy sons I leave behind, A sordid, selfish, money-getting kind; Brute things, who shut their ears when Freedom calls.
I pass not thee so lightly, well-known spire, That minded me of many a pleasure gone, Of merrier days, of love and Islington; Kindling afresh the flames of past desire. And I shall muse on thee, slow journeying on To the green plains of pleasant Hertfordshire.
TO THE POET COWPER
_On his Recovery from an Indisposition. Written some Time Back
Cowper, I thank my God, that thou art heal'd. Thine was the sorest malady of all; And I am sad to think that it should light Upon the worthy head: but thou art heal'd, And thou art yet, we trust, the destin'd man, Born to re-animate the lyre, whose chords Have slumber'd, and have idle lain so long; To th' immortal sounding of whose strings Did Milton frame the stately-paced verse; Among whose wires with lighter finger playing Our elder bard, Spencer, a gentler name, The lady Muses' dearest darling child, Enticed forth the deftest tunes yet heard In hall or bower; taking the delicate ear Of the brave Sidney, and the Maiden Queen. Thou, then, take up the mighty epic strain, Cowper, of England's bards the wisest and the best!
December 1, 1796.
Addressed, from London, to Sara and S.T.C. at Bristol, in the Summer of 1796.
Was it so hard a thing? I did but ask A fleeting holiday, a little week.
What, if the jaded steer, who, all day long, Had borne the heat and burthen of the plough, When ev'ning came, and her sweet cooling hour, Should seek to wander in a neighbour copse, Where greener herbage wav'd, or clearer streams Invited him to slake his burning thirst? The man were crabbed who should say him nay; The man were churlish who should drive him thence.
A blessing light upon your worthy heads, Ye hospitable pair! I may not come To catch, on Clifden's heights, the summer gale; I may not come to taste the Avon wave; Or, with mine eye intent on Redcliffe tow'rs, To muse in tears on that mysterious youth, Cruelly slighted, who, in evil hour, Shap'd his advent'rous course to London walls! Complaint, be gone! and, ominous thoughts, away! Take up, my Song, take up a merrier strain; For yet again, and lo! from Avon's vales, Another Minstrel cometh. Youth endear'd, God and good Angels guide thee on thy road, And gentler fortunes 'wait the friends I love!
[Footnote 2: "From vales where Avon winds, the Minstrel came." COLERIDGE'S Monody on Chatterton.]
SONNET TO A FRIEND
(End of 1796)
Friend of my earliest years and childish days, My joys, my sorrows, thou with me hast shar'd Companion dear, and we alike have far'd (Poor pilgrims we) thro' life's unequal ways. It were unwisely done, should we refuse To cheer our path as featly as we may, Our lonely path to cheer, as trav'llers use, With merry song, quaint tale, or roundelay; And we will sometimes talk past troubles o'er, Of mercies shewn, and all our sickness heal'd, And in his judgments God rememb'ring love; And we will learn to praise God evermore, For those glad tidings of great joy reveal'd By that sooth Messenger sent from above.
TO A YOUNG LADY
Hard is the heart that does not melt with ruth, When care sits, cloudy, on the brow of youth; When bitter griefs the female bosom swell, And Beauty meditates a fond farewell To her lov'd native land, prepar'd to roam, And seek in climes afar the peace denied at home. The Muse, with glance prophetic, sees her stand (Forsaken, silent lady) on the strand Of farthest India, sick'ning at the roar Of each dull wave, slow dash'd upon the shore; Sending, at intervals, an aching eye O'er the wide waters, vainly, to espy The long-expected bark, in which to find Some tidings of a world she left behind. At such a time shall start the gushing tear, For scenes her childhood lov'd, now doubly dear. At such a time shall frantic mem'ry wake Pangs of remorse, for slighted England's sake; And for the sake of many a tender tie Of love, or friendship, pass'd too lightly by. Unwept, unhonour'd, 'midst an alien race, And the cold looks of many a stranger face, How will her poor heart bleed, and chide the day, That from her country took her far away.
LIVING WITHOUT GOD IN THE WORLD
Mystery of God! thou brave and beauteous world, Made fair with light and shade and stars and flowers, Made fearful and august with woods and rocks, Jagg'd precipice, black mountain, sea in storms, Sun, over all, that no co-rival owns, But thro' Heaven's pavement rides as in despite Or mockery of the littleness of man! I see a mighty arm, by man unseen, Resistless, not to be controul'd, that guides, In solitude of unshared energies, All these thy ceaseless miracles, O world! Arm of the world, I view thee, and I muse On Man, who, trusting in his mortal strength, Leans on a shadowy staff, a staff of dreams. We consecrate our total hopes and fears To idols, flesh and blood, our love, (heaven's due) Our praise and admiration; praise bestowed By man on man, and acts of worship done To a kindred nature, certes do reflect Some portion of the glory and rays oblique Upon the politic worshipper,—so man Extracts a pride from his humility. Some braver spirits of the modern stamp Affect a Godhead nearer: these talk loud Of mind, and independent intellect, Of energies omnipotent in man, And man of his own fate artificer; Yea of his own life Lord, and of the days Of his abode on earth, when time shall be, That life immortal shall become an art, Or Death, by chymic practices deceived, Forego the scent, which for six thousand years Like a good hound he has followed, or at length More manners learning, and a decent sense And reverence of a philosophic world, Relent, and leave to prey on carcasses.
But these are fancies of a few: the rest, Atheists, or Deists only in the name, By word or deed deny a God. They eat Their daily bread, and draw the breath of heaven Without or thought or thanks; heaven's roof to them Is but a painted ceiling hung with lamps, No more, that lights them to their purposes. They wander "loose about," they nothing see, Themselves except, and creatures like themselves, Short-liv'd, short-sighted, impotent to save. So on their dissolute spirits, soon or late, Destruction cometh "like an armed man," Or like a dream of murder in the night, Withering their mortal faculties, and breaking The bones of all their pride.
POEMS FROM BLANK VERSE, BY CHARLES LLOYD AND CHARLES LAMB, 1798
TO CHARLES LLOYD
A stranger, and alone, I past those scenes We past so late together; and my heart Felt something like desertion, when I look'd Around me, and the well-known voice of friend Was absent, and the cordial look was there No more to smile on me. I thought on Lloyd; All he had been to me. And now I go Again to mingle with a world impure, With men who make a mock of holy things Mistaken, and of man's best hope think scorn. The world does much to warp the heart of man, And I may sometimes join its ideot laugh. Of this I now complain not. Deal with me, Omniscient Father! as thou judgest best, And in thy season tender thou my heart. I pray not for myself; I pray for him Whose soul is sore perplex'd: shine thou on him, Father of Lights! and in the difficult paths Make plain his way before him. His own thoughts May he not think, his own ends not pursue; So shall he best perform thy will on earth. Greatest and Best, thy will be ever ours!
