1769
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Wedding, an Epithalamium.

Columbian Magazine or Monthly Miscellany 3 (June 1789) 373-78.

John Trumbull


John Trumbull's Hudibrastic ("Sing then, my muse, in lofty crambo, | How Hymen came with lighted flambeau") epithalamium describes a country wedding in a racous variety of eighteenth-century Spenserian simplicity. The poem was later reprinted in a bowdlerized version and excluded from his Poems. Allusions to Plato, Spenser, Milton, and Butler contribute to the humor. The poet was one of the Connecticut Wits. The Columbian Magazine was published in Philadelphia from 1786 to 1790.

Headnote in Monthly Anthology and Boston Review: "The reader scarcely need be informed, that the following is by the witty author of Macfingal. It was written while Trumbull resided as a Bachelor at Yale College, on the marriage of one of the Tutors to a lady of great fortune. It came into our hands from a source, which leaves no doubt of its authenticity; and though we have ventured to omit a few lines, which were rather too frolicksome for the gravity of the Anthology, we have lost little of the humour of the piece. We should be exceedingly obliged to those, who knew Trumbull in his better days, if they would furnish us with other of his unpublished pieces, many of which we imagine are known to his early cotemporaries" 11 (May 1805) 247.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "John Trumbull, LL.D., born in Woodbury Connecticut, April 24, 1740; graduated at Yale College, 1767; tutor at Yale College, 1771 to 1773, when he was admitted to the Connecticut Bar; emigrated to Boston, and became a student in the office of Mr. (afterwards President) John Adams; near the end of 1774 returned to New Haven and commenced the practice of the law; removed to Hartford, 1781; was State Attorney for the county of Hartford, 1789; a member of the Legislature, 1800; Judge of the Superior Court, 1801 to 1819, when he retired to private life; removed to Detroit, 1825, and died there, May 12, 1831" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 3:2461.

Joann Peck Krieg: "Evidence exists that seventeenth-century Harvard students copied portions of Spenser's poems, and eighteenth-century Yale students were familiar enough with them for John Trumbull to have made Epithalamion the basis for a ribald parody in 1769" Spenser Encyclopedia (1990) 27.



Ye nine great daughters of Jupiter,
Born of one mother at a litter,
Virgins who ne'er submit to wisdom,
But sing and fiddle all your lifetime;
In verse and rhyme great wholesale dealers,
Of which we bards are but retailers,
Assist! — but chiefly thou, my muse,
Who never didst thine aid refuse,—
Whether I sung in high bombastic,
Or sunk to simple Hudibrastic,
Or in dire dumps proclaimed my moan,
Taught rocks to weep, and hills to groan;
Or chang'd the style to love and dreary!
'Till even echo blush'd to hear ye,—
These mournful themes no longer usurp,
But tune to sweeter sounds thy Jew's harp,
To sing of bridegroom, bride, and wedding,
Of kissing, fondling, love, and bedding.—
Now, from his hammock in the skies,
Phaebus jumpt up, and rubb'd his eyes,
Clapt on his daylight round his ears,
Saddled his horse and fixt his spears;
Night turn'd her b**k**de, so in turn he
Mounted, and set forth on's journey:
Our wedding folks were yet in bed,
Nor dreamt what's doing o'er head.
At leisure now, — for Episodes
We'll introduce our sett of gods.

Sing then, my muse, in lofty crambo,
How Hymen came with lighted flambeau,
To kindle fire of love between 'em
And make their livers burn within 'em.
Juno, it seems, by sad mishap,
O'er night with Jove was pulling cap,—
For by what way she's wont to govern
(So Homer tells) the hen-peckt sov'reign,
But now stole off, and left him fretting,
And rode post-haste to come to wedding:
Lucina was not there that morning,
But ready stood at nine month's warning.
The nymphs of ever sort and size
Came there before the bride could rise:
The mountain nymphs skipp'd down like fleas,
Dryad's crept out from hollow trees;
The water nymphs from swamps and flats
Came tripping on like drowned rats:
The birds, around on sprays and thistles,
Began to light and tune their whistles:
The cock, when daylight had begun,
Being chorister, struck up the tune
And sung an hymn in strains sonorous,
While ev'ry quail-pipe join'd the chorus—
But we must quit this singing sport, else
Mischance may seize our sleeping mortals,
Who now 'gan jostle, round the fabric,
Finding they'd slept till after day-break.
Our bridegroom, ere he did arise,
Rubb'd sleep's soft dews from both his eyes,
Look'd out to see what kind of weather,
And sprang from bed as light as feather,
Joyful as Dick after obtaining
His master's leave to go to training.

