Library Of The World's Best Literature, Ancient And Modern, Vol 4
Charles Dudley Warner
Part 2 out of 11
cannot withhold our admiration. The most characteristic mark of a great
mind is to choose some one important object, and pursue it through
life. It was this made Caesar a great man. His object was ambition: he
pursued it steadily; and was always ready to sacrifice to it every
interfering passion or inclination.
There is a pretty passage in one of Lucian's dialogues, where Jupiter
complains to Cupid that though he has had so many intrigues, he was
never sincerely beloved. In order to be loved, says Cupid, you must lay
aside your aegis and your thunderbolts, and you must curl and perfume
your hair, and place a garland on your head, and walk with a soft step,
and assume a winning, obsequious deportment. But, replied Jupiter, I am
not willing to resign so much of my dignity. Then, returns Cupid, leave
off desiring to be loved. He wanted to be Jupiter and Adonis at the
It must be confessed that men of genius are of all others most inclined
to make these unreasonable claims. As their relish for enjoyment is
strong, their views large and comprehensive, and they feel themselves
lifted above the common bulk of mankind, they are apt to slight that
natural reward of praise and admiration which is ever largely paid to
distinguished abilities; and to expect to be called forth to public
notice and favor: without considering that their talents are commonly
very unfit for active life; that their eccentricity and turn for
speculation disqualifies them for the business of the world, which is
best carried on by men of moderate genius; and that society is not
obliged to reward any one who is not useful to it. The poets have been a
very unreasonable race, and have often complained loudly of the neglect
of genius and the ingratitude of the age. The tender and pensive Cowley,
and the elegant Shenstone, had their minds tinctured by this discontent;
and even the sublime melancholy of Young was too much owing to the
stings of disappointed ambition.
The moderation we have been endeavoring to inculcate will likewise
prevent much mortification and disgust in our commerce with mankind. As
we ought not to wish in ourselves, so neither should we expect in our
friends, contrary qualifications. Young and sanguine, when we enter the
world, and feel our affections drawn forth by any particular excellence
in a character, we immediately give it credit for all others; and are
beyond measure disgusted when we come to discover, as we soon must
discover, the defects in the other side of the balance. But nature is
much more frugal than to heap together all manner of shining qualities
in one glaring mass. Like a judicious painter, she endeavors to preserve
a certain unity of style and coloring in her pieces. Models of absolute
perfection are only to be met with in romance; where exquisite beauty,
and brilliant wit, and profound judgment, and immaculate virtue, are all
blended together to adorn some favorite character. As an anatomist knows
that the racer cannot have the strength and muscles of the
draught-horse; and that winged men, griffins, and mermaids must be mere
creatures of the imagination: so the philosopher is sensible that there
are combinations of moral qualities which never can take place but in
idea. There is a different air and complexion in characters as well as
in faces, though perhaps each equally beautiful; and the excellences of
one cannot be transferred to the other. Thus if one man possesses a
stoical apathy of soul, acts independent of the opinion of the world,
and fulfills every duty with mathematical exactness, you must not expect
that man to be greatly influenced by the weakness of pity, or the
partialities of friendship; you must not be offended that he does not
fly to meet you after a short absence, or require from him the convivial
spirit and honest effusions of a warm, open, susceptible heart. If
another is remarkable for a lively, active zeal, inflexible integrity, a
strong indignation against vice, and freedom in reproving it, he will
probably have some little bluntness in his address not altogether
suitable to polished life; he will want the winning arts of
conversation; he will disgust by a kind of haughtiness and negligence in
his manner, and often hurt the delicacy of his acquaintance with harsh
and disagreeable truths.
We usually say--That man is a genius, but he has some whims and
oddities--Such a one has a very general knowledge, but he is
superficial, etc. Now in all such cases we should speak more rationally,
did we substitute "therefore" for "but": "He is a genius, therefore he
is whimsical" and the like.
It is the fault of the present age, owing to the freer commerce that
different ranks and professions now enjoy with each other, that
characters are not marked with sufficient strength; the several classes
run too much into one another. We have fewer pedants, it is true, but we
have fewer striking originals. Every one is expected to have such a
tincture of general knowledge as is incompatible with going deep into
any science; and such a conformity to fashionable manners as checks the
free workings of the ruling passion, and gives an insipid sameness to
the face of society, under the idea of polish and regularity.
There is a cast of manners peculiar and becoming to each age, sex, and
profession; one, therefore, should not throw out illiberal and
commonplace censures against another. Each is perfect in its kind: a
woman as a woman; a tradesman as a tradesman. We are often hurt by the
brutality and sluggish conceptions of the vulgar; not considering that
some there must be to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, and that
cultivated genius, or even any great refinement and delicacy in their
moral feelings, would be a real misfortune to them.
Let us then study the philosophy of the human mind. The man who is
master of this science will know what to expect from every one. From
this man, wise advice; from that, cordial sympathy; from another, casual
entertainment. The passions and inclinations of others are his tools,
which he can use with as much precision as he would the mechanical
powers; and he can as readily make allowance for the workings of vanity,
or the bias of self-interest in his friends, as for the power of
friction, or the irregularities of the needle.
A DIALOGUE OF THE DEAD
BETWEEN HELEN AND MADAME MAINTENON
_Helen_--Whence comes it, my dear Madame Maintenon, that beauty, which
in the age I lived in produced such extraordinary effects, has now lost
almost all its power?
_Maintenon_--I should wish first to be convinced of the fact, before I
offer to give you a reason for it.
_Helen_--That will be very easy; for there is no occasion to go any
further than our own histories and experience to prove what I advance.
You were beautiful, accomplished, and fortunate; endowed with every
talent and every grace to bend the heart of man and mold it to your
wish; and your schemes were successful; for you raised yourself from
obscurity and dependence to be the wife of a great monarch.--But what is
this to the influence my beauty had over sovereigns and nations! I
occasioned a long ten-years' war between the most celebrated heroes of
antiquity; contending kingdoms disputed the honor of placing me on their
respective thrones; my story is recorded by the father of verse; and my
charms make a figure even in the annals of mankind. You were, it is
true, the wife of Louis XIV., and respected in his court, but you
occasioned no wars; you are not spoken of in the history of France,
though you furnished materials for the memoirs of a court. Are the love
and admiration that were paid you merely as an amiable woman to be
compared with the enthusiasm I inspired, and the boundless empire I
obtained over all that was celebrated, great, or powerful in the age
I lived in?
_Maintenon_--All this, my dear Helen, has a splendid appearance, and
sounds well in a heroic poem; but you greatly deceive yourself if you
impute it all to your personal merit. Do you imagine that half the
chiefs concerned in the war of Troy were at all influenced by your
beauty, or troubled their heads what became of you, provided they came
off with honor? Believe me, love had very little to do in the affair:
Menelaus sought to revenge the affront he had received; Agamemnon was
flattered with the supreme command; some came to share the glory, others
the plunder; some because they had bad wives at home, some in hopes of
getting Trojan mistresses abroad; and Homer thought the story extremely
proper for the subject of the best poem in the world. Thus you became
famous; your elopement was made a national quarrel; the animosities of
both nations were kindled by frequent battles; and the object was not
the restoring of Helen to Menelaus, but the destruction of Troy by the
Greeks.--My triumphs, on the other hand, were all owing to myself, and
to the influence of personal merit and charms over the heart of man. My
birth was obscure; my fortunes low; I had past the bloom of youth, and
was advancing to that period at which the generality of our sex lose all
importance with the other; I had to do with a man of gallantry and
intrigue, a monarch who had been long familiarized with beauty, and
accustomed to every refinement of pleasure which the most splendid court
in Europe could afford: Love and Beauty seemed to have exhausted all
their powers of pleasing for him in vain. Yet this man I captivated, I
fixed; and far from being content, as other beauties had been, with the
honor of possessing his heart, I brought him to make me his wife, and
gained an honorable title to his tenderest affection.--The infatuation
of Paris reflected little honor upon you. A thoughtless youth, gay,
tender, and impressible, struck with your beauty, in violation of all
the most sacred laws of hospitality carries you off, and obstinately
refuses to restore you to your husband. You seduced Paris from his duty,
I recovered Louis from vice; you were the mistress of the Trojan prince,
I was the companion of the French monarch.
_Helen_--I grant you were the wife of Louis, but not the Queen of
France. Your great object was ambition, and in that you met with a
partial success;--my ruling star was love, and I gave up everything for
it. But tell me, did not I show my influence over Menelaus in his taking
me again after the destruction of Troy?
_Maintenon_--That circumstance alone is sufficient to show that he did
not love you with any delicacy. He took you as a possession that was
restored to him, as a booty that he had recovered; and he had not
sentiment enough to care whether he had your heart or not. The heroes of
your age were capable of admiring beauty, and often fought for the
possession of it; but they had not refinement enough to be capable of
any pure, sentimental attachment or delicate passion. Was that period
the triumph of love and gallantry, when a fine woman and a tripod were
placed together for prizes at a wrestling-bout, and the tripod esteemed
the most valuable reward of the two? No; it is our Clelia, our Cassandra
and Princess of Cleves, that have polished mankind and taught them
how to love.
_Helen_--Rather say you have lost sight of nature and passion, between
bombast on one hand and conceit on the other. Shall one of the cold
temperament of France teach a Grecian how to love? Greece, the parent of
fair forms and soft desires, the nurse of poetry, whose soft climate and
tempered skies disposed to every gentler feeling, and tuned the heart to
harmony and love!--was Greece a land of barbarians? But recollect, if
you can, an incident which showed the power of beauty in stronger
colors--that when the grave old counselors of Priam on my appearance
were struck with fond admiration, and could not bring themselves to
blame the cause of a war that had almost ruined their country;--you see
I charmed the old as well as seduced the young.
_Maintenon_--But I, after I was grown old, charmed the young; I was
idolized in a capital where taste, luxury, and magnificence were at the
height; I was celebrated by the greatest wits of my time, and my letters
have been carefully handed down to posterity.
