In fact in his perennial speech, The Chairman own'd the niggers did not bleach, As he had hoped. From being washed and soaped, A circumstance he named with grief and pity; But still he had the happiness to say, For self and the Committee, By persevering in the present way And scrubbing at the Blacks from day to day, Although he could not promise perfect white, From certain symptoms that had come to light, He hoped in time to get them gray!
Lull'd by this vague assurance, The friends and patrons of the sable tribe Continued to subscribe, And waited, waited on with much endurance— Many a frugal sister, thrifty daughter— Many a stinted widow, pinching mother— With income by the tax made somewhat shorter, Still paid implicitly her crown per quarter, Only to hear as ev'ry year came round, That Mr. Treasurer had spent her pound; And as she loved her sable brother, That Mr. Treasurer must have another!
But, spite of pounds or guineas, Instead of giving any hint Of turning to a neutral tint, The plaguy Negroes and their piccaninnies Were still the color of the bird that caws— Only some very aged souls Showing a little gray upon their polls, Like daws!
However, nothing clashed By such repeated failures, or abashed, The Court still met;—the Chairman and Directors, The Secretary, good at pen and ink, The worthy Treasurer, who kept the chink, And all the cash Collectors; With hundreds of that class, so kindly credulous, Without whose help, no charlatan alive, Or Bubble Company could hope to thrive, Or busy Chevalier, however sedulous— Those good and easy innocents in fact, Who willingly receiving chaff for corn, As pointed out by Butler's tact, Still find a secret pleasure in the act Of being pluck'd and shorn!
However, in long hundreds there they were, Thronging the hot, and close, and dusty court, To hear once more addresses from the Chair, And regular Report. Alas! concluding in the usual strain, That what with everlasting wear and tear, The scrubbing-brushes hadn't got a hair— The brooms—mere stumps—would never serve again— The soap was gone, the flannels all in shreds, The towels worn to threads, The tubs and pails too shattered to be mended— And what was added with a deal of pain, But as accounts correctly would explain, Tho' thirty thousand pounds had been expended— The Blackamoors had still been wash'd in vain!
"In fact, the Negroes were as black as ink, Yet, still as the Committee dared to think, And hoped the proposition was not rash, A rather free expenditure of cash—" But ere the prospect could be made more sunny— Up jump'd a little, lemon-colored man, And with an eager stammer, thus began, In angry earnest, though it sounded funny: "What! More subscriptions! No—no—no,—not I!" "You have had time—time—time enough to try! They WON'T come white! then why—why—why—why, More money?"
"Why!" said the Chairman, with an accent bland, And gentle waving of his dexter hand, "Why must we have more dross, and dirt, and dust, More filthy lucre, in a word, more gold— The why, sir, very easily is told, Because Humanity declares we must! We've scrubb'd the negroes till we've nearly killed 'em, And finding that we cannot wash them white, But still their nigritude offends the sight, We mean to gild 'em!"
TO A NOBLE LADY.
"To point a moral."—JOHNSON.
Fairest Lady and Noble, for once on a time, Condescend to accept, in the humblest of rhyme, And a style more of Gay than of Milton, A few opportune verses design'd to impart Some didactical hints in a Needlework Art, Not described by the Countess of Wilton.
An Art not unknown to the delicate hand Of the fairest and first in this insular land, But in Patronage Royal delighting; And which now your own feminine fantasy wins, Tho' it scarce seems a lady-like work, that begins In a scratching and ends in a biting!
Yet oh! that the dames of the Scandalous School Would but use the same acid, and sharp-pointed tool, That are plied in the said operations— Oh! would that our Candours on copper would sketch! For the first of all things in begining to etch Are—good grounds for our representations.
Those protective and delicate coatings of wax, Which are meant to resist the corrosive attacks That would ruin the copper completely; Thin cerements which whoso remembers the Bee So applauded by Watts, the divine LL.D., Will be careful to spread very neatly.
For why? like some intricate deed of the law, Should the ground in the process be left with a flaw, Aqua-fortis is far from a joker; And attacking the part that no coating protects, Will turn out as distressing to all your effects As a landlord who puts in a broker.
Then carefully spread the conservative stuff, Until all the bright metal is cover'd enough, To repel a destructive so active; For in Etching, as well as in Morals, pray note That a little raw spot, or a hole in a coat, Your ascetics find vastly attractive.
Thus the ground being laid, very even and flat, And then smoked with a taper, till black as a hat, Still from future disasters to screen it, Just allow me, by way of precaution, to state, You must hinder the footman from changing your plate, Nor yet suffer the butler to clean it.
Nay, the housemaid, perchance, in her passion to scrub, May suppose the dull metal in want of a rub, Like the Shield which Swift's readers remember— Not to mention the chance of some other mishaps, Such as having your copper made up into caps To be worn on the First of September.
But aloof from all damage by Betty or John, You secure the veil'd surface, and trace thereupon The design you conceive the most proper: Yet gently, and not with a needle too keen, Lest it pierce to the wax through the paper between, And of course play Old Scratch with the copper.
So in worldly affairs, the sharp-practising man Is not always the one who succeeds in his plan, Witness Shylock's judicial exposure; Who, as keen as his knife, yet with agony found, That while urging his point he was losing his ground, And incurring a fatal disclosure.
But, perhaps, without tracing at all, you may choose To indulge in some little extempore views, Like the older artistical people; For example, a Corydon playing his pipe, In a Low Country marsh, with a Cow, after Cuyp, And a Goat skipping over a steeple.
A wild Deer at a rivulet taking a sup, With a couple of Pillars put in to fill up, Like the columns of certain diurnals; Or a very brisk sea, in a very stiff gale, And a very Dutch boat, with a very big sail— Or a bevy of Retzsch Infernals.
Architectural study—or rich Arabesque— Allegorical dream—or a view picturesque, Near to Naples, or Venice, or Florence; Or "as harmless as lambs and as gentle as doves," A sweet family cluster of plump little Loves, Like the Children by Reynolds or Lawrence.
But whatever the subject, your exquisite taste Will ensure a design very charming and chaste, Like yourself, full of nature and beauty— Yet besides the good points you already reveal, You will need a few others—of well-temper'd steel, And especially form'd for the duty.
For suppose that the tool be imperfectly set, Over many weak lengths in your line you will fret, Like a pupil of Walton and Cotton, Who remains by the brink of the water, agape, While the jack, trout, or barbel effects its escape Thro' the gut or silk line being rotten.
Therefore, let the steel point be set truly and round, That the finest of strokes may be even and sound, Flowing glibly where fancy would lead 'em. But alas! for the needle that fetters the hand, And forbids even sketches of Liberty's land To be drawn with the requisite freedom!
Oh! the botches I've seen by a tool of the sort, Rather hitching than etching, and making, in short, Such stiff, crabbed, and angular scratches, That the figures seem'd statues or mummies from tombs, While the trees were as rigid as bundles of brooms, And the herbage like bunches of matches!
The stiff clouds as if carefully iron'd and starch'd, While a cast-iron bridge, meant for wooden, o'er-arch'd Something more like a road than a river. Prythee, who in such characteristics could see Any trace of the beautiful land of the free— The Free-Mason—Free-Trader—Free-Liver!
But prepared by a hand that is skilful and nice, The fine point glides along like a skate on the ice, At the will of the Gentle Designer, Who impelling the needle just presses so much, That each line of her labor the copper may touch, As if done by a penny-a-liner.
And behold! how the fast-growing images gleam! Like the sparkles of gold in a sunshiny stream, Till perplex'd by the glittering issue, You repine for a light of a tenderer kind— And in choosing a substance for making a blind, Do not sneeze at the paper call'd tissue.
For, subdued by the sheet so transparent and white, Your design will appear in a soberer light, And reveal its defects on inspection, Just as Glory achieved, or political scheme, And some more of our dazzling performances seem, Not so bright on a cooler reflection.
So the juvenile Poet with ecstasy views His first verses, and dreams that the songs of his Muse Are as brilliant as Moore's and as tender— Till some critical sheet scans the faulty design, And alas! takes the shine out of every line That had form'd such a vision of splendor;
Certain objects, however, may come in your sketch, Which, design'd by a hand unaccustom'd to etch, With a luckless result may be branded; Wherefore add this particular rule to your code, Let all vehicles take the wrong side of the road, And man, woman, and child, be left-handed.