WRITTEN ON THE DAY OF MY AUNT'S FUNERAL
Thou too art dead, ——! very kind Hast thou been to me in my childish days, Thou best good creature. I have not forgot How thou didst love thy Charles, when he was yet A prating schoolboy: I have not forgot The busy joy on that important day, When, child-like, the poor wanderer was content To leave the bosom of parental love, His childhood's play-place, and his early home, For the rude fosterings of a stranger's hand, Hard uncouth tasks, and school-boy's scanty fare. How did thine eye peruse him round and round, And hardly know him in his yellow coats, Red leathern belt, and gown of russet blue! Farewell, good aunt! Go thou, and occupy the same grave-bed Where the dead mother lies. Oh my dear mother, oh thou dear dead saint! Where's now that placid face, where oft hath sat A mother's smile, to think her son should thrive In this bad world, when she was dead and gone; And when a tear hath sat (take shame, O son!) When that same child has prov'd himself unkind. One parent yet is left—a wretched thing, A sad survivor of his buried wife, A palsy-smitten, childish, old, old man, A semblance most forlorn of what he was, A merry cheerful man. A merrier man, A man more apt to frame matter for mirth, Mad jokes, and anticks for a Christmas eve; Making life social, and the laggard time To move on nimbly, never yet did cheer The little circle of domestic friends.
[Footnote 3: The dress of Christ's Hospital,]
WRITTEN A YEAR AFTER THE EVENTS
Alas! how am I chang'd! Where be the tears, The sobs, and forc'd suspensions of the breath, And all the dull desertions of the heart, With which I hung o'er my dead mother's corse? Where be the blest subsidings of the storm Within, the sweet resignedness of hope Drawn heavenward, and strength of filial love In which I bow'd me to my father's will?
My God, and my Redeemer! keep not thou My soul in brute and sensual thanklessness Seal'd up; oblivious ever of that dear grace, And health restor'd to my long-loved friend, Long-lov'd, and worthy known. Thou didst not leave Her soul in death! O leave not now, my Lord, Thy servants in far worse, in spiritual death! And darkness blacker than those feared shadows Of the valley all must tread. Lend us thy balms, Thou dear Physician of the sin-sick soul, And heal our cleansed bosoms of the wounds With which the world has pierc'd us thro' and thro'. Give us new flesh, new birth. Elect of heav'n May we become; in thine election sure Contain'd, and to one purpose stedfast drawn, Our soul's salvation!
Thou, and I, dear friend, With filial recognition sweet, shall know One day the face of our dear mother in heaven; And her remember'd looks of love shall greet With looks of answering love; her placid smiles Meet with a smile as placid, and her hand With drops of fondness wet, nor fear repulse. Be witness for me, Lord, I do not ask Those days of vanity to return again (Nor fitting me to ask, nor thee to give), Vain loves and wanderings with a fair-hair'd maid, Child of the dust as I am, who so long My captive heart steep'd in idolatry And creature-loves. Forgive me, O my Maker! If in a mood of grief I sin almost In sometimes brooding on the days long past, And from the grave of time wishing them back, Days of a mother's fondness to her child, Her little one.
O where be now those sports, And infant play-games? where the joyous troops Of children, and the haunts I did so love? O my companions, O ye loved names Of friend or playmate dear; gone are ye now; Gone diverse ways; to honour and credit some, And some, I fear, to ignominy and shame! I only am left, with unavailing grief To mourn one parent dead, and see one live Of all life's joys bereft and desolate: Am left with a few friends, and one, above The rest, found faithful in a length of years, Contented as I may, to bear me on To the not unpeaceful evening of a day Made black by morning storms!
WRITTEN SOON AFTER THE PRECEDING POEM
Thou should'st have longer liv'd, and to the grave Have peacefully gone down in full old age! Thy children would have tended thy gray hairs. We might have sat, as we have often done, By our fireside, and talk'd whole nights away, Old times, old friends, and old events recalling; With many a circumstance, of trivial note, To memory dear, and of importance grown. How shall we tell them in a stranger's ear? A wayward son ofttimes was I to thee; And yet, in all our little bickerings, Domestic jars, there was, I know not what, Of tender feeling, that were ill exchang'd For this world's chilling friendships, and their smiles Familiar, whom the heart calls strangers still. A heavy lot hath he, most wretched man! Who lives the last of all his family. He looks around him, and his eye discerns The face of the stranger, and his heart is sick. Man of the world, what canst thou do for him? Wealth is a burden, which he could not bear; Mirth a strange crime, the which he dares not act; And wine no cordial, but a bitter cup. For wounds like his Christ is the only cure, And gospel promises are his by right, For these were given to the poor in heart. Go, preach thou to him of a world to come, Where friends shall meet, and know each other's face. Say less than this, and say it to the winds.
WRITTEN ON CHRISTMAS DAY, 1797
I am a widow'd thing, now thou art gone! Now thou art gone, my own familiar friend, Companion, sister, help-mate, counsellor! Alas! that honour'd mind, whose sweet reproof And meekest wisdom in times past have smooth'd The unfilial harshness of my foolish speech, And made me loving to my parents old, (Why is this so, ah God! why is this so?) That honour'd mind become a fearful blank, Her senses lock'd up, and herself kept out From human sight or converse, while so many Of the foolish sort are left to roam at large, Doing all acts of folly, and sin, and shame? Thy paths are mystery!
Yet I will not think, Sweet friend, but we shall one day meet, and live In quietness, and die so, fearing God. Or if not, and these false suggestions be A fit of the weak nature, loth to part With what it lov'd so long, and held so dear; If thou art to be taken, and I left (More sinning, yet unpunish'd, save in thee), It is the will of God, and we are clay In the potter's hands; and, at the worst, are made From absolute nothing, vessels of disgrace, Till, his most righteous purpose wrought in us, Our purified spirits find their perfect rest.
THE OLD FAMILIAR FACES
(January, 1798. Text of 1818)
I have had playmates, I have had companions, In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days, All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
I have been laughing, I have been carousing, Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom cronies, All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
I loved a love once, fairest among women; Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her— All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man; Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly; Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces.
