The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb IV
Charles and Mary Lamb
Part 4 out of 11
Much speech obscures the sense; the soul of wit
Is brevity: our tale one proof of it.
Poor Balbulus, a stammering invalid,
Consults the doctors, and by them is bid
To try sea-bathing, with this special heed,
"One Dip was all his malady did need;
More than that one his certain death would be."
Now who so nervous or so shook as he,
For Balbulus had never dipped before?
Two well-known dippers at the Broadstairs' shore,
Stout, sturdy churls, have stript him to the skin,
And naked, cold, and shivering plunge him in.
Soon he emerges, with scarce breath to say,
"I'm to be dip--dip--dipt--." "We know it," they
Reply; expostulation seemed in vain,
And over ears they souse him in again,
And up again he rises, his words trip,
And falter as before. Still "dip--dip--dip"--
And in again he goes with furious plunge,
Once more to rise; when, with a desperate lunge,
At length he bolts these words out, "Only once!"
The villains crave his pardon. Had the dunce
But aimed at these bare words the rogues had found him,
But striving to be prolix, they half drowned him.
Adsciscit sibi divitias et opes alienas
Fur, rapiens, spolians quod mihi, quodque tibi
Proprium erat, temnens haec verba, Meumque Tuumque;
Omne Suum est. Tandem cuique suum tribuit.
Dat laqueo collum: vestes, vah! carnifici dat:
Sese Diabolo; sic bene, Cuique Suum.
[ON THE _LITERARY GAZETTE_]
In merry England I computed once
The number of the dunces--dunce for dunce;
There were _four hundred_, if I don't forget,
_All readers of the L------y G-----e;_
But if the author to himself keep true,
In some short months they'll be reduced to _two_.
ON THE FAST-DAY
To name a Day for general prayer and fast
Is surely worse than of no sort of use;
For you may see with grief, from first to last
On _fast_-days people of all ranks are _loose_.
Lazy-bones, lazy-bones, wake up, and peep!
The cat's in the cupboard, your mother's asleep.
There you sit snoring, forgetting her ills;
Who is to give her her Bolus and Pills?
Twenty fine Angels must come into town,
All for to help you to make your new gown:
Dainty AERIAL Spinsters, and Singers;
Aren't you ashamed to employ such white fingers?
Delicate hands, unaccustom'd to reels,
To set 'em a working a poor body's wheels?
Why they came down is to me all a riddle,
And left HALLELUJAH broke off in the middle:
Jove's Court, and the Presence angelical, cut--
To eke out the work of a lazy young slut.
Angel-duck, Angel-duck, winged, and silly,
Pouring a watering-pot over a lily,
Gardener gratuitous, careless of pelf,
Leave her to water her lily herself,
Or to neglect it to death if she chuse it:
Remember the loss is her own, if she lose it.
_(Of the East India House)_
What Wawd knows, God knows;
But God knows _what_ Wawd knows.
* * * * *
SIX EPITAPHS ON ENSIGN PEACOCK
He lies a Volunteer so fine,
Who died of a decline,
As you or I, may do one day;
Reader, think of this, I pray;
And I humbly hope you'll drop a tear
For my poor Royal Volunteer.
He was as brave as brave could be,
Nobody was so brave as he;
He would have died in Honor's bed,
Only he died at home instead.
Well may the Royal Regiment swear,
They never had such a Volunteer.
But whatsoever they may say,
Death is a man that will have his way:
Tho' he was but an ensign in this world of pain;
In the next we hope he'll be a captain.
And without meaning to make any reflection on his mentals,
He begg'd to be buried in regimentals.
ON TIMOTHY WAGSTAFF
Here lies the body of Timothy Wagstaff,
Who was once as tall and as straight as a flagstaff;
But now that he's gone to another world,
His staff is broken and his flag is furled.
ON CAPTAIN STURMS
Here lieth the body of Captain Sturms,
Once "food for powder," now for worms,
At the battle of Meida he lost his legs,
And stumped about on wooden pegs.
Naught cares he now for such worthless things,
He was borne to Heaven on angels' wings.
ON MARGARET DIX
_(Born on February 29)_
_Ci git_ the remains of Margaret Dix,
Who was young in old age I ween,
Though Envy with Malice cried "seventy-six,"
The Graces declared her "nineteen."
ON ONESIMUS DRAKE
To the memory of Dr. Onesimus Drake,
Who forced good people his drugs to take--
No wonder his patients were oft on the rack
For this "duck of a man" was a terrible quack.
ON MATTHEW DAY
Beneath this slab lies Matthew Day,
If his body had not been snatched away
To be by Science dissected;
Should it have gone, one thing is clear:
His soul the last trump is sure to hear,
And thus be resurrected.
* * * * *
TIME AND ETERNITY
Where the soul drinks of misery's power,
Each moment seems a lengthened hour;
But when bright joy illumes the mind,
Time passes as the fleetest wind.--
How to a wicked soul must be
Whole ages of eternity?
FROM THE LATIN
As swallows shrink before the wintry blast,
And gladly seek a more congenial soil,
So flatterers halt when fortune's lure is past,
And basely court some richer lordling's smile.
SATAN IN SEARCH OF A WIFE
_With the Whole Process of his Courtship
and Marriage, and who Danced at the Wedding
By an Eye Witness_
To delicate bosoms, that have sighed over the _Loves of the Angels_,
this Poem is with tenderest regard consecrated. It can be no offence
to you, dear Ladies, that the author has endeavoured to extend the
dominion of your darling passion; to shew Love triumphant in places,
to which his advent has been never yet suspected. If one Cecilia
drew an Angel down, another may have leave to attract a Spirit
upwards; which, I am sure, was the most desperate adventure of the
two. Wonder not at the inferior condition of the agent; for, if King
Cophetua wooed a Beggar Maid, a greater king need not scorn to
confess the attractions of a fair Tailor's daughter. The more
disproportionate the rank, the more signal is the glory of your sex.
Like that of Hecate, a triple empire is now confessed your own. Nor
Heaven, nor Earth, nor deepest tracts of Erebus, as Milton hath it,
have power to resist your sway. I congratulate your last victory.