_Helen_--Tell me now sincerely, were you happy in your elevated
_Maintenon_--- Alas! Heaven knows I was far otherwise: a thousand times
did I wish for my dear Scarron again. He was a very ugly fellow, it is
true, and had but little money: but the most easy, entertaining
companion in the world: we danced, laughed, and sung; I spoke without
fear or anxiety, and was sure to please. With Louis all was gloom,
constraint, and a painful solicitude to please--which seldom produces
its effect; the king's temper had been soured in the latter part of life
by frequent disappointments; and I was forced continually to endeavor to
procure him that cheerfulness which I had not myself. Louis was
accustomed to the most delicate flatteries; and though I had a good
share of wit, my faculties were continually on the stretch to entertain
him,--a state of mind little consistent with happiness or ease; I was
afraid to advance my friends or punish my enemies. My pupils at St. Cyr
were not more secluded from the world in a cloister than I was in the
bosom of the court; a secret disgust and weariness consumed me. I had no
relief but in my work and books of devotion; with these alone I had a
gleam of happiness.
_Helen_--Alas! one need not have married a great monarch for that.
_Maintenon_--But deign to inform me, Helen, if you were really as
beautiful as fame reports? for to say truth, I cannot in your shade see
the beauty which for nine long years had set the world in arms.
_Helen_--Honestly, no: I was rather low, and something sunburnt; but I
had the good fortune to please; that was all. I was greatly obliged
_Maintenon_--And did you live tolerably with Menelaus after all your
_Helen_--As well as possible. Menelaus was a good-natured domestic man,
and was glad to sit down and end his days in quiet. I persuaded him that
Venus and the Fates were the cause of all my irregularities, which he
complaisantly believed. Besides, I was not sorry to return home: for to
tell you a secret, Paris had been unfaithful to me long before his
death, and was fond of a little Trojan brunette whose office it was to
hold up my train; but it was thought dishonorable to give me up. I began
to think love a very foolish thing: I became a great housekeeper, worked
the battles of Troy in tapestry, and spun with my maids by the side of
Menelaus, who was so satisfied with my conduct, and behaved, good man,
with so much fondness, that I verily think this was the happiest period
of my life.
_Maintenon_--Nothing more likely; but the most obscure wife in Greece
could rival you there.--Adieu! you have convinced me how little fame and
greatness conduce to happiness.
Life! I know not what thou art,
But know that thou and I must part;
And when or how or where we met,
I own to me's a secret yet.
But this I know, when thou art fled,
Where'er they lay these limbs, this head,
No clod so valueless shall be,
As all that then remains of me.
O whither, whither dost thou fly,
Where bend unseen thy trackless course,
And in this strange divorce,
Ah, tell where I must seek this compound I?
To the vast ocean of empyreal flame,
From whence thy essence came,
Dost thou thy flight pursue, when freed
From matter's base encumbering weed?
Or dost thou, hid from sight,
Wait, like some spell-bound knight,
Through blank oblivion's years th' appointed hour,
To break thy trance and reassume thy power?
Yet canst thou without thought or feeling be?
O say what art thou, when no more thou'rt thee?
Life! we've been long together,
Through pleasant and through cloudy weather;
'Tis hard to part when friends are dear;
Perhaps 'twill cost a sigh, a tear;
Then steal away, give little warning,
Choose thine own time;
Say not good-night, but in some brighter clime
Bid me good-morning.
PRAISE TO GOD
Praise to God, immortal praise,
For the love that crowns our days--
Bounteous source of every joy,
Let Thy praise our tongues employ!
For the blessings of the field,
For the stores the gardens yield,
For the vine's exalted juice,
For the generous olive's use;
Flocks that whiten all the plain,
Yellow sheaves of ripened grain,
Clouds that drop their fattening dews,
Suns that temperate warmth diffuse--
All that Spring, with bounteous hand,
Scatters o'er the smiling land;
All that liberal Autumn pours
From her rich o'erflowing stores:
These to Thee, my God, we owe--
Source whence all our blessings flow!
And for these my soul shall raise
Grateful vows and solemn praise.
Yet should rising whirlwinds tear
From its stem the ripening ear--
Should the fig-tree's blasted shoot
Drop her green untimely fruit--
Should the vine put forth no more,
Nor the olive yield her store--
Though the sickening flocks should fall,
And the herds desert the stall--
Should Thine altered hand restrain
The early and the latter rain,
Blast each opening bud of joy,
And the rising year destroy:
Yet to Thee my soul should raise
Grateful vows and solemn praise,
And, when every blessing's flown,
Love Thee--for Thyself alone.
Barclay's reputation rests upon his translation of the famous 'Ship of
Fools' and his original 'Eclogues.' A controversy as to the land of his
birth--an event which happened about the year 1475--has lasted from his
century to our own. The decision in favor of Scotland rests upon the
testimony of two witnesses: first, Dr. William Bullim, a younger
contemporary of Barclay, who mentions him in 'A Dialogue Both Pleasaunt
and Pietifull Wherein is a Godlie Regement Against the Fever Pestilence
with a Consolation and Comforte Against Death,' which was published in
1564; and secondly, Barclay himself.
Bullim groups the Muses at the foot of Parnassus, and gathers about them
Greek and Latin poets, and such Englishmen as Chaucer, Gower, Skelton,
and Barclay, the latter "with an hoopyng russet long coate, with a
pretie hood in his necke, and five knottes upon his girdle, after
Francis's tricks. He was borne beyond the cold river of Twede. He lodged
upon a sweetebed of chamomill under the sinamone-tree: about him many
shepherdes and shepe, with pleasaunte pipes; greatly abhorring the life
of Courtiers, Citizens, Usurers, and Banckruptes, etc., whose daies are
miserable. And the estate of shepherdes and countrie people he accompted
moste happie and sure." Deprived of its poetic fancy, this passage means
that Barclay was a monk of the order of St. Francis, that he was born
north of the Tweed, that his verse was infused with such bitterness and
tonic qualities as camomile possesses, and that he advocated the cause
of the country people in his independent and admirable 'Eclogues,'
another title for the first three of which is 'Miseryes of Courtiers and
Courtes of all Princes in General.'
Barclay was educated at Oxford and Cambridge, and upon his return to
England after several years of residence abroad, he was made one of the
priests of Saint Mary Ottery, an institution of devout practice and
learning in Devonshire. Here in 1508 was finished 'The Shyp of Folys of
the Worlde translated out of Laten, Frenche, and Doche into Englysshe
tonge by Alexander Barclay, Preste, and at that time chaplen in the
After his work was completed Barclay went to London, where his poem was
"imprentyd ... in Fleet Street at the signe of Saynt George by Rycharde
Pyreson to hys Coste and charge: ended the yere of our Saviour MDIX.
the XIII. day of December." That he became a Benedictine and lived at
the monastery of the order at Ely is evident from his 'Eclogues.' Here
he translated at the instance of Sir Giles Arlington, Knight, 'The
Myrrour of Good Maners,' from a Latin elegiac poem which Dominic Mancini
published in the year 1516.
"It was about this period of his life," says Mr. Jamieson in his
admirable edition of the 'Ship of Fools,' "probably the period of the
full bloom of his popularity, that the quiet life of the poet and priest
was interrupted by the recognition of his eminence in the highest
quarters, and by a request for his aid in maintaining the honor of the
country on an occasion to which the eyes of all Europe were then
directed. In a letter to Wolsey dated 10th April, 1520, Sir Nicholas
Vaux--busied with the preparation for that meeting of Henry VIII and
Francis I called the Field of the Cloth of Gold--begs the Cardinal to
send them ... Maistre Barkleye, the Black Monke and Poete, to devise
histoires and convenient raisons to florisshe the buildings and banquet
He became a Franciscan, the habit of which order Bullim refers to; and
"sure 'tis," says Wood, "that living to see his monastery dissolv'd, in
1539, at the general dissolution by act of Henry VIII, he became vicar
of Much Badew in Essex, and in 1546, the same year, of the Church of St.
Matthew the Apostle at Wokey, in Somersetshire, and finally in 1552, the
year in which he died, of that of All Saints, Lombard Street, London. In
his younger days he was esteemed a good poet and orator, but when years
came on, he spent his time mostly in pious matters, and in reading the
histories of Saints."
'The Ship of Fools' is the most important work associated with Barclay's
name. It was a translation of Sebastian Brandt's 'Stultifera Navis,' a
book which had attracted universal attention on the Continent when it
appeared in 1494. In his preface, Barclay admits that "it is not
translated word by word according to the verses of my actor. For I have
but only drawn into our mother tongue in rude language the sentences of
the verses as near as the paucity of my wit will suffer me, sometime
adding, sometime detracting and taking away such things as seemeth me
necessary." The classes and conditions of society that Barclay knew were
as deserving of satire as those of Germany. He tells us that his work
was undertaken "to cleanse the vanity and madness of foolish people, of
whom over great number is in the Realm of England."
The diction of Barclay's version is exceptionally fine. Jamieson calls
it "a rich and unique exhibition of early art," and says:--"Page after
page, even in the antique spelling of Pynson's edition, may be read by
the ordinary reader of to-day without reference to a dictionary; and
when reference is required, it will be found in nine cases out of ten
that the archaism is Saxon, not Latin. This is all the more remarkable
that it occurs in the case of a priest translating mainly from the Latin
and French, and can only be explained with reference to his standpoint
as a social reformer of the broadest type, and to his evident intention
that his book should be an appeal to all classes, but especially to the
mass of people for amendment of their follies."
As the original work belonged to the German satirist, the extract from
the 'Ship of Fools' is placed under the essay entitled 'Sebastian
Brandt.' His 'Eclogues' show Barclay at his best. They portray the
manners and customs of the period, and are full of local proverbs and
wise sayings. According to Warton, Barclay's are the first 'Eclogues'
that appeared in the English language. "They are like Petrarch's," he
says, "and Mantuans of the moral and satirical kind; and contain but few
touches of moral description and bucolic imagery." Two shepherds meet to
talk about the pleasures and crosses of rustic life and life at court.