Ghost-like, I paced round the haunts of my childhood. Earth seemed a desart I was bound to traverse, Seeking to find the old familiar faces.
Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother, Why wert not thou born in my father's dwelling? So might we talk of the old familiar faces—
How some they have died, and some they have left me, And some are taken from me; all are departed; All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
COMPOSED AT MIDNIGHT
(1797? Text of 1818)
From broken visions of perturbed rest I wake, and start, and fear to sleep again. How total a privation of all sounds, Sights, and familiar objects, man, bird, beast, Herb, tree, or flower, and prodigal light of heaven. 'Twere some relief to catch the drowsy cry Of the mechanic watchman, or the noise Of revel reeling home from midnight cups. Those are the moanings of the dying man, Who lies in the upper chamber; restless moans, And interrupted only by a cough Consumptive, torturing the wasted lungs. So in the bitterness of death he lies, And waits in anguish for the morning's light. What can that do for him, or what restore? Short taste, faint sense, affecting notices, And little images of pleasures past, Of health, and active life—health not yet slain, Nor the other grace of life, a good name, sold For sin's black wages. On his tedious bed He writhes, and turns him from the accusing light, And finds no comfort in the sun, but says "When night comes I shall get a little rest." Some few groans more, death comes, and there an end. 'Tis darkness and conjecture all beyond; Weak Nature fears, though Charity must hope, And Fancy, most licentious on such themes Where decent reverence well had kept her mute, Hath o'er-stock'd hell with devils, and brought down, By her enormous fablings and mad lies, Discredit on the gospel's serious truths And salutary fears. The man of parts, Poet, or prose declaimer, on his couch Lolling, like one indifferent, fabricates A heaven of gold, where he, and such as he, Their heads encompassed with crowns, their heels With fine wings garlanded, shall tread the stars Beneath their feet, heaven's pavement, far removed From damned spirits, and the torturing cries Of men, his breth'ren, fashioned of the earth, As he was, nourish'd with the self-same bread, Belike his kindred or companions once— Through everlasting ages now divorced, In chains and savage torments to repent Short years of folly on earth. Their groans unheard In heav'n, the saint nor pity feels, nor care, For those thus sentenced—pity might disturb The delicate sense and most divine repose Of spirits angelical. Blessed be God, The measure of his judgments is not fixed By man's erroneous standard. He discerns No such inordinate difference and vast Betwixt the sinner and the saint, to doom Such disproportion'd fates. Compared with him, No man on earth is holy called: they best Stand in his sight approved, who at his feet Their little crowns of virtue cast, and yield To him of his own works the praise, his due.
Poems at the End of John Woodvil, 1802
By Mary Lamb
(Summer, 1800. Text of 1818)
High-born Helen, round your dwelling These twenty years I've paced in vain: Haughty beauty, thy lover's duty Hath been to glory in his pain.
High-born Helen, plainly telling Stories of thy cold disdain; I starve, I die, now you comply, And I no longer can complain.
These twenty years I've lived on tears. Dwelling for ever on a frown; On sighs I've fed, your scorn my bread; I perish now you kind are grown.
Can I, who loved my beloved But for the scorn "was in her eye," Can I be moved for my beloved, When she "returns me sigh for sigh?"
In stately pride, by my bed-side, High-born Helen's portrait's hung; Deaf to my praise, my mournful lays Are nightly to the portrait sung.
To that I weep, nor ever sleep, Complaining all night long to her— Helen, grown old, no longer cold, Said, "you to all men I prefer."
From the German
(Spring, 1800. Text of 1818)
The clouds are blackening, the storms threatening, And ever the forest maketh a moan: Billows are breaking, the damsel's heart aching, Thus by herself she singeth alone, Weeping right plenteously.
"The world is empty, the heart is dead surely, In this world plainly all seemeth amiss: To thy breast, holy one, take now thy little one, I have had earnest of all earth's bliss, Living right lovingly."
(October, 1800. Text of 1818)
By myself walking, To myself talking, When as I ruminate On my untoward fate, Scarcely seem I Alone sufficiently, Black thoughts continually Crowding my privacy; They come unbidden, Like foes at a wedding, Thrusting their faces In better guests' places, Peevish and malecontent, Clownish, impertinent, Dashing the merriment: So in like fashions Dim cogitations Follow and haunt me, Striving to daunt me. In my heart festering, In my ears whispering, "Thy friends are treacherous, Thy foes are dangerous, Thy dreams ominous."
Fierce Anthropophagi, Spectra, Diaboli, What scared St. Anthony, Hobgoblins, Lemures, Dreams of Antipodes, Night-riding Incubi Troubling the fantasy, All dire illusions Causing confusions; Figments heretical, Scruples fantastical, Doubts diabolical, Abaddon vexeth me, Mahu perplexeth me, Lucifer teareth me——
Jesu! Maria! liberate nos ab his diris tentationibus Inimici.
Noting the Difference of Rich and Poor, in the Ways of a Rich Noble's Palace and a Poor Workhouse
To the tune of the "Old and Young Courtier"
(August, 1800. Text of 1818)
In a costly palace Youth goes clad in gold; In a wretched workhouse Age's limbs are cold: There they sit, the old men by a shivering fire, Still close and closer cowering, warmth is their desire.
In a costly palace, when the brave gallants dine, They have store of good venison, with old canary wine, With singing and music to heighten the cheer; Coarse bits, with grudging, are the pauper's best fare.
In a costly palace Youth is still carest By a train of attendants which laugh at my young Lord's jest; In a wretched workhouse the contrary prevails: Does Age begin to prattle?—no man heark'neth to his tales.
In a costly palace if the child with a pin Do but chance to prick a finger, strait the doctor is called in; In a wretched workhouse men are left to perish For want of proper cordials, which their old age might cherish,
In a costly palace Youth enjoys his lust; In a wretched workhouse Age, in corners thrust, Thinks upon the former days, when he was well to do, Had children to stand by him, both friends and kinsmen too.
In a costly palace Youth his temples hides With a new devised peruke that reaches to his sides; In a wretched workhouse Age's crown is bare, With a few thin locks just to fence out the cold air.
In peace, as in war, 'tis our young gallants' pride, To walk, each one i' the streets, with a rapier by his side, That none to do them injury may have pretence; Wretched Age, in poverty, must brook offence.