You have fairly made an Honest Man of the Old One; and, if your
conquest is late, the success must be salutary. The new Benedict has
employment enough on his hands to desist from dabbling with the
affairs of poor mortals; he may fairly leave human nature to
herself; and we may sleep for one while at least secure from the
attacks of this hitherto restless Old Bachelor. It remains to be
seen, whether the world will be much benefited by the change in his
PART THE FIRST
The Devil was sick and queasy of late,
And his sleep and his appetite fail'd him;
His ears they hung down, and his tail it was clapp'd
Between his poor hoofs, like a dog that's been rapp'd--
None knew what the devil ail'd him.
He tumbled and toss'd on his mattress o' nights,
That was fit for a fiend's disportal;
For 'twas made of the finest of thistles and thorn,
Which Alecto herself had gather'd in scorn
Of the best down beds that are mortal.
His giantly chest in earthquakes heaved,
With groanings corresponding;
And mincing and few were the words he spoke,
While a sigh, like some delicate whirlwind, broke
From a heart that seem'd desponding.
Now the Devil an Old Wife had for his Dam,
I think none e'er was older:
Her years--old Parr's were nothing to them;
And a chicken to her was Methusalem,
You'd say, could you behold her.
She remember'd Chaos a little child,
Strumming upon hand organs;
At the birth of Old Night a gossip she sat,
The ancientest there, and was godmother at
The christening of the Gorgons.
Her bones peep'd through a rhinoceros' skin,
Like a mummy's through its cerement;
But she had a mother's heart, and guess'd
What pinch'd her son; whom she thus address'd
In terms that bespoke endearment.
"What ails my Nicky, my darling Imp,
My Lucifer bright, my Beelze?
My Pig, my Pug-with-a-curly-tail,
You are not well. Can a mother fail
To see _that_ which all Hell see?"
"O Mother dear, I am dying, I fear;
Prepare the yew, and the willow,
And the cypress black: for I get no ease
By day or by night for the cursed fleas,
That skip about my pillow."
"Your pillow is clean, and your pillow-beer,
For I wash'd 'em in Styx last night, son,
And your blankets both, and dried them upon
The brimstony banks of Acheron--
It is not the _fleas_ that bite, son."
"O I perish of cold these bitter sharp nights,
The damp like an ague ferrets;
The ice and the frost hath shot into the bone;
And I care not greatly to sleep alone
O! nights--for the fear of Spirits."
"The weather is warm, my own sweet boy,
And the nights are close and stifling;
And for fearing of Spirits, you cowardly Elf--
Have you quite forgot you're a Spirit yourself?
Come, come, I see you are trifling.
"I wish my Nicky is not in love"--
"O mother, you have nick't it"--
And he turn'd his head aside with a blush--
Not red hot pokers, or crimson plush,
Could half so deep have prick'd it.
"These twenty thousand good years or more,"
Quoth he, "on this burning shingle
I have led a lonesome Bachelor's life,
Nor known the comfort of babe or wife--
'Tis a long--time to live single."
Quoth she, "If a wife is all you want,
I shall quickly dance at your wedding.
I am dry nurse, you know, to the Female Ghosts "--
And she call'd up her charge, and they came in hosts
To do the old Beldam's bidding:
All who in their lives had been servants of sin--
Adulteress, Wench, Virago--
And Murd'resses old that had pointed the knife
Against a husband's or father's life,
Each one a She Iago.
First Jezebel came--no need of paint,
Or dressing, to make her charming;
For the blood of the old prophetical race
Had heighten'd the natural flush of her face
To a pitch 'bove rouge or carmine.
Semiramis there low tendered herself,
With all Babel for a dowry:
With Helen, the flower and the bane of Greece--
And bloody Medea next offer'd her fleece,
That was of Hell the Houri.
Clytemnestra, with Joan of Naples, put in;
Cleopatra, by Anthony quicken'd;
Jocasta, that married where she should not,
Came hand in hand with the Daughters of Lot;
Till the Devil was fairly sicken'd.
For the Devil himself, a dev'l as he is,
Disapproves unequal matches.
"O Mother," he cried, "dispatch them hence!
No Spirit--I speak it without offence--
Shall have me in her hatches."
With a wave of her wand they all were gone!
And now came out the slaughter:
"'Tis none of these that can serve my turn;
For a wife of flesh and blood I burn--
I'm in love with a Taylor's Daughter.
"'Tis she must heal the wounds that she made,
'Tis she must be my physician.
O parent mild, stand not my foe"--
For his mother had whisper'd something low
About "matching beneath his condition."--
"And then we must get paternal consent,
Or an unblest match may vex ye"--
"Her father is dead; I fetched him away.
In the midst of his goose, last Michaelmas day--
He died of an apoplexy.
"His daughter is fair, and an only heir--
With her I long to tether--
He has left her his _hell_, and all that he had;
The estates are contiguous, and I shall be mad,
'Till we lay our two Hells together."
"But how do you know the fair maid's mind?"--
Quoth he, "Her loss was but recent;
And I could not speak _my_ mind you know,
Just when I was fetching her father below--
It would have been hardly decent.
"But a leer from her eye, where Cupids lie,
Of love gave proof apparent;
And, from something she dropp'd, I shrewdly ween'd,
In her heart she judged, that a _living Fiend_
Was better than a _dead Parent_.
"But the time is short; and suitors may come,
While I stand here reporting;
Then make your son a bit of a Beau,
And give me your blessing, before I go
To the other world a courting."
"But what will you do with your horns, my son?
And that tail--fair maids will mock it--"
"My tail I will dock--and as for the horn,
Like husbands above I think no scorn
To carry it in my pocket."
"But what will you do with your feet, my son?"
"Here are stockings fairly woven:
My hoofs I will hide in silken hose;
And cinnamon-sweet are my pettitoes--
Because, you know, they are _cloven_."
"Then take a blessing, my darling Son,"
Quoth she, and kiss'd him civil--
Then his neckcloth she tied; and when he was drest
From top to toe in his Sunday's best,
He appear'd a comely devil.
So his leave he took:--but how he fared
In his courtship--barring failures--
In a Second Part you shall read it soon,
In a bran new song, to be sung to the tune
Of the "Devil among the Tailors."
* * * * *
THE SECOND PART
_Containing the Courtship, and the Wedding_
Who is She that by night from her balcony looks
On a garden, where cabbage is springing?
'Tis the Tailor's fair Lass, that we told of above;
She muses by moonlight on her True Love;
So sharp is Cupid's stinging.
