And then he lit his fire.... But I dispense Henceforth with you, my Reader, and your horse, As being but a colorable pretence To bring an awkward hero in perforce; Since this our smith, for reasons never known, To most society preferred his own.
Women declared that he'd an "Evil Eye,"— This in a sense was true—he had but one; Men, on the other hand, alleged him shy: We sometimes say so of the friends we shun; But, wrong or right, suffices to affirm it— The Cyclops lived a veritable hermit,—
Dwelling below the cliff, beside the sea, Caved like an ancient British Troglodyte, Milking his goat at eve, and it may be, Spearing the fish along the flats at night, Until, at last, one April evening mild, Came to the Inn a Lady and a Child.
The Lady was a nullity; the Child One of those bright bewitching little creatures, Who, if she once but shyly looked and smiled, Would soften out the ruggedest of features; Fragile and slight,—a very fay for size,— With pale town-cheeks, and "clear germander eyes."
Nurses, no doubt, might name her "somewhat wild;" And pedants, possibly, pronounce her "slow;" Or corset-makers add, that for a child, She needed "cultivation;"—all I know Is that whene'er she spoke, or laughed, or romped, you Felt in each act the beauty of impromptu.
The Lady was a nullity—a pale, Nerveless and pulseless quasi-invalid, Who, lest the ozone should in aught avail, Remained religiously indoors to read; So that, in wandering at her will, the Child Did, in reality, run "somewhat wild."
At first but peering at the sanded floor And great shark jaw-bone in the cosy bar; Then watching idly from the dusky door, The noisy advent of a coach or car; Then stealing out to wonder at the fate Of blistered Ajax by the garden gate,—
Some old ship's figure-head—until at last, Straying with each excursion more and more, She reached the limits of the road, and passed, Plucking the pansies, downward to the shore, And so, as you, respected Reader, showed, Came to the smith's "desirable abode."
There by the cave the occupant she found, Weaving a crate; and, with a gladsome cry, The dog frisked out, although the Cyclops frowned With all the terrors of his single eye; Then from a mound came running, too, the goat, Uttering her plaintive, desultory note.
The Child stood wondering at the silent man, Doubtful to go or stay, when presently She felt a plucking, for the goat began To crop the trail of twining briony She held behind her; so that, laughing, she Turned her light steps, retreating, to the sea.
But the goat followed her on eager feet, And therewithal an air so grave and mild, Coupled with such a deprecatory bleat Of injured confidence, that soon the Child Filled the lone shore with louder merriment, And e'en the Cyclops' heavy brow unbent.
Thus grew acquaintanceship between the pair, The girl and goat;—for thenceforth, day by day, The Child would bring her four-foot friend such fare As might be gathered on the downward way:— Foxglove, or broom, and "yellow cytisus," Dear to all goats since Greek Theocritus.
But, for the Cyclops, that misogynist Having, by stress of circumstances, smiled, Felt it at least incumbent to resist Further encroachment, and as one beguiled By adverse fortune, with the half-door shut, Dwelt in the dim seclusion of his hut.
And yet not less from thence he still must see That daily coming, and must hear the goat Bleating her welcome; then, towards the sea, The happy voices of the playmates float; Until, at last, enduring it no more, He took his wonted station by the door.
Here was, of course, a pitiful surrender; For soon the Child, on whom the Evil Eye Seemed to exert an influence but slender, Would run to question him, till, by and by, His moody humor like a cloud dispersing, He found himself uneasily conversing.
That was a sow's-ear, that an egg of skate, And this an agate rounded by the wave. Then came inquiries still more intimate About himself, the anvil, and the cave; And then, at last, the Child, without alarm Would even spell the letters on his arm.
"G—A—L—Galatea." So there grew On his part, like some half-remembered tale, The new-found memory of an ice-bound crew, And vague garrulities of spouting whale,— Of sea-cow basking upon berg and floe. And Polar light, and stunted Eskimo.
Till, in his heart, which hitherto had been Locked as those frozen barriers of the North, There came once more the season of the green,— The tender bud-time and the putting forth, So that the man, before the new sensation, Felt for the child a kind of adoration;—
Rising by night, to search for shell and flower, To lay in places where she found them first; Hoarding his cherished goat's milk for the hour When those young lips might feel the summer's thirst; Holding himself for all devotion paid By that clear laughter of the little maid.
Dwelling, alas! in that fond Paradise Where no to-morrow quivers in suspense,— Where scarce the changes of the sky suffice To break the soft forgetfulness of sense,— Where dreams become realities; and where I willingly would leave him—did I dare.
Yet for a little space it still endured, Until, upon a day when least of all The softened Cyclops, by his hopes assured, Dreamed the inevitable blow could fall, Came the stern moment that should all destroy, Bringing a pert young cockerel of a Boy.
Middy, I think,—he'd "Acis" on his box:— A black-eyed, sun-burnt, mischief-making imp, Pet of the mess,—a Puck with curling locks, Who straightway travestied the Cyclops' limp, And marveled how his cousin so could care For such a "one-eyed, melancholy Bear."
Thus there was war at once; not overt yet, For still the Child, unwilling, would not break The new acquaintanceship, nor quite forget The pleasant past; while, for his treasure's sake, The boding smith with clumsy efforts tried To win the laughing scorner to his side.
There are some sights pathetic; none I know More sad than this: to watch a slow-wrought mind Humbling itself, for love, to come and go Before some petty tyrant of its kind; Saddest, ah!—saddest far,—when it can do Naught to advance the end it has in view.
This was at least the Cyclops' case, until, Whether the boy beguiled the Child away, Or whether that limp Matron on the Hill Woke from her novel-reading trance, one day He waited long and wearily in vain,— But, from that hour, they never came again.
Yet still he waited, hoping—wondering if They still might come, or dreaming that he heard The sound of far-off voices on the cliff, Or starting strangely when the she-goat stirred; But nothing broke the silence of the shore, And, from that hour, the Child returned no more.
Therefore our Cyclops sorrowed,—not as one Who can command the gamut of despair; But as a man who feels his days are done, So dead they seem,—so desolately bare; For, though he'd lived a hermit, 'twas but only Now he discovered that his life was lonely.
The very sea seemed altered, and the shore; The very voices of the air were dumb; Time was an emptiness that o'er and o'er Ticked with the dull pulsation "Will she come?" So that he sat "consuming in a dream," Much like his old forerunner, Polypheme.
Until there came the question, "Is she gone?" With such sad sick persistence that at last, Urged by the hungry thought which drove him on, Along the steep declivity he passed, And by the summit panting stood, and still, Just as the horn was sounding on the hill.
Then, in a dream, beside the "Dragon" door, The smith saw travellers standing in the sun; Then came the horn again, and three or four Looked idly at him from the roof, but One,— A Child within,—suffused with sudden shame, Thrust forth a hand, and called to him by name.
Thus the coach vanished from his sight, but he Limped back with bitter pleasure in his pain; He was not all forgotten—could it be? And yet the knowledge made the memory vain; And then—he felt a pressure in his throat, So, for that night, forgot to milk his goat.
What then might come of silent misery, What new resolvings then might intervene, I know not. Only, with the morning sky, The goat stood tethered on the "Dragon" green, And those who, wondering, questioned thereupon, Found the hut empty,—for the man was gone.
A STORY FROM A DICTIONARY.
"Sic visum Veneri: cui placet impares Formas atque animos sub juga aenea Saevo mittere cum joco." —Hor. i. 33.
"Love mocks us all"—as Horace said of old: From sheer perversity, that arch-offender Still yokes unequally the hot and cold, The short and tall, the hardened and the tender; He bids a Socrates espouse a scold, And makes a Hercules forget his gender:— Sic visum Veneri! Lest samples fail, I add a fresh one from the page of BAYLE.
It was in Athens that the thing occurred, In the last days of Alexander's rule, While yet in Grove or Portico was heard The studious murmur of its learned school;— Nay, 'tis one favoured of Minerva's bird Who plays therein the hero (or the fool) With a Megarian, who must then have been A maid, and beautiful, and just eighteen.
I shan't describe her. Beauty is the same In Anno Domini as erst B.C.; The type is still that witching One who came, Between the furrows, from the bitter sea; 'Tis but to shift accessories and frame, And this our heroine in a trice would be, Save that she wore a peplum and a chiton, Like any modern on the beach at Brighton.
Stay, I forget! Of course the sequel shows She had some qualities of disposition, To which, in general, her sex are foes,— As strange proclivities to erudition, And lore unfeminine, reserved for those Who now-a-days descant on "Woman's Mission," Or tread instead that "primrose path" to knowledge, That milder Academe—the Girton College.