POEMS IN CHARLES LAMB'S WORKS 1818, NOT PREVIOUSLY PRINTED IN THE PRESENT VOLUME; TOGETHER WITH REFERENCES TO THOSE POEMS THAT HAVE BEEN PREVIOUSLY PRINTED
When maidens such as Hester die, Their place ye may not well supply, Though ye among a thousand try, With vain endeavour.
A month or more hath she been dead, Yet cannot I by force be led To think upon the wormy bed, And her together.
A springy motion in her gait, A rising step, did indicate Of pride and joy no common rate, That flush'd her spirit.
I know not by what name beside I shall it call:—if 'twas not pride, It was a joy to that allied, She did inherit.
Her parents held the Quaker rule, Which doth the human feeling cool, But she was train'd in Nature's school, Nature had blest her.
A waking eye, a prying mind, A heart that stirs, is hard to bind, A hawk's keen sight ye cannot blind, Ye could not Hester.
My sprightly neighbour, gone before To that unknown and silent shore, Shall we not meet, as heretofore, Some summer morning,
When from thy cheerful eyes a ray Hath struck a bliss upon the day, A bliss that would not go away, A sweet fore-warning?
* * * * *
_Here came "To Charles Lloyd" See page 12.
Here came "The Three Friends" followed by "To a River in which a Child was drowned," first printed in "Poetry for Children" 1809. See vol. iii. of this edition, page 416.
Here came "The Old Familiar Faces." See page 25.
Here came "Helen" by Mary Lamb. See page 28.
Here came "A Vision of Repentance." See page 13._
* * * * *
DIALOGUE BETWEEN A MOTHER AND CHILD
(By Mary Lamb. 1804)
CHILD "O Lady, lay your costly robes aside, No longer may you glory in your pride."
MOTHER "Wherefore to-day art singing in mine ear Sad songs, were made so long ago, my dear; This day I am to be a bride, you know, Why sing sad songs, were made so long ago?"
CHILD "O, mother, lay your costly robes aside, For you may never be another's bride. That line I learn'd not in the old sad song."
MOTHER "I pray thee, pretty one, now hold thy tongue, Play with the bride-maids, and be glad, my boy, For thou shall be a second father's joy."
CHILD "One father fondled me upon his knee. One father is enough, alone, for me."
* * * * *
_Here came "Queen Oriana's Dream" from "Poetry for Children" See vol. iii. page 480.
Here came "A Ballad Noting the Difference of Rich and Poor." See page 30.
Here came "Hypochondriacus." See page 29._
* * * * *
A FAREWELL TO TOBACCO (1805)
May the Babylonish curse Strait confound my stammering verse, If I can a passage see In this word-perplexity, Or a fit expression find, Or a language to my mind, (Still the phrase is wide or scant) To take leave of thee, GREAT PLANT! Or in any terms relate Half my love, or half my hate: For I hate, yet love, thee so, That, whichever thing I shew, The plain truth will seem to be A constrain'd hyperbole, And the passion to proceed More from a mistress than a weed. Sooty retainer to the vine, Bacchus' black servant, negro fine; Sorcerer, that mak'st us dote upon Thy begrimed complexion, And, for thy pernicious sake, More and greater oaths to break Than reclaimed lovers take 'Gainst women: thou thy siege dost lay Much too in the female way, While thou suck'st the lab'ring breath Faster than kisses or than death.
Thou in such a cloud dost bind us, That our worst foes cannot find us, And ill fortune, that would thwart us, Shoots at rovers, shooting at us; While each man, thro' thy height'ning steam, Does like a smoking Etna seem, And all about us does express (Fancy and wit in richest dress) A Sicilian fruitfulness.
Thou through such a mist dost shew us, That our best friends do not know us, And, for those allowed features, Due to reasonable creatures, Liken'st us to fell Chimeras, Monsters that, who see us, fear us; Worse than Cerberus or Geryon, Or, who first lov'd a cloud, Ixion.
Bacchus we know, and we allow His tipsy rites. But what art thou, That but by reflex can'st shew What his deity can do, As the false Egyptian spell Aped the true Hebrew miracle? Some few vapours thou may'st raise, The weak brain may serve to amaze, But to the reigns and nobler heart Can'st nor life nor heat impart.
Brother of Bacchus, later born, The old world was sure forlorn, Wanting thee, that aidest more The god's victories than before All his panthers, and the brawls Of his piping Bacchanals. These, as stale, we disallow, Or judge of thee meant; only thou His true Indian conquest art; And, for ivy round his dart, The reformed god now weaves A finer thyrsus of thy leaves.
Scent to match thy rich perfume Chemic art did ne'er presume Through her quaint alembic strain, None so sov'reign to the brain. Nature, that did in thee excel, Fram'd again no second smell. Roses, violets, but toys For the smaller sort of boys, Or for greener damsels meant; Thou art the only manly scent.
Stinking'st of the stinking kind, Filth of the mouth and fog of the mind, Africa, that brags her foyson, Breeds no such prodigious poison, Henbane, nightshade, both together, Hemlock, aconite———
Nay, rather, Plant divine, of rarest virtue; Blisters on the tongue would hurt you. 'Twas but in a sort I blam'd thee; None e'er prosper'd who defam'd thee; Irony all, and feign'd abuse, Such as perplext lovers use, At a need, when, in despair To paint forth their fairest fair, Or in part but to express That exceeding comeliness Which their fancies doth so strike, They borrow language of dislike; And, instead of Dearest Miss, Jewel, Honey, Sweetheart, Bliss, And those forms of old admiring, Call her Cockatrice and Siren, Basilisk, and all that's evil, Witch, Hyena, Mermaid, Devil,
Ethiop, Wench, and Blackamoor, Monkey, Ape, and twenty more; Friendly Trait'ress, loving Foe,— Not that she is truly so, But no other way they know A contentment to express, Borders so upon excess, That they do not rightly wot Whether it be pain or not.
Or, as men, constrain'd to part With what's nearest to their heart, While their sorrow's at the height, Lose discrimination quite, And their hasty wrath let fall, To appease their frantic gall, On the darling thing whatever Whence they feel it death to sever, Though it be, as they, perforce, Guiltless of the sad divorce.