She has caught a glimpse of the Prince of the Air
In his Luciferian splendour,
And away with her coyness and maiden reserve!--
For none but the Devil her turn will serve,
Her sorrows else will end her.
She saw when he fetch'd her father away,
And the sight no whit did shake her;
For the Devil may sure with his own make free--
And "it saves besides," quoth merrily she,
"The expence of an Undertaker.--
"Then come, my Satan, my darling Sin,
Return to my arms, my Hell Beau;
My Prince of Darkness, my crow-black Dove"--
And she scarce had spoke, when her own True Love
Was kneeling at her elbow!
But she wist not at first that this was He,
That had raised such a boiling passion;
For his old costume he had laid aside,
And was come to court a mortal bride
In a coat-and-waistcoat fashion.
She miss'd his large horns, and she miss'd his fair tail,
That had hung so retrospective;
And his raven plumes, and some other marks
Regarding his feet, that had left their sparks
In a mind but too susceptive:
And she held in scorn that a mortal born
Should the Prince of Spirits rival,
To clamber at midnight her garden fence--
For she knew not else by what pretence
To account for his arrival.
"What thief art thou," quoth she, "in the dark
That stumblest here presumptuous?
Some Irish Adventurer I take you to be--
A Foreigner, from your garb I see,
Which besides is not over sumptuous."
Then Satan, awhile dissembling his rank,
A piece of amorous fun tries:
Quoth he, "I'm a Netherlander born;
Fair Virgin, receive not my suit with scorn;
I'm a Prince in the Low Countries--
"Though I travel _incog_. From the Land of Fog
And Mist I am come to proffer
My crown and my sceptre to lay at your feet;
It is not every day in the week you may meet,
Fair Maid, with a Prince's offer."
"Your crown and your sceptre I like full well,
They tempt a poor maiden's pride, Sir;
But your lands and possessions--excuse if I'm rude--
Are too far in a Northerly latitude
For me to become your Bride, Sir.
"In that aguish clime I should catch my death,
Being but a raw new comer"--
Quoth he, "We have plenty of fuel stout;
And the fires, which I kindle, never go out
By winter, nor yet by summer.
"I am Prince of Hell, and Lord Paramount
Over Monarchs there abiding.
My Groom of the Stables is Nimrod old;
And Nebuchadnazor my stirrups must hold,
When I go out a riding.
"To spare your blushes, and maiden fears,
I resorted to these inventions--
But, Imposture, begone; and avaunt, Disguise!"
And the Devil began to swell and rise
To his own diabolic dimensions.
Twin horns from his forehead shot up to the moon,
Like a branching stag in Arden;
Dusk wings through his shoulders with eagle's strength
Push'd out; and his train lay floundering in length
An acre beyond the garden.--
To tender hearts I have framed my lay--
Judge ye, all love-sick Maidens,
When the virgin saw in the soft moonlight,
In his proper proportions, her own true knight,
If she needed long persuadings.
Yet a maidenly modesty kept her back,
As her sex's art had taught her:
For "the biggest Fortunes," quoth she, "in the land--
Are not worthy"--then blush'd--"of your Highness's hand--
Much less a poor Taylor's daughter.
"There's the two Miss Crockfords are single still,
For whom great suitors hunger;
And their Father's hell is much larger than mine"--
Quoth the Devil, "I've no such ambitious design,
For their Dad is an old Fishmonger;
"And I cannot endure the smell of fish--
I have taken an anti-bias
To their livers, especially since the day
That the Angel smoked my cousin away
From the chaste spouse of Tobias.
"Had my amorous kinsman much longer staid,
The perfume would have seal'd his obit;
For he had a nicer nose than the wench,
Who cared not a pin for the smother and stench,
In the arms of the Son of Tobit."
"I have read it," quoth she, "in Apocryphal Writ"--
And the Devil stoop'd down, and kiss'd her;
Not Jove himself, when he courted in flame,
On Semele's lips, the love-scorch'd Dame,
Impress'd such a burning blister.
The fire through her bones and her vitals shot--
"O, I yield, my winsome marrow--
I am thine for life"--and black thunders roll'd--
And she sank in his arms through the garden mould,
With the speed of a red-hot arrow.
Merrily, merrily, ring the bells
From each Pandemonian steeple;
For the Devil hath gotten his beautiful Bride,
And a Wedding Dinner he will provide,
To feast all kinds of people.
Fat bulls of Basan are roasted whole,
Of the breed that ran at David;
With the flesh of goats, on the sinister side,
That shall stand apart, when the world is tried;
Fit meat for souls unsaved!
The fowl from the spit were the Harpies' brood,
Which the bard sang near Cremona,
With a garnish of bats in their leathern wings imp't;
And the fish was--two delicate slices crimp't,
Of the whale that swallow'd Jonah.
Then the goblets were crown'd, and a health went round
To the Bride, in a wine like scarlet;
No earthly vintage so deeply paints,
For 'twas dash'd with a tinge from the blood of the Saints
By the Babylonian Harlot.
No Hebe fair stood Cup Bearer there,
The guests were their own skinkers;
But Bishop Judas first blest the can,
Who is of all Hell Metropolitan,
And kiss'd it to all the drinkers.
The feast being ended, to dancing they went,
To a music that did produce a
Most dissonant sound, while a hellish glee
Was sung in parts by the Furies Three;
And the Devil took out Medusa.
But the best of the sport was to hear his old Dam,
Set up her shrill forlorn pipe--
How the wither'd Beldam hobbled about,
And put the rest of the company out--
For she needs must try a horn-pipe.
But the heat, and the press, and the noise, and the din,
Were so great, that, howe'er unwilling,
Our Reporter no longer was able to stay,
But came in his own defence away,
And left the Bride quadrilling.
PROLOGUES AND EPILOGUES
EPILOGUE TO GODWIN'S TRAGEDY OF "ANTONIO"
Ladies, ye've seen how Guzman's consort died,
Poor victim of a Spaniard brother's pride,
When Spanish honour through the world was blown,
And Spanish beauty for the best was known.
In that romantic, unenlighten'd time,
A _breach of promise_ was a sort of crime--
Which of you handsome English ladies here,
But deem the penance bloody and severe?