Yet regard not the awkward appearance with doubt, But remember how often mere blessings fall out, That at first seem'd no better than curses; So, till things take a turn, live in hope, and depend That whatever is wrong will come right in the end, And console you for all your reverses.
But of errors why speak, when for beauty and truth Your free, spirited Etching is worthy, in sooth, Of that Club (may all honor betide it!) Which, tho' dealing in copper, by genius and taste, Has accomplish'd a service of plate not disgraced By the work of a Goldsmith beside it.
So your sketch superficially drawn on the plate, It becomes you to fix in a permanent state, Which involves a precise operation, With a keen biting fluid, which eating its way— As in other professions is common they say— Has attain'd an artistical station.
And it's, oh! that some splenetic folks I could name If they must deal in acids would use but the same, In such innocent graphical labors! In the place of the virulent spirit wherewith— Like the polecat, the weasel, and things of that kith— They keep biting the backs of their neighbors!
But beforehand, with wax or the shoemaker's pitch, You must build a neat dyke round the margin, in which You may pour the dilute aqua-fortis. For if raw like a dram, it will shock you to trace Your design with a horrible froth on its face, Like a wretch in articulo mortis.
Like a wretch in the pangs that too many endure From the use of strong waters, without any pure, A vile practice, most sad and improper! For, from painful examples, this warning is found, That the raw burning spirit will take up the ground, In the churchyard, as well as on copper!
But the Acid has duly been lower'd, and bites Only just where the visible metal invites, Like a nature inclined to meet troubles; And behold! as each slender and glittering line Effervesces, you trace the completed design In an elegant bead-work of bubbles!
And yet constantly secretly eating its way, The shrewd acid is making the substance its prey, Like some sorrow beyond inquisition, Which is gnawing the heart and the brain all the while That the face is illumed by its cheerfullest smile, And the wit is in bright ebullition.
But still stealthily feeding, the treacherous stuff Has corroded and deepen'd some portions enough— The pure sky, and the waters so placid— And these tenderer tints to defend from attack, With some turpentine varnish and sooty lamp-black You must stop out the ferreting acid.
But before with the varnishing brush you proceed, Let the plate with cold water be thoroughly freed From the other less innocent liquor— After which, on whatever you want to protect, Put a coat that will act to that very effect, Like the black one which hangs on the Vicar.
Then—the varnish well dried—urge the biting again, But how long at its meal the eau forte may remain, Time and practice alone can determine: But of course not so long that the Mountain, and Mill, The rude Bridge, and the Figures, whatever you will, Are as black as the spots on your ermine.
It is true, none the less, that a dark-looking scrap, With a sort of Blackheath, and Black Forest, mayhap, Is consider'd as rather Rembrandty; And that very black cattle and very black sheep, A black dog, and a shepherd as black as a sweep, Are the pets of some great Dilettante.
So with certain designers, one needs not to name, All this life is a dark scene of sorrow and shame, From our birth to our final adjourning— Yea, this excellent earth and its glories, alack! What with ravens, palls, cottons, and devils, as black As a Warehouse for Family Mourning!
But before your own picture arrives at that pitch, While the lights are still light, and the shadows, though rich, More transparent than ebony shutters, Never minding what Black-Arted critics may say, Stop the biting, and pour the green fluid away, As you please, into bottles or gutters.
Then removing the ground and the wax at a heat, Cleanse the surface with oil, spermaceti or sweet, For your hand a performance scarce proper— So some careful professional person secure— For the Laundress will not be a safe amateur— To assist you in cleaning the copper.
And, in truth, 'tis a rather unpleasantish job, To be done on a hot German stove, or a hob— Though as sure of an instant forgetting, When—as after the dark clearing-off of a storm— The fair Landscape shines out in a lustre as warm As the glow of the sun, in its setting!
Thus your Etching complete, it remains but to hint, That with certain assistance from paper and print, Which the proper Mechanic will settle, You may charm all your Friends—without any sad tale Of such perils and ills as beset Lady Sale— With a fine India Proof of your Metal.
[Footnote 43: "The Deserted Village." Illustrated by the Etching Club.]
A TALE OF A TRUMPET.
"Old woman, old woman, will you go a-shearing? Speak a little louder, for I'm very hard of hearing." Old Ballad.
Of all old women hard of hearing, The deafest, sure, was Dame Eleanor Spearing! On her head, it is true, Two flaps there grew, That served for a pair of gold rings to go through, But for any purpose of ears in a parley, They heard no more than ears of barley.
No hint was needed from D.E.F. You saw in her face that the woman was deaf; From her twisted mouth to her eyes so peery, Each queer feature asked a query; A look that said in a silent way, "Who? and What? and How? and Eh? I'd give my ears to know what you say!"
And well she might! for each auricular Was deaf as a post—and that post in particular That stands at the corner of Dyott Street now, And never hears a word of a row! Ears that might serve her now and then As extempore racks for an idle pen; Or to hang with hoops from jewellers' shops With coral, ruby, or garnet drops; Or, provided the owner so inclined, Ears to stick a blister behind; But as for hearing wisdom, or wit, Falsehood, or folly, or tell-tale-tit, Or politics, whether of Fox or Pitt, Sermon, lecture, or musical bit, Harp, piano, fiddle, or kit, They might as well, for any such wish, Have been butter'd, done brown, and laid in a dish! She was deaf as a post,—as said before— And as deaf as twenty similes more, Including the adder, that deafest of snakes, Which never hears the coil it makes.
She was deaf as a house—which modern tricks Of language would call as deaf as bricks— For her all human kind were dumb, Her drum, indeed, was so muffled a drum, That none could get a sound to come, Unless the Devil who had Two Sticks! She was deaf as a stone—say, one of the stones Demosthenes suck'd to improve his tones; And surely deafness no further could reach Than to be in his mouth without hearing his speech!
She was deaf as a nut—for nuts, no doubt, Are deaf to the grub that's hollowing out— As deaf, alas! as the dead and forgotten— (Gray has noticed the waste of breath, In addressing the "dull, cold ear of death"), Or the Felon's ear that was stuff'd with Cotton— Or Charles the First in statue quo; Or the still-born figures of Madame Tussaud, With their eyes of glass, and their hair of flax, That only stare whatever you "ax," For their ears, you know, are nothing but wax.
She was deaf as the ducks that swam in the pond, And wouldn't listen to Mrs. Bond,— As deaf as any Frenchman appears, When he puts his shoulders into his ears: And—whatever the citizen tells his son— As deaf as Gog and Magog at one! Or, still to be a simile-seeker, As deaf as dogs'-ears to Enfield's Speaker!
She was deaf as any tradesman's dummy, Or as Pharaoh's mother's mother's mummy; Whose organs, for fear of our modern sceptics, Were plugg'd with gums and antiseptics.
She was deaf as a nail—that you cannot hammer A meaning into for all your clamor— There never was such a deaf old Gammer! So formed to worry Both Lindley and Murray, By having no ear for Music or Grammar!
Deaf to sounds, as a ship out of soundings, Deaf to verbs, and all their compoundings, Adjective, noun, and adverb, and particle, Deaf to even the definite article— No verbal message was worth a pin, Though you hired an earwig to carry it in!
In short, she was twice as deaf as Deaf Burke, Or all the Deafness in Yearsley's work, Who in spite of his skill in hardness of hearing, Boring, blasting, and pioneering, To give the dunny organ a clearing, Could never have cured Dame Eleanor Spearing.
Of course the loss was a great privation, For one of her sex—whatever her station— And none the less that the Dame had a turn For making all families one concern, And learning whatever there was to learn In the prattling, tattling village of Tringham— As who wore silk? and who wore gingham? And what the Atkins's shop might bring 'em? How the Smiths contrived to live? and whether The fourteen Murphys all pigg'd together? The wages per week of the Weavers and Skinners, And what they boil'd for their Sunday dinners? What plates the Bugsbys had on the shelf, Crockery, china, wooden, or delf? And if the parlor of Mrs. O'Grady Had a wicked French print, or Death and the Lady?