The truth is, she admired ... a learned man. There were no curates in that sunny Greece, For whom the mind emotional could plan Fine-art habiliments in gold and fleece; (This was ere chasuble or cope began To shake the centres of domestic peace;) So that "admiring," such as maids give way to, Turned to the ranks of Zeno and of Plato.
The "object" here was mildly prepossessing, At least, regarded in a woman's sense; His forte, it seems, lay chiefly in expressing Disputed fact in Attic eloquence; His ways were primitive; and as to dressing, His toilet was a negative pretence; He kept, besides, the regime of the Stoic;— In short, was not, by any means, "heroic."
Sic visum Veneri!—The thing is clear. Her friends were furious, her lovers nettled; 'Twas much as though the Lady Vere de Vere On some hedge-schoolmaster her heart had settled. Unheard! Intolerable!—a lumbering steer To plod the upland with a mare high-mettled!— They would, no doubt, with far more pleasure hand her To curled Euphorion or Anaximander.
And so they used due discipline, of course, To lead to reason this most erring daughter, Proceeding even to extremes of force,— Confinement (solitary), and bread and water; Then, having lectured her till they were hoarse, Finding that this to no submission brought her, At last, (unwisely) to the man they sent, That he might combat her by argument.
Being, they fancied, but a bloodless thing; Or else too well forewarned of that commotion Which poets feign inseparable from Spring To suffer danger from a school-girl notion; Also they hoped that she might find her king, On close inspection, clumsy and Boeotian:— This was acute enough, and yet, between us, I think they thought too little about Venus.
Something, I know, of this sort is related In Garrick's life. However, the man came, And taking first his mission's end as stated, Began at once her sentiments to tame, Working discreetly to the point debated By steps rhetorical I spare to name; In other words,—he broke the matter gently. Meanwhile, the lady looked at him intently,
Wistfully, sadly,—and it put him out, Although he went on steadily, but faster. There were some maladies he'd read about Which seemed, at first, most difficult to master; They looked intractable at times, no doubt, But all they needed was a little plaster; This was a thing physicians long had pondered, Considered, weighed ... and then ... and then he wandered.
('Tis so embarrassing to have before you A silent auditor, with candid eyes; With lips that speak no sentence to restore you, And aspect, generally, of pained surprise; Then, if we add that all these things adore you, 'Tis really difficult to syllogise:— Of course it mattered not to him a feather, But still he wished ... they'd not been left together.)
"Of one," he said, continuing, "of these The young especially should be suspicious; Seeing no ailment in Hippocrates Could be at once so tedious and capricious; No seeming apple of Hesperides More fatal, deadlier, and more delicious— Pernicious,—he should say,—for all its seeming...." It seemed to him he simply was blaspheming.
If she had only turned askance, or uttered Word in reply, or trifled with her brooch, Or sighed, or cried, grown petulant, or fluttered, He might (in metaphor) have "called his coach"; Yet still, while patiently he hemmed and stuttered, She wore her look of wondering reproach; (And those who read the "Shakespeare of Romances" Know of what stuff a girl's "dynamic glance" is.)
"But there was still a cure, the wise insisted, In Love,—or rather, in Philosophy. Philosophy—no, Love—at best existed But as an ill for that to remedy: There was no knot so intricately twisted, There was no riddle but at last should be By Love—he meant Philosophy—resolved...." The truth is, he was getting quite involved.
O sovran Love! how far thy power surpasses Aught that is taught of Logic or the Schools! Here was a man, "far seen" in all the classes, Strengthened of precept, fortified of rules, Mute as the least articulate of asses; Nay, at an age when every passion cools, Conscious of nothing but a sudden yearning Stronger by far than any force of learning!
Therefore he changed his tone, flung down his wallet, Described his lot, how pitiable and poor; The hut of mud,—the miserable pallet,— The alms solicited from door to door; The scanty fare of bitter bread and sallet,— Could she this shame,—this poverty endure? I scarcely think he knew what he was doing, But that last line had quite a touch of wooing.
And so she answered him,—those early Greeks Took little care to keep concealment preying At any length upon their damask cheeks,— She answered him by very simply saying, She could and would:—and said it as one speaks Who takes no course without much careful weighing.... Was this, perchance, the answer that he hoped? It might, or might not be. But they eloped.
Sought the free pine-wood and the larger air,— The leafy sanctuaries, remote and inner, Where the great heart of nature, beating bare, Receives benignantly both saint and sinner;— Leaving propriety to gasp and stare, And shake its head, like Burleigh, after dinner, From pure incompetence to mar or mend them: They fled and wed;—though, mind, I don't defend them.
I don't defend them. 'Twas a serious act, No doubt too much determined by the senses; (Alas! when these affinities attract, We lose the future in the present tenses!) Besides, the least establishment's a fact Involving nice adjustment of expenses; Moreover, too, reflection should reveal That not remote contingent—la famille.
Yet these, maybe, were happy in their lot. Milton has said (and surely Milton knows) That after all, philosophy is "not,— Not harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose;" And some, no doubt, for Love's sake have forgot Much that is needful in this world of prose:— Perchance 'twas so with these. But who shall say? Time has long since swept them and theirs away.
 "Unwisely," surely. But 'tis well to mention That this particular is not invention.
A TALE: IN THE MANNER OF PRIOR.
"—portentaque Thessala rides?" —Hor. "—Thessalian portents do you flout?" * *
CARDENIO'S fortunes ne'er miscarried Until the day CARDENIO married. What then? the Nymph no doubt was young? She was: but yet—she had a tongue! Most women have, you seem to say. I grant it—in a different way.
'Twas not that organ half-divine, With which, Dear Friend, your spouse or mine, What time we seek our nightly pillows, Rebukes our easy peccadilloes: 'Twas not so tuneful, so composing; 'Twas louder and less often dozing; At Ombre, Basset, Loo, Quadrille, You heard it resonant and shrill; You heard it rising, rising yet Beyond SELINDA'S parroquet; You heard it rival and outdo The chair-men and the link-boy too; In short, wherever lungs perform, Like MARLBOROUGH, it rode the storm.
So uncontrolled it came to be, CARDENIO feared his chere amie (Like ECHO by Cephissus shore) Would turn to voice and nothing more.
That ('tis conceded) must be cured Which can't by practice be endured. CARDENIO, though he loved the maid, Grew daily more and more afraid; And since advice could not prevail (Reproof but seemed to fan the gale), A prudent man, he cast about To find some fitting nostrum out. What need to say that priceless drug Had not in any mine been dug? What need to say no skilful leech Could check that plethora of speech? Suffice it, that one lucky day CARDENIO tried—another way.
A Hermit (there were hermits then; The most accessible of men!) Near Vauxhall's sacred shade resided; In him, at length, our friend confided. (Simples, for show, he used to sell; But cast Nativities as well.) Consulted, he looked wondrous wise; Then undertook the enterprise.
What that might be, the Muse must spare: To tell the truth, she was not there. She scorns to patch what she ignores With Similes and Metaphors; And so, in short, to change the scene, She slips a fortnight in between.
Behold our pair then (quite by chance!) In Vauxhall's garden of romance,— That paradise of nymphs and grottoes, Of fans, and fiddles, and ridottoes! What wonder if, the lamps reviewed, The song encored, the maze pursued, No further feat could seem more pat Than seek the Hermit after that? Who then more keen her fate to see Than this, the new LEUCONOE, On fire to learn the lore forbidden In Babylonian numbers hidden? Forthwith they took the darkling road To ALBUMAZAR his abode.
Arriving, they beheld the sage Intent on hieroglyphic page, In high Armenian cap arrayed And girt with engines of his trade; (As Skeletons, and Spheres, and Cubes; As Amulets and Optic Tubes;) With dusky depths behind revealing Strange shapes that dangled from the ceiling, While more to palsy the beholder A Black Cat sat upon his shoulder.
The Hermit eyed the Lady o'er As one whose face he'd seen before; And then, with agitated looks, He fell to fumbling at his books.
CARDENIO felt his spouse was frightened, Her grasp upon his arm had tightened; Judge then her horror and her dread When "Vox Stellarum" shook his head; Then darkly spake in phrase forlorn Of Taurus and of Capricorn; Of stars averse, and stars ascendant, And stars entirely independent; In fact, it seemed that all the Heavens Were set at sixes and at sevens, Portending, in her case, some fate Too fearful to prognosticate.
Meanwhile the Dame was well-nigh dead. "But is there naught," CARDENIO said, "No sign or token, Sage, to show From whence, or what, this dismal woe?"
The Sage, with circle and with plane, Betook him to his charts again. "It vaguely seems to threaten Speech: No more (he said) the signs can teach."
But still CARDENIO tried once more: "Is there no potion in your store, No charm by Chaldee mage concerted By which this doom can be averted?"