A whimsical old Saragossa fashion,
That a dead father's dying inclination,
Should _live_ to thwart a living daughter's passion,
Unjustly on the sex _we_ men exclaim,
Rail at _your_ vices,--and commit the same;--
Man is a promise-breaker from the womb,
And goes a promise-breaker to the tomb--
What need we instance here the lover's vow,
The sick man's purpose, or the great man's bow?
The truth by few examples best is shown--
Instead of many which are better known,
Take poor Jack Incident, that's dead and gone.
Jack, of dramatic genius justly vain,
Purchased a renter's share at Drury-lane;
A prudent man in every other matter,
Known at his club-room for an honest hatter;
Humane and courteous, led a civil life,
And has been seldom known to beat his wife;
But Jack is now grown quite another man,
Frequents the green-room, knows the plot and plan
Of each new piece,
And has been seen to talk with Sheridan!
In at the play-house just at six he pops,
And never quits it till the curtain drops,
Is never absent on the _author's night_,
Knows actresses and actors too--by sight;
So humble, that with Suett he'll confer,
Or take a pipe with plain Jack Bannister;
Nay, with an author has been known so free,
He once suggested a catastrophe--
In short, John dabbled till his head was turn'd:
His wife remonstrated, his neighbours mourn'd,
His customers were dropping off apace,
And Jack's affairs began to wear a piteous face.
One night his wife began a curtain lecture;
'My dearest Johnny, husband, spouse, protector,
Take pity on your helpless babes and me,
Save us from ruin, you from bankruptcy--
Look to your business, leave these cursed plays,
And try again your old industrious ways.'
Jack, who was always scared at the Gazette,
And had some bits of scull uninjured yet,
Promised amendment, vow'd his wife spake reason,
'He would not see another play that season--'
Three stubborn fortnights Jack his promise kept,
Was late and early in his shop, eat, slept,
And walk'd and talk'd, like ordinary men;
No _wit_, but John the hatter once again--
Visits his club: when lo! one _fatal night_
His wife with horror view'd the well-known sight--
John's _hat, wig, snuff-box_--well she knew his tricks--
And Jack decamping at the hour of six.
Just at the counter's edge a playbill lay,
Announcing that 'Pizarro' was the play--
'O Johnny, Johnny, this is your old doing.'
Quoth Jack, 'Why what the devil storm's a-brewing?
About a harmless play why all this fright?
I'll go and see it, if it's but for spite--
Zounds, woman! Nelson's to be there to-night.'
[Footnote 19: Four _easy_ lines.]
[Footnote 20: For which the _heroine died_.]
[Footnote 21: In _Spain_!!]
[Footnote 22: Two _neat_ lines.]
[Footnote 23: Or _you_.]
[Footnote 24: Or _our_, as _they_ have altered it.]
[Footnote 25: Antithesis!!]
[Footnote 26: "A good clap-trap. Nelson has exhibited two or three times
at both theatres--and advertised himself."]
PROLOGUE TO GODWIN'S TRAGEDY OF "FAULKENER"
An author who has given you all delight,
Furnish'd the tale our stage presents to-night.
Some of our earliest tears He taught to steal
Down our young cheeks, and forc'd us first to feel.
To solitary shores whole years confin'd,
Who has not read how pensive _Crusoe_ pin'd?
Who, now grown old, that did not once admire
His goat, his parrot, his uncouth attire,
The stick, due-notch'd, that told each tedious day
That in the lonely island wore away?
Who has not shudder'd, where he stands aghast
At sight of human footsteps in the waste?
Or joy'd not, when his trembling hands unbind
Thee, _Friday_, gentlest of the savage kind?
The genius who conceiv'd that magic tale
Was skill'd by native pathos to prevail.
His stories, though rough-drawn, and fram'd in haste,
Had that which pleas'd our homely grandsires' taste.
His was a various pen, that freely rov'd
Into all subjects, was in most approv'd.
Whate'er the theme, his ready Muse obey'd--
Love, courtship, politics, religion, trade--
Gifted alike to shine in every sphere,
Nov'list, historian, poet, pamphleteer.
In some blest interval of party-strife,
He drew a striking sketch from private life,
Whose moving scenes of intricate distress
We try to-night in a dramatic dress:
A real story of domestic woe,
That asks no aid from music, verse, or show,
But trusts to truth, to nature, and _Defoe._
EPILOGUE TO HENRY SIDDONS' FARCE, "TIME'S A TELL-TALE"
Bound for the port of matrimonial bliss,
Ere I hoist sail, I hold it not amiss,
(Since prosp'rous ends ask prudent introductions)
To take a slight peep at my written instructions.
There's nothing like determining in time
All questions marital or maritime.
In all seas, straits, gulphs, ports, havens, lands, creeks.
Oh! Here it begins.
"Season, spring, wind standing at point Desire--
The good ship Matrimony--Commander. Blanford, Esq.
"The captain that has the command of her,
Or in his absence, the acting officer,
To see her planks are sound, her timbers tight."--
That acting officer I don't relish quite,
No, as I hope to tack another verse on,
I'll do those duties in my proper person.
"All mutinies to be suppress'd at first."
That's a good caution to prevent the worst.
"That she be properly victual'd, mann'd and stor'd,
To see no foreigners are got aboard."
That's rather difficult. Do what we can,
A vessel sometimes may mistake her man.
The safest way in such a parlous doubt,
Is steady watch and keep a sharp look out.
"Whereas their Lords Commissioners (the church)
Do strictly authorise the right of search:
As always practis'd--you're to understand
By these what articles are contraband;
Guns, mortars, pistols, halberts, swords, pikes, lances,
Ball, powder, shot, and the appurtenances.
Videlicet--whatever can be sent
To give the enemy encouragement.
Ogles are small shot (so the instruction runs),
Touches hand grenades, and squeezes rifle guns."
"That no free-bottom'd neutral waiting maid
Presume to exercise the carrying trade:
The prohibition here contained extends
To all commerce cover'd by the name of Friends.
Heaven speed the good ship well"--and so it ends.
Oh with such wholesome jealousies as these
May Albion cherish his old spouse the seas;
Keep over her a husband's firm command,
Not with too rigid nor too lax a hand.
Be gently patient to her swells and throws
When big with safeties to himself she goes;
Nor while she clips him in a fast embrace,
Stand for some female frowns upon her face.
But tell the rival world--and tell in Thunder,
Whom Nature joined, none ere shall put asunder.