For I must (nor let it grieve thee, Friendliest of plants, that I must) leave thee. For thy sake, TOBACCO, I Would do any thing but die, And but seek to extend my days Long enough to sing thy praise. But, as she, who once hath been A king's consort, is a queen Ever after, nor will bate Any tittle of her state, Though a widow, or divorced, So I, from thy converse forced, The old name and style retain, A right Katherine of Spain; And a seat, too,'mongst the joys Of the blest Tobacco Boys; Where, though I, by sour physician, Am debarr'd the full fruition Of thy favours, I may catch Some collateral sweets, and snatch Sidelong odours, that give life Like glances from a neighbour's wife; And still live in the by-places And the suburbs of thy graces; And in thy borders take delight, An unconquer'd Canaanite.
Model of thy parent dear, Serious infant worth a fear: In thy unfaultering visage well Picturing forth the son of TELL, When on his forehead, firm and good, Motionless mark, the apple stood; Guileless traitor, rebel mild, Convict unconscious, culprit-child! Gates that close with iron roar Have been to thee thy nursery door; Chains that chink in cheerless cells Have been thy rattles and thy bells; Walls contrived for giant sin Have hemmed thy faultless weakness in; Near thy sinless bed black Guilt Her discordant house hath built, And filled it with her monstrous brood— Sights, by thee not understood— Sights of fear, and of distress, That pass a harmless infant's guess!
But the clouds, that overcast Thy young morning, may not last. Soon shall arrive the rescuing hour, That yields thee up to Nature's power. Nature, that so late doth greet thee, Shall in o'er-flowing measure meet thee. She shall recompense with cost For every lesson thou hast lost. Then wandering up thy sire's lov'd hill, Thou shall take thy airy fill Of health and pastime. Birds shall sing For thy delight each May morning. 'Mid new-yean'd lambkins thou shalt play, Hardly less a lamb than they. Then thy prison's lengthened bound Shall be the horizon skirting round. And, while thou fillest thy lap with flowers, To make amends for wintery hours, The breeze, the sunshine, and the place, Shall from thy tender brow efface Each vestige of untimely care, That sour restraint had graven there; And on thy every look impress A more excelling childishness. So shall be thy days beguil'd, THORNTON HUNT, my favourite child.
[Footnote 4: Hampstead.]
* * * * *
_Here came "Ballad from the German." See page 29.
Here came "David in the Cave of Aditllam" by Mary
Lamb, from "Poetry for Children." See vol. iii. page 486._
* * * * *
(By Mary Lamb. Probably 1808 or 1809)
Once on a charger there was laid, And brought before a royal maid, As price of attitude and grace, A guiltless head, a holy face.
It was on Herod's natal day, Who, o'er Judea's land held sway. He married his own brother's wife, Wicked Herodias. She the life Of John the Baptist long had sought, Because he openly had taught That she a life unlawful led, Having her husband's brother wed.
This was he, that saintly John, Who in the wilderness alone Abiding, did for clothing wear A garment made of camel's hair;
Honey and locusts were his food, And he was most severely good. He preached penitence and tears, And waking first the sinner's fears, Prepared a path, made smooth a way, For his diviner master's day.
Herod kept in princely state His birth-day. On his throne he sate, After the feast, beholding her Who danced with grace peculiar; Fair Salome, who did excel All in that land for dancing well. The feastful monarch's heart was fired, And whatsoe'er thing she desired. Though half his kingdom it should be, He in his pleasure swore that he Would give the graceful Salome. The damsel was Herodias' daughter: She to the queen hastes, and besought her To teach her what great gift to name. Instructed by Herodias, came The damsel back; to Herod said, "Give me John the Baptist's head; And in a charger let it be Hither straitway brought to me." Herod her suit would fain deny, But for his oath's sake must comply.
When painters would by art express Beauty in unloveliness, Thee, Herodias' daughter, thee, They fittest subject take to be. They give thy form and features grace; But ever in thy beauteous face They shew a steadfast cruel gaze, An eye unpitying; and amaze In all beholders deep they mark, That thou betrayest not one spark Of feeling for the ruthless deed, That did thy praiseful dance succeed For on the head they make you look, As if a sullen joy you took, A cruel triumph, wicked pride, That for your sport a saint had died.
Suggested by a Picture of Two Females by Lionardo da Vinci.
(By Mary Lamb. 1804)
The Lady Blanch, regardless of all her lovers' fears, To the Urs'line convent hastens, and long the Abbess hears. "O Blanch, my child, repent ye of the courtly life ye lead." Blanch looked on a rose-bud and little seem'd to heed. She looked on the rose-bud, she looked round, and thought On all her heart had whisper'd, and all the Nun had taught. "I am worshipped by lovers, and brightly shines my fame, All Christendom resoundeth the noble Blanch's name. Nor shall I quickly wither like the rose-bud from the tree, My queen-like graces shining when my beauty's gone from me. But when the sculptur'd marble is raised o'er my head, And the matchless Blanch lies lifeless among the noble dead, This saintly lady Abbess hath made me justly fear, It nothing will avail me that I were worshipp'd here."
On the Same Picture being Removed to make Place for a Portrait of a Lady by Titian.
(By Mary Lamb. 1805)
Who art thou, fair one, who usurp'st the place Of Blanch, the lady of the matchless grace? Come, fair and pretty, tell to me, Who, in thy life-time, thou might'st be. Thou pretty art and fair, But with the lady Blanch thou never must compare. No need for Blanch her history to tell; Whoever saw her face, they there did read it well. But when I look on thee, I only know There lived a pretty maid some hundred years ago.
On the Celebrated Picture by Lionardo da Vinci, called The Virgin of the Rocks.
While young John runs to greet The greater Infant's feet, The Mother standing by, with trembling passion Of devout admiration, Beholds the engaging mystic play, and pretty adoration; Nor knows as yet the full event Of those so low beginnings, From whence we date our winnings, But wonders at the intent Of those new rites, and what that strange child-worship meant. But at her side An angel doth abide, With such a perfect joy As no dim doubts alloy, An intuition, A glory, an amenity, Passing the dark condition Of blind humanity, As if he surely knew All the blest wonders should ensue, Or he had lately left the upper sphere, And had read all the sovran schemes and divine riddles there.
ON THE SAME
(By Mary Lamb. 1805)
Maternal lady with the virgin grace, Heaven-born thy Jesus seemeth sure, And of a virgin pure. Lady most perfect, when thy sinless face Men look upon, they wish to be A Catholic, Madonna fair, to worship thee.