The hoary locks of the one show that he is old. His suit of Kendal green
is threadbare, his rough boots are patched, and the torn side of his
coat reveals a bottle never full and never empty. His wallet contains
bread and cheese; he has a crook, and an oaten pipe. His name is Cornix,
and he boasts that he has had worldly experience. The other shepherd,
Coridon, having seen nothing, complains of country life. He grumbles at
the summer's heat and the winter's cold; at beds on the flinty ground,
and the dangers of sleeping where the wolves may creep in to devour the
sheep; of his stiff rough hands, and his parched, wrinkled, and
weather-beaten skin. He asks whether all men are so unhappy. Cornix,
refreshing himself at intervals with his bottle and crusts, shows him
the small amount of liberty at court, discourses upon the folly of
ambition, lays bare the rapine, avarice, and covetousness of the
worldly-minded, and demonstrates that the court is "painted fair
without, but within it is ugly and vile." He then gives the picture of a
courtier's life, which is cited below. He tells how the minstrels and
singers, philosophers, poets, and orators are but the slaves of
patronizing princes; how beautiful women deceive; describes to him, who
has known nothing but a diet of bread and cheese, the delights of the
table; dilates on the cups of silver and gold, and the crystal glass
shining with red and yellow wine; the sewers bearing in roasted crane,
gorgeous peacocks, and savory joints of beef and mutton; the carver
wielding his dexterous knife; the puddings, the pasties, the fish fried
in sweet oils and garnished with herbs; the costumes of the men and
women in cloth of gold and silver and gay damask; the din of music,
voices, laughter, and jests; and then paints a picture of the lords and
ladies who plunge their knives into the meats and their hands into
platters, spilling wine and gravy upon their equally gluttonous
neighbors. He finishes by saying:--
"Shepherds have not so wretched lives as they:
Though they live poorely on cruddes, chese, and whey,
On apples, plummes, and drinke cleree water deepe,
As it were lordes reigning among their sheepe.
The wretched lazar with clinking of his bell,
Hath life which doth the courtiers excell;
The caytif begger hath meate and libertie,
When courtiers hunger in harde captivitie.
The poore man beggeth nothing hurting his name,
As touching courters they dare not beg for shame.
And an olde proverb is sayde by men moste sage,
That oft yonge courters be beggars in their age."
The third 'Eclogue' begins with Coridon relating a dream that he went to
court and saw the scullions standing
"about me thicke
With knives ready for to flay me quicke."
This is a text for Cornix, who continues his tirade, and convinces
Coridon of the misery of the court and his happier life, ending as
"Than let all shepheardes, from hence to Salisbury
With easie riches, live well, laugh and be mery,
Pipe under shadowes, small riches hath most rest,
In greatest seas moste sorest is tempest,
The court is nought els but a tempesteous sea;
Avoyde the rockes. He ruled after me."
The fourth 'Eclogue' is a dialogue on the rich man's treatment of poets,
by two shepherds, Codrus and Menalcas, musing in "shadowe on the green,"
while their snowy flocks graze on the sweet meadow. This contains a fine
allegorical description of 'Labour.'
The fifth 'Eclogue' is the 'Cytezen and the Uplondyshman.' Here the
scene changes, and two shepherds, Faustus and Amyntas, discourse in a
cottage while the snows of January whirl without. Amyntas has learned in
London "to go so manerly." Not a wrinkle may be found in his clothes,
not a hair on his cloak, and he wears a brooch of tin high on his
bonnet. He has been hostler, costermonger, and taverner, and sings the
delights of the city. Faustus, the rustic, is contented with his lot.
The 'Cytezen and the Uplondyshman' was printed from the original edition
of Wynkyn de Worde, with a preface by F. W. Fairholt, Percy Society
Other works ascribed to Barclay are:--'The Figure of Our Holy Mother
Church, Oppressed by the French King'; 'The Lyfe of the Glorious Martyr
Saynt George,' translated (from Mantuan) by Alexander Barclay; 'The Lyfe
of the Blessed Martyr, Saynte Thomas'; 'Contra Skeltonum,' in which the
quarrel he had with his contemporary poet, John Skelton, was doubtless
Estimates of Barclay may be found in 'The Ship of Fools,' edited by T.
H. Jamieson (1874); 'Sibbald's Chronicle of Scottish Poetry,' from the
thirteenth century to the union of the crowns (1802); 'The History of
English Poetry,' by Thomas Warton (1824); 'The History of Scottish
Poetry,' by David Irving (1861); and 'Chips from a German Workshop,' by
F. Max Mueller (1870).
THE COURTIER'S LIFE
Some men deliteth beholding men to fight,
Or goodly knights in pleasaunt apparayle,
Or sturdie soldiers in bright harnes and male,
Or an army arrayde ready to the warre,
Or to see them fight, so that he stand afarre.
Some glad is to see those ladies beauteous
Goodly appoynted in clothing sumpteous:
A number of people appoynted in like wise
In costly clothing after the newest gise,
Sportes, disgising, fayre coursers mount and praunce,
Or goodly ladies and knightes sing and daunce,
To see fayre houses and curious picture,
Or pleasaunt hanging or sumpteous vesture
Of silke, of purpure or golde moste oriente,
And other clothing divers and excellent,
Hye curious buildinges or palaces royall,
Or chapels, temples fayre and substantial,
Images graven or vaultes curious,
Gardeyns and medowes, or place delicious,
Forestes and parkes well furnished with dere,
Cold pleasaunt streams or welles fayre and clere,
Curious cundites or shadowie mountaynes,
Swete pleasaunt valleys, laundes or playnes,
Houndes, and such other things manyfolde
Some men take pleasour and solace to beholde.
But all these pleasoures be much more jocounde,
To private persons which not to court be bounde,
Than to such other whiche of necessitie
Are bounde to the court as in captivitie;
For they which be bounde to princes without fayle
When they must nedes be present in battayle,
When shall they not be at large to see the sight,
But as souldiours in the middest of the fight,
To runne here and there sometime his foe to smite,
And oftetimes wounded, herein is small delite,
And more muste he think his body to defende,
Than for any pleasour about him to intende,
And oft is he faynt and beaten to the grounde,
I trowe in suche sight small pleasour may be founde.
As for fayre ladies, clothed in silke and golde,
In court at thy pleasour thou canst not beholde.
At thy princes pleasour thou shalt them only see,
Then suche shalt thou see which little set by thee,
Whose shape and beautie may so inflame thine heart,
That thought and languor may cause thee for to smart.
For a small sparcle may kindle love certayne,
But skantly Severne may quench it clene againe;
And beautie blindeth and causeth man to set
His hearte on the thing which he shall never get.
To see men clothed in silkes pleasauntly
It is small pleasour, and ofte causeth envy.
While thy lean jade halteth by thy side,
To see another upon a, courser ride,
Though he be neyther gentleman nor knight,
Nothing is thy fortune, thy hart cannot be light.
As touching sportes and games of pleasaunce.
To sing, to revell, and other daliaunce:
Who that will truely upon his lord attende,
Unto suche sportes he seldome may entende.
Palaces, pictures, and temples sumptuous,
And other buildings both gay and curious,
These may marchauntes more at their pleasour see,
Men suche as in court be bounde alway to bee.
Sith kinges for moste part passe not their regions,
Thou seest nowe cities of foreyn nations.
Suche outwarde pleasoures may the people see,
So may not courtiers for lacke of libertie.
As for these pleasours of thinges vanable
Whiche in the fieldes appeareth delectable,
But seldome season mayest thou obtayne respite.
The same to beholde with pleasour and delite,
Sometime the courtier remayneth halfe the yere
Close within walls muche like a prisonere,
To make escapes some seldome times are wont,
Save when the powers have pleasour for to hunt,
Or its otherwise themselfe to recreate,
And then this pleasour shall they not love but hate;
For then shall they foorth most chiefely to their payne,
When they in mindes would at home remayne.
Other in the frost, hayle, or els snowe,
Or when some tempest or mightie wind doth blowe,
Or else in great heat and fervour excessife,
But close in houses the moste parte waste their life,
Of colour faded, and choked were with duste:
This is of courtiers the joy and all the lust.
What! yet may they sing and with fayre ladies daunce,
Both commen and laugh; herein is some pleasaunce.
Nay, nay, Coridon, that pleasour is but small,
Some to contente what man will pleasour call,
For some in the daunce his pincheth by the hande,
Which gladly would see him stretched in a bande.
Some galand seketh his favour to purchase
Which playne abhorreth for to beholde his face.
And still in dauncing moste parte inclineth she
To one muche viler and more abject then he.
No day over passeth but that in court men finde
A thousande thinges to vexe and greve their minde;
Alway thy foes are present in thy sight,
And often so great is their degree and might
That nedes must thou kisse the hand which did thee harm,
Though thou would see it cut gladly from the arme.
And briefly to speake, if thou to courte resorte,
If thou see one thing of pleasour or comfort,
Thou shalt see many, before or thou depart,
To thy displeasour and pensiveness of heart:
So findeth thy sight there more of bitternes
And of displeasour, than pleasour and gladnes.
RICHARD HARRIS BARHAM
The author of the 'Ingoldsby Legends' belonged to a well-defined and
delightful class of men, chiefly found in modern England, and indeed
mostly bred and made possible by the conditions of English society and
the Anglican Church. It is that of clergymen who in the public eye are
chiefly wits and diners-out, jokers and literary humorists, yet are
conscientious and devoted ministers of their religion and curators of
their religious charges, honoring their profession and humanity by true
and useful lives and lovable characters. They are men of the sort
loathed by Lewis Carroll's heroine in the 'Two Voices,'
"a kind of folk
Who have no horror of a joke,"
and indeed love it dearly, but are as firm in principle and
unostentatiously dutiful in conduct as if they were leaden Puritans or
[Illustration: RICHARD H. BARHAM]
By far the best remembered of this class, for themselves or their work,
are Sydney Smith and Richard Harris Barham; but their relative repute is
one of the oddest paradoxes in literary history. Roughly speaking, the
one is remembered and unread, the other read and unremembered. Sydney
Smith's name is almost as familiar to the masses as Scott's, and few
could tell a line that he wrote; Barham's writing is almost as familiar
as Scott's, and few would recognize his name. Yet he is in the foremost
rank of humorists; his place is wholly unique, and is likely to remain
so. It will be an age before a similar combination of tastes and
abilities is found once more. Macaulay said truly of Sir Walter Scott
that he "combined the minute learning of an antiquary with the fire of a
great poet." Barham combined a like learning in different fields, and
joined to a different outlook and temper of mind, with the quick
perceptions of a great wit, the brimming zest and high spirits of a
great joker, the genial nature and lightness of a born man of the world,
and the gifts of a wonderful improvisatore in verse. Withal, he had just
enough of serious purpose to give much of his work a certain measure of
cohesive unity, and thus impress it on the mind as no collection of
random skits could do. That purpose is the feathering which steadies the
arrows and sends them home.