PROLOGUE TO COLERIDGE'S TRAGEDY OF "REMORSE"
There are, I am told, who sharply criticise
Our modern theatres' unwieldy size.
We players shall scarce plead guilty to that charge,
Who think a house can never be too large:
Griev'd when a rant, that's worth a nation's ear,
Shakes some prescrib'd Lyceum's petty sphere;
And pleased to mark the grin from space to space
Spread epidemic o'er a town's broad face.--
O might old Betterton or Booth return
To view our structures from their silent urn,
Could Quin come stalking from Elysian glades,
Or Garrick get a day-rule from the shades--
Where now, perhaps, in mirth which Spirits approve,
He imitates the ways of men above,
And apes the actions of our upper coast,
As in his days of flesh he play'd the ghost:--
How might they bless our ampler scope to please,
And hate their own old shrunk up audiences.--
Their houses yet were palaces to those,
Which Ben and Fletcher for their triumphs chose.
Shakspeare, who wish'd a kingdom for a stage, }
Like giant pent in disproportion'd cage, }
Mourn'd his contracted strengths and crippled rage. }
He who could tame his vast ambition down
To please some scatter'd gleanings of a town,
And, if some hundred auditors supplied
Their meagre meed of claps, was satisfied,
How had he felt, when that dread curse of Lear's
Had burst tremendous on a thousand ears,
While deep-struck wonder from applauding bands
Return'd the tribute of as many hands!
Rude were his guests; he never made his bow
To such an audience as salutes us now.
He lack'd the balm of labor, female praise.
Few Ladies in his time frequented plays,
Or came to see a youth with aukward art
And shrill sharp pipe burlesque the woman's part.
The very use, since so essential grown,
Of painted scenes, was to his stage unknown.
The air-blest castle, round whose wholesome crest,
The martlet, guest of summer, chose her nest--
The forest walks of Arden's fair domain,
Where Jaques fed his solitary vein.
No pencil's aid as yet had dared supply,
Seen only by the intellectual eye.
Those scenic helps, denied to Shakspeare's page,
Our Author owes to a more liberal age.
Nor pomp nor circumstance are wanting here;
'Tis for himself alone that he must fear.
Yet shall remembrance cherish the just pride,
That (be the laurel granted or denied)
He first essay'd in this distinguish'd fane,
Severer muses and a tragic strain.
EPILOGUE TO KENNEY'S FARCE, "DEBTOR AND CREDITOR"
_Spoken by Mr. Liston and Mr. Emery in character_
_Gosling._ False world----
_Sampson._ You're bit, Sir.
_Gosling_. Boor! what's that to you?
With Love's soft sorrows what hast thou to do?
'Tis _here_ for consolation I must look.
(_Takes out his pocket book_).
_Sampson_. Nay, Sir, don't put us down in your black book.
_Gosling_. All Helicon is here.
_Sampson_. All Hell.
_Gosling_. You Clod!
Did'st never hear of the Pierian God,
And the Nine Virgins on the Sacred Hill?
_Sampson_. Nine Virgins!--Sure!
_Gosling_. I have them all at will.
_Sampson_. If Miss fight shy, then--
_Gosling_. And my suit decline.
_Sampson_. You'll make a dash at them.
_Gosling_. I'll tip all nine.
_Sampson_. What, wed 'em, Sir?
_Gosling_. O, no--that thought I banish.
I woo--not wed; they never bring the Spanish.
Their favours I pursue, and court the bays.
_Sampson_. Mayhap, you're one of them that write the plays?
_Sampson_. I'm told the public's well-nigh crammed
With such like stuff.
_Gosling_. The public may be damned.
_Sampson_. They ha'nt damned you? (_inquisitively_).
_Gosling_. This fellow's wond'rous shrewd!
I'd tell him if I thought he'd not be rude.
Once in my greener years, I wrote a piece.
_Sampson_. Aye, so did I--at school like--
_Gosling_. Booby, cease!
I mean a Play.
_Gosling_. And to crown my joys,
_Sampson_. Well, and how--
_Gosling_. It made a noise,
A kind of mingled--(_as if musing_).
_Sampson_. Aye, describe it, try.
_Gosling_. Like--Were you ever in the pillory?
_Sampson_. No, Sir, I thank ye, no such kind of game.
_Gosling_. Bate but the eggs, and it was much the same.
Shouts, clamours, laughs, and a peculiar sound,
_Sampson_. Like geese, I warrant, in a pound.
I like this mainly!
_Gosling_. Some began to cough,
_Sampson_. Go on--
_Gosling_. A few--and some--"Go off!"
I can't suppress it. Gods! I hear it now;
It was in fact a most confounded row.
Dire was the din, as when some storm confounds
Earth, sea, and sky, with all terrific sounds.
Not hungry lions sent forth notes more strange,
Not bulls and bears, that have been hoaxed on 'Change.
_Sampson_. Exeter 'Change you mean--I've seen they bears.
_Gosling_. The beasts I mean are far less tame than theirs.
Change Alley Bruins, nattier though their dress,
Might at Polito's study politesse.
Brief let me be. My gentle Sampson, pray,
Fight Larry Whack, but never write a play.
_Sampson_. I won't, Sir: and these christian souls petition,
To spare all wretched folks in such condition.
EPILOGUE TO AN AMATEUR PERFORMANCE OF "RICHARD II."
Of all that act, the hardest task is theirs,
Who, bred no Players, play at being Players;
Copy the shrug--in Kemble once approved;--
Mere mimics' mimics--nature twice removed.
Shades of a shadow! who but must have seen
The stage-struck hero, in some swelling scene
Aspiring to be Lear--stumble on Kean?
The admired actor's faults our steps betray,--
No less his very beauties lead astray!
In "sad civility" once Garrick sate
To see a Play, mangled in form and state;
Plebeian Shakspeare must the words supply,--
The actors all were Fools--of Quality.
The scenes--the dresses--were above rebuke;--
Scarce a Performer there below a Duke.
He sate, and mused how in his Shakspeare's mind
The idea of old Nobility enshrined
Should thence a grace and a refinement have
Which passed these living Nobles to conceive,--
Who with such apish, base gesticulation,
Remnants of starts, and dregs of playhouse passion,
So foul belied their great forefathers' fashion!
He saw--and true Nobility confessed
Less in the high-born blood, than lowly poet's breast.
