In the third and fourth cantos of the "Intended National Work" the "Whistlecraft Brothers" describe monastic broils and indolence, and how the monks' passion for tintinnabulation inspired the Giants to go on their rampage. While John Hookham Frere left his story unfinished at the end of the fourth canto, his poem was several times imitated, most notably in Byron's Don Juan, and by John Moultrie, in "La Belle Tryamour, a Metrical Romance" published in parts in Knight's Quarterly Magazine (1823-24).
John Murray to Lord Byron: "I have just put forth two more cantos of Whistlecraft — which the knowing ones think excellent, and of which the public think nothing, for they cannot see the drift of it. I have not sold 500 copies of the first parts yet; and of Beppo I have sold six times that quantity in a sixt part of the time, and before, indeed, it is generally known to be yours" 16 June 1818; Smiles, A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir of John Murray (1891) 1:394.
Literary Gazette: "The author ... at once introduces us to the monks and their residence.... Between them and the Giants a very fair intelligence subsisted, for 'The Giants were a tolerating sect'.... Unfortunately for this concord the Monks, instigated by ambition, took it into their heads to have a ring of large-sized and loud-toned bells. Now it seems that Giants abominate the sound of bells.... Impending fate is announced in dreams and by prodigies.... A few of the wiser monks, "the wise are always few," headed by their reader and librarian, had all along opposed the plan of the bells.... [H]e stole away on the appointed day to angle, and conned over many smart replies for his next meeting with his brethren. Providentially the roach and dace bit freely in a particular spot, where, being detained, he observed the approach of the Giants.... He flies to the convent, and animates its inmates to defend it. His courage and resources are so conspicuous that, the Abbot dying during the fray, he is elected in his stead.... He took especial care to feed his troops well; a main consideration when churchmen combat. At length the besiegers, fatigued with the gallant resistance of the Monks, retire during the night, and the auspicious news is brought to the defenders by Brother Martin.... As is generally the case, all their conjectures were unfounded, for the fact was, that the Giants went off to intercept the ladies belonging to Arthur's court, as narrated in the two former cantos.... Our great consolation in taking leave of this clever production is, that it promises to be continued. Amid all the whim and capriciousness which belong to it, there are so many admirable touches of genuine wit, so many neat allusions to classic lore, and altogether so much gaiety and humour, that he must be a stoic indeed who does not enjoy it heartily" (20 June 1818) 387-88.
Monthly Review: "The result of a comparison with the first two cantos of this specimen is by no means favourable to the present. Instead of manifesting that increased facility both of versification and expression which is in general the effect of practice, the author does not proceed so glibly as before; fewer detached passages of any marked excellence occur; and, except in one or two intances, so great a deficiency of vivacity is observable, that the writer appears to be really incumbered with the mercenary engagement to which he alludes in the first line, and to write doggedly on as 'If every stanza brought him in a crown.' Notwithstanding these remarks, we still find much to admire and much to entertain.... The stanza which he has here chosen, though entertaining for a short time, is as fatiguing as a jest-book, if carried on to a great length. Its composition also is so easy that we shall soon have shop-puffs and dinner-bells of fare done into like metre; — as we in fact have actually seen the notices prefixed to a recent number of a contemporary magazine. If this should be the case, we must not be surprized at finding the labours of the critic put into rhime, and his solemn opinion of a publication reduced to measure in an eight-line-stanza.... We hear, on good authority, that this work is the production of the Right Hon. John Hookham Frere" NS 86 (July 1818) 273, 279.
Monthly Magazine: "possesses some humour, and is occasionally not without passages of a higher order of merit. The versification is flowing and correct. It is a less highly-gifted, but by no means unworthy, member of the same family as Beppo; and worthy the attention of our readers as an agreeable trifle" 46 (August 1819) 57.
Gentleman's Magazine: "An entertaining Poem, which we should have ascribed to an old acquaintance, John Hall Stevenson, had he been still in the land of the living" 89 (September 1819) 247.
Isaac D'Israeli: "There is a refined species of ludicrous poetry, which is comic yet tender, lusory yet elegant, and with such a blending of the serious and the facetious, that the result of such a poem may often, among its other pleasures, produce a sort of ambiguity; so that we do not always know whether the writer is laughing at his subject, or whether he is to be laughed at. Our admirable Whistlecraft met this fate! The Schoolmistress of SHENSTONE has been admired for its simplicity and tenderness, not for its exquisitely ludicrous turn!" "Shenstone's Schoolmistress" Curiosities of Literature (1791-1824; 1866) 361.
Oliver Elton: "The spirit of grace and beauty invades the fantastic legend. The giants who dwelt near Carlisle, and the ladies whom they stole, and the knights who rescued the ladies, and the friars who finally repulsed the giants, are an excellent cast of mock-romantic dramatis personae. The conduct and spirit of the story, which is no story at all, often remind us of Peacock, and so does the scholarly finish of the wit and versification" Survey of English Literature 1780-1830 (1912) 2:168.
'I've a proposal here from Mr. Murray,
He offers handsomely — the money down;
My dear, you might recover from your flurry
In a nice airy lodging out of town,
At Croydon, Epsom, any where in Surry;
If every stanza brings us in a crown,
I think that I might venture to bespeak
A bed-room and front parlour for next week.
'Tell me, my dear Thalia, what you think;
Your nerves have undergone a sudden shock;
Your poor dear spirits have begun to sink;
On Banstead Downs you'd muster a new stock,
And I'd be sure to keep away from drink,
And always go to bed by twelve o'clock.