Here, did not rhyming greatly harrass one,
'Twere a fine place to make comparison;
Call up the ghosts of heroes pristine—
Egyptian, Trojan, Greek, Philistine;—
So sweetly sung in ancient lays;
Set them in order by our gallant,
To prove him handsome, wise and valiant.

He now came forth, and stood before
His lovely goddess' chamber door,
Address'd her with three gentle halloos!
Then read, or said, or sung as follows:—
"Arise! my love, and come away
To cheer the world, and gild the day,
Which fades for want of fresh supplies
From the bright moonshine of thine eyes.
How beautiful art thou, my love!
Surpassing all the dames above:
Venus with thee might strive again;
Venus with thee would strive in vain,—
Tho' ev'ry muse, and ev'ry grace,
Conspire to deck bright Venus' face:
Thou'rt handsomer than all this trash,
Rise, then, my love! and come away,
To cheer the world and gild the day,
Which fades for want of fresh supplies
From the bright moonshine of thine eyes."—

And now came forth our lovely bride
Array'd in all her charms and pride:—
Note here, lest we should be misguided,
Lovers and bards are so quick-sighted,
In ev'ry charm they spy a Cupid,
Tho' other people are more stupid;—
So our fair bride, her lover swore,
Was deck'd with Cupid's o'er and o'er:—
Thus Virgil's goddess' Fame appears
From head to foot o'erhung with ears.

Here, if our muse did not check first,
We might go on to sing of breakfast;
Of kissing, courting, and thereafter,
'Till all their mouths began to water;
Of nymphs in gardens picking tulips;
Of maids preparing cordial juleps;
With other matters of this sort, whence
We come to things of more importance:—
The sun, who never stops to halt,
Now riding at his usual rate,
Had hardly pass'd his midway course,
And spur'd along his downward horse,
Our bridegroom, and his lovely virgin,
Set forth to cherish — without urging:
A solemn throng before, behind 'em
A lengthen'd cavalcade attend 'em
Of nymphs and swains; a mingled crew,
Of every shape, of ev'ry hue:
Not that more solemn scene of old
As in romances we are told
By Hudibras, that val'rous knight,
For joining dog and bear in fight:
Nor shall we make a pause for stating
Th' odds 'twixt marriage and bear-bating.
In midst of these, with solemn wag,
Our priest bestrode his ambling nag:
His dress and air, right well accoutered,
His hat new brush'd, his hair new powder'd:
His formal band, of trade the sign,
Depending decent from his chin:
His thread-bare coat, late turn'd by Snip,—
With scripture-book, and cane for whip:
Unnotic'd past amid the throng,
And look'd demure, and jogg'd along:
Yet laymen ne'er his power cou'd equal
As we shall shew you in th sequel:
For when this priest o'er man and maid
A set of scripture words had said,
You'd find them closely link'd together
For life, in strange enchanted tether,
(Like spirits in Magician's circle)
'Till friendly death should him or her kill:
Tied up in wond'rous gordian knot
They neither can untie or cut;
Enclos'd in cage where all can see 'em
But all the world can never free 'em:
For once by priest in bonds of wedlock,
When tied and hamper'd by the fetlock,
They fight, or strive, and fly in vain,
And still drag after them their chain;
Like the earth and moon, at distance great,
Still t'ward each other gravitate,
And many a time and oft invade
With dark eclipse and angry shade.—
Trifles skip'd o'er, our next proceeding
Shall give description of the wedding,
Where, tho' we Pagan mix with Christian
And gods and goddesses with priests join,
Truth need not stand to make objection—
We poets have the right of fiction.