If Lords enacting Lords sometimes may fail,
What gentle plea, Spectators, can avail
For wight of low degree who dares to stir
The long-raked ashes of old Lancaster,
And on his nothing-martial front to set
Of warlike Gaunt the lofty burgonet?
For who shall that Plantagenet display,
Majestical in sickness and decay?
Or paint the shower of passions fierce and thick
On Richard's head--that Royal Splenetic?
Your pardon, not your plaudits, then we claim
If we've come short, where Garrick had been tame!
PROLOGUE TO SHERIDAN KNOWLES' COMEDY, "THE WIFE"
_Untoward_ fate no luckless wight invades
More sorely than the Man who drives _two trades_;
Like Esop's bat, between two natures placed,
Scowl'd at by _mice_, among the _birds_ disgraced.
Our author thus, of two-fold fame exactor,
Is doubly scouted,--both as Bard, and Actor!
Wanting in haste a Prologue, he applied
To three poetic friends; was thrice denied.
Each glared on him with supercilious glance,
As on a Poor Relation met by chance;
And one was heard, with more repulsive air,
To mutter "Vagabond," "Rogue," "Strolling Player!"
A poet once, he found--and look'd aghast--
By turning actor, he had lost his _caste_.
The verse patch'd up at length--with like ill fortune
His friends behind the scenes he did importune
To speak his lines. He found them all fight shy,
Nodding their heads in cool civility.
"There service in the Drama was enough,
The poet might recite the poet's stuff!"
The rogues--they like him hugely--but it stung 'em,
Somehow--to think a Bard had got among 'em.
Their mind made up--no earthly pleading shook it,
In pure compassion 'till I undertook it.
Disown'd by Poets, and by Actors too,
Dear Patrons of both arts, he turns to you!
If in your hearts some tender feelings dwell
From sweet Virginia, or heroic Tell:
If in the scenes which follow you can trace
What once has pleased you--an unbidden grace--
A touch of nature's work--an awkward start
Or ebullition of an Irish heart--
Cry, clap, commend it! If you like them not,
Your former favours cannot be forgot.
Condemn them--damn them--hiss them, if you will--
Their author is your grateful servant still!
EPILOGUE TO SHERIDAN KNOWLES' COMEDY, "THE WIFE"
When first our Bard his simple will express'd,
That I should in his Heroine's robes be dress'd,
My fears were with my vanity at strife,
How I could act that untried part--a "Wife."
But Fancy to the Grison hills me drew,
Where Mariana like a wild flower grew,
Nursing her garden-kindred: so far I
Liked her condition, willing to comply
With that sweet single life: when, with a cranch,
Down came that thundering, crashing avalanche,
Startling my mountain-project! "Take this spade,"
Said Fancy then; "dig low, adventurous Maid,
For hidden wealth." I did: and, Ladies, lo! }
Was e'er romantic female's fortune so, }
To dig a life-warm lover from the--snow? }
A Wife and Princess see me next, beset
With subtle toils, in an Italian net;
While knavish Courtiers, stung with rage or fear,
Distill'd lip-poison in a husband's ear.
I ponder'd on the boiling Southern vein;
Racks, cords, stilettos, rush'd upon my brain!
By poor, good, weak Antonio, too disowned--
I dream'd each night, I should be Desdemona'd:
And, being in Mantua, thought upon the shop,
Whence fair Verona's youth his breath did stop:
And what if Leonardo, in foul scorn,
Some lean Apothecary should suborn
To take my hated life? A "tortoise" hung
Before my eyes, and in my ears scaled "alligators" rung.
But _my_ Othello, to his vows more zealous--
Twenty Iagos could not make _him_ jealous!
New raised to reputation, and to life-- }
At your commands behold me, without strife, }
Well-pleased, and ready to repeat--"The Wife." }
* * * * *
(1798-1802. _Text of_ 1818)
* * * * *
SIR WALTER WOODVIL.
SIMON. } _his sons._
GRAY. } _Pretended friends of John._
SANDFORD. _Sir Walter's old steward._
MARGARET. _Orphan ward of Sir Walter._
FOUR GENTLEMEN. _John's riotous companions._
SCENE--_for the most part at Sir Walter's mansion
in_ DEVONSHIRE; _at other times in the forest of_
TIME--_soon after the_ RESTORATION.
* * * * *
ACT THE FIRST
SCENE.--_A Servants' Apartment in Woodvil Hall._
Servants drinking--_Time, the morning._
* * * * *
A Song by DANIEL
_"When the King enjoys his own again."_
A delicate song. Where did'st learn it, fellow?
Even there, where thou learnest thy oaths and thy politics--at our
master's table.--Where else should a serving-man pick up his poor
Well spoken, Daniel. O rare Daniel!--his oaths and his politics!
And where did'st pick up thy knavery, Daniel?
That came to him by inheritance. His family have supplied the shire of
Devon, time out of mind, with good thieves and bad serving-men. All of
his race have come into the world without their conscience.
Good thieves, and bad serving-men! Better and better. I marvel what
Daniel hath got to say in reply.
I marvel more when thou wilt say any thing to the purpose, thou shallow
serving-man, whose swiftest conceit carries thee no higher than to
apprehend with difficulty the stale jests of us thy compeers. When was't
ever known to club thy own particular jest among us?
Most unkind Daniel, to speak such biting things of me!
See--if he hath not brought tears into the poor fellow's eyes with the
saltness of his rebuke.
No offence, brother Martin--I meant none. 'Tis true, Heaven gives gifts,
and with-holds them. It has been pleased to bestow upon me a nimble
invention to the manufacture of a jest; and upon thee, Martin, an
indifferent bad capacity to understand my meaning.
Is that all? I am content. Here's my hand.
Well, I like a little innocent mirth myself, but never could endure
_Quot homines tot sententiae._
And what is that?
'Tis Greek, and argues difference of opinion.
I hope there is none between us.
Here's to thee, brother Martin. (_Drinks._)
And to thee, Daniel. (_Drinks._)
And to thee, Peter. (_Drinks._)
Thank you, Francis. And here's to thee. (_Drinks._)
I shall be fuddled anon.
And drunkenness I hold to be a very despicable vice.
O! a shocking vice. (_They drink round._)
In as much as it taketh away the understanding.
And makes the eyes red.
And the tongue to stammer.
And to blab out secrets.