Did Snip and his wife continue to jangle? Had Mrs. Wilkinson sold her mangle? What liquor was drunk by Jones and Brown? And the weekly score they ran up at the Crown? If the Cobbler could read, and believed in the Pope? And how the Grubbs were off for soap? If the Snobbs had furnish'd their room upstairs, And how they managed for tables and chairs, Beds, and other household affairs, Iron, wooden, and Staffordshire wares? And if they could muster a whole pair of bellows? In fact, she had much of the spirit that lies Perdu in a notable set of Paul Prys, By courtesy called Statistical Fellows— A prying, spying, inquisitive clan, Who have gone upon much of the self-same plan, Jotting the Laboring Class's riches; And after poking in pot and pan, And routing garments in want of stitches, Have ascertained that a working man Wears a pair and a quarter of average breeches!
But this, alas! from her loss of hearing, Was all a seal'd book to Dame Eleanor Spearing; And often her tears would rise to their founts— Supposing a little scandal at play 'Twixt Mrs. O'Fie and Mrs. An Fait— That she couldn't audit the Gossips' accounts. 'Tis true, to her cottage still they came, And ate her muffins just the same, And drank the tea of the widow'd Dame, And never swallow'd a thimble the less Of something the Reader is left to guess, For all the deafness of Mrs. S., Who saw them talk, and chuckle, and cough, But to see and not share in the social flow, She might as well have lived, you know, In one of the houses in Owen's Row, Near the New River Head, with its water cut off
And yet the almond-oil she had tried, And fifty infallible things beside, Hot, and cold, and thick, and thin, Dabb'd, and dribbled, and squirted in: But all remedies fail'd; and though some it was clear (Like the brandy and salt We now exalt) Had made a noise in the public ear, She was just as deaf as ever, poor dear!
At last—one very fine day in June— Suppose her sitting, Busily knitting, And humming she didn't quite know what tune; For nothing she heard but a sort of a whizz, Which, unless the sound of the circulation, Or of Thoughts in the process of fabrication, By a Spinning-Jennyish operation, It's hard to say what buzzing it is. However, except that ghost of a sound, She sat in a silence most profound— The cat was purring about the mat, But her Mistress heard no more of that Than if it had been a boatswain's cat; And as for the clock the moments nicking, The Dame only gave it credit for ticking. The bark of her dog she did not catch; Nor yet the click of the lifted latch; Nor yet the creak of the opening door; Nor yet the fall of a foot on the floor— But she saw the shadow that crept on her gown And turn'd its skirt of a darker brown.
And lo! a man! a Pedlar! ay, marry, With the little back-shop that such tradesmen carry Stock'd with brooches, ribbons, and rings, Spectacles, razors, and other odd things, For lad and lass, as Autolycus sings; A chapman for goodness and cheapness of ware, Held a fair dealer enough at a fair, But deem'd a piratical sort of invader By him we dub the "regular trader," Who—luring the passengers in as they pass By lamps, gay panels, and mouldings of brass, And windows with only one huge pane of glass, And his name in gilt characters, German or Roman,— If he isn't a Pedlar, at least he's a Showman!
However, in the stranger came, And, the moment he met the eyes of the Dame, Threw her as knowing a nod as though He had known her fifty long years ago; And presto! before she could utter "Jack"— Much less "Robinson"—open'd his pack— And then from amongst his portable gear, With even more than a Pedlar's tact,— (Slick himself might have envied the act)— Before she had time to be deaf, in fact— Popp'd a Trumpet into her ear.
"There, Ma'am! try it! You needn't buy it— The last New Patent—and nothing comes nigh it For affording the Deaf, at a little expense, The sense of hearing, and hearing of sense! A Real Blessing—and no mistake, Invented for poor Humanity's sake; For what can be a greater privation Than playing Dummy to all creation, And only looking at conversation— Great Philosophers talking like Platos, And Members of Parliament moral as Catos, And your ears as dull as waxy potatoes! Not to name the mischievous quizzers, Sharp as knives, but double as scissors, Who get you to answer quite by guess Yes for No, and No for Yes." ("That's very true," says Dame Eleanor S.)
"Try it again! No harm in trying— I'm sure you'll find it worth your buying, A little practice—that is all— And you'll hear a whisper, however small, Through an Act of Parliament party-wall,— Every syllable clear as day, And even what people are going to say— I wouldn't tell a lie, I wouldn't, But my Trumpets have heard what Solomon's couldn't; And as for Scott he promises fine, But can he warrant his horns like mine Never to hear what a Lady shouldn't— Only a guinea—and can't take less." ("That's very dear," says Dame Eleanor S.)
"Dear!—Oh dear, to call it dear! Why it isn't a horn you buy, but an ear; Only think, you'll find on reflection You're bargaining, Ma'am, for the Voice of Affection; For the language of Wisdom, and Virtue, and Truth, And the sweet little innocent prattle of youth: Not to mention the striking of clocks—, Cackle of hens—crowing of cocks— Lowing of cow, and bull, and ox— Bleating of pretty pastoral flocks— Murmur of waterfall over the rocks— Every sound that Echo mocks— Vocals, fiddles, and musical-box— And zounds! to call such a concert dear! But I musn't swear with my horn in your ear. Why, in buying that Trumpet you buy all those That Harper, or any trumpeter, blows At the Queen's Levees or the Lord Mayor's Shows, At least as far as the music goes, Including the wonderful lively sound, Of the Guards' keg-bugles all the year round: Come—suppose we call it a pound! "Come," said the talkative Man of the Pack, "Before I put my box on my back, For this elegant, useful Conductor of Sound, Come—suppose we call it a pound!
"Only a pound! it's only the price Of hearing a Concert once or twice, It's only the fee You might give Mr. C. And after all not hear his advice, But common prudence would bid you stump it; For, not to enlarge, It's the regular charge At a Fancy Fair for a penny trumpet. Lord! what's a pound to the blessing of hearing!" ("A pound's a pound," said Dame Eleanor Spearing.)
"Try it again! no harm in trying! A pound's a pound there's no denying; But think what thousands and thousands of pounds We pay for nothing but hearing sounds: Sounds of Equity, Justice, and Law, Parliamentary jabber and jaw, Pious cant and moral saw, Hocus-pocus, and Nong-tong-paw, And empty sounds not worth a straw; Why it costs a guinea, as I'm a sinner, To hear the sounds at a Public Dinner! One pound one thrown into the puddle, To listen to Fiddle, Faddle, and Fuddle! Not to forget the sounds we buy From those who sell their sounds so high, That, unless the Managers pitch it strong, To get a Signora to warble a song, You must fork out the blunt with a haymaker's prong!
"It's not the thing for me—I know it, To crack my own Trumpet up and blow it; But it is the best, and time will show it, There was Mrs. F. So very deaf, That she might have worn a percussion-cap, And been knock'd on the head without hearing it snap. Well, I sold her a horn, and the very next day She heard from her husband at Botany Bay! Come—eighteen shillings—that's very low, You'll save the money as shillings go, And I never knew so bad a lot, By hearing whether they ring or not!
"Eighteen shillings! it's worth the price, Supposing you're delicate-minded and nice, To have the medical man of your choice, Instead of the one with the strongest voice— Who comes and asks you, how's your liver, And where you ache, and whether you shiver, And as to your nerves, so apt to quiver, As if he was hailing a boat in the river! And then with a shout, like Pat in a riot, Tells you to keep yourself perfectly quiet! Or a tradesman comes—as tradesmen will— Short and crusty about his bill, Of patience, indeed, a perfect scorner, And because you're deaf and unable to pay, Shouts whatever he has to say, In a vulgar voice, that goes over the way, Down the street and round the corner! Come—speak your mind—it's 'No or Yes,'" ("I've half a mind," said Dame Eleanor S.)
"Try it again—no harm in trying, Of course you hear me, as easy as lying; No pain at all, like a surgical trick, To make you squall, and struggle, and kick, Like Juno, or Rose, Whose ear undergoes Such horrid tugs at membrane and gristle, For being as deaf as yourself to a whistle!