TO MISS KELLY
You are not, Kelly, of the common strain, That stoop their pride and female honor down To please that many-headed beast the town, And vend their lavish smiles and tricks for gain; By fortune thrown amid the actor's train, You keep your native dignity of thought; The plaudits that attend you come unsought, As tributes due unto your natural vein. Your tears have passion in them, and a grace Of genuine freshness, which our hearts avow; Your smiles are winds whose ways we cannot trace, That vanish and return we know not how— And please the better from a pensive face, And thoughtful eye, and a reflecting brow.
ON THE SIGHT OF SWANS IN KENSINGTON GARDEN
Queen-bird that sittest on thy shining nest, And thy young cygnets without sorrow hatchest, And thou, thou other royal bird, that watchest Lest the white mother wandering feet molest: Shrined are your offspring in a chrystal cradle, Brighter than Helen's ere she yet had burst Her shelly prison. They shall be born at first Strong, active, graceful, perfect, swan-like able To tread the land or waters with security. Unlike poor human births, conceived in sin, In grief brought forth, both outwardly and in Confessing weakness, error, and impurity. Did heavenly creatures own succession's line, The births of heaven like to your's would shine.
* * * * *
Here came "Was it some sweet device." See page 4.
Here came "Methinks how dainty sweet." See page 5.
Here came "When last I roved." See page 8.
Here came "A timid grace" See page 8.
Here came "If from my lips." See page 9.
* * * * *
THE FAMILY NAME
What reason first imposed thee, gentle name, Name that my father bore, and his sire's sire, Without reproach? we trace our stream no higher; And I, a childless man, may end the same. Perchance some shepherd on Lincolnian plains, In manners guileless as his own sweet flocks, Received the first amid the merry mocks And arch allusions of his fellow swains. Perchance from Salem's holier fields returned, With glory gotten on the heads abhorr'd Of faithless Saracens, some martial lord Took HIS meek title, in whose zeal he burn'd. Whate'er the fount whence thy beginnings came, No deed of mine shall shame thee, gentle name.
TO JOHN LAMB, ESQ.
Of the South-Sea House
John, you were figuring in the gay career Of blooming manhood with a young man's joy, When I was yet a little peevish boy— Though time has made the difference disappear Betwixt our ages, which then seemed so great— And still by rightful custom you retain Much of the old authoritative strain, And keep the elder brother up in state. O! you do well in this. 'Tis man's worst deed To let the "things that have been" run to waste, And in the unmeaning present sink the past: In whose dim glass even now I faintly read Old buried forms, and faces long ago, Which you, and I, and one more, only know.
* * * * *
Here came "O! I could laugh." See page 5.
Here came "We were two pretty babes." See page 9.
Here came, under the heading "Blank Verse," "Childhood," see page 9; "The Grandame," see page 6; "The Sabbath Bells," see page 10, "Fancy employed on Divine Subjects," see page 10; and "Composed at Midnight," see page 26.
* * * * *
TO MARTIN CHARLES BURNEY, ESQ.
(The Dedication to Vol. II. of Lamb's Works, 1818)
Forgive me, BURNEY, if to thee these late And hasty products of a critic pen, Thyself no common judge of books and men, In feeling of thy worth I dedicate. My verse was offered to an older friend; The humbler prose has fallen to thy share: Nor could I miss the occasion to declare, What spoken in thy presence must offend— That, set aside some few caprices wild, Those humorous clouds that flit o'er brightest days, In all my threadings of this worldly maze, (And I have watched thee almost from a child), Free from self-seeking, envy, low design, I have not found a whiter soul than thine.
IN THE ALBUM OF A CLERGYMAN'S LADY
An Album is a Garden, not for show Planted, but use; where wholesome herbs should grow. A Cabinet of curious porcelain, where No fancy enters, but what's rich or rare. A Chapel, where mere ornamental things Are pure as crowns of saints, or angels' wings. A List of living friends; a holier Room For names of some since mouldering in the tomb, Whose blooming memories life's cold laws survive; And, dead elsewhere, they here yet speak, and live. Such, and so tender, should an Album be; And, Lady, such I wish this book to thee.
IN THE AUTOGRAPH BOOK OF MRS. SERGEANT W———
Had I a power, Lady, to my will, You should not want Hand Writings. I would fill Your leaves with Autographs—resplendent names Of Knights and Squires of old, and courtly Dames, Kings, Emperors, Popes. Next under these should stand The hands of famous Lawyers—a grave band— Who in their Courts of Law or Equity Have best upheld Freedom and Property. These should moot cases in your book, and vie To show their reading and their Serjeantry. But I have none of these; nor can I send The notes by Bullen to her Tyrant penn'd In her authentic hand; nor in soft hours Lines writ by Rosamund in Clifford's bowers. The lack of curious Signatures I moan, And want the courage to subscribe my own.
IN THE ALBUM OF LUCY BARTON
Little Book, surnamed of white, Clean as yet, and fair to sight, Keep thy attribution right.
Never disproportion'd scrawl; Ugly blot, that's worse than all; On thy maiden clearness fall!
In each letter, here design'd, Let the reader emblem'd find Neatness of the owner's mind.
Gilded margins count a sin, Let thy leaves attraction win By the golden rules within;
Sayings fetch'd from sages old; Laws which Holy Writ unfold, Worthy to be graved in gold:
Lighter fancies not excluding; Blameless wit, with nothing rude in, Sometimes mildly interluding
Amid strains of graver measure: Virtue's self hath oft her pleasure In sweet Muses' groves of leisure.
Riddles dark, perplexing sense; Darker meanings of offence; What but shades—be banished hence.
Whitest thoughts in whitest dress, Candid meanings, best express Mind of quiet Quakeress.
IN THE ALBUM OF MISS ———
Such goodness in your face doth shine, With modest look, without design, That I despair, poor pen of mine Can e'er express it. To give it words I feebly try; My spirits fail me to supply Befitting language for't, and I Can only bless it!
But stop, rash verse! and don't abuse A bashful Maiden's ear with news Of her own virtues. She'll refuse Praise sung so loudly. Of that same goodness, you admire, The best part is, she don't aspire To praise—nor of herself desire To think too proudly.
IN THE ALBUM OF A VERY YOUNG LADY
Joy to unknown Josepha who, I hear, Of all good gifts, to Music most is given; Science divine, which through the enraptured ear Enchants the Soul, and lifts it nearer Heaven. Parental smiles approvingly attend Her pliant conduct of the trembling keys, And listening strangers their glad suffrage lend. Most musical is Nature. Birds—and Bees At their sweet labour—sing. The moaning winds Rehearse a lesson to attentive minds. In louder tones "Deep unto Deep doth call;" And there is Music in the Waterfall.