The Sage, with motion doubly mystic, Resumed his juggling cabalistic. The aspects here again were various; But seemed to indicate Aquarius. Thereat portentously he frowned; Then frowned again, then smiled:—'twas found! But 'twas too simple to be tried. "What is it, then?" at once they cried.
"Whene'er by chance you feel incited To speak at length, or uninvited; Whene'er you feel your tones grow shrill (At times, we know, the softest will!), This word oracular, my daughter, Bids you to fill your mouth with water: Further, to hold it firm and fast, Until the danger be o'erpast."
The Dame, by this in part relieved The prospect of escape perceived, Rebelled a little at the diet. CARDENIO said discreetly, "Try it, Try it, my Own. You have no choice, What if you lose your charming voice!" She tried, it seems. And whether then Some god stepped in, benign to men; Or Modesty, too long outlawed, Contrived to aid the pious fraud, I know not:—but from that same day She talked in quite a different way.
THE NOBLE PATRON.
"Ce sont les amours Qui font les beaux jours."
What is a Patron? JOHNSON knew, And well that lifelike portrait drew. He is a Patron who looks down With careless eye on men who drown; But if they chance to reach the land, Encumbers them with helping hand. Ah! happy we whose artless rhyme No longer now must creep to climb! Ah! happy we of later days, Who 'scape those Caudine Forks of praise! Whose votive page may dare commend A Brother, or a private Friend! Not so it fared with scribbling man, As POPE says, "under my Queen ANNE."
DICK DOVECOT (this was long, be sure, Ere he attained his Wiltshire cure, And settled down, like humbler folks, To cowslip wine and country jokes) Once hoped—as who will not?—for fame, And dreamed of honours and a Name.
A fresh-cheek'd lad, he came to Town In homespun hose and russet brown, But armed at point with every view Enforced in RAPIN and BOSSU. Besides a stout portfolio ripe For LINTOT'S or for TONSON'S type. He went the rounds, saw all the sights, Dropped in at Wills and Tom's o' nights; Heard BURNET preach, saw BICKNELL dance, E'en gained from ADDISON a glance; Nay, once, to make his bliss complete, He supp'd with STEELE in Bury Street. ('Tis true the feast was half by stealth: PRUE was in bed: they drank her health.)
By this his purse was running low, And he must either print or go. He went to TONSON. TONSON said— Well! TONSON hummed and shook his head; Deplor'd the times; abus'd the Town; But thought—at length—it might go down; With aid, of course, of Elzevir, And Prologue to a Prince, or Peer. Dick winced at this, for adulation Was scarce that candid youth's vocation: Nor did he deem his rustic lays Required a Coronet for Bays.
But there—the choice was that, or none. The Lord was found; the thing was done. With HORACE and with TOOKE'S Pantheon, He penn'd his tributary paean; Despatched his gift, nor waited long The meed of his ingenuous song.
Ere two days pass'd, a hackney chair Brought a pert spark with languid air, A lace cravat about his throat,— Brocaded gown,—en papillotes. ("My Lord himself," quoth DICK, "at least!" But no, 'twas that "inferior priest," His Lordship's man.) He held a card: My Lord (it said) would see the Bard.
The day arrived; DICK went, was shown Into an anteroom, alone— A great gilt room with mirrored door, Festoons of flowers and marble floor, Whose lavish splendours made him look More shabby than a sheepskin book. (His own book—by the way—he spied On a far table, toss'd aside.)
DICK waited, as they only wait Who haunt the chambers of the Great. He heard the chairmen come and go; He heard the Porter yawn below; Beyond him, in the Grand Saloon, He heard the silver stroke of noon, And thought how at this very time The old church clock at home would chime. Dear heart, how plain he saw it all! The lich-gate and the crumbling wall, The stream, the pathway to the wood, The bridge where they so oft had stood. Then, in a trice, both church and clock Vanish'd before ... a shuttlecock.
A shuttlecock! And following slow The zigzag of its to-and-fro, And so intent upon its flight She neither look'd to left nor right, Came a tall girl with floating hair, Light as a wood-nymph, and as fair.
O Dea certe!—thought poor Dick, And thereupon his memories quick Ran back to her who flung the ball In HOMER'S page, and next to all The dancing maids that bards have sung; Lastly to One at home, as young, As fresh, as light of foot, and glad, Who, when he went, had seem'd so sad. O Dea certe! (Still, he stirred Nor hand nor foot, nor uttered word.)
Meanwhile the shuttlecock in air Went darting gaily here and there; Now crossed a mirror's face, and next Shot up amidst the sprawl'd, perplex'd Olympus overhead. At last, Jerk'd sidelong by a random cast, The striker miss'd it, and it fell Full on the book DICK knew so well.
(If he had thought to speak or bow, Judge if he moved a muscle now!)
The player paused, bent down to look, Lifted a cover of the book; Pished at the Prologue, passed it o'er, Went forward for a page or more (Asem and Asa: DICK could trace Almost the passage and the place); Then for a moment with bent head Rested upon her hand and read.
(DICK thought once more how cousin CIS Used when she read to lean like this;— "Used when she read,"—why, CIS could say All he had written,—any day!)
Sudden was heard a hurrying tread; The great doors creaked. The reader fled. Forth came a crowd with muffled laughter, A waft of Bergamot, and after, His Chaplain smirking at his side, My Lord himself in all his pride— A portly shape in stars and lace, With wine-bag cheeks and vacant face.
DICK bowed and smiled. The Great Man stared, With look half puzzled and half scared; Then seemed to recollect, turned round, And mumbled some imperfect sound: A moment more, his coach of state Dipped on its springs beneath his weight; And DICK, who followed at his heels, Heard but the din of rolling wheels.
Away, too, all his dreams had rolled; And yet they left him half consoled: Fame, after all, he thought might wait. Would CIS? Suppose he were too late! Ten months he'd lost in Town—an age!
Next day he took the Wiltshire Stage.
VERS DE SOCIETE.
Just for a space that I met her— Just for a day in the train! It began when she feared it would wet her, That tiniest spurtle of rain: So we tucked a great rug in the sashes, And carefully padded the pane; And I sorrow in sackcloth and ashes, Longing to do it again!
Then it grew when she begged me to reach her A dressing-case under the seat; She was "really so tiny a creature, That she needed a stool for her feet!" Which was promptly arranged to her order With a care that was even minute, And a glimpse—of an open-work border, And a glance—of the fairyest boot.
Then it drooped, and revived at some hovels— "Were they houses for men or for pigs?" Then it shifted to muscular novels, With a little digression on prigs: She thought "Wives and Daughters" "so jolly;" "Had I read it?" She knew when I had, Like the rest, I should dote upon "Molly;" And "poor Mrs. Gaskell—how sad!"
"Like Browning?" "But so-so." His proof lay Too deep for her frivolous mood. That preferred your mere metrical souffle To the stronger poetical food; Yet at times he was good—"as a tonic:" Was Tennyson writing just now? And was this new poet Byronic, And clever, and naughty, or how?
Then we trifled with concerts and croquet, Then she daintily dusted her face; Then she sprinkled herself with "Ess Bouquet," Fished out from the foregoing case; And we chattered of Gassier and Grisi, And voted Aunt Sally a bore; Discussed if the tight rope were easy, Or Chopin much harder than Spohr.
And oh! the odd things that she quoted, With the prettiest possible look, And the price of two buns that she noted In the prettiest possible book; While her talk like a musical rillet Flashed on with the hours that flew, And the carriage, her smile seemed to fill it With just enough summer—for Two.
Till at last in her corner, peeping From a nest of rugs and of furs, With the white shut eyelids sleeping On those dangerous looks of hers, She seemed like a snow-drop breaking, Not wholly alive nor dead, But with one blind impulse making To the sounds of the spring overhead;
And I watched in the lamplight's swerving The shade of the down-dropt lid, And the lip-line's delicate curving, Where a slumbering smile lay hid, Till I longed that, rather than sever, The train should shriek into space, And carry us onward—for ever,— Me and that beautiful face.
But she suddenly woke in a fidget, With fears she was "nearly at home," And talk of a certain Aunt Bridget, Whom I mentally wished—well, at Rome; Got out at the very next station, Looking back with a merry Bon Soir, Adding, too, to my utter vexation, A surplus, unkind Au Revoir.
So left me to muse on her graces, To dose and to muse, till I dreamed That we sailed through the sunniest places In a glorified galley, it seemed; But the cabin was made of a carriage, And the ocean was Eau-de-Cologne, And we split on a rock labelled MARRIAGE, And I woke,—as cold as a stone.
And that's how I lost her—a jewel, Incognita—one in a crowd, Nor prudent enough to be cruel, Nor worldly enough to be proud. It was just a shut lid and its lashes, Just a few hours in a train, And I sorrow in sackcloth and ashes Longing to see her again.