"You may go to surgical chaps if you choose, Who will blow up your tubes like copper flues, Or cut your tonsils right away, As you'd shell out your almonds for Christmas-day; And after all a matter of doubt, Whether you ever would hear the shout: Of the little blackguards that bawl about, 'There you go with your tonsils out!' Why I knew a deaf Welshman, who came from Glamorgan On purpose to try a surgical spell, And paid a guinea, and might as well Have call'd a monkey into his organ! For the Aurist only took a mug, And pour'd in his ear some acoustical drug, That, instead of curing, deafen'd him rather, As Hamlet's uncle served Hamlet's father! That's the way with your surgical gentry! And happy your luck If you don't get stuck Through your liver and lights at a royal entry, Because you never answer'd the sentry!
"Try it again, dear Madam, try it! Many would sell their beds to buy it. I warrant you often wake up in the night, Ready to shake to a jelly with fright, And up you must get to strike a light, And down you go, in you know what, Whether the weather is chilly or hot,— That's the way a cold is got,— To see if you heard a noise or not!"
"Why, bless you, a woman with organs like yours Is hardly safe to step out of doors! Just fancy a horse that comes full pelt, But as quiet as if he was 'shod with felt,' Till he rushes against you with all his force, And then I needn't describe the course, While he kicks you about without remorse, How awkward it is to be groom'd by a horse! Or a bullock comes, as mad as King Lear, And you never dream that the brute is near, Till he pokes his horn right into your ear, Whether you like the thing or lump it,— And all for want of buying a trumpet!
"I'm not a female to fret and vex, But if I belonged to the sensitive sex, Exposed to all sorts of indelicate sounds, I wouldn't be deaf for a thousand pounds. Lord! only think of chucking a copper To Jack or Bob with a timber limb, Who looks as if he was singing a hymn, Instead of a song that's very improper! Or just suppose in a public place You see a great fellow a-pulling a face, With his staring eyes and his mouth like an O,— And how is a poor deaf lady to know,— The lower orders are up to such games— If he's calling 'Green Peas,' or calling her names?" ("They're tenpence a peck!" said the deafest of Dames.)
"'Tis strange what very strong advising, By word of mouth, or advertising, By chalking on walls, or placarding on vans, With fifty other different plans, The very high pressure, in fact, of pressing, It needs to persuade one to purchase a blessing! Whether the Soothing American Syrup, A Safety Hat, or a Safety Stirrup,— Infallible Pills for the human frame, Or Rowland's O-don't-o (an ominous name), A Doudney's suit which the shape so hits That it beats all others into fits; A Mechi's razor for beards unshorn, Or a Ghost-of-a-Whisper-Catching Horn!
"Try it again, Ma'am, only try!" Was still the voluble Pedlar's cry; "It's a great privation, there's no dispute, To live like the dumb unsociable brute, And to hear no more of the pro and con, And how Society's going on, Than Mumbo Jumbo or Prester John, And all for want of this sine qua non; Whereas, with a horn that never offends, You may join the genteelest party that is, And enjoy all the scandal, and gossip, and quiz, And be certain to hear of your absent friends;— Not that elegant ladies, in fact, In genteel society ever detract, Or lend a brush when a friend is black'd,— At least as a mere malicious act,— But only talk scandal for fear some fool Should think they were bred at charity school. Or, maybe, you like a little flirtation, Which even the most Don Juanish rake Would surely object to undertake At the same high pitch as an altercation. It's not for me, of course, to judge How much a Deaf Lady ought to begrudge; But half-a-guinea seems no great matter— Letting alone more rational patter— Only to hear a parrot chatter: Not to mention that feather'd wit, The Starling, who speaks when his tongue is slit; The Pies and Jays that utter words, And other Dicky Gossips of birds, That talk with as much good sense and decorum, As many Beaks who belong to the quorum.
"Try it—buy it—say ten and six, The lowest price a miser could fix: I don't pretend with horns of mine, Like some in the advertising line, To 'magnify sounds' on such marvellous scales, That the sounds of a cod seem as big as a whale's; But popular rumors, right or wrong,— Charity sermons, short or long,— Lecture, speech, concerto, or song, All noises and voices, feeble or strong, From the hum of a gnat to the clash of a gong, This tube will deliver distinct and clear; Or, supposing by chance You wish to dance, Why, it's putting a Horn-pipe into your ear! Try it—buy it! Buy it—try it! The last New Patent, and nothing comes nigh it, For guiding sounds to their proper tunnel: Only try till the end of June, And if you and the Trumpet are out of tune I'll turn it gratis into a funnel!"
In short, the Pedlar so beset her,— Lord Bacon couldn't have gammon'd her better,— With flatteries plump and indirect, And plied his tongue with such effect,— A tongue that could almost have butter'd a crumpet,— The deaf old woman bought the Trumpet.
* * * * *
The Pedlar was gone. With the horn's assistance, She heard his steps die away in the distance; And then she heard the tick of the clock, The purring of puss, and the snoring of Shock; And she purposely dropped a pin that was little, And heard it fall as plain as a skittle!
'Twas a wonderful Horn, to be but just! Nor meant to gather dust, must and rust; So in half a jiffy, or less than that, In her scarlet cloak and her steeple-hat, Like old Dame Trot, but without her cat, The Gossip was hunting all Tringham thorough, As if she meant to canvass the borough, Trumpet in hand, or up to the cavity;— And, sure, had the horn been one of those The wild Rhinoceros wears on his nose, It couldn't have ripped up more depravity!
Depravity! mercy shield her ears! 'Twas plain enough that her village peers In the ways of vice were no raw beginners; For whenever she raised the tube to her drum Such sounds were transmitted as only come From the very Brass Band of human sinners! Ribald jest and blasphemous curse (Bunyan never vented worse), With all those weeds, not flowers, of speech Which the Seven Dialecticians teach; Filthy Conjunctions, and Dissolute Nouns, And Particles pick'd from the kennels of towns, With Irregular Verbs for irregular jobs, Chiefly active in rows and mobs, Picking Possessive Pronouns' fobs, And Interjections as bad as a blight, Or an Eastern blast, to the blood and the sight; Fanciful phrases for crime and sin, And smacking of vulgar lips where Gin, Garlic, Tobacco, and offals go in— A jargon so truly adapted, in fact, To each thievish, obscene, and ferocious act, So fit for the brute with the human shape, Savage Baboon, or libidinous Ape, From their ugly mouths it will certainly come Should they ever get weary of shamming dumb!
Alas! for the Voice of Virtue and Truth, And the sweet little innocent prattle of Youth! The smallest urchin whose tongue could tang, Shock'd the Dame with a volley of slang, Fit for Fagin's juvenile gang; While the charity chap, With his muffin cap, His crimson coat, and his badge so garish, Playing at dumps, or pitch in the hole, Cursed his eyes, limbs, body, and soul, As if they didn't belong to the Parish!
'Twas awful to hear, as she went along, The wicked words of the popular song; Or supposing she listen'd—as gossips will— At a door ajar, or a window agape, To catch the sounds they allow'd to escape, Those sounds belonged to Depravity still! The dark allusion, or bolder brag Of the dexterous "dodge", and the lots of "swag", The plunder'd house—or the stolen nag— The blazing rick, or the darker crime, That quench'd the spark before its time— The wanton speech of the wife immoral— The noise of drunken or deadly quarrel, With savage menace, which threaten'd the life, Till the heart seem'd merely a strop "for the knife"; The human liver, no better than that Which is sliced and thrown to an old woman's cat; And the head, so useful for shaking and nodding, To be punch'd into holes, like "a shocking bad hat," That is only fit to be punch'd into wadding!
In short, wherever she turn'd the horn, To the highly bred, or the lowly born, The working man, who look'd over the hedge, Or the mother nursing her infant pledge, The sober Quaker, averse to quarrels, Or the Governess pacing the village through, With her twelve Young Ladies, two and two, Looking, as such young ladies do, Truss'd by Decorum and stuff'd with morals— Whether she listen'd to Hob or Bob, Nob or Snob, The Squire on his cob, Or Trudge and his ass at a tinkering job, To the "Saint" who expounded at "Little Zion"— Or the "Sinner" who kept "the Golden Lion"— The man teetotally wean'd from liquor— The Beadle, the Clerk, or the Reverend Vicar— Nay, the very Pie in its cage of wicker— She gather'd such meanings, double or single, That like the bell With muffins to sell, Her ear was kept in a constant tingle!