It is pleasant to know that one who has given so good a time to others
had a very good time himself; that we are not, as so often happens,
relishing a farce that stood for tragedy with the maker, and
substituting our laughter for his tears. Barham had the cruel sorrows of
personal bereavement so few escape; but in material things his career
was wholly among pleasant ways. He was well born and with means, well
educated, well nurtured. He was free from the sordid squabbles or
anxious watching and privation which fall to the lot of so many of the
best. He was happy in his marriage and its attendant home and family,
and most fortunate in his friendships and the superb society he enjoyed.
His birth and position as a gentleman of good landed family, combined
with his profession, opened all doors to him.
But it was the qualities personal to himself, after all, which made
these things available for enjoyment. His desires were moderate; he
counted success what more eager and covetous natures might have esteemed
comparative failure. His really strong intellect and wide knowledge and
cultivation enabled him to meet the foremost men of letters on equal
terms. His kind heart, generous nature, exuberant fun, and entertaining
conversation endeared him to every one and made his company sought by
every one; they saved much trouble from coming upon him and lightened
what did come. And no blight could have withered that perennial fountain
of jollity, drollery, and light-heartedness. But these were only the
ornaments of a stanchly loyal and honorable nature, and a lovable and
unselfish soul. One of his friends writes of him thus:--
"The profits of agitating pettifoggers would have materially
lessened in a district where he acted as a magistrate; and
duels would have been nipped in the bud at his regimental
mess. It is not always an easy task to do as you would be
done by; but to think as you would be thought of and thought
for, and to feel as you would be felt for, is perhaps still
more difficult, as superior powers of tact and intellect are
here required in order to second good intentions. These
faculties, backed by an uncompromising love of truth and fair
dealing, indefatigable good nature, and a nice sense of what
was due to every one in the several relations of life, both
gentle and simple, rendered our late friend invaluable,
either as an adviser or a peacemaker, in matters of delicate
and difficult handling."
Barham was born in Canterbury, England, December 6th, 1788, and died in
London, June 17th, 1845. His ancestry was superior, the family having
derived its name from possessions in Kent in Norman days. He lost his
father--a genial _bon vivant_ of literary tastes who seems like a
reduced copy of his son--when but five years old; and became heir to a
fair estate, including Tappington Hall, the picturesque old gabled
mansion so often imaginatively misdescribed in the 'Ingoldsby Legends,'
but really having the famous blood-stained stairway. He had an expensive
private education, which was nearly ended with his life at the age of
fourteen by a carriage accident which shattered and mangled his right
arm, crippling it permanently. As so often happens, the disaster was
really a piece of good fortune: it turned him to or confirmed him in
quiet antiquarian scholarship, and established connections which
ultimately led to the 'Legends'; he may owe immortality to it.
After passing through St. Paul's (London) and Brasenose (Oxford), he
studied law, but finally entered the church. After a couple of small
curacies in Kent, he was made rector of Snargate and curate of Warehorn,
near Romney Marsh; all four in a district where smuggling was a chief
industry, and the Marsh in especial a noted haunt of desperadoes (for
smugglers then took their lives in their hands), of which the 'Legends'
are rich in reminiscences. In 1819, during this incumbency, he wrote a
novel, 'Baldwin,' which was a failure; and part of another, 'My Cousin
Nicholas,' which, finished fifteen years later, had fair success as a
serial in Blackwood's Magazine.
An opportunity offering in 1821, he stood for a minor canonry in St.
Paul's Cathedral, London, and obtained it; his income was less than
before, but he had entered the metropolitan field, which brought him
rich enjoyment and permanent fame. He paid a terrible price for them:
his unhealthy London house cost him the lives of three of his children.
To make up for his shortened means he became editor of the London
Chronicle and a contributor to various other periodicals, including the
notorious weekly John Bull, sometime edited by Theodore Hook. In 1824 he
became a priest in the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace, and soon
after gained a couple of excellent livings in Essex, which put him at
He was inflexible in principle, a firm Tory, though without rancor. He
was very High Church, but had no sympathy with the Oxford movement or
Catholicism. He preached careful and sober sermons, without oratorical
display and with rigid avoidance of levity. He would not make the church
a field either for fireworks or jokes, or even for displays of
scholarship or intellectual gymnastics. In his opinion, religious
establishments were kept up to advance religion and morals. And both he
and his wife wrought zealously in the humble but exacting field of
parochial good works.
He was, however, fast becoming one of the chief ornaments of that
brilliant group of London wits whose repute still vibrates from the
early part of the century. Many of them--actors, authors, artists,
musicians, and others met at the Garrick Club, and Barham joined it. The
names of Sydney Smith and Theodore Hook are enough to show what it was;
but there were others equally delightful,--not the least so, or least
useful, a few who could not see a joke at all, and whose simplicity and
good nature made them butts for the hoaxes and solemn chaff of the rest.
Barbara's diary, quoted in his son's (Life,) gives an exquisite
In 1834 his old schoolmaster Bentley established Bentley's Miscellany;
and Barham was asked for contributions. The first he sent was the
amusing but quite "conceivable" (Spectre of Tappington); but there soon
began the immortal series of versified local stories, legendary church
miracles, antiquarian curios, witty summaries of popular plays, skits on
London life, and so on, under the pseudonym of 'Thomas Ingoldsby,' which
sprang instantly into wide popularity, and have never fallen from public
favor since--nor can they till appreciation of humor is dead in the
world. They were collected and illustrated by Leech, Cruikshank, and
others, who were inspired by them to some of their best designs: perhaps
the most perfect realization in art of the Devil in his moments of
jocose triumph is Leech's figure in 'The House-Warming.' A later series
appeared in Colburn's New Monthly Magazine in 1843.
He wrote some excellent pieces (of their kind) in prose, besides the one
already mentioned: the weird and well-constructed 'Leech of Folkestone'
and the 'Passage in the Life of Henry Harris,' both half-serious tales
of mediaeval magic; the thoroughly Ingoldsbian 'Legend of Sheppey,' with
its irreverent farce, high animal spirits, and antiquarianism; the
equally characteristic 'Lady Rohesia,' which would be vulgar but for his
sly wit and drollery. But none of these are as familiar as the versified
'Legends,' nor have they the astonishing variety of entertainment found
in the latter.
The 'Ingoldsby Legends' have been called an English naturalization of
the French metrical _contes;_ but Barham owes nothing to his French
models save the suggestion of method and form. Not only is his matter
all his own, but he has _Anglified_ the whole being of the metrical form
itself. His facility of versification, the way in which the whole
language seems to be liquid in his hands and ready to pour into any
channel of verse, was one of the marvelous things of literature. It did
not need the free random movement of the majority of the tales, where
the lines may be anything from one foot to six, from spondaic to
dactylic: in some of them he tied himself down to the most rigid and
inflexible metrical forms, and moved as lightly and freely in those
fetters as if they were non-existent. As to the astonishing rhymes which
meet us at every step, they form in themselves a poignant kind of wit;
often double and even treble, one word rhyming with an entire phrase or
one phrase with another,--not only of the oddest kind, but as nicely
adapted to the necessities of expression and meaning as if intended or
invented for that purpose alone,--they produce on us the effect of the
One of his most diverting "properties" is the set of "morals" he draws
to everything, of nonsensical literalness and infantile gravity, the
perfection of solemn fooling. Thus in the 'Lay of St. Cuthbert,' where
the Devil has captured the heir of the house,
"Whom the nurse had forgot and left there in his chair,
Alternately sucking his thumb and his pear,"
the moral is drawn, among others,--
"Perhaps it's as well to keep children from plums,
And pears in their season--and sucking their thumbs."
And part of the moral to the 'Lay of St. Medard' is--
"Don't give people nicknames! don't, even in fun,
Call any one 'snuff-colored son of a gun'!"
And they generally wind up with some slyly shrewd piece of worldly
wisdom and wit. Thus, the closing moral to 'The Blasphemer's
"To married men this--For the rest of your lives,
Think how your misconduct may act on your wives!
Don't swear then before them, lest haply they faint,
Or--what sometimes occurs--run away with a Saint!"
Often they are broader yet, and intended for the club rather than the
family. Indeed, the tales as a whole are club tales, with an audience of
club-men always in mind; not, be it remembered, bestialities like their
French counterparts, or the later English and American improvements on
the French, not even objectionable for general reading, but full of
exclusively masculine joking, allusions, and winks, unintelligible to
the other sex, and not welcome if they were intelligible.
He has plenty of melody, but it is hardly recognized because of the
doggerel meaning, which swamps the music in the farce. And this applies
to more important things than the melody. The average reader floats on
the surface of this rapid and foamy stream, covered with sticks and
straws and flowers and bonbons, and never realizes its depth and volume.
This light frothy verse is only the vehicle of a solid and laborious
antiquarian scholarship, of an immense knowledge of the world and
society, books and men. He modestly disclaimed having any imagination,
and said he must always have facts to work upon. This was true; but the
same may be said of some great poets, who have lacked invention except
around a skeleton ready furnished. What was true of Keats and Fitzgerald
cannot nullify the merit of Barham. His fancy erected a huge and
consistent superstructure on a very slender foundation. The same
materials lay ready to the hands of thousands of others, who, however,
saw only stupid monkish fables or dull country superstition.
His own explanation of his handling of the church legends tickles a
critic's sense of humor almost as much as the verses themselves. It is
true that while differing utterly in his tone of mind, and his attitude
toward the mediaeval stories, from that of the mediaeval artists and
sculptors,--whose gargoyles and other grotesques were carved without a
thought of travesty on anything religious,--he is at one with them in
combining extreme irreverence of form with a total lack of irreverence
of spirit toward the real spiritual mysteries of religion. He burlesques
saints and devils alike, mocks the swarm of miracles of the mediaeval
Church, makes salient all the ludicrous aspects of mediaeval religious
faith in its devout credulity and barbarous gropings; yet he never
sneers at holiness or real aspiration, and through all the riot of fun
in his masques, one feels the sincere Christian and the warm-hearted
man. But he was evidently troubled by the feeling that a clergyman ought
not to ridicule any form in which religious feeling had ever clothed
itself; and he justified himself by professing that he wished to expose
the absurdity of old superstitions and mummeries to help countervail the
effect of the Oxford movement. Ingoldsby as a soldier of Protestantism,
turning monkish stories into rollicking farces in order to show up what
he conceived to be the errors of his opponents, is as truly Ingoldsbian
a figure as any in his own 'Legends.' Yet one need not accuse him of
hypocrisy or falsehood, hardly even of self-deception. He felt that dead
superstitions, and stories not reverenced even by the Church that
developed them, were legitimate material for any use he could make of
them; he felt that in dressing them up with his wit and fancy he was
harming nothing that existed, nor making any one look lightly on the
religion of Christ or the Church of Christ: and that they were the
property of an opposing church body was a happy thought to set his
conscience at rest. He wrote them thenceforth with greater peace of mind
and added satisfaction, and no doubt really believed that he was doing
good in the way he alleged. And if the excuse gave to the world even one
more of the inimitable 'Legends,' it was worth feeling and making.