IN THE ALBUM OF A FRENCH TEACHER (? 1829)
Implored for verse, I send you what I can; But you are so exact a Frenchwoman, As I am told, Jemima, that I fear To wound with English your Parisian ear, And think I do your choice collection wrong With lines not written in the Frenchman's tongue. Had I a knowledge equal to my will, With airy Chansons I your leaves would fill; With Fabliaux, that should emulate the vein Of sprightly Cresset, or of La Fontaine; Or Scenes Comiques, that should approach the air Of your own favourite—renowned Moliere. But at my suit the Muse of France looks sour, And strikes me dumb! Yet, what is in my power To testify respect for you, I pray, Take in plain English—our rough Enfield way.
IN THE ALBUM OF MISS DAUBENY
Some poets by poetic law Have Beauties praised, they never saw; And sung of Kittys, and of Nancys, Whose charms but lived in their own fancies. So I, to keep my Muse a going, That willingly would still be doing, A Canzonet or two must try In praise of—pretty Daubeny.
But whether she indeed be comely, Or only very good and homely, Of my own eyes I cannot say; I trust to Emma Isola. But sure I think her voice is tuneful, As smoothest birds that sing in June full; For else would strangely disagree The flowing name of—Daubeny.
I hear that she a Book hath got— As what young Damsel now hath not, In which they scribble favorite fancies, Copied from poems or romances? And prettiest draughts, of her design, About the curious Album shine; And therefore she shall have for me The style of—tasteful Daubeny.
Thus far I have taken on believing; But well I know without deceiving, That in her heart she keeps alive still Old school-day likings, which survive still In spite of absence—worldly coldness— And thereon can my Muse take boldness To crown her other praises three With praise of—friendly Daubeny.
IN THE ALBUM OF MRS. JANE TOWERS (1828)
Lady Unknown, who crav'st from me Unknown The trifle of a verse these leaves to grace, How shall I find fit matter? with what face Address a face that ne'er to me was shown? Thy looks, tones, gesture, manners, and what not, Conjecturing, I wander in the dark. I know thee only Sister to Charles Clarke! But at that name my cold Muse waxes hot, And swears that thou art such a one as he, Warm, laughter-loving, with a touch of madness, Wild, glee-provoking, pouring oil of gladness From frank heart without guile. And, if thou be The pure reverse of this, and I mistake— Demure one, I will like thee for his sake.
IN MY OWN ALBUM (1827)
Fresh clad from heaven in robes of white. A young probationer of light, Thou wert my soul, an Album bright,
A spotless leaf; but thought, and care, And friend and foe, in foul or fair, Have "written strange defeatures" there;
And Time with heaviest hand of all, Like that fierce writing on the wall, Hath stamp'd sad dates—he can't recal;
And error gilding worst designs— Like speckled snake that strays and shines— Betrays his path by crooked lines;
And vice hath left his ugly blot; And good resolves, a moment hot, Fairly began—but finish'd not;
And fruitless, late remorse doth trace— Like Hebrew lore a backward pace— Her irrecoverable race.
Disjointed numbers; sense unknit; Huge reams of folly, shreds of wit; Compose the mingled mass of it.
My scalded eyes no longer brook Upon this ink-blurr'd thing to look— Go, shut the leaves, and clasp the book.
This rare tablet doth include Poverty with Sanctitude. Past midnight this poor Maid hath spun, And yet the work is not half done, Which must supply from earning scant A feeble bed-rid parent's want. Her sleep-charged eyes exemption ask, And Holy hands take up the task: Unseen the rock and spindle ply, And do her earthly drudgery. Sleep, saintly poor one, sleep, sleep on; And, waking, find thy labours done. Perchance she knows it by her dreams; Her eye hath caught the golden gleams, Angelic presence testifying, That round her every where are flying; Ostents from which she may presume, That much of Heaven is in the room. Skirting her own bright hair they run, And to the sunny add more sun: Now on that aged face they fix, Streaming from the Crucifix; The flesh-clogg'd spirit disabusing, Death-disarming sleeps infusing, Prelibations, foretastes high, And equal thoughts to live or die. Gardener bright from Eden's bower, Tend with care that lily flower; To its leaves and root infuse Heaven's sunshine, Heaven's dews. 'Tis a type, and 'tis a pledge, Of a crowning privilege. Careful as that lily flower, This Maid must keep her precious dower Live a sainted Maid, or die Martyr to virginity.
[Footnote 5: Suggested by a drawing in the possession of Charles Aders, Esq., in which is represented the Legend of a poor female Saint; who, having spun past midnight, to maintain a bed-rid mother, has fallen asleep from fatigue, and Angels are finishing her work. In another part of the chamber, an Angel is tending a lily, the emblem of purity.]
Array'd—a half-angelic sight— In vests of pure Baptismal white, The Mother to the Font doth bring The little helpless nameless thing, With hushes soft and mild caressing, At once to get—a name and blessing. Close by the Babe the Priest doth stand, The Cleansing Water at his hand, Which must assoil the soul within From every stain of Adam's sin. The Infant eyes the mystic scenes, Nor knows what all this wonder means; And now he smiles, as if to say "I am a Christian made this day;" Now frighted clings to Nurse's hold, Shrinking from the water cold, Whose virtues, rightly understood, Are, as Bethesda's waters, good. Strange words—The World, The Flesh, The Devil— Poor Babe, what can it know of Evil? But we must silently adore Mysterious truths, and not explore. Enough for him, in after-times, When he shall read these artless rhymes, If, looking back upon this day, With quiet conscience, he can say "I have in part redeem'd the pledge Of my Baptismal privilege; And more and more will strive to flee All which my Sponsors kind did then renounce for me."