But this was nought to the tales of shame, The constant runnings of evil fame, Foul, and dirty, and black as ink, That her ancient cronies, with nod and wink, Pour'd in her horn like slops in a sink: While sitting in conclave, as gossips do, With their Hyson or Howqua, black or green, And not a little of feline spleen Lapp'd up in "Catty packages," too, To give a zest of the sipping and supping; For still by some invisible tether, Scandal and Tea are link'd together, As surely as Scarification and Cupping; Yet never since Scandal drank Bohea— Or sloe, or whatever it happen'd to be, For some grocerly thieves Turn over new leaves, Without much amending their lives or their tea— No, never since cup was fill'd or stirr'd Were such wild and horrible anecdotes heard, As blacken'd their neighbors of either gender, Especially that, which is call'd the Tender, But, instead of the softness we fancy therewith, Was harden'd in vice as the vice of a smith.
Women! the wretches! had soil'd and marr'd Whatever to womanly nature belongs; For the marriage tie they had no regard, Nay, sped their mates to the sexton's yard, (Like Madame Laffarge, who with poisonous pinches Kept cutting off her L by inches)— And as for drinking, they drank so hard That they drank their flat-irons, pokers, and tongs!
The men—they fought and gambled at fairs; And poach'd—and didn't respect gray hairs— Stole linen, money, plate, poultry, and corses; And broke in houses as well as horses; Unfolded folds to kill their own mutton,— And would their own mothers and wives for a button: But not to repeat the deeds they did, Backsliding in spite of all moral skid, If all were true that fell from the tongue, There was not a villager, old or young, But deserved to be whipp'd, imprison'd, or hung, Or sent on those travels which nobody hurries To publish at Colburn's, or Longman's, or Murray's. Meanwhile the Trumpet, con amore, Transmitted each vile diabolical story; And gave the least whisper of slips and falls, As that Gallery does in the Dome of St. Paul's, Which, as all the world knows, by practice or print, Is famous for making the most of a hint. Not a murmur of shame, Or buzz of blame, Not a flying report that flew at a name, Not a plausible gloss, or significant note, Not a word in the scandalous circles afloat, Of a beam in the eye, or diminutive mote, But vortex-like that tube of tin Suck'd the censorious particle in; And, truth to tell, for as willing an organ As ever listen'd to serpent's hiss, Nor took the viperous sound amiss, On the snaky head of an ancient Gorgon!
The Dame, it is true, would mutter "Shocking!" And give her head a sorrowful rocking, And make a clucking with palate and tongue, Like the call of Partlet to gather her young, A sound, when human, that always proclaims At least a thousand pities and shames; But still the darker the tale of sin, Like certain folks, when calamities burst, Who find a comfort in "hearing the worst," The farther she poked the Trumpet in. Nay, worse, whatever she heard, she spread East and West, and North and South, Like the ball which, according to Captain Z, Went in at his ear, and came out at his mouth.
What wonder between the Horn and the Dame, Such mischief was made wherever they came, That the parish of Tringham was all in a flame! For although it required such loud discharges, Such peals of thunder as rumbled at Lear, To turn the smallest of table-beer, A little whisper breathed into the ear Will sour a temper "as sour as varges," In fact such very ill blood there grew, From this private circulation of stories, That the nearest neighbors the village through, Look'd at each other as yellow and blue, As any electioneering crew Wearing the colors of Whigs and Tories.
Ah! well the Poet said, in sooth, That "whispering tongues can poison Truth,"— Yea, like a dose of oxalic acid, Wrench and convulse poor Peace, the placid, And rack dear Love with internal fuel, Like arsenic pastry, or what is as cruel, Sugar of lead, that sweetens gruel,— At least such torments began to wring 'em From the very morn When that mischievous Horn Caught the whisper of tongues in Tringham.
The Social Clubs dissolved in huffs, And the Sons of Harmony came to cuffs, While feuds arose and family quarrels, That discomposed the mechanics of morals, For screws were loose between brother and brother, While sisters fasten'd their nails on each other; Such wrangles, and jangles, and miff, and tiff, And spar, and jar—and breezes as stiff As ever upset a friendship—or skiff! The plighted lovers, who used to walk, Refused to meet, and declined to talk; And wish'd for two moons to reflect the sun, That they mightn't look together on one; While wedded affection ran so low, That the oldest John Anderson snubbed his Jo— And instead of the toddle adown the hill, Hand in hand, As the song has planned, Scratch'd her, penniless, out of his will!
In short, to describe what came to pass In a true, though somewhat theatrical way, Instead of "Love in a Village"—alas! The piece they perform'd was "The Devil to Pay!" However, as secrets are brought to light, And mischief comes home like chickens at night; And rivers are track'd throughout their course, And forgeries traced to their proper source;— And the sow that ought By the ear is caught,— And the sin to the sinful door is brought; And the cat at last escapes from the bag— And the saddle is placed on the proper nag; And the fog blows off, and the key is found— And the faulty scent is pick'd out by the hound— And the fact turns up like a worm from the ground— And the matter gets wind to waft it about; And a hint goes abroad, and the murder is out— And the riddle is guess'd—and the puzzle is known— So the truth was sniff'd, and the Trumpet was blown!
* * * * *
'Tis a day in November—a day of fog— But the Tringham people are all agog; Fathers, Mothers, and Mother's Sons,— With sticks, and staves, and swords, and guns,— As if in pursuit of a rabid dog; But their voices—raised to the highest pitch— Declare that the game is "a Witch!—a Witch!"
Over the Green, and along by The George— Past the Stocks, and the Church, and the Forge, And round the Pound, and skirting the Pond, Till they come to the whitewash'd cottage beyond, And there at the door they muster and cluster, And thump, and kick, and bellow, and bluster— Enough to put Old Nick in a fluster! A noise, indeed, so loud and long, And mix'd with expressions so very strong, That supposing, according to popular fame, "Wise Woman" and Witch to be the same, No hag with a broom would unwisely stop, But up and away through the chimney-top; Whereas, the moment they burst the door, Planted fast on her sanded floor, With her Trumpet up to her organ of hearing, Lo and behold!—Dame Eleanor Spearing!
Oh! then arises the fearful shout— Bawl'd and scream'd, and bandied about— "Seize her!—Drag the old Jezebel out!" While the Beadle—the foremost of all the band, Snatches the Horn from her trembling hand— And after a pause of doubt and fear, Puts it up to his sharpest ear.
"Now silence—silence—one and all!" For the Clerk is quoting from Holy Paul! But before he rehearses A couple of verses, The Beadle lets the Trumpet fall: For instead of the words so pious and humble, He hears a supernatural grumble.
Enough, enough! and more than enough;— Twenty impatient hands and rough, By arm, and leg, and neck, and scruff, Apron, 'kerchief, gown of stuff— Cap, and pinner, sleeve, and cuff— Are clutching the Witch wherever they can, With the spite of Woman and fury of Man; And then—but first they kill her cat, And murder her dog on the very mat— And crush the infernal Trumpet flat;— And then they hurry her through the door She never, never will enter more!
Away! away! down the dusty lane They pull her, and haul her, with might and main; And happy the hawbuck, Tom or Harry, Dandy, or Sandy, Jerry, or Larry, Who happens to get "a leg to carry!" And happy the foot that can give her a kick, And happy the hand that can find a brick— And happy the fingers that hold a stick— Knife to cut, or pin to prick— And happy the Boy who can lend her a lick;— Nay, happy the urchin—Charity-bred,— "Who can shy very nigh to her wicked, old head!"