DORA VERSUS ROSE.
"The Case is proceeding."
From the tragic-est novels at Mudie's— At least, on a practical plan— To the tales of mere Hodges and Judys, One love is enough for a man. But no case that I ever yet met is Like mine: I am equally fond Of Rose, who a charming brunette is, And Dora, a blonde.
Each rivals the other in powers— Each waltzes, each warbles, each paints— Miss Rose, chiefly tumble-down towers; Miss Do., perpendicular saints. In short, to distinguish is folly; 'Twixt the pair I am come to the pass Of Macheath, between Lucy and Polly,— Or Buridan's ass.
If it happens that Rosa I've singled For a soft celebration in rhyme, Then the ringlets of Dora get mingled Somehow with the tune and the time; Or I painfully pen me a sonnet To an eyebrow intended for Do.'s, And behold I am writing upon it The legend "To Rose."
Or I try to draw Dora (my blotter Is all overscrawled with her head), If I fancy at last that I've got her, It turns to her rival instead; Or I find myself placidly adding To the rapturous tresses of Rose Miss Dora's bud-mouth, and her madding, Ineffable nose.
Was there ever so sad a dilemma? For Rose I would perish (pro tem.); For Dora I'd willingly stem a— (Whatever might offer to stem); But to make the invidious election,— To declare that on either one's side I've a scruple,—a grain, more affection, I cannot decide.
And, as either so hopelessly nice is, My sole and my final resource Is to wait some indefinite crisis,— Some feat of molecular force, To solve me this riddle conducive By no means to peace or repose, Since the issue can scarce be inclusive Of Dora and Rose.
But, perhaps, if a third (say a Norah), Not quite so delightful as Rose,— Not wholly so charming as Dora,— Should appear, is it wrong to suppose,— As the claims of the others are equal,— And flight—in the main—is the best,— That I might ... But no matter,—the sequel Is easily guessed.
"Mitte sectari ROSA quo locorum Sera moretur." —Hor. i. 38.
I had a vacant dwelling— Where situated, I, As naught can serve the telling, Decline to specify;— Enough 'twas neither haunted, Entailed, nor out of date; I put up "Tenant Wanted," And left the rest to Fate.
Then, Rose, you passed the window,— I see you passing yet,— Ah, what could I within do, When, Rose, our glances met! You snared me, Rose, with ribbons, Your rose-mouth made me thrall, Brief—briefer far than Gibbon's, Was my "Decline and Fall."
I heard the summons spoken That all hear—king and clown: You smiled—the ice was broken; You stopped—the bill was down. How blind we are! It never Occurred to me to seek If you had come for ever, Or only for a week.
The words your voice neglected, Seemed written in your eyes; The thought your heart protected, Your cheek told, missal-wise;— I read the rubric plainly As any Expert could; In short, we dreamed,—insanely, As only lovers should.
I broke the tall Oenone, That then my chambers graced, Because she seemed "too bony," To suit your purist taste; And you, without vexation, May certainly confess Some graceful approbation, Designed a mon adresse.
You liked me then, carina,— You liked me then, I think; For your sake gall had been a Mere tonic-cup to drink; For your sake, bonds were trivial, The rack, a tour-de-force; And banishment, convivial,— You coming too, of course.
Then, Rose, a word in jest meant Would throw you in a state That no well-timed investment Could quite alleviate; Beyond a Paris trousseau You prized my smile, I know, I, yours—ah, more than Rousseau The lip of d'Houdetot.
Then, Rose,—But why pursue it? When Fate begins to frown Best write the final "fuit," And gulp the physic down. And yet,—and yet, that only, The song should end with this:— You left me,—left me lonely, Rosa mutabilis!
Left me, with Time for Mentor, (A dreary tete-a-tete!) To pen my "Last Lament," or Extemporize to Fate, In blankest verse disclosing My bitterness of mind,— Which is, I learn, composing In cases of the kind.
No, Rose. Though you refuse me, Culture the pang prevents; "I am not made"—excuse me— "Of so slight elements;" I leave to common lovers The hemlock or the hood; My rarer soul recovers In dreams of public good.
The Roses of this nation— Or so I understand From careful computation— Exceed the gross demand; And, therefore, in civility To maids that can't be matched, No man of sensibility Should linger unattached.
So, without further fashion— A modern Curtius, Plunging, from pure compassion, To aid the overplus,— I sit down, sad—not daunted, And, in my weeds, begin A new card—"Tenant Wanted; Particulars within."
(HORACE, III. 7.)
"Quid fles, Asterie, quem tibi candidi Primo restituent vere Favonii— Gygen?"
Come, Laura, patience. Time and Spring Your absent Arthur back shall bring, Enriched with many an Indian thing Once more to woo you; Him neither wind nor wave can check, Who, cramped beneath the "Simla's" deck, Still constant, though with stiffened neck, Makes verses to you.
Would it were wave and wind alone! The terrors of the torrid zone, The indiscriminate cyclone, A man might parry; But only faith, or "triple brass," Can help the "outward-bound" to pass Safe through that eastward-faring class Who sail to marry.
For him fond mothers, stout and fair, Ascend the tortuous cabin stair Only to hold around his chair Insidious sessions; For him the eyes of daughters droop Across the plate of handed soup, Suggesting seats upon the poop, And soft confessions.
Nor are these all his pains, nor most. Romancing captains cease to boast— Loud majors leave their whist—to roast The youthful griffin; All, all with pleased persistence show His fate,—"remote, unfriended, slow,"— His "melancholy" bungalow,— His lonely tiffin.
In vain. Let doubts assail the weak; Unmoved and calm as "Adam's Peak," Your "blameless Arthur" hears them speak Of woes that wait him; Naught can subdue his soul secure; "Arthur will come again," be sure, Though matron shrewd and maid mature Conspire to mate him.
But, Laura, on your side, forbear To greet with too impressed an air A certain youth with chestnut hair,— A youth unstable; Albeit none more skilled can guide The frail canoe on Thamis tide, Or, trimmer-footed, lighter glide Through "Guards" or "Mabel."
Be warned in time. Without a trace Of acquiescence on your face, Hear, in the waltz's breathing-space, His airy patter; Avoid the confidential nook; If, when you sing, you find his look Grow tender, close your music-book, And end the matter.
IN THE ROYAL ACADEMY.
HUGH (on furlough). HELEN (his cousin).
They have not come! And ten is past,— Unless, by chance, my watch is fast; —Aunt Mabel surely told us "ten."
I doubt if she can do it, then. In fact, their train....
That is,—you knew. How could you be so treacherous, Hugh?
Nay;—it is scarcely mine, the crime, One can't account for railway-time! Where shall we sit? Not here, I vote;— At least, there's nothing here of note.
Then here we'll stay, please. Once for all, I bar all artists,—great and small! From now until we go in June I shall hear nothing but this tune:— Whether I like Long's "Vashti," or Like Leslie's "Naughty Kitty" more; With all that critics, right or wrong, Have said of Leslie and of Long.... No. If you value my esteem, I beg you'll take another theme; Paint me some pictures, if you will, But spare me these, for good and ill....
"Paint you some pictures!" Come, that's kind! You know I'm nearly colour-blind.
Paint then, in words. You did before; Scenes at—where was it? Dustypoor? You know....
HUGH (with an inspiration).
But mind they're pretty Not "hog hunts." ...
You shall be Committee, And say if they are "out" or "in."
I shall reject them all. Begin.
Here is the first. An antique Hall (Like Chanticlere) with panelled wall. A boy, or rather lad. A girl, Laughing with all her rows of pearl Before a portrait in a ruff. He meanwhile watches....
That's enough, It wants "verve," "brio," "breadth," "design," ... Besides, it's English. I decline.
This is the next. 'Tis finer far: A foaming torrent (say Braemar). A pony, grazing by a boulder, Then the same pair, a little older, Left by some lucky chance together. He begs her for a sprig of heather....
—"Which she accords with smile seraphic." I know it,—it was in the "Graphic." Declined.
Once more, and I forego All hopes of hanging, high or low: Behold the hero of the scene, In bungalow and palankeen....
What!—all at once! But that's absurd;— Unless he's Sir Boyle Roche's bird!
Permit me—'Tis a Panorama, In which the person of the drama, Mid orientals dusk and tawny, Mid warriors drinking brandy pawnee, Mid scorpions, dowagers, and griffins, In morning rides, at noon-day tiffins, In every kind of place and weather, Is solaced ... by a sprig of heather.
He puts that faded scrap before The "Rajah," or the "Koh-i-noor".... He would not barter it for all Benares, or the Taj-Mahal.... It guides,—directs his every act, And word, and thought—In short—in fact— I mean ...
(Opening his locket.)