ON AN INFANT DYING AS SOON AS BORN
I saw where in the shroud did lurk A curious frame of Nature's work. A flow'ret crushed in the bud, A nameless piece of Babyhood, Was in a cradle-coffin lying; Extinct, with scarce the sense of dying; So soon to exchange the imprisoning womb For darker closets of the tomb! She did but ope an eye, and put A clear beam forth, then strait up shut For the long dark: ne'er more to see Through glasses of mortality. Riddle of destiny, who can show What thy short visit meant, or know What thy errand here below? Shall we say, that Nature blind Check'd her hand, and changed her mind, Just when she had exactly wrought A finish'd pattern without fault? Could she flag, or could she tire, Or lack'd she the Promethean fire (With her nine moons' long workings sicken'd) That should thy little limbs have quicken'd? Limbs so firm, they seem'd to assure Life of health, and days mature: Woman's self in miniature! Limbs so fair, they might supply (Themselves now but cold imagery) The sculptor to make Beauty by. Or did the stern-eyed Fate descry, That babe, or mother, one must die; So in mercy left the stock, And cut the branch; to save the shock Of young years widow'd; and the pain, When Single State comes back again To the lone man who, 'reft of wife, Thenceforward drags a maimed life? The economy of Heaven is dark; And wisest clerks have miss'd the mark, Why Human Buds, like this, should fall, More brief than fly ephemeral, That has his day; while shrivel'd crones Stiffen with age to stocks and stones; And crabbed use the conscience sears In sinners of an hundred years. Mother's prattle, mother's kiss, Baby fond, thou ne'er wilt miss. Rites, which custom does impose, Silver bells and baby clothes; Coral redder than those lips, Which pale death did late eclipse; Music framed for infants' glee, Whistle never tuned for thee; Though thou want'st not, thou shall have them, Loving hearts were they which gave them. Let not one be missing; nurse, See them laid upon the hearse Of infant slain by doom perverse. Why should kings and nobles have Pictured trophies to their grave; And we, churls, to thee deny Thy pretty toys with thee to lie, A more harmless vanity?
TO BERNARD BARTON
With a Coloured Print
When last you left your Woodbridge pretty, To stare at sights, and see the City, If I your meaning understood, You wish'd a Picture, cheap, but good; The colouring? decent; clear, not muddy; To suit a Poet's quiet study, Where Books and Prints for delectation Hang, rather than vain ostentation. The subject? what I pleased, if comely; But something scriptural and homely: A sober Piece, not gay or wanton, For winter fire-sides to descant on; The theme so scrupulously handled, A Quaker might look on unscandal'd; Such as might satisfy Ann Knight, And classic Mitford just not fright. Just such a one I've found, and send it; If liked, I give—if not, but lend it. The moral? nothing can be sounder. The fable? 'tis its own expounder— A Mother teaching to her Chit Some good book, and explaining it. He, silly urchin, tired of lesson, His learning lays no mighty stress on, But seems to hear not what he hears; Thrusting his fingers in his ears, Like Obstinate, that perverse funny one, In honest parable of Bunyan. His working Sister, more sedate, Listens; but in a kind of state, The painter meant for steadiness; But has a tinge of sullenness; And, at first sight, she seems to brook As ill her needle, as he his book. This is the Picture. For the Frame— 'Tis not ill-suited to the same; Oak-carved, not gilt, for fear of falling; Old-fashion'd; plain, yet not appalling; And sober, as the Owner's Calling.
[Footnote 6: From the venerable and ancient Manufactory of Carrington Bowles: some of my readers may recognise it.]
THE YOUNG CATECHIST
While this tawny Ethiop prayeth, Painter, who is she that stayeth By, with skin of whitest lustre, Sunny locks, a shining cluster, Saint-like seeming to direct him To the Power that must protect him? Is she of the Heaven-born Three, Meek Hope, strong Faith, sweet Charity: Or some Cherub?— They you mention Far transcend my weak invention. 'Tis a simple Christian child, Missionary young and mild, From her stock of Scriptural knowledge, Bible-taught without a college, Which by reading she could gather, Teaches him to say OUR FATHER To the common Parent, who Colour not respects, nor hue. White and black in him have part, Who looks not to the skin, but heart.
[Footnote 7: A Picture by Henry Meyer, Esq.]
SHE IS GOING
For their elder Sister's hair Martha does a wreath prepare Of bridal rose, ornate and gay: To-morrow is the wedding day: She is going.
Mary, youngest of the three, Laughing idler, full of glee, Arm in arm does fondly chain her, Thinking, poor trifler, to detain her— But she's going.
Vex not, maidens, nor regret Thus to part with Margaret. Charms like your's can never stay Long within doors; and one day You'll be going.
TO A YOUNG FRIEND
On Her Twenty-First Birth-Day
Crown me a cheerful goblet, while I pray A blessing on thy years, young Isola; Young, but no more a child. How swift have flown To me thy girlish times, a woman grown Beneath my heedless eyes! in vain I rack My fancy to believe the almanac, That speaks thee Twenty-One. Thou should'st have still Remain'd a child, and at thy sovereign will Gambol'd about our house, as in times past. Ungrateful Emma, to grow up so fast, Hastening to leave thy friends!—for which intent, Fond Runagate, be this thy punishment. After some thirty years, spent in such bliss As this earth can afford, where still we miss Something of joy entire, may'st thou grow old As we whom thou hast left! That wish was cold. O far more ag'd and wrinkled, till folks say, Looking upon thee reverend in decay, "This Dame for length of days, and virtues rare, With her respected Grandsire may compare."— Grandchild of that respected Isola, Thou should'st have had about thee on this day Kind looks of Parents, to congratulate Their Pride grown up to woman's grave estate. But they have died, and left thee, to advance Thy fortunes how thou may'st, and owe to chance The friends which Nature grudg'd. And thou wilt find, Or make such, Emma, if I am not blind To thee and thy deservings. That last strain Had too much sorrow in it. Fill again Another cheerful goblet, while I say "Health, and twice health, to our lost Isola."
TO THE SAME
External gifts of fortune, or of face, Maiden, in truth, thou hast not much to show; Much fairer damsels have I known, and know, And richer may be found in every place. In thy mind seek thy beauty, and thy wealth. Sincereness lodgeth there, the soul's best health. O guard that treasure above gold or pearl, Laid up secure from moths and worldly stealth— And take my benison, plain-hearted girl.
* * * * *
HARMONY IN UNLIKENESS
By Enfield lanes, and Winchmore's verdant hill, Two lovely damsels cheer my lonely walk: The fair Maria, as a vestal, still; And Emma brown, exuberant in talk. With soft and Lady speech the first applies The mild correctives that to grace belong To her redundant friend, who her defies With jest, and mad discourse, and bursts of song. O differing Pair, yet sweetly thus agreeing, What music from your happy discord rises, While your companion hearing each, and seeing, Nor this, nor that, but both together, prizes; This lesson teaching, which our souls may strike, That harmonies may be in things unlike!