(_During this conversation they continue drinking._)
Some men do not know an enemy from a friend when they are drunk.
Certainly sobriety is the health of the soul.
Now I know I am going to be drunk.
How can'st tell, dry-bones?
Because I begin to be melancholy. That's always a sign.
Take care of Martin, he'll topple off his seat else.
(_Martin drops asleep._)
Times are greatly altered, since young master took upon himself the
government of this household.
I think every thing be altered for the better since His Majesty's
In Sir Walter's days there was no encouragement given to good
For instance, no possibility of getting drunk before two in the
Every man his allowance of ale at breakfast--his quart!
A quart!! (_in derision_.)
Nothing left to our own sweet discretions.
Whereby it may appear, we were treated more like beasts than what we
were--discreet and reasonable serving-men.
(_Opening his eyes_.) Like beasts.
To sleep, wag-tail!
I marvel all this while where the old gentleman has found means to
secrete himself. It seems no man has heard of him since the day of the
King's return. Can any tell why our young master, being favoured by the
court, should not have interest to procure his father's pardon?
Marry, I think 'tis the obstinacy of the old Knight, that will not be
beholden to the court for his safety.
Now that is wilful.
But can any tell me the place of his concealment?
That cannot I; but I have my conjectures.
Two hundred pounds, as I hear, to the man that shall apprehend him.
Well, I have my suspicions.
And so have I.
And I can keep a secret.
(_To Peter_.) Warwickshire you mean. (_Aside_.)
I say nothing.
I hope there is none in this company would be mean enough to betray him.
O Lord, surely not. (_They drink to Sir Walter's safety_.)
I have often wondered how our master came to be excepted by name in the
late Act of Oblivion.
Shall I tell the reason?
'Tis thought he is no great friend to the present happy establishment.
Fellow servants, a thought strikes me.--Do we, or do we not, come under
the penalties of the treason-act, by reason of our being privy to this
Truly a sad consideration.
_To them enters Sandford suddenly._
You well-fed and unprofitable grooms,
Maintained for state, not use;
You lazy feasters at another's cost,
That eat like maggots into an estate,
And do as little work,
Being indeed but foul excrescences,
And no just parts in a well-order'd family;
You base and rascal imitators,
Who act up to the height your master's vices,
But cannot read his virtues in your bond:
Which of you, as I enter'd, spake of betraying?
Was it you, or you, or, thin-face, was it you?
Whom does he call thin-face?
No prating, loon, but tell me who he was,
That I may brain the villain with my staff,
That seeks Sir Walter's life?
You miserable men,
With minds more slavish than your slave's estate,
Have you that noble bounty so forgot,
Which took you from the looms, and from the ploughs,
Which better had ye follow'd, fed ye, cloth'd ye,
And entertain'd ye in a worthy service,
Where your best wages was the world's repute,
That thus ye seek his life, by whom ye live?
Have you forgot too,
How often in old times
Your drunken mirths have stunn'd day's sober ears,
Carousing full cups to Sir Walter's health?--
Whom now ye would betray, but that he lies
Out of the reach of your poor treacheries.
This learn from me,
Our master's secret sleeps with trustier tongues,
Than will unlock themselves to carls like you.
Go, get you gone, you knaves. Who stirs? this staff
Shall teach you better manners else.
Well, we are going.
And quickly too, ye had better, for I see
Young mistress Margaret coming this way.
(_Exeunt all but Sandford._)
_Enter Margaret, as in a fright, pursued by a Gentleman,
who, seeing Sandford, retires muttering a curse.
Good-morrow to my fair mistress. 'Twas a chance
I saw you, lady, so intent was I
On chiding hence these graceless serving-men,
Who cannot break their fast at morning meals
Without debauch and mis-timed riotings.
This house hath been a scene of nothing else
But atheist riot and profane excess,
Since my old master quitted all his rights here.
Each day I endure fresh insult from the scorn
Of Woodvil's friends, the uncivil jests,
And free discourses, of the dissolute men,
That haunt this mansion, making me their mirth.
Does my young master know of these affronts?
I cannot tell. Perhaps he has not been told.
Perhaps he might have seen them if he would.
I have known him more quick-sighted. Let that pass.
All things seem chang'd, I think. I had a friend,
(I can't but weep to think him alter'd too,)
These things are best forgotten; but I knew
A man, a young man, young, and full of honor,
That would have pick'd a quarrel for a straw,
And fought it out to the extremity,
E'en with the dearest friend he had alive,
On but a bare surmise, a possibility,
That Margaret had suffer'd an affront.
Some are too tame, that were too splenetic once.
'Twere best he should be _told_ of these affronts.
I am the daughter of his father's friend,
Sir Walter's orphan-ward.
I am not his servant maid, that I should wait
The opportunity of a gracious hearing,
Enquire the times and seasons when to put
My peevish prayer up at young Woodvil's feet,
And sue to him for slow redress, who was
Himself a suitor late to Margaret.
I am somewhat proud: and Woodvil taught me pride.
I was his favourite once, his playfellow in infancy,
And joyful mistress of his youth.
None once so pleasant in his eyes as Margaret.
His conscience, his religion, Margaret was,
His dear heart's confessor, a heart within that heart,
And all dear things summ'd up in her alone.
As Margaret smil'd or frown'd John liv'd or died:
His dress, speech, gesture, studies, friendships, all
Being fashion'd to her liking.
His flatteries taught me first this self-esteem,
His flatteries and caresses, while he loved.
The world esteem'd her happy, who had won
His heart, who won all hearts;
And ladies envied me the love of Woodvil.
He doth affect the courtier's life too much,
Whose art is to forget,
And that has wrought this seeming change in him,
That was by nature noble.
'Tis these court-plagues, that swarm about our house,
Have done the mischief, making his fancy giddy
With images of state, preferment, place,
Tainting his generous spirits with ambition.
I know not how it is;
A cold protector is John grown to me.
The mistress, and presumptive wife, of Woodvil
Can never stoop so low to supplicate
A man, her equal, to redress those wrongs,
Which he was bound first to prevent;
But which his own neglects have sanction'd rather,
Both sanction'd and provok'd: a mark'd neglect,
And strangeness fast'ning bitter on his love,
His love which long has been upon the wane.
For me, I am determined what to do:
To leave this house this night, and lukewarm John,
And trust for food to the earth and Providence.