Alas! to think how people's creeds Are contradicted by people's deeds! But though the wishes that Witches utter Can play the most diabolical rigs— Send styes in the eye—and measle the pigs— Grease horses' heels—and spoil the butter; Smut and mildew the corn on the stalk— And turn new milk to water and chalk,— Blight apples—and give the chickens the pip— And cramp the stomach—and cripple the hip— And waste the body—and addle the eggs— And give a baby bandy legs; Though in common belief a Witch's curse Involves all these horrible things, and worse— As ignorant bumpkins all profess, No bumpkin makes a poke the less At the back or ribs of old Eleanor S.! As if she were only a sack of barley! Or gives her credit for greater might Than the Powers of Darkness confer at night On that other old woman, the parish Charley!
Ay, now's the time for a Witch to call On her Imps and Sucklings one and all— Newes, Pyewacket, or Peck in the Crown, (As Matthew Hopkins has handed them down) Dick, and Willet, and Sugar-and-Sack, Greedy Grizel, Jarmara the Black, Vinegar Tom and the rest of the pack— Ay, now's the nick for her friend Old Harry To come "with his tail" like the bold Glengarry, And drive her foes from their savage job As a mad Black Bullock would scatter a mob:— But no such matter is down in the bond; And spite of her cries that never cease, But scare the ducks and astonish the geese, The Dame is dragg'd to the fatal pond!
And now they come to the water's brim— And in they bundle her—sink or swim; Though it's twenty to one that the wretch must drown, With twenty sticks to hold her down; Including the help to the self-same end, Which a travelling Pedlar stops to lend. A Pedlar!—Yes!—The same!—the same! Who sold the Horn to the drowning Dame!
And now is foremost amid the stir With a token only reveal'd to her; A token that makes her shudder and shriek, And point with her finger, and strive to speak— But before she can utter the name of the Devil, Her head is under the water level!
There are folks about town—to name no names— Who much resemble that deafest of Dames! And over their tea, and muffins, and crumpets, Circulate many a scandalous word, And whisper tales they could only have heard Through some such Diabolical Trumpets!
A ROMANCE OF THE IRON AGE.
"Who's here, beside foul weather?"—KING LEAR.
"Mine enemy's dog, though he had bit me, Should have stood that night against my fire" —CORDELIA
[Footnote 44: This Poem was doubtless one of the results of Hood's residence in Germany. It is suggested apparently in about equal proportions by the Walpurgis-night in Faust, and Schiller's Gang nach dem Eisenhammer. Possibly Hood had been stirred up to the attempt by Retzsch's outlines. He has mixed up localities with the utmost freedom, the Harz, the Black Forest, and the Scene of Schiller's Poem. The influence of the Ingoldsby Legends is obvious throughout.]
Like a dead man gone to his shroud, The sun has sunk in a copper cloud, And the wind is rising squally and loud With many a stormy token,— Playing a wild funereal air Through the branches bleak, bereaved, and bare, To the dead leaves dancing here and there— In short, if the truth were spoken, It's an ugly night for anywhere, But an awful one for the Brocken!
For oh! to stop On that mountain top, After the dews of evening drop, Is always a dreary frolic— Then what must it be when nature groans, And the very mountain murmurs and moans As if it writhed with the cholic— With other strange supernatural tones, From wood, and water, and echoing stones, Not to forget unburied bones— In a region so diabolic!
A place where he whom we call Old Scratch, By help of his Witches—a precious batch— Gives midnight concerts and sermons, In a Pulpit and Orchestra built to match, A plot right worthy of him to hatch, And well adapted, he knows, to catch The musical, mystical Germans!
However it's quite As wild a night As ever was known on that sinister height Since the Demon-Dance was morriced— The earth is dark, and the sky is scowling, And the blast through the pines is howling and growling, As if a thousand wolves were prowling About in the old BLACK FOREST!
Madly, sadly, the Tempest raves Through the narrow gullies and hollow caves, And bursts on the rocks in windy waves, Like the billows that roar On a gusty shore Mourning over the mariners' graves— Nay, more like a frantic lamentation From a howling set Of demons met To wake a dead relation.
Badly, madly, the vapors fly Over the dark distracted sky, At a pace that no pen can paint! Black and vague like the shadows of dreams, Scudding over the moon that seems, Shorn of half her usual beams, As pale as if she would faint!
The lightning flashes, The thunder crashes, The trees encounter with horrible clashes, While rolling up from marsh and bog, Rank and rich, As from Stygian ditch, Rises a foul sulphureous fog, Hinting that Satan himself is agog,— But leaving at once this heroical pitch, The night is a very bad night in which You wouldn't turn out a dog.
Yet ONE there is abroad in the storm, And whenever by chance The moon gets a glance, She spies the Traveller's lonely form, Walking, leaping, striding along, As none can do but the super-strong; And flapping his arms to keep him warm, For the breeze from the North is a regular starver, And to tell the truth, More keen, in sooth, And cutting than any German carver!
However, no time it is to lag, And on he scrambles from crag to crag, Like one determined never to flag— Now weathers a block Of jutting rock, With hardly room for a toe to wag; But holding on by a timber snag, That looks like the arm of a friendly hag; Then stooping under a drooping bough, Or leaping over some horrid chasm, Enough to give any heart a spasm! And sinking down a precipice now, Keeping his feet the Deuce knows how, In spots whence all creatures would keep aloof, Except the Goat, with his cloven hoof, Who clings to the shallowest ledge as if He grew like the weed on the face of the cliff! So down, still down, the Traveller goes, Safe as the Chamois amid his snows, Though fiercer than ever the hurricane blows, And round him eddy, with whirl and whizz, Tornadoes of hail, and sleet, and rain, Enough to bewilder a weaker brain, Or blanch any other visage than his, Which spite of lightning, thunder and hail, The blinding sleet and the freezing gale, And the horrid abyss, If his foot should miss, Instead of tending at all to pale, Like cheeks that feel the chill of affright— Remains the very reverse of white!
His heart is granite—his iron nerve Feels no convulsive twitches; And as to his foot, it does not swerve, Tho' the Screech-Owls are flitting about him that serve For parrots to Brocken Witches!
Nay, full in his very path he spies The gleam of the Were Wolf's horrid eyes; But if his members quiver— It is not for that—no, it is not for that— Nor rat, Nor cat, As black as your hat, Nor the snake that hiss'd, nor the toad that spat, Nor glimmering candles of dead men's fat, Nor even the flap of the Vampire Bat, No anserine skin would rise thereat, It's the cold that makes Him shiver!
So down, still down, through gully and glen, Never trodden by foot of men, Past the Eagle's nest and the She-Wolf's den, Never caring a jot how steep Or how narrow the track he has to keep, Or how wide and deep An abyss to leap, Or what may fly, or walk, or creep, Down he hurries through darkness and storm, Flapping his arms to keep him warm— Till threading many a pass abhorrent, At last he reaches the mountain gorge, And takes a path along by a torrent— The very identical path, by St. George!
Down which young Fridolin went to the Forge, With a message meant for his own death-warrant!
Young Fridolin! young Fridolin! So free from sauce, and sloth, and sin, The best of pages Whatever their ages, Since first that singular fashion came in— Not he like those modern and idle young gluttons With little jackets, so smart and spruce, Of Lincoln green, sky-blue, or puce— A little gold lace you may introduce— Very showy, but as for use, Not worth so many buttons!
Young Fridolin! young Fridolin! Of his duty so true a fulfiller— But here we need no farther go For whoever desires the Tale to know, May read it all in Schiller.
Faster now the Traveller speeds, Whither his guiding beacon leads. For by yonder glare In the murky air, He knows that the Eisen Hutte is there! With its sooty Cyclops, savage and grim Hosts, a guest had better forbear, Whose thoughts are set upon dainty fare— But stiff with cold in every limb, The Furnace Fire is the bait for Him!
Faster and faster still he goes. Whilst redder and redder the welkin glows, And the lowest clouds that scud in the sky Get crimson fringes in flitting by. Till lo! amid the lurid light, The darkest object intensely dark, Just where the bright is intensely bright, The Forge, the Forge itself is in sight, Like the pitch-black hull of a burning bark, With volleying smoke, and many a spark, Vomiting fire, red, yellow, and white!