Barham's nature was not one which felt the problems and tragedies of the
world deeply. He grieved for his friends, he helped the distresses he
saw, but his imagination rested closely in the concrete. He was
incapable of _weltschmerz_; even for things just beyond his personal
ken he had little vision or fancy. His treatment of the perpetual
problem of sex-temptations and lapses is a good example: he never seems
to be conscious of the tragedy they envelop. To him they are always good
jokes, to wink over or smile at or be indulgent to. No one would ever
guess from 'Ingoldsby' the truth he finds even in 'Don Juan,' that
"A heavy price must all pay who thus err,
In some shape."
But we cannot have everything: if Barham had been sensitive to the
tragic side of life, he could not have been the incomparable fun-maker
he was. We do not go to the 'Ingoldsby Legends' to solace our souls when
hurt or remorseful, to brace ourselves for duty, or to feel ourselves
nobler by contact with the expression of nobility. But there must be
play and rest for the senses, as well as work and aspiration; and there
are worse services than relieving the strain of serious endeavor by
enabling us to become jolly pagans once again for a little space, and
care naught for the morrow.
AS I LAYE A-THYNKYNGE
THE LAST LINES OF BARHAM
As I laye a-thynkynge, a-thynkynge, a-thynkynge,
Merrie sang the Birde as she sat upon the spraye;
There came a noble Knighte,
With his hauberke shynynge brighte,
And his gallant heart was lyghte,
Free and gaye;
As I laye a-thynkynge, he rode upon his waye.
As I laye a-thynkynge, a-thynkynge, a-thynkynge,
Sadly sang the Birde as she sat upon the tree!
There seemed a crimson plain,
Where a gallant Knyghte lay slayne,
And a steed with broken rein
As I laye a-thynkynge, most pitiful to see!
As I laye a-thynkynge, a-thynkynge, a-thynkynge,
Merrie sang the Birde as she sat upon the boughe;
A lovely mayde came bye,
And a gentil youth was nyghe,
And he breathed many a syghe,
And a vowe;
As I laye a-thynkynge, her hearte was gladsome now.
As I laye a-thynkynge, a-thynkynge, a-thynkynge,
Sadly sang the Birde as she sat upon the thorne;
No more a youth was there,
But a Maiden rent her haire,
And cried in sad despaire,
"That I was borne!"
As I laye a-thynkynge, she perished forlorne.
As I laye a-thynkynge, a-thynkynge, a-thynkynge,
Sweetly sang the Birde as she sat upon the briar;
There came a lovely childe,
And his face was meek and milde,
Yet joyously he smiled
On his sire;
As I laye a-thynkynge, a Cherub mote admire.
But I laye a-thynkynge, a-thynkynge, a-thynkynge,
And sadly sang the Birde as it perched upon a bier;
That joyous smile was gone,
And the face was white and wan,
As the downe upon the Swan
As I laye a-thynkynge,--oh! bitter flowed the tear!
As I laye a-thynkynge, the golden sun was sinking,
Oh, merrie sang that Birde, as it glittered on her breast
With a thousand gorgeous dyes;
While soaring to the skies,
'Mid the stars she seemed to rise,
As to her nest;
As I laye a-thynkynge, her meaning was exprest:--
"Follow me away,
It boots not to delay,"--
'Twas so she seemed to saye,
"HERE IS REST!"
THE LAY OF ST. CUTHBERT
THE DEVIL'S DINNER-PARTY
A LEGEND OF THE NORTH COUNTREE
Nobilis quidam, cui nomen _Monsr. Lescrop, Chivaler_, cum invitasset
convivas, et, hora convivii jam instante et apparatu facto, spe
frustratus esset, excusantibus se convivis cur non compararent, prorupit
iratus in haec verba: "_Veniant igitur omnes daemones, si nullus hominum
mecum esse potest_!"
Quod cum fieret, et Dominus, et famuli, et ancillae, a domo properantes,
forte obliti, infantem in cunis jacentem secum non auferent, Daemones
incipiunt commessari et vociferari, prospicereque per fenestras formis
ursorum, luporum, felium, et monstrare pocula vino repleta. _Ah_, inquit
pater, _ubi infans meus?_ Vix cum haec dixisset, unus ex Daemonibus ulnis
suis infantem ad fenestram gestat, etc.--_Chronicon de Bolton_.
It's in Bolton Hall, and the clock strikes One,
And the roast meat's brown and the boiled meat's done,
And the barbecued sucking-pig's crisped to a turn,
And the pancakes are fried and beginning to burn;
The fat stubble-goose
Swims in gravy and juice,
With the mustard and apple-sauce ready for use;
Fish, flesh, and fowl, and all of the best,
Want nothing but eating--they're all ready drest,
But where is the Host, and where is the Guest?
Pantler and serving-man, henchman and page
Stand sniffing the duck-stuffing (onion and sage),
And the scullions and cooks,
With fidgety looks,
Are grumbling and mutt'ring, and scowling as black
As cooks always do when the dinner's put back;
For though the board's deckt, and the napery, fair
As the unsunned snow-flake, is spread out with care,
And the Dais is furnished with stool and with chair,
And plate of _orfeverie_ costly and rare,
Apostle-spoons, salt-cellar, all are there,
And Mess John in his place,
With his rubicund face,
And his hands ready folded, prepared to say Grace,
Yet where is the Host?--and his convives--where?
The Scroope sits lonely in Bolton Hall,
And he watches the dial that hangs by the wall,
He watches the large hand, he watches the small,
And he fidgets and looks
As cross as the cooks,
And he utters--a word which we'll soften to "Zooks!"
And he cries, "What on earth has become of them all?--
What can delay
De Vaux and De Saye?
What makes Sir Gilbert de Umfraville stay?
What's gone with Poyntz, and Sir Reginald Braye?
Why are Ralph Ufford and Marny away?
And De Nokes and De Styles, and Lord Marmaduke Grey?
And De Roe?
And De Doe?
Poynings and Vavasour--where be they?
Fitz-Walter, Fitz-Osbert, Fitz-Hugh, and Fitz-John,
And the Mandevilles, _pere et filz_ (father and son);
Their cards said 'Dinner precisely at One!'
There's nothing I hate, in
The world, like waiting!
It's a monstrous great bore, when a Gentleman feels
A good appetite, thus to be kept from his meals!"
It's in Bolton Hall, and the clock strikes Two!
And the scullions and cooks are themselves "in a stew,"
And the kitchen-maids stand, and don't know what to do,
For the rich plum-puddings are bursting their bags,
And the mutton and turnips are boiling to rags,
And the fish is all spoiled,
And the butter's all oiled,
And the soup's got cold in the silver tureen,
And there's nothing, in short, that is fit to be seen!
While Sir Guy Le Scroope continues to fume,
And to fret by himself in the tapestried room,
And still fidgets and looks
More cross than the cooks,
And repeats that bad word, which we've softened to "Zooks!"
Two o'clock's come, and Two o'clock's gone,
And the large and the small hands move steadily on,
Still nobody's there,
No De Roos, or De Clare,
To taste of the Scroope's most delicate fare,
Or to quaff off a health unto Bolton's Heir,
That nice little boy who sits in his chair,
Some four years old, and a few months to spare,
With his laughing blue eyes and his long curly hair,
Now sucking his thumb, and now munching his pear.
Again Sir Guy the silence broke,
"It's hard upon Three!--it's just on the stroke!
Come, serve up the dinner!--A joke is a joke"--
Little he deems that Stephen de Hoaques,
Who "his fun," as the Yankees say, everywhere "pokes,"
And is always a great deal too fond of his jokes,
Has written a circular note to De Nokes,
And De Styles and De Roe, and the rest of the folks,
One and all,
Great and small,
Who were asked to the Hall
To dine there and sup, and wind up with a ball,
And had told all the party a great bouncing lie, he
Cooked up, that the "_fete_ was postponed _sine die_,
The dear little curly-wigged heir of Le Scroope
Being taken alarmingly ill with the croop!"
When the clock struck Three,
And the Page on his knee
Said, "An't please you, Sir Guy Le Scroope, _On a servi_!"
And the Knight found the banquet-hall empty and clear,
With nobody near
To partake of his cheer,
He stamped, and he stormed--then his language!--Oh dear!
'Twas awful to see, and 'twas awful to hear!
And he cried to the button-decked Page at his knee,
Who had told him so civilly "_On a servi,"_
"Ten thousand fiends seize them, wherever they be!
--The Devil take _them_! and the Devil take _thee!_
And the DEVIL MAY EAT UP THE DINNER FOR ME!"
In a terrible fume
He bounced out of the room,
He bounced out of the house--and page, footman, and groom
Bounced after their master; for scarce had they heard
Of this left-handed grace the last finishing word,
Ere the horn at the gate of the Barbican tower
Was blown with a loud twenty-trumpeter power,
And in rush'd a troop
Of strange guests!--such a group
As had ne'er before darkened the door of the Scroope!
This looks like De Saye--yet--it is not De Saye--
And this is--no, 'tis not--Sir Reginald Braye,
This has somewhat the favor of Marmaduke Grey--
But stay!--_Where on earth did he get those long nails?_
Why, they're _claws_!--then Good Gracious!--they've all of them _tails!_
That can't be De Vaux--why, his nose is a bill,
Or, I would say a beak!--and he can't keep it still!--
Is that Poynings?--Oh, Gemini! look at his feet!!
Why, they're absolute _hoofs_!--is it gout or his corns,
That have crumpled them up so?--by Jingo, he's _horns!_
Run! run!--There's Fitz-Walter, Fitz-Hugh, and Fitz-John,
And the Mandevilles, _pere et filz_ (father and son),
And Fitz-Osbert, and Ufford--_they've all got them on!_
Then their great saucer eyes--
It's the Father of lies
And his Imps--run! run! run!--they're all fiends in disguise,
Who've partly assumed, with more sombre complexions,
The forms of Sir Guy Le Scroope's friends and connections,
And He--at the top there--that grim-looking elf--
Run! run!--that's the "muckle-horned Clootie" himself!