O lady, have a care
Of these indefinite and spleen-bred resolves.
You know not half the dangers that attend
Upon a life of wand'ring, which your thoughts now,
Feeling the swellings of a lofty anger,
To your abused fancy, as 'tis likely,
Portray without its terrors, painting _lies_
And representments of fallacious liberty--
You know not what it is to leave the roof that shelters you.
I have thought on every possible event,
The dangers and discouragements you speak of,
Even till my woman's heart hath ceas'd to fear them,
And cowardice grows enamour'd of rare accidents.
Nor am I so unfurnish'd, as you think,
Of practicable schemes.
Now God forbid; think twice of this, dear lady.
I pray you spare me, Mr. Sandford,
And once for all believe, nothing can shake my purpose.
But what course have you thought on?
To seek Sir Walter in the forest of Sherwood.
I have letters from young Simon,
Acquainting me with all the circumstances
Of their concealment, place, and manner of life,
And the merry hours they spend in the green haunts
Of Sherwood, nigh which place they have ta'en a house
In the town of Nottingham, and pass for foreigners,
Wearing the dress of Frenchmen.--
All which I have perus'd with so attent
And child-like longings, that to my doting ears
Two sounds now seem like one,
One meaning in two words, Sherwood and Liberty.
And, gentle Mr. Sandford,
'Tis you that must provide now
The means of my departure, which for safety
Must be in boy's apparel.
Since you will have it so
(My careful age trembles at all may happen)
I will engage to furnish you.
I have the keys of the wardrobe, and can fit you
With garments to your size.
I know a suit
Of lively Lincoln Green, that shall much grace you
In the wear, being glossy fresh, and worn but seldom.
Young Stephen Woodvil wore them, while he lived.
I have the keys of all this house and passages,
And ere day-break will rise and let you forth.
What things soe'er you have need of I can furnish you;
And will provide a horse and trusty guide,
To bear you on your way to Nottingham.
That once this day and night were fairly past!
For then I'll bid this house and love farewell;
Farewell, sweet Devon; farewell, lukewarm John;
For with the morning's light will Margaret be gone.
Thanks, courteous Mr. Sandford.--
(_Exeunt divers ways._)
ACT THE SECOND
SCENE.--_An Apartment in Woodvil Hall._
(_Reading Parts of a Letter._)
"When Love grows cold, and indifference has usurped upon old Esteem, it
is no marvel if the world begin to account _that_ dependence, which
hitherto has been esteemed honorable shelter. The course I have taken
(in leaving this house, not easily wrought thereunto,) seemed to me best
for the once-for-all releasing of yourself (who in times past have
deserved well of me) from the now daily, and not-to-be-endured, tribute
of forced love, and ill-dissembled reluctance of affection.
Gone! gone! my girl? so hasty, Margaret!
And never a kiss at parting? shallow loves,
And likings of a ten days' growth, use courtesies,
And shew red eyes at parting. Who bids "farewell"
In the same tone he cries "God speed you, Sir?"
Or tells of joyful victories at sea,
Where he hath ventures? does not rather muffle
His organs to emit a leaden sound,
To suit the melancholy dull "farewell,"
Which they in Heaven not use?--
So peevish, Margaret?
But 'tis the common error of your sex,
When our idolatry slackens, or grows less,
(As who of woman born can keep his faculty
Of Admiration, being a decaying faculty,
For ever strain'd to the pitch? or can at pleasure
Make it renewable, as some appetites are,
As, namely, Hunger, Thirst?--) this being the case,
They tax us with neglect, and love grown cold,
Coin plainings of the perfidy of men,
Which into maxims pass, and apothegms
To be retailed in ballads.--
I know them all.
They are jealous, when our larger hearts receive
More guests than one. (Love in a woman's heart
Being all in one.) For me, I am sure I have room here
For more disturbers of my sleep than one.
Love shall have part, but Love shall not have all.
Ambition, Pleasure, Vanity, all by turns,
Shall lie in my bed, and keep me fresh and waking;
Yet Love not be excluded.--Foolish wench,
I could have lov'd her twenty years to come,
And still have kept my liking. But since 'tis so,
Why, fare thee well, old play-fellow! I'll try
To squeeze a tear for old acquaintance sake.
I shall not grudge so much.--
_To him enters Lovel_.
Bless us, Woodvil! what is the matter? I protest, man, I thought you had
Nothing is the matter, only the wench has forced some water into my
eyes, which will quickly disband.
I cannot conceive you.
Margaret is flown.
Upon what pretence?
Neglect on my part: which it seems she has had the wit to discover,
maugre all my pains to conceal it.
Then, you confess the charge?
To say the truth, my love for her has of late stopt short on this side
As all good Christians' should, I think.
I am sure, I could have loved her still within the limits of warrantable
A kind of brotherly affection, I take it.
We should have made excellent man and wife in time.
A good old couple, when the snows fell, to crowd about a sea-coal fire,
and talk over old matters.
While each should feel, what neither cared to acknowledge, that stories
oft repeated may, at last, come to lose some of their grace by the
Which both of you may yet live long enough to discover. For, take my
word for it, Margaret is a bird that will come back to you without a
Never, never, Lovel. Spite of my levity, with tears I confess it, she
was a lady of most confirmed honour, of an unmatchable spirit, and
determinate in all virtuous resolutions; not hasty to anticipate an
affront, nor slow to feel, where just provocation was given.
What made you neglect her, then?
Mere levity and youthfulness of blood, a malady incident to young men,
physicians call it caprice. Nothing else. He, that slighted her, knew
her value: and 'tis odds, but, for thy sake, Margaret, John will yet go
to his grave a bachelor. (_A noise heard, as of one drunk and singing_.)
Here comes one, that will quickly dissipate these humours.
(_Enter one drunk_.)
Good-morrow to you, gentlemen. Mr. Lovel, I am your humble servant.
Honest Jack Woodvil, I will get drunk with you to-morrow.
And why to-morrow, honest Mr. Freeman?
I scent a traitor in that question. A beastly question. Is it not his
Majesty's birth-day? the day, of all days in the year, on which King
Charles the second was graciously pleased to be born. (_Sings_) "Great
pity 'tis such days as those should come but once a year."
Drunk in a morning! foh! how he stinks!
And why not drunk in a morning? can'st tell, bully?
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