Restless, quivering tongues of flame! Heavenward striving still to go, While others, reversed in the stream, below, Seem seeking a place we will not name, But well that Traveller knows the same, Who stops and stands, So rubbing his hands, And snuffing the rare Perfumes in the air, For old familiar odors are there, And then direct by the shortest cut, Like Alpine Marmot, whom neither rut, Rivers, rocks, nor thickets rebut, Makes his way to the blazing Hut!
Idly watching the Furnace-flames, The men of the stithy Are in their smithy, Brutal monsters, with bulky frames, Beings Humanity scarcely claims, But hybrids rather of demon race, Unbless'd by the holy rite of grace, Who never had gone by Christian names, Mark, or Matthew, Peter, or James— Naked, foul, unshorn, unkempt, From touch of natural shame exempt, Things of which Delirium has dreamt— But wherefore dwell on these verbal sketches, When traced with frightful truth and vigor, Costume, attitude, face, and figure, Retsch has drawn the very wretches!
However, there they lounge about, The grim, gigantic fellows, Hardly hearing the storm without, That makes so very dreadful a rout, For the constant roar From the furnace door. And the blast of the monstrous bellows!
Oh, what a scene That Forge had been For Salvator Rosa's study! With wall, and beam, and post, and pin, And those ruffianly creatures, like Shapes of Sin, Hair, and eyes, and rusty skin, Illumed by a light so ruddy The Hut, and whatever there is therein, Looks either red-hot or bloody!
And, oh! to hear the frequent burst Of strange, extravagant laughter, Harsh and hoarse, And resounding perforce From echoing roof and rafter! Though curses, the worst That ever were curst, And threats that Cain invented the first, Come growling the instant after!
But again the livelier peal is rung, For the Smith, hight Salamander, In the jargon of some Titanic tongue, Elsewhere never said or sung, With the voice of a Stentor in joke has flung Some cumbrous sort Of sledge-hammer retort At Red Beard, the crew's commander.
Some frightful jest—who knows how wild, Or obscene, from a monster so defiled, And a horrible mouth, of such extent, From flapping ear to ear it went, And show'd such tusks whenever it smiled— The very mouth to devour a child!
But fair or foul the jest gives birth To another bellow of demon mirth, That far outroars the weather, As if all the Hyaenas that prowl the earth Had clubb'd their laughs together!
And lo! in the middle of all the din, Not seeming to care a single pin, For a prospect so volcanic, A Stranger steps abruptly in, Of an aspect rather Satanic: And he looks with a grin at those Cyclops grim, Who stare and grin again at him With wondrous little panic.
Then up to the Furnace the Stranger goes, Eager to thaw his ears and nose, And warm his frozen fingers and toes— While each succeeding minute, Hotter and hotter the Smithy grows, And seems to declare, By a fiercer glare, On wall, roof, floor, and everywhere, It knows the Devil is in it!
Still not a word Is utter'd or heard, But the beetle-brow'd Foreman nods and winks, Much as a shaggy old Lion blinks, And makes a shift To impart his drift To a smoky brother, who, joining the links, Hints to a third the thing he thinks; And whatever it be, They all agree In smiling with faces full of glee, As if about to enjoy High Jinks.
What sort of tricks they mean to play By way of diversion, who can say, Of such ferocious and barbarous folk, Who chuckled, indeed, and never spoke Of burning Robert the Jaeger to coke, Except as a capital practical joke! Who never thought of Mercy, or heard her, Or any gentle emotion felt; But hard as the iron they had to melt, Sported with Danger and romp'd with Murder!
Meanwhile the Stranger— The Brocken Ranger, Besides another and hotter post, That renders him not averse to a roast,— Creeping into the Furnace almost, Has made himself as warm as a toast— When, unsuspicious of any danger, And least of all of any such maggot As treating a body like a faggot, All at once he is seized and shoven In pastime cruel, Like so much fuel, Headlong into the blazing oven!
In he goes! with a frightful shout Mock'd by the rugged ruffianly band, As round the Furnace mouth they stand, Bar, and shovel, and ladle in hand, To hinder their Butt from crawling out, Who making one fierce attempt, but vain, Receives such a blow From Red-Beard's crow As crashes the skull and gashes the brain, And blind, and dizzy, and stunn'd with pain, With merely an interjectional "oh!" Back he rolls in the flames again.
"Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho!" That second fall Seerns the very best joke of all, To judge by the roar, Twice as loud as before, That fills the Hut, from the roof to the floor, And flies a league or two out of the door, Up the mountains and over the moor— But scarcely the jolly echoes they wake Have well begun To take up the fun, Ere the shaggy Felons have cause to quake, And begin to feel that the deed they have done, Instead of being a pleasant one, Was a very great error—and no mistake.
For why?—in lieu Of its former hue, So natural, warm, and florid, The Furnace burns of a brimstone blue, And instead of the couleur de rose it threw, With a cooler reflection,—justly due— Exhibits each of the Pagan crew, Livid, ghastly, and horrid! But vainly they close their guilty eyes Against prophetic fears; Or with hard and horny palms devise To dam their enormous ears— There are sounds in the air, Not here or there, Irresistible voices everywhere, No bulwarks can ever rebut, And to match the screams Tremendous gleams, Of Horrors that like the Phantoms of dreams, They see with their eyelids shut! For awful coveys of terrible things, With forked tongues and venomous stings, On hagweed, broomsticks, and leathern wings, Are hovering round the Hut!
Shapes, that within the focus bright Of the Forge, are like shadows and blots; But farther off, in the shades of night, Clothed with their own phosphoric light, Are seen in the darkest spots.
Sounds! that fill the air with noises, Strange and indescribable voices, From Hags, in a diabolical clatter— Cats that spit curses, and apes that chatter Scraps of cabalistical matter— Owls that screech, and dogs that yell— Skeleton hounds that will never be fatter— All the domestic tribes of Hell, Shrieking for flesh to tear and tatter, Bones to shatter, And limbs to scatter, And who it is that must furnish the latter Those blue-looking Men know well! Those blue-looking men that huddle together, For all their sturdy limbs and thews Their unshorn locks, like Nazarene Jews, And buffalo beards, and hides of leather, Huddled all in a heap together, Like timid lamb, and ewe, and wether, And as females say, In a similar way, Fit for knocking down with a feather!
In and out, in and out, The gathering Goblins hover about, Ev'ry minute augmenting the rout; For like a spell The unearthly smell That fumes from the Furnace, chimney and mouth, Draws them in—an infernal Legion From East, and West, and North, and South, Like carrion birds from ev'ry region, Till not a yard square Of the sickening air But has a Demon or two for its share, Breathing fury, woe, and despair, Never, never was such a sight! It beats the very Walpurgis Night, Displayed in the story of Doctor Faustus, For the scene to describe Of the awful tribe, If we were two Goethes, would quite exhaust us!
Suffice it, amid that dreary swarm, There musters each foul repulsive form That ever a fancy overwarm Begot in its worst delirium; Besides some others of monstrous size, Never before revealed to eyes, Of the genus Megatherium!
Meanwhile the demons, filthy and foul, Gorgon, Chimera, Harpy, and Ghoul, Are not contented to jibber and howl As a dirge for their late commander; But one of the bevy—witch or wizard, Disguised as a monstrous flying lizard, Springs on the grisly Salamander, Who stoutly fights, and struggles, and kicks. And tries the best of his wrestling tricks, No paltry strife, But for life, dear life. But the ruthless talons refuse to unfix, Till far beyond a surgical case, With starting eyes, and black in the face, Down he tumbles as dead as bricks!
A pretty sight for his mates to view! Those shaggy murderers looking so blue, And for him above all, Red-bearded and tall, With whom, at that very particular nick, There is such an unlucky crow to pick, As the one of iron that did the trick In a recent bloody affair— No wonder feeling a little sick, With pulses beating uncommonly quick, And breath he never found so thick, He longs for the open air!
Three paces, or four, And he gains the door; But ere he accomplishes one, The sound of a blow comes, heavy and dull, And clasping his fingers round his skull— However the deed was done, That gave him that florid Red gash on the forehead— With a roll of the eyeballs perfectly horrid, There's a tremulous quiver, The last death-shiver, And Red-Beard's course is run!
