1835 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Horace Smith

Thomas Campbell, "Epistle, from Algiers, to Horace Smith" 1835; Poetical Works, ed. Robertson (1907) 319-21.



Dear HORACE! be melted to tears,
For I'm melting with heat as I rime;
Though the name of the place is Algiers
'Tis no joke to fall in with its clime.

With a shaver from France who came o'er,
To an African inn I ascend;
I am cast on a barbarous shore,
Where a barber alone is my friend.

Do you ask me the sights and the news
Of this wonderful city to sing?
Alas! my hotel has its mews,
But no muse of the Helicon's spring.

My windows afford me the sight
Of a people all diverse in hue;
They are black, yellow, olive, and white,
Whilst I in my sorrow look blue.

Here are groups for the painter to take,
Whose figures jocosely combine,—
The Arab disguised in his haik,
And the Frenchman disguised in his wine.

In his breeches of petticoat size
You may say, as the Mussulman goes,
That his garb is a fair compromise
'Twixt a kilt and a pair of small-clothes.

The Mooresses, shrouded in white,
Save two holes for their eyes to give room,
Seem like corpses in sport or in spite
That have slily whipped out of their tomb.

The old Jewish dames make me sick:
If I were the devil — I declare
Such hags should not mount a broom-stick
In my service to ride through the air.

But hipped and undined as I am,
My hippogriff's course I must rein—
For the pain of my thirst is no sham,
Though I'm bawling aloud for Champagne.

Dinner's brought; but their wines have no pith—
They are flat as the statutes at law;
And for all that they bring me, dear Smith!
Would a glass of brown stout they could draw!

O'er each French trashy dish as I bend,
My heart feels a patriot's grief!
And the round tears, O England! descend
When I think on a round of thy beef.

Yes, my soul sentimentally craves
British beer. — Hail, Britannia, hail!
To thy flag on the foam of the waves,
And the foam on thy flagons of ale.

Yet I own, in this hour of my drought,
A dessert has most welcomely come;
Here are peaches that melt in the mouth,
And grapes blue and big as a plum.

There are melons too, luscious and great,
But the slices I eat shall be few,
For from melons incautiously eat
Melancholic effects may ensue.

Horrid pun! you'll exclaim; but be calm,
Though my letter bears date, as you view,
From the land of the date-bearing palm,
I will palm no more puns upon you.