Look, Helen, that's the heather! (Too late! Here come both Aunts together.)
What heather, Sir?
(After a pause.)
And why ... "too late?" —Aunt Dora, how you've made us wait! Don't you agree that it's a pity Portraits are hung by the Committee?
THE LAST DESPATCH.
Hurrah! the Season's past at last; At length we've "done" our pleasure. Dear "Pater," if you only knew How much I've longed for home and you,— Our own green lawn and leisure!
And then the pets! One half forgets The dear dumb friends—in Babel. I hope my special fish is fed;— I long to see poor Nigra's head Pushed at me from the stable!
I long to see the cob and "Rob,"— Old Bevis and the Collie; And won't we read in "Traveller's Rest"! Home readings after all are best;— None else seem half so "jolly!"
One misses your dear kindly store Of fancies quaint and funny; One misses, too, your kind bon-mot;— The Mayfair wit I mostly know Has more of gall than honey!
How tired one grows of "calls and balls!" This "toujours perdrix" wearies; I'm longing, quite, for "Notes on Knox"; (Apropos, I've the loveliest box For holding Notes and Queries!)
A change of place would suit my case. You'll take me?—on probation? As "Lady-help," then, let it be; I feel (as Lavender shall see), That Jams are my vocation!
How's Lavender? My love to her. Does Briggs still flirt with Flowers?— Has Hawthorn stubbed the common clear?— You'll let me give some picnics, Dear, And ask the Vanes and Towers?
I met Belle Vane. "HE'S" still in Spain! Sir John won't let them marry. Aunt drove the boys to Brompton Rink; And Charley,—changing Charley,—think, Is now au mieux with Carry!
And NO. You know what "No" I mean— There's no one yet at present: The Benedick I have in view Must be a something wholly new,— One's father's far too pleasant.
So hey, I say, for home and you! Good-by to Piccadilly; Balls, beaux, and Bolton-row, adieu! Expect me, Dear, at half-past two; Till then,—your Own Fond—MILLY.
_Old Loves and old dreams,—_ _"Requiescant in pace."_ _How strange now it seems,—_ _"Old" Loves and "old" dreams!_ _Yet we once wrote you reams _Maude, Alice, and Gracie!_ _Old Loves and old dreams,—_ _"Requiescant in pace."_
When I called at the "Hollies" to-day, In the room with the cedar-wood presses, Aunt Deb. was just folding away What she calls her "memorial dresses."
She'd the frock that she wore at fifteen,— Short-waisted, of course—my abhorrence; She'd "the loveliest"—something in "een" That she wears in her portrait by Lawrence;
She'd the "jelick" she used—"as a Greek," (!) She'd the habit she got her bad fall in; She had e'en the blue moire antique That she opened Squire Grasshopper's ball in:—
New and old they were all of them there:— Sleek velvet and bombazine stately,— She had hung them each over a chair To the "paniers" she's taken to lately
(Which she showed me, I think, by mistake). And I conned o'er the forms and the fashions, Till the faded old shapes seemed to wake All the ghosts of my passed-away "passions;"—
From the days of love's youthfullest dream, When the height of my shooting idea Was to burn, like a young Polypheme, For a somewhat mature Galatea.
There was Lucy, who "tiffed" with her first, And who threw me as soon as her third came; There was Norah, whose cut was the worst, For she told me to wait till my "berd" came;
Pale Blanche, who subsisted on salts; Blonde Bertha, who doted on Schiller; Poor Amy, who taught me to waltz; Plain Ann, that I wooed for the "siller;"—
All danced round my head in a ring, Like "The Zephyrs" that somebody painted, All shapes of the feminine thing— Shy, scornful, seductive, and sainted,—
To my Wife, in the days she was young.... "How, Sir," says that lady, disgusted, "Do you dare to include ME among Your loves that have faded and rusted?"
"Not at all!"—I benignly retort. (I was just the least bit in a temper!) "Those, alas! were the fugitive sort, But you are my—eadem semper!"
Full stop,—and a Sermon. Yet think,— There was surely good ground for a quarrel,— She had checked me when just on the brink Of—I feel—a remarkable MORAL.
THE SCREEN IN THE LUMBER ROOM.
Yes, here it is, behind the box, That puzzle wrought so neatly— That paradise of paradox— We once knew so completely; You see it? 'Tis the same, I swear, Which stood, that chill September, Beside your aunt Lavinia's chair The year when ... You remember?
Look, Laura, look! You must recall This florid "Fairy's Bower," This wonderful Swiss waterfall, And this old "Leaning Tower;" And here's the "Maiden of Cashmere," And here is Bewick's "Starling," And here the dandy cuirassier You thought was "such a Darling!"
Your poor dear Aunt! you know her way, She used to say this figure Reminded her of Count D'Orsay "In all his youthful vigour;" And here's the "cot beside the hill" We chose for habitation, The day that ... But I doubt if still You'd like the situation!
Too damp—by far! She little knew, Your guileless Aunt Lavinia, Those evenings when she slumbered through "The Prince of Abyssinia," That there were two beside her chair Who both had quite decided To see things in a rosier air Than Rasselas provided!
Ah! men wore stocks in Britain's land, And maids short waists and tippets, When this old-fashioned screen was planned From hoarded scraps and snippets; But more—far more, I think—to me Than those who first designed it, Is this—in Eighteen Seventy-Three I kissed you first behind it.
All night through Daisy's sleep, it seems, Have ceaseless "rat-tats" thundered; All night through Daisy's rosy dreams Have devious Postmen blundered, Delivering letters round her bed,— Mysterious missives, sealed with red, And franked of course with due Queen's-head,— While Daisy lay and wondered.
But now, when chirping birds begin, And Day puts off the Quaker,— When Cook renews her morning din, And rates the cheerful baker,— She dreams her dream no dream at all, For, just as pigeons come at call, Winged letters flutter down, and fall Around her head, and wake her.
Yes, there they are! With quirk and twist, And fraudful arts directed; (Save Grandpapa's dear stiff old "fist," Through all disguise detected;) But which is his,—her young Lothair's,— Who wooed her on the school-room stairs With three sweet cakes, and two ripe pears, In one neat pile collected?
'Tis there, be sure. Though truth to speak, (If truth may be permitted), I doubt that young "gift-bearing Greek" Is scarce for fealty fitted; For has he not (I grieve to say), To two loves more, on this same day, In just this same emblazoned way, His transient vows transmitted?
He may be true. Yet, Daisy dear, That even youth grows colder You'll find is no new thing, I fear; And when you're somewhat older, You'll read of one Dardanian boy Who "wooed with gifts" a maiden coy,— Then took the morning train to Troy, In spite of all he'd told her.
But wait. Your time will come. And then, Obliging Fates, please send her The bravest thing you have in men, Sound-hearted, strong, and tender;— The kind of man, dear Fates, you know, That feels how shyly Daisies grow, And what soft things they are, and so Will spare to spoil or mend her.
"The blue fly sung in the pane."—Tennyson.
Toiling in Town now is "horrid," (There is that woman again!)— June in the zenith is torrid, Thought gets dry in the brain.
There is that woman again: "Strawberries! fourpence a pottle!" Thought gets dry in the brain; Ink gets dry in the bottle.
"Strawberries! fourpence a pottle!" Oh for the green of a lane!— Ink gets dry in the bottle; "Buzz" goes a fly in the pane!
Oh for the green of a lane, Where one might lie and be lazy! "Buzz" goes a fly in the pane; Bluebottles drive me crazy!
Where one might lie and be lazy, Careless of Town and all in it!— Bluebottles drive me crazy: I shall go mad in a minute!
Careless of Town and all in it, With some one to soothe and to still you;— I shall go mad in a minute; Bluebottle, then I shall kill you!
With some one to soothe and to still you, As only one's feminine kin do,— Bluebottle, then I shall kill you: There now! I've broken the window!
As only one's feminine kin do,— Some muslin-clad Mabel or May!— There now! I've broken the window! Bluebottle's off and away!
Some muslin-clad Mabel or May, To dash one with eau de Cologne;— Bluebottle's off and away; And why should I stay here alone!
To dash one with eau de Cologne, All over one's eminent forehead;— And why should I stay here alone! Toiling in Town now is "horrid."
A SONNET IN DIALOGUE.
FRANK (on the Lawn). Come to the Terrace, May,—the sun is low.
MAY (in the House). Thanks, I prefer my Browning here instead.
FRANK. There are two peaches by the strawberry bed.
MAY. They will be riper if we let them grow.
FRANK. Then the Park-aloe is in bloom, you know.
MAY. Also, her Majesty Queen Anne is dead.
FRANK. But surely, May, your pony must be fed.
MAY. And was, and is. I fed him hours ago. 'Tis useless, Frank, you see I shall not stir.