And now what a din
Without and within!
For the courtyard is full of them.--How they begin
To mop, and to mowe, and to make faces, and grin!
Cock their tails up together,
Like cows in hot weather,
And butt at each other, all eating and drinking,
The viands and wine disappearing like winking,
And then such a lot
As together had got!
Master Cabbage, the steward, who'd made a machine
To calculate with, and count noses,--I ween
The cleverest thing of the kind ever seen,--
Declared, when he'd made
By the said machine's aid,
Up, what's now called the "tottle" of those he surveyed,
There were just--how he proved it I cannot divine--
_Nine thousand, nine hundred, and ninety and nine._
Exclusive of Him
Who, giant in limb,
And black as the crow they denominate _Jim_,
With a tail like a bull, and a head like a bear,
Stands forth at the window--and what holds he there,
Which he hugs with such care,
And pokes out in the air,
And grasps as its limbs from each other he'd tear?
Oh! grief and despair!
I vow and declare
It's Le Scroope's poor, dear, sweet, little, curly-wigged Heir!
Whom the nurse had forgot and left there in his chair,
Alternately sucking his thumb and his pear.
What words can express
The dismay and distress
Of Sir Guy, when he found what a terrible mess
His cursing and banning had now got him into?
That words, which to use are a shame and a sin too,
Had thus on their speaker recoiled, and his malison
Placed in the hands of the Devil's own "pal" his son!--
He sobbed and he sighed,
And he screamed, and he cried,
And behaved like a man that is mad or in liquor--he
Tore his peaked beard, and he dashed off his "Vicary,"
Stamped on the jasey
As though he were crazy,
And staggering about just as if he were "hazy,"
Exclaimed, "Fifty pounds!" (a large sum in those times)
"To the person, whoever he may be, that climbs
To that window above there, _en ogive_, and painted,
And brings down my curly-wi'--" Here Sir Guy fainted!
With many a moan,
And many a groan,
What with tweaks of the nose, and some _eau de Cologne_,
He revived,--Reason once more remounted her throne,
Or rather the instinct of Nature--'twere treason
To her, in the Scroope's case, perhaps, to say Reason--
But what saw he then--Oh! my goodness! a sight
Enough to have banished his reason outright!--
In that broad banquet-hall
The fiends one and all
Regardless of shriek, and of squeak, and of squall,
From one to another were tossing that small
Pretty, curly-wigged boy, as if playing at ball;
Yet none of his friends or his vassals might dare
To fly to the rescue or rush up the stair,
And bring down in safety his curly-wigged Heir!
Well a day! Well a day!
All he can say
Is but just so much trouble and time thrown away;
Not a man can be tempted to join the _melee:_
E'en those words cabalistic, "I promise to pay
Fifty pounds on demand," have for once lost their sway,
And there the Knight stands
Wringing his hands
In his agony--when on a sudden, one ray
Of hope darts through his midriff!--His Saint!--
Oh, it's funny
And almost absurd,
That it never occurred!--
"Ay! the Scroope's Patron Saint!--he's the man for my money!
Saint--who is it?--really I'm sadly to blame,--
On my word I'm afraid,--I confess it with shame,--
That I've almost forgot the good Gentleman's name,--
Cut--let me see--Cutbeard?--no--CUTHBERT!--egad!
St. Cuthbert of Bolton!--I'm right--he's the lad!
O holy St. Cuthbert, if forbears of mine--
Of myself I say little--have knelt at your shrine,
And have lashed their bare backs, and--no matter--with twine,
Oh! list to the vow
Which I make to you now,
Only snatch my poor little boy out of the row
Which that Imp's kicking up with his fiendish bow-wow,
And his head like a bear, and his tail like a cow!
Bring him back here in safety!--perform but this task,
And I'll give--Oh!--I'll give you whatever you ask!--
There is not a shrine
In the county shall shine
With a brilliancy half so resplendent as thine,
Or have so many candles, or look half so fine!--
Haste, holy St. Cuthbert, then,--hasten in pity!--"
Conceive his surprise
When a strange voice replies,
"It's a bargain!--but, mind, sir, THE BEST SPERMACETI!"--
Say, whose that voice?--whose that form by his side,
That old, old, gray man, with his beard long and wide,
In his coarse Palmer's weeds,
And his cockle and beads?--
And how did he come?--did he walk?--did he ride?
Oh! none could determine,--oh! none could decide,--
The fact is, I don't believe any one tried;
For while every one stared, with a dignified stride
And without a word more,
He marched on before,
Up a flight of stone steps, and so through the front door,
To the banqueting-hall that was on the first floor,
While the fiendish assembly were making a rare
Little shuttlecock there of the curly-wigged Heir.
--I wish, gentle Reader, that you could have seen
The pause that ensued when he stepped in between,
With his resolute air, and his dignified mien,
And said, in a tone most decided though mild,
"Come! I'll trouble you just to hand over that child!"
The Demoniac crowd
In an instant seemed cowed;
Not one of the crew volunteered a reply,
All shrunk from the glance of that keen-flashing eye,
Save one horrid Humgruffin, who seemed by his talk,
And the airs he assumed, to be cock of the walk.
He quailed not before it, but saucily met it,
And as saucily said, "Don't you wish you may get it?"
My goodness!--the look that the old Palmer gave!
And his frown!--'twas quite dreadful to witness--"Why, slave!
You rascal!" quoth he,
"This language to ME!
At once, Mr. Nicholas! down on your knee,
And hand me that curly-wigged boy!--I command it--
Come!--none of your nonsense!--you know I won't stand it."
Old Nicholas trembled,--he shook in his shoes,
And seemed half inclined, but afraid, to refuse.
"Well, Cuthbert," said he,
"If so it must be,
For you've had your own way from the first time I knew ye;--
Take your curly-wigged brat, and much good may he do ye!
But I'll have in exchange"--here his eye flashed with rage--
"That chap with the buttons--he _gave me_ the Page!"
"Come, come," the saint answered, "you very well know
The young man's no more his than your own to bestow.
Touch one button of his if you dare, Nick---no! no!
Cut your stick, sir--come, mizzle! be off with you! go!"--
The Devil grew hot--
"If I do I'll be shot!
An you come to that, Cuthbert, I'll tell you what's what;
He has _asked_ us to _dine here_, and go we will not!
Why, you Skinflint,--at least
You may leave us the feast!
Here we've come all that way from our brimstone abode,
Ten million good leagues, sir, as ever you strode,
And the deuce of a luncheon we've had on the road--
'Go!'--'Mizzle!' indeed--Mr. Saint, who are you,
I should like to know?--'Go!' I'll be hanged if I do!
He invited us all--we've a right here--it's known
That a Baron may do what he likes with his own--
Here, Asmodeus--a slice of that beef;--now the mustard!--
What have _you_ got?--oh, apple-pie--try it with custard."
The Saint made a pause
As uncertain, because
He knew Nick is pretty well "up" in the laws,
And they _might_ be on _his_ side--and then, he'd such claws!
On the whole, it was better, he thought, to retire
With the curly-wigged boy he'd picked out of the fire,
And give up the victuals--to retrace his path,
And to compromise--(spite of the Member for Bath).
So to Old Nick's appeal,
As he turned on his heel,
He replied, "Well, I'll leave you the mutton and veal,
And the soup _a la Reine_, and the sauce _Bechamel;_
As the Scroope _did_ invite you to dinner, I feel
I can't well turn you out--'twould be hardly genteel---
But be moderate, pray,--and remember thus much,
Since you're treated as Gentlemen--show yourselves such,
And don't make it late,
But mind and go straight
Home to bed when you've finished--and don't steal the plate,
Nor wrench off the knocker, or bell from the gate.
Walk away, like respectable Devils, in peace,
And don't 'lark' with the watch, or annoy the police!"
Having thus said his say,
That Palmer gray
Took up little La Scroope, and walked coolly away,
While the Demons all set up a "Hip! hip! hurrah!"
Then fell, tooth and nail, on the victuals, as they
Had been guests at Guildhall upon Lord Mayor's day,
All scrambling and scuffling for what was before 'em,
No care for precedence or common decorum.
Few ate more hearty
Than Madame Astarte,
And Hecate,--considered the Belles of the party.
Between them was seated Leviathan, eager
To "do the polite," and take wine with Belphegor;
Here was _Morbleu_ (a French devil), supping soup-meagre,
And there, munching leeks, Davy Jones of Tredegar
(A Welsh one), who'd left the domains of Ap Morgan
To "follow the sea,"--and next him Demogorgon,--
Then Pan with his pipes, and Fauns grinding the organ
To Mammon and Belial, and half a score dancers,
Who'd joined with Medusa to get up 'the Lancers';
Here's Lucifer lying blind drunk with Scotch ale,
While Beelzebub's tying huge knots in his tail.
There's Setebos, storming because Mephistopheles
Gave him the lie,
Said he'd "blacken his eye,"
And dashed in his face a whole cup of hot coffee-lees;--
Ramping and roaring,
Never was seen such a riot before in
A gentleman's house, or such profligate reveling
At any _soiree_--where they don't let the Devil in.
Hark! as sure as fate
The clock's striking Eight!
(An hour which our ancestors called "getting late,")
When Nick, who by this time was rather elate,
Rose up and addressed them:--
"'Tis full time," he said,
"For all elderly Devils to be in their bed;
For my own part I mean to be jogging, because
I don't find myself now quite so young as I was;
But, Gentlemen, ere I depart from my post
I must call on you all for one bumper--the toast
Which I have to propose is,--OUR EXCELLENT HOST!
Many thanks for his kind hospitality--may
_We_ also be able
To see at _our_ table
Himself, and enjoy, in a family way,
His good company _down-stairs_ at no distant day!
You'd, I'm sure, think me rude
If I did not include,
In the toast my young friend there, the curly-wigged Heir!
He's in very good hands, for you're all well aware
That St. Cuthbert has taken him under his care;
Though I must not say 'bless,'--
Why, you'll easily guess,--
May our curly-wigged Friend's shadow never be less!"
Nick took off his heel-taps--bowed--smiled---with an air
Most graciously grim,--and vacated the chair.