And first — great Hymen in the porch
Like link-boy stood with flaming torch;
Around, in all the vacant places
Stood gods and goddesses and graces:
Venus and Cupid (god of love)
With all the rabble from above:
In midst our groom and bride appear
With wedding guests in wings and rear.—
Our priest now shew'd his slight of hand
Roll'd up his eyes, and strok'd his band,
Then join'd their hands in terms concise
And struck the bargain in a trice
And for the bridegroom first began he,
Saying — "You Stephen! take her, Hannah"—
And then — to make both parties even—
For her, "you Hannah take him Stephen:"
Then told them, to avoid temptation,
To do the duties of their station;
In state of sickness, nurse and nourish;
In health cleave fast, and hug and cherish:
And then some queerer stuff he said
Of keeping clean the marriage bed.

To all the parson said or meant
Our bride and bridegroom gave consent;
He bow'd to what the priest did say—
She blush'd, and curtsy'd — and cry'd "aye."
The bargain made, he gave his blessing
And bad them sign and seal with kissing:
The smack being giv'n neat and fresh,
He straight pronounc'd them both one flesh.
By mathematics 'tis well known
It takes two halves to make up one;
And Adam, as our priests believe,
Was but one half without miss Eve:
So ev'ry mortal man in life
Is but one half — without his wife.
And hence, by natural co-action,
Man seeks as much his other fraction;
Which found, no tinker, 'tis confess'd
Can splice and solder — but a priest.

The rites now o'er, the priest drew near
And kiss'd the bride's sinister ear;
Told them he hop'd they'd make good neighbours,
And wish'd a blessing to their labours.
Him follow'd every mincing couple,
Licking their lips — to make them supple.
Each got a smack from one or t' other
And wish'd them both much fun together.

The wedding o'er, with joy and revelry
Back to their bride's return'd the cavalry;
And, as when armies take a town
Which costs them long to batter down,
That fame may raise her voice the louder
The fire whole magazines of powder,
And heaps of fuel lay upon fires
To celebrate their joys and bon-fires:
So now the bride had chang'd her station,
Surrender'd pris'ner at discretion,
Submitting to our heroes fancies
Herself, with all appurtenances
The well-pleas'd crowd, (for greatest joys
Triumph'd by firing — shouting — ringing—
By dancing — drinking wine — and singing:
But yet our groom (time march'd so lazy)
Sate hitching, nestling, and uneasy;
Thought daylight never would be gone,
And call'd the sun a lazy drone,

The sun, just when 'twas time to sup,
Came to the sea — where he puts up;
Sent his last rays o'er earth to scatter,
And div'd down headlong into water—
Here is the place — if we would chuse
To tire our reader and our muse—
To name and number ev'ry guest;
To tell what fare compos'd the feast;
With other things that did betide—
As, how they kiss'd and jok'd the bride;
How frolicksome the liquor made 'em;
And how the fidler came to aid 'em;
And made his lyre make such a scrapering
It set the people all a-capering:
When Orpheus fiddled at his guidance,
Thus trees leapt forth and join'd the set dance.
Grim night at length, in sable waggon,
Drawn by a sooty bat-wing'd dragon,
Rode till she came right over-head
And on the earth her blanket spread.
The moon was out upon parole;
Stars danc'd, as usual, round the pole;
All nature saw, with drowsy head,
Had thrown by cares, and gone to bed;
Sleep reign'd o'er all, but wolves and rovers,
Owls, bats, and ghosts, and thieves and lovers.
The maids with madam bride now clamber
Up stairs, to find the bridal chamber:
First, of her robes they disarray'd her,
Then softly in the bed they lay'd her;
Her groom flew swiftly to her arms,
To feast and revel on her charms:
No alderman — invited guest
To gormandize at turtle feast—
When first he sees the dish brought in,
And 'gins to dip and grease his chin,
E'er feels such raptures as our lover,
Now all his fears and griefs are over.

Th' events that afterwards befel,
Over bashful muse would blush to tell:
The Bridegroom, as himself confest,
Found not a moment's time to rest;
And people lodging in the house
Heard noises loud and ruinous,
And started oft from sleep profound,
Thinking an earthquake shook the ground:—
Which they interpret as an omen
Of something past, and something coming:
And what that is (I'm somewhat jealous)
A boy will come next year to tell us.

[pp. 373-78]