FRANK. Still, I had something you would like to hear.
MAY. No doubt some new frivolity of men.
FRANK. Nay,—'tis a thing the gentler sex deplores Chiefly, I think....
MAY (coming to the window). What is this secret, then?
FRANK (mysteriously). There are no eyes more beautiful than yours!
"On a l'age de son coeur."—A. d'Houdetot.
A little more toward the light;— Me miserable! Here's one that's white; And one that's turning; Adieu to song and "salad days;" My Muse, let's go at once to Jay's, And order mourning.
We must reform our rhymes, my Dear,— Renounce the gay for the severe,— Be grave, not witty; We have, no more, the right to find That Pyrrha's hair is neatly twined,— That Chloe's pretty.
Young Love's for us a farce that's played; Light canzonet and serenade No more may tempt us; Gray hairs but ill accord with dreams; From aught but sour didactic themes Our years exempt us.
Indeed! you really fancy so? You think for one white streak we grow At once satiric? A fiddlestick! Each hair's a string To which our ancient Muse shall sing A younger lyric.
The heart's still sound. Shall "cakes and ale" Grow rare to youth because we rail At schoolboy dishes? Perish the thought! 'Tis ours to chant When neither Time nor Tide can grant Belief with wishes.
THE MALTWORM'S MADRIGAL.
I drink of the Ale of Southwark, I drink of the Ale of Chepe; At noon I dream on the settle; at night I cannot sleep; For my love, my love it groweth; I waste me all the day; And when I see sweet Alison, I know not what to say.
The sparrow when he spieth his Dear upon the tree, He beateth-to his little wing; he chirketh lustily; But when I see sweet Alison, the words begin to fail; I wot that I shall die of Love—an I die not of Ale.
Her lips are like the muscadel; her brows are black as ink; Her eyes are bright as beryl stones that in the tankard wink; But when she sees me coming, she shrilleth out—"Te-Hee! Fye on thy ruddy nose, Cousin, what lackest thou of me?"
"Fye on thy ruddy nose, Cousin! Why be thine eyes so small? Why go thy legs tap-lappetty like men that fear to fall? Why is thy leathern doublet besmeared with stain and spot? Go to. Thou art no man (she saith)—thou art a Pottle-pot!"
"No man," i'faith. "No man!" she saith. And "Pottle-pot" thereto! "Thou sleepest like our dog all day; thou drink'st as fishes do." I would that I were Tibb the dog; he wags at her his tail; Or would that I were fish, in truth, and all the sea were Ale!
So I drink of the Ale of Southwark, I drink of the Ale of Chepe; All day I dream in the sunlight; I dream and eke I weep, But little lore of loving can any flagon teach, For when my tongue is loosed most, then most I lose my speech.
AN APRIL PASTORAL.
He. Whither away, fair Neat-herdess? She. Shepherd, I go to tend my kine. He. Stay thou, and watch this flock of mine. She. With thee? Nay, that were idleness. He. Thy kine will pasture none the less. She. Not so: they wait me and my sign. He. I'll pipe to thee beneath the pine. She. Thy pipe will soothe not their distress. He. Dost thou not hear beside the spring How the gay birds are carolling? She. I hear them. But it may not be. He. Farewell then, Sweetheart! Farewell now. She. Shepherd, farewell——Where goest thou? He. I go ... to tend thy kine for thee!
A NEW SONG OF THE SPRING GARDENS.
To the Burden of "Rogues All."
Come hither ye gallants, come hither ye maids, To the trim gravelled walks, to the shady arcades; Come hither, come hither, the nightingales call;— Sing Tantarara,—Vauxhall! Vauxhall!
Come hither, ye cits, from your Lothbury hives! Come hither, ye husbands, and look to your wives! For the sparks are as thick as the leaves in the Mall;— Sing Tantarara,—Vauxhall! Vauxhall!
Here the 'prentice from Aldgate may ogle a Toast! Here his Worship must elbow the Knight of the Post! For the wicket is free to the great and the small;— Sing Tantarara,—Vauxhall! Vauxhall!
Here Betty may flaunt in her mistress's sack! Here Trip wear his master's brocade on his back! Here a hussy may ride, and a rogue take the wall;— Sing Tantarara,—Vauxhall! Vauxhall!
Here Beauty may grant, and here Valour may ask! Here the plainest may pass for a Belle (in a mask)! Here a domino covers the short and the tall;— Sing Tantarara,—Vauxhall! Vauxhall!
'Tis a type of the world, with its drums and its din; 'Tis a type of the world, for when once you come in You are loth to go out; like the world 'tis a ball;— Sing Tantarara,—Vauxhall! Vauxhall!
When first in CELIA'S ear I poured A yet unpractised pray'r, My trembling tongue sincere ignored The aids of "sweet" and "fair." I only said, as in me lay, I'd strive her "worth" to reach; She frowned, and turned her eyes away,— So much for truth in speech.
Then DELIA came. I changed my plan; I praised her to her face; I praised her features,—praised her fan, Her lap-dog and her lace; I swore that not till Time were dead My passion should decay; She, smiling, gave her hand, and said 'Twill last then—for a DAY.
OF HIS MISTRESS.
(After Anthony Hamilton.)
To G. S.
She that I love is neither brown nor fair, And, in a word her worth to say, There is no maid that with her may Compare.
Yet of her charms the count is clear, I ween: There are five hundred things we see, And then five hundred too there be, Not seen.
Her wit, her wisdom are direct from Heaven: But the sweet Graces from their store A thousand finer touches more Have given.
Her cheek's warm dye what painter's brush could note? Beside her Flora would be wan And white as whiteness of the swan Her throat.
Her supple waist, her arm from Venus came, Hebe her nose and lip confess, And, looking in her eyes, you guess Her name.
THE NAMELESS CHARM.
(Expanded from an Epigram of Piron.)
Stella, 'tis not your dainty head, Your artless look, I own; 'Tis not your dear coquettish tread, Or this, or that, alone;
Nor is it all your gifts combined; 'Tis something in your face,— The untranslated, undefined, Uncertainty of grace,
That taught the Boy on Ida's hill To whom the meed was due; All three have equal charms—but still This one I give it to!
(HOR. III., 23.)
Incense, and flesh of swine, and this year's grain, At the new moon, with suppliant hands, bestow, O rustic Phidyle! So naught shall know Thy crops of blight, thy vine of Afric bane, And hale the nurslings of thy flock remain Through the sick apple-tide. Fit victims grow 'Twixt holm and oak upon the Algid snow, Or Alban grass, that with their necks must stain The Pontiff's axe: to thee can scarce avail Thy modest gods with much slain to assail, Whom myrtle crowns and rosemary can please. Lay on the altar a hand pure of fault; More than rich gifts the Powers it shall appease, Though pious but with meal and crackling salt.
TO HIS BOOK.
(HOR. EP. I., 20.)
For mart and street you seem to pine With restless glances, Book of mine! Still craving on some stall to stand, Fresh pumiced from the binder's hand. You chafe at locks, and burn to quit Your modest haunt and audience fit For hearers less discriminate. I reared you up for no such fate. Still, if you must be published, go; But mind, you can't come back, you know!
"What have I done?" I hear you cry, And writhe beneath some critic's eye; "What did I want?"—when, scarce polite, They do but yawn, and roll you tight. And yet methinks, if I may guess (Putting aside your heartlessness In leaving me and this your home), You should find favour, too, at Rome. That is, they'll like you while you're young, When you are old, you'll pass among The Great Unwashed,—then thumbed and sped, Be fretted of slow moths, unread, Or to Ilerda you'll be sent, Or Utica, for banishment! And I, whose counsel you disdain, At that your lot shall laugh amain, Wryly, as he who, like a fool, Thrust o'er the cliff his restive mule. Nay! there is worse behind. In age They e'en may take your babbling page In some remotest "slum" to teach Mere boys their rudiments of speech!
But go. When on warm days you see A chance of listeners, speak of me. Tell them I soared from low estate, A freedman's son, to higher fate (That is, make up to me in worth What you must take in point of birth); Then tell them that I won renown In peace and war, and pleased the town; Paint me as early gray, and one Little of stature, fond of sun, Quick-tempered, too,—but nothing more. Add (if they ask) I'm forty-four, Or was, the year that over us Both Lollius ruled and Lepidus.
FOR A COPY OF HERRICK.
Many days have come and gone, Many suns have set and shone, HERRICK, since thou sang'st of Wake, Morris-dance and Barley-break;— Many men have ceased from care, Many maidens have been fair, Since thou sang'st of JULIA'S eyes, JULIA'S lawns and tiffanies;— Many things are past: but thou, GOLDEN-MOUTH, art singing now, Singing clearly as of old, And thy numbers are of gold!