Of course the _elite_
Rose at once on their feet,
And followed their leader, and beat a retreat:
When a sky-larking Imp took the President's seat,
And requesting that each would replenish his cup,
Said, "Where we have dined, my boys, there let us sup!"--
It was three in the morning before they broke up!!!
* * * * *
I scarcely need say
Sir Guy didn't delay
To fulfill his vow made to St. Cuthbert, or pay
For the candles he'd promised, or make light as day
The shrine he assured him he'd render so gay.
In fact, when the votaries came there to pray,
All said there was naught to compare with it--nay,
For fear that the Abbey
Might think he was shabby,
Four Brethren, thenceforward, two cleric, two lay,
He ordained should take charge of a new-founded chantry,
With six marcs apiece, and some claims on the pantry;
In short, the whole county
Declared, through his bounty,
The Abbey of Bolton exhibited fresh scenes
From any displayed since Sir William de Meschines
And Cecily Roumeli came to this nation
With William the Norman, and laid its foundation.
For the rest, it is said,
And I know I have read
In some Chronicle--whose, has gone out of my head--
That what with these candles, and other expenses,
Which no man would go to if quite in his senses,
He reduced and brought low
His property so,
That at last he'd not much of it left to bestow;
And that many years after that terrible feast,
Sir Guy, in the Abbey, was living a priest;
And there, in one thousand and---something--deceased.
(It's supposed by this trick
He bamboozled Old Nick,
And slipped through his fingers remarkably "slick.")
While as to young Curly-wig,--dear little Soul,
Would you know more of him, you must look at "The Roll,"
Which records the dispute,
And the subsequent suit,
Commenced in "Thirteen sev'nty-five,"--which took root
In Le Grosvenor's assuming the arms Le Scroope swore
That none but _his_ ancestors, ever before,
In foray, joust, battle, or tournament wore,
To wit, "_On a Prussian-blue Field_, a _Bend Or_;"
While the Grosvenor averred that _his_ ancestors bore
The same, and Scroope lied like a--somebody tore
Off the simile,--so I can tell you no more,
Till some A double S shall the fragment restore.
This Legend sound maxims exemplifies--_e.g._
1_mo._ Should anything tease you,
Annoy, or displease you,
Remember what Lilly says, "_Animum rege!_"
And as for that shocking bad habit of swearing,--
In all good society voted past bearing,--
Eschew it! and leave it to dustmen and mobs,
Nor commit yourself much beyond "Zooks!" or "Odsbobs!"
2_do._ When asked out to dine by a Person of Quality,
Mind, and observe the most strict punctuality!
For should you come late,
And make dinner wait,
And the victuals get cold, you'll incur, sure as fate,
The Master's displeasure, the Mistress's hate.
And though both may perhaps be too well-bred to swear,
They'll heartily _wish_ you--I will not say _Where_.
3_tio._ Look well to your Maid-servants!--say you expect them
To see to the children, and not to neglect them!
And if you're a widower, just throw a cursory
Glance in, at times, when you go near the Nursery.
Perhaps it's as well to keep children from plums,
And from pears in the season,--and sucking their thumbs!
4_to._ To sum up the whole with a "saw" of much use,
Be _just_ and be _generous_,--don't be _profuse!_--
Pay the debts that you owe, keep your word to your friends,
But--DON'T SET YOUR CANDLES ALIGHT AT BOTH ENDS!!--
For of this be assured, if you "go it" too fast,
You'll be "dished" like Sir Guy,
And like him, perhaps, die
A poor, old, half-starved Country Parson at last!
A LAY OF ST. NICHOLAS
"Statim sacerdoti apparuit diabolus in specie puellae pulchritudinis
mirae, et ecce Divus, fide catholica, et cruce, et aqua benedicta armatus
venit, et aspersit aquam in nomine Sanctae et Individuae Trinitatis, quam,
quasi ardentem, diabolus, nequaquam sustinere valens, mugitibus
"Lord Abbot! Lord Abbot! I'd fain confess;
I am a-weary, and worn with woe;
Many a grief doth my heart oppress,
And haunt me whithersoever I go!"
On bended knee spake the beautiful Maid;
"Now lithe and listen, Lord Abbot, to me!"--
"Now naye, fair daughter," the Lord Abbot said,
"Now naye, in sooth it may hardly be.
"There is Mess Michael, and holy Mess John,
Sage penitauncers I ween be they!
And hard by doth dwell, in St. Catherine's cell,
Ambrose, the anchorite old and gray!"
--"Oh, I will have none of Ambrose or John,
Though sage penitauncers I trow they be;
Shrive me may none save the Abbot alone--
Now listen, Lord Abbot, I speak to thee.
"Nor think foul scorn, though mitre adorn
Thy brow, to listen to shrift of mine!
I am a maiden royally born,
And I come of old Plantagenet's line.
"Though hither I stray in lowly array,
I am a damsel of high degree;
And the Compte of Eu, and the Lord of Ponthieu,
They serve my father on bended knee!
"Counts a many, and Dukes a few,
A suitoring came to my father's Hall;
But the Duke of Lorraine, with his large domain,
He pleased my father beyond them all.
"Dukes a many, and Counts a few,
I would have wedded right cheerfullie;
But the Duke of Lorraine was uncommonly plain,
And I vowed that he ne'er should my bridegroom be!
"So hither I fly, in lowly guise,
From their gilded domes and their princely halls;
Fain would I dwell in some holy cell,
Or within some Convent's peaceful walls!"
--Then out and spake that proud Lord Abbot,
"Now rest thee, fair daughter, withouten fear.
Nor Count nor Duke but shall meet the rebuke
Of Holy Church an he seek thee here:
"Holy Church denieth all search
'Midst her sanctified ewes and her saintly rams,
And the wolves doth mock who would scathe her flock,
Or, especially, worry her little pet lambs.
"Then lay, fair daughter, thy fears aside,
For here this day shalt thou dine with me!"--
"Now naye, now naye," the fair maiden cried;
"In sooth, Lord Abbot, that scarce may be!
"Friends would whisper, and foes would frown,
Sith thou art a Churchman of high degree,
And ill mote it match with thy fair renown
That a wandering damsel dine with thee!
"There is Simon the Deacon hath pulse in store,
With beans and lettuces fair to see:
His lenten fare now let me share,
I pray thee, Lord Abbot, in charitie!"
--"Though Simon the Deacon hath pulse in store,
To our patron Saint foul shame it were
Should wayworn guest, with toil oppressed,
Meet in his Abbey such churlish fare.
"There is Peter the Prior, and Francis the Friar,
And Roger the Monk shall our convives be;
Small scandal I ween shall then be seen:
They are a goodly companie!"
The Abbot hath donned his mitre and ring,
His rich dalmatic, and maniple fine;
And the choristers sing, as the lay-brothers bring
To the board a magnificent turkey and chine.
The turkey and chine, they are done to a nicety;
Liver, and gizzard, and all are there;
Ne'er mote Lord Abbot pronounce _Benedicite_
Over more luscious or delicate fare.
But no pious stave he, no _Pater_ or _Ave_
Pronounced, as he gazed on that maiden's face;
She asked him for stuffing, she asked him for gravy,
She asked him for gizzard;--but not for grace!
Yet gayly the Lord Abbot smiled, and pressed,
And the blood-red wine in the wine-cup filled;
And he helped his guest to a bit of the breast,
And he sent the drumsticks down to be grilled.
There was no lack of the old Sherris sack,
Of Hippocras fine, or of Malmsey bright;
And aye, as he drained off his cup with a smack,
He grew less pious and more polite.
She pledged him once, and she pledged him twice,
And she drank as Lady ought not to drink;
And he pressed her hand 'neath the table thrice,
And he winked as Abbot ought not to wink.
And Peter the Prior, and Francis the Friar,
Sat each with a napkin under his chin;
But Roger the Monk got excessively drunk,
So they put him to bed, and they tucked him in!
The lay-brothers gazed on each other, amazed;
And Simon the Deacon, with grief and surprise.
As he peeped through the key-hole, could scarce fancy real
The scene he beheld, or believe his own eyes.
In his ear was ringing the Lord Abbot singing--
He could not distinguish the words very plain,
But 'twas all about "Cole," and "jolly old Soul,"
And "Fiddlers," and "Punch," and things quite as profane.
Even Porter Paul, at the sound of such reveling,
With fervor himself began to bless;
For he thought he must somehow have let the Devil in--
And perhaps was not very much out in his guess.
The Accusing Byers "flew up to Heaven's Chancery,"
Blushing like scarlet with shame and concern;
The Archangel took down his tale, and in answer he
Wept (see the works of the late Mr. Sterne).
Indeed, it is said, a less taking both were in
When, after a lapse of a great many years,
They booked Uncle Toby five shillings for swearing,
And blotted the fine out again with their tears!
But St. Nicholas's agony who may paint?
His senses at first were well-nigh gone;
The beatified saint was ready to faint
When he saw in his Abbey such sad goings on!
For never, I ween, had such doings been seen
There before, from the time that most excellent Prince,
Earl Baldwin of Flanders, and other Commanders,
Had built and endowed it some centuries since.
--But hark--'tis a sound from the outermost gate:
A startling sound from a powerful blow.--
Who knocks so late?--it is half after eight
By the clock,--and the clock's five minutes too slow.
Never, perhaps, had such loud double raps
Been heard in St. Nicholas's Abbey before;
All agreed "it was shocking to keep people knocking,"
But none seemed inclined to "answer the door."
Now a louder bang through the cloisters rang,
And the gate on its hinges wide open flew;
And all were aware of a Palmer there,
With his cockle, hat, staff, and his sandal shoe.
Many a furrow, and many a frown,
By toil and time on his brow were traced;
And his long loose gown was of ginger brown,
And his rosary dangled below his waist.
Now seldom, I ween, is such costume seen,
Except at a stage-play or masquerade;
But who doth not know it was rather the go
With Pilgrims and Saints in the second Crusade?
With noiseless stride did that Palmer glide
Across that oaken floor;
And he made them all jump, he gave such a thump
Against the Refectory door!
Wide open it flew, and plain to the view
The Lord Abbot they all mote see;
In his hand was a cup and he lifted it up,
"Here's the Pope's good health with three!"
Rang in their ears three deafening cheers,
"Huzza! huzza! huzza!"
And one of the party said, "Go it, my hearty!"--
When outspake that Pilgrim gray--
"A boon, Lord Abbot! a boon! a boon!