Halloo! Halloo! They have done for two! But a heavyish job remains to do! For yonder, sledge and shovel in hand, Like elder Sons of Giant Despair, A couple of Cyclops make a stand, And fiercely hammering here and there, Keep at bay the Powers of Air— But desperation is all in vain!— They faint—they choke, For the sulphurous smoke Is poisoning heart, and lung, and brain, They reel, they sink, they gasp, they smother. One for a moment survives his brother, Then rolls a corpse across the other!
Halloo! Halloo! And Hullabaloo! There is only one more thing to do— And seized by beak, and talon, and claw, Bony hand, and hairy paw, Yea, crooked horn, and tusky jaw, The four huge Bodies are haul'd and shoven Each after each in the roaring oven!
* * * * *
That Eisen Hutte is standing still, Go to the Hartz whenever you will, And there it is beside a hill, And a rapid stream that turns many a mill; The self-same Forge,—you'll know it at sight— Casting upward, day and night, Flames of red, and yellow, and white!
Ay, half a mile from the mountain gorge, There it is, the famous Forge, With its Furnace,—the same that blazed of yore,— Hugely fed with fuel and ore; But ever since that tremendous Revel, Whatever Iron is melted therein,— As Travellers know who have been to Berlin— Is all as black as the Devil!
THE UNIVERSITY FEUD.
"A plague o' both the houses!"—MERCUTIO.
[Footnote 45: "The Row at the Oxford Arms" (to quote its alternative title) is a squib on the contest at Oxford, in 1841-42, for the Professorship of Poetry. The candidates, it will be remembered, were Isaac Williams and Mr. (afterwards Archdeacon) Garbett. The struggle was the more intense that it was openly acknowledged to be a trial of strength between the adherents of the "Oxford Movement" and the Evangelical Party.]
As latterly I chanced to pass A Public House, from which, alas! The Arms of Oxford dangle! My ear was startled by a din, That made me tremble in my skin, A dreadful hubbub from within, Of voices in a wrangle—
Voices loud, and voices high, With now and then a party-cry, Such as used in times gone by To scare the British border; When foes from North and South of Tweed— Neighbors—and of Christian creed— Met in hate to fight and bleed, Upsetting Social Order.
Surprised, I turn'd me to the crowd, Attracted by that tumult loud, And ask'd a gazer, beetle-brow'd, The cause of such disquiet. When lo! the solemn-looking man, First shook his head on Burleigh's plan, And then, with fluent tongue, began His version of the riot:
A row!—why yes,—a pretty row, you might hear from this to Garmany, And what is worse, it's all got up among the Sons of Harmony, The more's the shame for them as used to be in time and tune, And all unite in chorus like the singing-birds in June! Ah! many a pleasant chant I've heard in passing here along, When Swiveller was President a-knocking down a song; But Dick's resign'd the post, you see, and all them shouts and hollers Is 'cause two other candidates, some sort of larned scholars, Are squabbling to be Chairman of the Glorious Apollers!
Lord knows their names, I'm sure I don't, no more than any yokel, But I never heard of either as connected with the vocal; Nay, some do say, although of course the public rumor varies, They've no more warble in 'em than a pair of hen canaries; Though that might pass if they were dabs at t'other sort of thing, For a man may make a song, you know, although he cannot sing; But lork! it's many folk's belief they're only good at prosing, For Catnach swears he never saw a verse of their composing; And when a piece of poetry has stood its public trials, If pop'lar, it gets printed off at once in Seven Dials, And then about all sorts of streets, by every little monkey, It's chanted like the "Dog's Meat Man," or "If I had a Donkey." Whereas, as Mr. Catnach says, and not a bad judge neither, No ballad—worth a ha'penny—has ever come from either, And him as writ "Jim Crow," he says, and got such lots of dollars, Would make a better Chairman for the Glorious Apollers. Howsomever that's the meaning of the squabble that arouses This neighborhood, and quite disturbs all decent Heads of Houses, Who want to have their dinners and their parties, as is reason, In Christian peace and charity according to the season. But from Number Thirty-Nine—since this electioneering job, Ay, as far as Number Ninety, there's an everlasting mob; Till the thing is quite a nuisance, for no creature passes by, But he gets a card, a pamphlet, or a summut in his eye; And a pretty noise there is!—what with canvassers and spouters, For in course each side is furnish'd with its backers and its touters; And surely among the Clergy to such pitches it is carried, You can hardly find a Parson to get buried or get married; Or supposing any accident that suddenly alarms, If you're dying for a surgeon, you must fetch him from the "Arms"; While the Schoolmasters and Tooters are neglecting of their scholars, To write about a Chairman for the Glorious Apollers.
Well, that, sir, is the racket; and the more the sin and shame Of them that help to stir it up, and propagate the same; Instead of vocal ditties, and the social flowing cup,— But they'll be the House's ruin, or the shutting of it up, With their riots and their hubbubs, like a garden full of bears, While they've damaged many articles and broken lots of squares, And kept their noble Club Room in a perfect dust and smother, By throwing Morning Heralds, Times, and Standards at each other; Not to name the ugly language Gemmen oughtn't to repeat, And the names they call each other—for I've heard 'em in the street— Such as Traitors, Guys, and Judasses, and Vipers and what not, For Pasley and his divers ain't so blowing-up a lot. And then such awful swearing!—for there's one of them that cusses Enough to shock the cads that hang on opposition 'busses; For he cusses every member that's agin him at the poll, As I wouldn't cuss a donkey, tho' it hasn't got a soul; And he cusses all their families, Jack, Harry, Bob or Jim, To the babby in the cradle, if they don't agree with him. Whereby, altho' as yet they have not took to use their fives, Or, according as the fashion is, to sticking with their knives, I'm bound they'll be some milling yet, and shakings by the collars, Afore they choose a Chairman for the Glorious Apollers!
To be sure it is a pity to be blowing such a squall, Instead of clouds, and every man his song, and then his call— And as if there wasn't Whigs enough and Tories to fall out, Besides polities in plenty for our splits to be about,— Why, a cornfield is sufficient, sir, as anybody knows, For to furnish them in plenty who are fond of picking crows— Not to name the Maynooth Catholics, and other Irish stews, To agitate society and loosen all its screws; And which all may be agreeable and proper to their spheres,— But it's not the thing for musicals to set us by the ears. And as to College larning, my opinion for to broach, And I've had it from my cousin, and he driv a college coach, And so knows the University, and all as there belongs, And he says that Oxford's famouser for sausages than songs, And seldom turns a poet out like Hudson that can chant, As well as make such ditties as the Free and Easies want, Or other Tavern Melodists I can't just call to mind— But it's not the classic system for to propagate the kind, Whereby it so may happen as that neither of them Scholars May be the proper Chairman for the Glorious Apollers!
For my part in the matter, if so be I had a voice, It's the best among the vocalists I'd honor with the choice; Or a Poet as could furnish a new Ballad to the bunch; Or at any rate the surest hand at mixing of the punch; 'Cause why, the members meet for that and other tuneful frolics— And not to say, like Muffincaps, their Catichiz and Collec's. But you see them there Itinerants that preach so long and loud, And always takes advantage like the prigs of any crowd, Have brought their jangling voices, and as far as they can compass, Have turn'd a tavern shindy to a seriouser rumpus, And him as knows most hymns—altho' I can't see how it follers— They want to be the Chairman of the Glorious Apollers!
Well, that's the row—and who can guess the upshot after all? Whether Harmony will ever make the "Arms" her House of call, Or whether this here mobbing—as some longish heads foretell it, Will grow to such a riot that the Oxford Blues must quell it, Howsomever, for the present, there's no sign of any peace, For the hubbub keeps a-growing, and defies the New Police;— But if I was in the Vestry, and a leading sort of Man, Or a Member of the Vocals, to get backers for my plan, Why, I'd settle all the squabble in the twinkle of a needle, For I'd have another candidate—and that's the Parish Beadle, Who makes such lots of Poetry, himself, or else by proxy, And no one never has no doubts about his orthodoxy; Whereby—if folks was wise—instead of either of them Scholars, And straining their own lungs along of contradictious hollers, They'll lend their ears to reason, and take my advice as follers, Namely—Bumble for the Chairman of the Glorious Apollers!