WITH A VOLUME OF VERSE.
About the ending of the Ramadan, When leanest grows the famished Mussulman, A haggard ne'er-do-well, Mahmoud by name, At the tenth hour to Caliph OMAR came. "Lord of the Faithful (quoth he), at the last The long moon waneth, and men cease to fast; Hard then, O hard! the lot of him must be, Who spares to eat ... but not for piety!" "Hast thou no calling, Friend?"—the Caliph said. "Sir, I make verses for my daily bread." "Verse!"—answered OMAR. "'Tis a dish, indeed, Whereof but scantily a man may feed. Go. Learn the Tenter's or the Potter's Art,— Verse is a drug not sold in any mart."
I know not if that hungry Mahmoud died; But this I know—he must have versified, For, with his race, from better still to worse, The plague of writing follows like a curse; And men will scribble though they fail to dine, Which is the Moral of more Books than mine.
FOR THE AVERY "KNICKERBOCKER."
(WITH ORIGINAL DRAWINGS BY G. H. BOUGHTON.)
Shade of Herrick, Muse of Locker, Help me sing of Knickerbocker!
BOUGHTON, had you bid me chant Hymns to Peter Stuyvesant! Had you bid me sing of Wouter, (He! the Onion-head! the Doubter!) But to rhyme of this one,—Mocker! Who shall rhyme to Knickerbocker?
Nay, but where my hand must fail There the more shall yours avail; You shall take your brush and paint All that ring of figures quaint,— All those Rip-van-Winkle jokers,— All those solid-looking smokers, Pulling at their pipes of amber In the dark-beamed Council-Chamber.
Only art like yours can touch Shapes so dignified ... and Dutch; Only art like yours can show How the pine-logs gleam and glow, Till the fire-light laughs and passes 'Twixt the tankards and the glasses, Touching with responsive graces All those grave Batavian faces,— Making bland and beatific All that session soporific.
Then I come and write beneath, BOUGHTON, he deserves the wreath; He can give us form and hue— This the Muse can never do!
TO A PASTORAL POET.
(H. E. B.)
Among my best I put your Book, O Poet of the breeze and brook! (That breeze and brook which blows and falls More soft to those in city walls) Among my best: and keep it still Till down the fair grass-girdled hill, Where slopes my garden-slip, there goes The wandering wind that wakes the rose, And scares the cohort that explore The broad-faced sun-flower o'er and o'er, Or starts the restless bees that fret The bindweed and the mignonette.
Then I shall take your Book, and dream I lie beside some haunted stream; And watch the crisping waves that pass, And watch the flicker in the grass; And wait—and wait—and wait to see The Nymph ... that never comes to me!
"SAT EST SCRIPSISSE."
(TO E. G., WITH A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS.)
When You and I have wandered beyond the reach of call, And all our Works immortal lie scattered on the Stall, It may be some new Reader, in that remoter age, Will find the present volume and listless turn the page.
For him I speak these verses. And, Sir (I say to him), This Book you see before you,—this masterpiece of Whim Of Wisdom, Learning, Fancy (if you will, please, attend),— Was written by its Author, who gave it to his Friend.
For they had worked together, been Comrades of the Pen; They had their points at issue, they differed now and then; But both loved Song and Letters, and each had close at heart The hopes, the aspirations, the "dear delays" of Art.
And much they talked of Measures, and more they talked of Style, Of Form and "lucid Order," of "labour of the File;" And he who wrote the writing, as sheet by sheet was penned (This all was long ago, Sir!), would read it to his Friend.
They knew not, nor cared greatly, if they were spark or star; They knew to move is somewhat, although the goal be far; And larger light or lesser, this thing at least is clear, They served the Muses truly,—their service was sincere.
This tattered page you see, Sir, this page alone remains (Yes,—fourpence is the lowest!) of all those pleasant pains; And as for him that read it, and as for him that wrote, No Golden Book enrolls them among its "Names of Note."
And yet they had their office. Though they to-day are passed, They marched in that procession where is no first or last; Though cold is now their hoping, though they no more aspire, They too had once their ardour—they handed on the fire.
PROLOGUES AND EPILOGUES.
PROLOGUE TO ABBEY'S EDITION OF "SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER."
In the year Seventeen Hundred and Seventy and Three, When the GEORGES were ruling o'er Britain the free, There was played a new play, on a new-fashioned plan, By the GOLDSMITH who brought out the Good-Natur'd Man. New-fashioned, in truth—for this play, it appears, Dealt largely in laughter, and nothing in tears, While the type of those days, as the learned will tell ye, Was the CUMBERLAND whine or the whimper of KELLY. So the Critics pooh-poohed, and the Actresses pouted, And the Public were cold, and the Manager doubted; But the Author had friends, and they all went to see it. Shall we join them in fancy? You answer, So be it! Imagine yourself then, good Sir, in a wig, Either grizzle or bob—never mind, you look big. You've a sword at your side, in your shoes there are buckles, And the folds of fine linen flap over your knuckles. You have come with light heart, and with eyes that are brighter, From a pint of red Port, and a steak at the Mitre; You have strolled from the Bar and the purlieus of Fleet, And you turn from the Strand into Catherine Street; Thence climb to the law-loving summits of Bow, Till you stand at the Portal all play-goers know. See, here are the 'prentice lads laughing and pushing, And here are the seamstresses shrinking and blushing, And here are the urchins who, just as to-day, Sir, Buzz at you like flies with their "Bill o' the Play, Sir?" Yet you take one, no less, and you squeeze by the Chairs, With their freights of fine ladies, and mount up the stairs; So issue at last on the House in its pride, And pack yourself snug in a box at the side. Here awhile let us pause to take breath as we sit, Surveying the humours and pranks of the Pit,— With its Babel of chatterers buzzing and humming, With its impudent orange-girls going and coming, With its endless surprises of face and of feature, All grinning as one in a gust of good-nature. Then we turn to the Boxes where TRIP in his lace Is aping his master, and keeping his place. Do but note how the Puppy flings back with a yawn, Like a Duke at the least, or a Bishop in lawn! Then sniffs at his bouquet, whips round with a smirk, And ogles the ladies at large—like a Turk. But the music comes in, and the blanks are all filling, And TRIP must trip up to the seats at a shilling; And spite of the mourning that most of us wear The House takes a gay and a holiday air; For the fair sex are clever at turning the tables, And seem to catch coquetry even in sables. Moreover, your mourning has ribbons and stars, And is sprinkled about with the red coats of Mars.
Look, look, there is WILKES! You may tell by the squint; But he grows every day more and more like the print (Ah! HOGARTH could draw!); and behind at the back HUGH KELLY, who looks all the blacker in black. That is CUMBERLAND next, and the prim-looking person In the corner, I take it, is Ossian MACPHERSON. And rolling and blinking, here, too, with the rest, Comes sturdy old JOHNSON, dressed out in his best; How he shakes his old noddle! I'll wager a crown, Whatever the law is he's laying it down! Beside him is REYNOLDS, who's deaf; and the hale Fresh, farmer-like fellow, I fancy, is THRALE. There is BURKE with GEORGE STEEVENS. And somewhere, no doubt, Is the AUTHOR—too nervous just now to come out; He's a queer little fellow, grave-featured, pock-pitten, Tho' they say, in his cups, he's as gay as a kitten.
But where is our play-bill? Mistakes of a Night! If the title's prophetic, I pity his plight! She Stoops. Let us hope she won't fall at full length, For the piece—so 'tis whispered—is wanting in strength. And the humour is "low!"—you are doubtless aware There's a character, even, that "dances a bear!" Then the cast is so poor,—neither marrow nor pith! Why can't they get WOODWARD or Gentleman SMITH! "LEE LEWES!" Who's LEWES? The fellow has played Nothing better, they tell me, than harlequinade! "DUBELLAMY"—"QUICK,"—these are nobodies. Stay, I Believe I saw QUICK once in Beau Mordecai. Yes, QUICK is not bad. Mrs. GREEN, too, is funny; But SHUTER, ah! SHUTER'S the man for my money! He's the quaintest, the oddest of mortals, is SHUTER, And he has but one fault—he's too fond of the pewter. Then there's little BULKELY....
But here in the middle, From the orchestra comes the first squeak of a fiddle. Then the bass gives a growl, and the horn makes a dash, And the music begins with a flourish and crash, And away to the zenith goes swelling and swaying, While we tap on the box to keep time to the playing. And we hear the old tunes as they follow and mingle, Till at last from the stage comes a ting-a-ting tingle; And the fans cease to whirr, and the House for a minute Grows still as if naught but wax figures were in it. Then an actor steps out, and the eyes of all glisten. Who is it? The Prologue. He's sobbing. Hush! listen.