Worn is my foot, and empty my scrip;
And nothing to speak of since yesterday noon
Of food, Lord Abbot, hath passed my lip.
"And I am come from a far countree,
And have visited many a holy shrine;
And long have I trod the sacred sod
Where the Saints do rest in Palestine!"--
"An thou art come from a far countree,
And if thou in Paynim lands hast been,
Now rede me aright the most wonderful sight,
Thou Palmer gray, that thine eyes have seen.
"Arede me aright the most wonderful sight,
Gray Palmer, that ever thine eyes did see,
And a manchette of bread, and a good warm bed,
And a cup o' the best shall thy guerdon be!"
"Oh! I have been east, and I have been west,
And I have seen many a wonderful sight;
But never to me did it happen to see
A wonder like that which I see this night!
"To see a Lord Abbot, in rochet and stole,
With Prior and Friar,--a strange mar-velle!--
O'er a jolly full bowl, sitting cheek by jowl,
And hob-nobbing away with a Devil from Hell!"
He felt in his gown of ginger brown,
And he pulled out a flask from beneath;
It was rather tough work to get out the cork,
But he drew it at last with his teeth.
O'er a pint and a quarter of holy water,
He made a sacred sign;
And he dashed the whole on the _soi-disant_ daughter
Of old Plantagenet's line!
Oh! then did she reek, and squeak, and shriek,
With a wild unearthly scream;
And fizzled, and hissed, and produced such a mist,
They were all half-choked by the steam.
Her dove-like eyes turned to coals of fire,
Her beautiful nose to a horrible snout,
Her hands to paws, with nasty great claws,
And her bosom went in and her tail came out.
On her chin there appeared a long Nanny-goat's beard,
And her tusks and her teeth no man mote tell;
And her horns and her hoofs gave infallible proofs
'Twas a frightful Fiend from the nethermost hell!
The Palmer threw down his ginger gown,
His hat and his cockle; and, plain to sight,
Stood St. Nicholas' self, and his shaven crown
Had a glow-worm halo of heavenly light.
The fiend made a grasp the Abbot to clasp;
But St. Nicholas lifted his holy toe,
And, just in the nick, let fly such a kick
On his elderly namesake, he made him let go.
And out of the window he flew like a shot,
For the foot flew up with a terrible thwack,
And caught the foul demon about the spot
Where his tail joins on to the small of his back.
And he bounded away like a foot-ball at play,
Till into the bottomless pit he fell slap,
Knocking Mammon the meagre o'er pursy Belphegor,
And Lucifer into Beelzebub's lap.
Oh! happy the slip from his Succubine grip,
That saved the Lord Abbot,--though breathless with fright,
In escaping he tumbled, and fractured his hip,
And his left leg was shorter thenceforth than his right!
* * * * *
On the banks of the Rhine, as he's stopping to dine,
From a certain inn-window the traveler is shown
Most picturesque ruins, the scene of these doings,
Some miles up the river south-east of Cologne.
And while "_sauer-kraut_" she sells you, the landlady tells you
That there, in those walls all roofless and bare,
One Simon, a Deacon, from a lean grew a sleek one
On filling a _ci-devant_ Abbot's state chair.
How a _ci-devant_ Abbot, all clothed in drab, but
Of texture the coarsest, hair shirt and no shoes
(His mitre and ring, and all that sort of thing
Laid aside), in yon cave lived a pious recluse;
How he rose with the sun, limping "dot and go one,"
To yon rill of the mountain, in all sorts of weather,
Where a Prior and a Friar, who lived somewhat higher
Up the rock, used to come and eat cresses together;
How a thirsty old codger the neighbors called Roger,
With them drank cold water in lieu of old wine!
What its quality wanted he made up in quantity,
Swigging as though he would empty the Rhine!
And how, as their bodily strength failed, the mental man
Gained tenfold vigor and force in all four;
And how, to the day of their death, the "Old Gentleman"
Never attempted to kidnap them more.
And how, when at length, in the odor of sanctity,
All of them died without grief or complaint,
The monks of St. Nicholas said 'twas ridiculous
Not to suppose every one was a Saint.
And how, in the Abbey, no one was so shabby
As not to say yearly four masses ahead,
On the eve of that supper, and kick on the crupper
Which Satan received, for the souls of the dead!
How folks long held in reverence their reliques and memories,
How the _ci-devant_ Abbot's obtained greater still,
When some cripples, on touching his fractured _os femoris_,
Threw down their crutches and danced a quadrille!
And how Abbot Simon (who turned out a prime one)
These words, which grew into a proverb full soon,
O'er the late Abbot's grotto, stuck up as a motto,
"Who Suppes with the Deville sholde have a long spoone!"
[Footnote 1: The Prince of Peripatetic Informers, and terror of
Stage Coachmen, when such things were.]
The Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould was born in Exeter, England, in 1834. The
addition of Gould to the name of Baring came in the time of his
great-grandfather, a brother of Sir Francis Baring, who married an only
daughter and heiress of W.D. Gould of Devonshire. Much of the early life
of Baring-Gould was passed in Germany and France, and at Clare College,
Cambridge, where he graduated in 1854, taking orders ten years later,
and in 1881 becoming rector of Lew Trenchard, Devonshire, where he holds
estates and privileges belonging to his family.
He has worked in many fields, and in all with so much acceptance that a
list of his books would be the best exposition of the range of his
untiring pen. To a gift of ready words and ready illustration, whether
he concerns himself with diversities of early Christian belief, the
course of country-dances in England, or the growth of mediaeval legends,
he adds the grace of telling a tale and drawing a character. He has
published nearly a hundred volumes, not one of them unreadable. But no
one man may write with equal pen of German history, of comparative
mythology and philology, of theological dissertations, and of the
pleasures of English rural life, while he adds to these a long list
His secret of popularity lies not in his treatment, which is neither
critical nor scientific, but rather in a clever, easy, diffuse, jovial,
amusing way of saying clearly what at the moment comes to him to say.
His books have a certain raciness and spirit that recall the English
squire of tradition. They rarely smell of the lamp. Now and then appears
a strain of sturdy scholarship, leading the reader to wonder what his
author might have accomplished had he not enjoyed the comfortable ease
of a country justice of the peace, and a rector with large landed
estates, to whom his poorer neighbors appear a sort of dancing puppets.
Between 1857 and 1870, Baring-Gould had published nine volumes, the best
known of these being 'Curious Myths of the Middle Ages.' From 1870 to
1890 his name appeared as author on the title-page of forty-three books:
sermons, lectures, essays, archaeological treatises, memoirs,
curiosities of literature, histories, and fiction; sixteen novels,
tales, and romances being included. From 1890 to 1896 he published
seventeen more novels, and many of his books have passed through several
editions. His most successful novels are 'Mehalah; a Tale of the Salt
Marshes,' 'In the Roar of the Sea,' 'Red Spider,' 'Richard Cable,' and
'Noemi; a Story of Rock-Dwellers.'
In an essay upon his fiction, Mr. J.M. Barrie writes in The Contemporary
Review (February, 1890):--
"Of our eight or ten living novelists who are popular by
merit, few have greater ability than Mr. Baring-Gould. His
characters are bold and forcible figures, his wit is as ready
as his figures of speech are apt. He has a powerful
imagination, and is quaintly fanciful. When he describes a
storm, we can see his trees breaking in the gale. So enormous
and accurate is his general information that there is no
trade or profession with which he does not seem familiar. So
far as scientific knowledge is concerned, he is obviously
better equipped than any contemporary writer of fiction. Yet
one rises from his books with a feeling of repulsion, or at
least with the glad conviction that his ignoble views of life
are as untrue as the characters who illustrate them. Here is
a melancholy case of a novelist, not only clever but sincere,
undone by want of sympathy.... The author's want of
sympathy prevents 'Mehalah's' rising to the highest art; for
though we shudder at the end, there the effect of the story
stops. It illustrates the futility of battling with fate, but
the theme is not allowable to writers with the modern notion
of a Supreme Power.... But 'Mehalah' is still one of the
most powerful romances of recent years."
ST. PATRICK'S PURGATORY
From 'Curious Myths of the Middle Ages'
In that charming mediaeval romance 'Fortunatus and his Sons,' which by
the way is a treasury of popular mythology, is an account of a visit
paid by the favored youth to that cave of mystery in Lough Derg, the
Purgatory of St. Patrick.
Fortunatus, we are told, had heard in his travels of how two days'
journey from the town Valdric, in Ireland, was a town, Vernic, where was
the entrance to the Purgatory; so thither he went with many servants. He
found a great abbey, and behind the altar of the church a door, which
led into the dark cave which is called the Purgatory of St. Patrick. In
order to enter it, leave had to be obtained from the abbot; consequently
Leopold, servant to Fortunatus, betook himself to that worthy and made
known to him that a nobleman from Cyprus desired to enter the mysterious
cavern. The abbot at once requested Leopold to bring his master to
supper with him. Fortunatus bought a large jar of wine and sent it as a
present to the monastery, and followed at the meal-time.
"Venerable sir!" said Fortunatus, "I understand the Purgatory of St.
Patrick is here: is it so?"
The abbot replied, "It is so indeed. Many hundred years ago, this place,
where stand the abbey and the town, was a howling wilderness. Not far
off, however, lived a venerable hermit, Patrick by name, who often
sought the desert for the purpose of therein exercising his austerities.
One day he lighted on this cave, which is of vast extent. He entered it,
and wandering on in the dark, lost his way, so that he could no more
find how to return to the light of day. After long ramblings through the
gloomy passages, he fell on his knees and besought Almighty God, if it
were His will, to deliver him from the great peril wherein he lay.
Whilst Patrick thus prayed, he was ware of piteous cries issuing from
the depths of the cave, just such as would be the wailings of souls in
purgatory. The hermit rose from his orison, and by God's mercy found his
way back to the surface, and from that day exercised greater
austerities, and after his death he was numbered with the saints. Pious
people, who had heard the story of Patrick's adventure in the cave,
built this cloister on the site."
Then Fortunatus asked whether all who ventured into the place heard
likewise the howls of the tormented souls.
The abbot replied, "Some have affirmed that they have heard a bitter
crying and piping therein; whilst others have heard and seen nothing. No
one, however, has penetrated as yet to the furthest limits of
Fortunatus then asked permission to enter, and the abbot cheerfully
Back to Full Books