[Thereupon enters Mr. Woodward in black, with a handkerchief to his eyes, to speak Garrick's Prologue, after which comes the play. In the volume for which the foregoing additional Prologue was written the following Envoi was added.]
Good-bye to you, KELLY, your fetters are broken! Good-bye to you, CUMBERLAND, GOLDSMITH has spoken! Good-bye to sham Sentiment, moping and mumming, For GOLDSMITH has spoken and SHERIDAN'S coming; And the frank Muse of Comedy laughs in free air As she laughed with the Great Ones, with SHAKESPEARE, MOLIERE!
PROLOGUE TO ABBEY'S "QUIET LIFE."
Even as one in city pent, Dazed with the stir and din of town, Drums on the pane in discontent, And sees the dreary rain come down, Yet, through the dimmed and dripping glass, Beholds, in fancy, visions pass, Of Spring that breaks with all her leaves, Of birds that build in thatch and eaves, Of woodlands where the throstle calls, Of girls that gather cowslip balls, Of kine that low, and lambs that cry, Of wains that jolt and rumble by, Of brooks that sing by brambly ways, Of sunburned folk that stand at gaze, Of all the dreams with which men cheat The stony sermons of the street, So, in its hour, the artist brain Weary of human ills and woes, Weary of passion, and of pain, And vaguely craving for repose, Deserts awhile the stage of strife To draw the even, ordered life, The easeful days, the dreamless nights, The homely round of plain delights, The calm, the unambitioned mind, Which all men seek, and few men find.
Let the dream pass, the fancy fade! We clutch a shape, and hold a shade. Is Peace so peaceful? Nay,—who knows! There are volcanoes under snows.
In after days when grasses high O'er-top the stone where I shall lie, Though ill or well the world adjust My slender claim to honoured dust, I shall not question or reply.
I shall not see the morning sky; I shall not hear the night-wind sigh; I shall be mute, as all men must In after days!
But yet, now living, fain were I That some one then should testify, Saying—"He held his pen in trust To Art, not serving shame or lust." Will none?—Then let my memory die In after days!
"To brandish the poles of that old Sedan Chair!"—Page 7.
A friendly critic, whose versatile pen it is not easy to mistake, recalls, a-propos of the above, the following passage from Moliere, which shows that Chairmen are much the same all the world over:—
1 Porteur (prenant un des batons de sa chaise). Ca, payez-nous vitement!
1 Porteur. Je dis que je veux avoir de l'argent tout a l'heure.
Mascarille. Il est raisonnable, celui-la, etc. Les Precieuses Ridicules, Sc. vii.
"It has waited by portals where Garrick has played."—Page 8.
According to Mrs. Carter (Smith's Nollekens, 1828, i. 211), when Garrick acted, the hackney-chairs often stood "all round the Piazzas [Covent Garden], down Southampton-Street, and extended more than half-way along Maiden-Lane."
"A skill Preville could not disown."—Page 23.
Preville was the French Foote, circa 1760. His gifts as a comedian were of the highest order; and he had an extraordinary faculty for identifying himself with the parts he played. Sterne, in a letter to Garrick from Paris, in 1762, calls him "Mercury himself."
MOLLY TREFUSIS.—Page 32.
The epigram here quoted from "an old magazine" is to be found in the late Lord Neaves's admirable little volume, The Greek Anthology (Blackwood's Ancient Classics for English Readers). Those familiar with eighteenth-century literature will recognize in the succeeding verses but another echo of those lively stanzas of John Gay to "Molly Mogg of the Rose," which found so many imitators in his own day. Whether my heroine is to be identified with a certain "Miss Trefusis," whose Poems are sometimes to be found in the second-hand booksellers' catalogues, I know not. But if she is, I trust I have done her accomplished shade no wrong.
AN EASTERN APOLOGUE.—Page 43.
The initials "E. H. P." are those of the late eminent (and ill-fated) Orientalist, Professor Palmer. As my lines entirely owed their origin to his translations of Zoheir, I sent them to him. He was indulgent enough to praise them warmly. It is true he found anachronisms; but as he said these would cause no disturbance to orthodox Persians, I concluded I had succeeded in my little pastiche, and, with his permission, inscribed it to him. I wish now that it had been a more worthy tribute to one of the most erudite and versatile scholars this age has seen.
A REVOLUTIONARY RELIC.—Page 48.
"373. St. Pierre (Bernardin de), Paul et Virginie, 12mo, old calf. Paris, 1787. This copy is pierced throughout by a bullet-hole, and bears on one of the covers the words: 'a Lucile St. A.... chez M. Batemans, a Edmonds-Bury, en Angleterre,' very faintly written in pencil." (Extract from Catalogue.)
"Did she wander like that other?"—Page 50.
Lucile Desmoulins. See Carlyle's French Revolution, Vol. iii. Book vi. Chap. ii.
"And its tender rain shall lave it."—Page 52.
It is by no means uncommon for an editor to interrupt some of these revolutionary letters by a "Here there are traces of tears."
"By 'Bysshe,' his epithet."—Page 81.
i.e. The Art of English Poetry, by Edward Bysshe, 1702.
THE BOOK-PLATE'S PETITION.—Page 87.
These lines were reprinted from Notes and Queries in Mr. Andrew Lang's instructive volume The Library, 1881, where the curious will find full information as to the enormities of the book-mutilators.
"Have I not writ thy Laws?"—Page 93.
The lines in italic type which follow, are freely paraphrased from the ancient Code d' Amour of the XIIth Century, as given by Andre le Chapelain himself.
A DIALOGUE, ETC.—Page 107.
This dialogue, first printed in Scribner's Magazine for May, 1888, was afterwards read by Professor Henry Morley at the opening of the Pope Loan Museum at Twickenham (July 31st), to the Catalogue of which exhibition it was prefixed.
"The 'crooked Body with a crooked Mind.'"—Page 108.
"Mens curva in corpore curvo." Said of Pope by Lord Orrery.
"Neither as Locke was, nor as Blake."—Page 115.
The Shire Hall at Taunton, where these verses were read at the unveiling, by Mr. James Russell Lowell, of Miss Margaret Thomas's bust of Fielding, September 4th, 1883, also contains busts of Admiral Blake and John Locke.
"The Journal of his middle-age."—Page 118.
It is, perhaps, needless to say that the reference here is to the Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, published posthumously in February, 1755,—a record which for its intrinsic pathos and dignity may be compared with the letter and dedication which Fielding's predecessor and model, Cervantes, prefixed to his last romance of Persiles and Sigismunda.
CHARLES GEORGE GORDON.—Page 120.
These verses appeared in the Saturday Review for February 14th, 1885.
ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON.—Page 122.
These verses appeared in the Athenaeum for October 8th, 1892.
"With that he made a Leg."—Page 137.
"JOVE made his Leg and kiss'd the Dame, Obsequious HERMES did the Same." Prior.
"So took his Virtu off to Cock's."—Page 137.
Cock, the auctioneer of Covent Garden, was the Christie and Manson of the last century. The leading idea of this fable, it should be added, is taken from one by Gellert.
"Of Van's 'Goose-Pie.'"—Page 139.
"At length they in the Rubbish spy A Thing resembling a Goose Py." SWIFT'S verses on Vanbrugh's House, 1706.
"The Oaf preferred the 'Tongs and Bones.'"—Page 145.
"I have a reasonable good ear in music; let us have the tongs and the bones."
Midsummer-Night's Dream, Act iv., Sc. i.
"And sighed o'er Chaos wine for Stingo."—Page 145.
Squire Homespun probably meant Cahors.
THE WATER-CURE.—Page 178.
These verses were suggested by the recollection of an anecdote in Madame de Genlis, which seemed to lend itself to eighteenth-century treatment. It was therefore somewhat depressing, not long after they were written, to find that the subject had already been annexed in the Tatler by an actual eighteenth-century writer, who, moreover, claimed to have founded his story on a contemporary incident. Burton, nevertheless, had told it before him, as early as 1621, in the Anatomy of Melancholy.
"In Babylonian numbers hidden."—Page 180.
"—nec Babylonios Tentaris numeros." Hor. i., 11.
"And spite of the mourning that most of us wear."—Page 259.
In March, 1773, when She Stoops to Conquer was first played, there was a court-mourning for the King of Sardinia (Forster's Goldsmith, Book iv. Chap. 15).
"But he grows every day more and more like the print.—Page 259.
"Mr. Wilkes, with his usual good humour, has been heard to observe, that he is every day growing more and more like his portrait by Hogarth (i.e. the print of May 16th, 1763)."
Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth, 1782, pp. 305-6.
Ah, Postumus, we all must go: 'Postumus' unchanged. 'Posthumous' is current spelling.
Hyphenation of the following unchanged: chairmen chair-men Masterpiece Master-piece recall re-call