We'll travel down there in the morning stages;
Our verses shall go down to distant ages.
'And here in town we'll breakfast on hot rolls,
And you shall have a better shawl to wear;
These pantaloons of mine are chaf'd in holes;
By Monday next I'll compass a new pair:
Come, now, fling up the cinders, fetch the coals,
And take away the things you hung to air,
Set out the tea-things, and bid Phoebe bring
The kettle up.' — Arms and the Monks I sing.
Some ten miles off, an ancient abbey stood,
Amidst the mountains, near a noble stream;
A level eminence, enshrin'd with wood,
Slop'd to the river's bank and southern beam;
Within were fifty friars fat and good,
Of goodly persons, and of good esteem,
That pass'd an easy, exemplary life,
Remote from want and care, and worldly strife.
Between the Monks and Giants there subsisted,
In the first abbot's lifetime, much respect,
The Giants let them settle where they listed;
The Giants were a tolerating sect.
A poor dame Giant once the Monks assisted,
Old and abandon'd, dying with neglect,
The Prior found him, cur'd his broken bone,
And very kindly cut him for the stone.
This seem'd a glorious, golden opportunity,
To civilize the whole gigantic race;
To draw them to pay tythes, and dwell in unity;
The Giants' valley was a fertile place,
And might have much enrich'd the whole community,
Had the old Giant liv'd a longer space;
But he relaps'd, and though all means were tried,
They could but just baptize him — when he died.
And, I believe, the Giants never knew
Of the kind treatment that befel their mate;
He broke down all at once, and all the crew
Had taken leave, and left him to his fate;
And though the Monks expos'd him full in view,
Propp'd on his crutches, at the garden gate,
To prove their cure, and shew that all was right,
It happen'd that no Giants came in sight:
They never found another case to cure,
But their demeanour calm and reverential,
Their gesture and their vesture grave and pure,
Their conduct sober, cautious, and prudential,
Engag'd respect, sufficient to secure
Their properties and interests most essential;
They kept a distant, courteous intercourse;
Salutes and gestures were their sole discourse.
Music will civilize, the poets say,
In time it might have civiliz'd the Giants;
The Jesuits found its use in Paraguay;
Orpheus was famous for harmonic science,
And civilized the Thracians in that way;
My judgment coincides with Mr. Bryant's;
He thinks that Orpheus meant a race of cloisterers,
Obnoxious to the Bacchanalian roisterers.
Deycyphering the symbols of mythology.
He finds them Monks, expert in their vocation;
Teachers of music, med'cine, and theology,
The missionaries of the barbarous Thracian;
The poet's fable was a wild apology
For an inhuman bloody reformation,
Which left those tribes unciviliz'd and rude,
Naked and fierce, and painted and tattoo'd.
It was a glorious Jacobinic job
To pull down convents, to condemn for treason
Poor peeping Pentheus — to carouse and rob,
With naked raving goddesses of reason,
The festivals and orgies of the mob
That every twentieth century come ill season.
Enough of Orpheus — the succeeding page
Relates to Monks of a more recent age;
And oft that wild untutor'd race would draw,
Led by the solemn sound and sacred light
Beyond the bank, beneath a lonely shaw,
To listen all the livelong summer night,
Till deep, serene, and reverential awe
Environ'd them with silent calm delight,
Contemplating the Minster's midnight gleam,
Reflected from the clear and glassy stream;
But chiefly, when the shadowy moon had shed
O'er woods and waters her mysterious hue,
Their passive hearts and vacant fancies fed
With thoughts and aspirations strange and new,
Till their brute souls with inward working bred
Dark hints that in the depth of instinct grew
Subjective — not from Locke's associations,
Nor David Hartley's doctrine of vibrations.
Each was asham'd to mention to the others
One half of all the feelings that he felt,
Yet thus far each could venture — 'Listen, brothers,
'It seems as if one heard heaven's thunder melt
In music—! all at once it sooths — it smothers—
It overpow'rs one — Pillicock, don't pelt!
It seems a kind of shame, a kind of sin,
To vex those harmless worthy souls within,'
In castles and in courts Ambition dwells,
But not ill castles or in courts alone;
She breath'd a wish, throughout those sacred cells,
For bells of larger size, and louder tone;
Giants abominate the sound of bells,
And soon the fierce antipathy was shown,
The tinkling and the jingling, and the clangor,
Rous'd their irrational gigantic anger.
Unhappy mortals! ever blind to fate!
Unhappy Monks! you see no danger nigh;
Exulting in their sound and size and weight,
From morn till noon the merry peal you ply:
The belfry rocks, your bosoms are elate,
Your spirits with the ropes and pullies fly;
Tir'd, but transported, panting, pulling, hauling,
Ramping and stamping, overjoy'd and bawling.
Meanwhile the solemn mountains that surrounded
The silent valley where the convent lay,
With tintinnabular uproar were astounded,
When the first peal burst forth at break of day:
Feeling their granite ears severely wounded,
They scarce knew what to think, or what to say
And (though large mountains commonly conceal
Their sentiments, dissembling what they feel,
Yet) Cader-Gibbrish from his cloudy throne
To huge Loblommon gave an intimation
Of this strange rumour, with an awful tone,
Thund'ring his deep surprise and indignation;
The lesser hills, in language of their own,
Discuss'd the topic by reverberation;
Discoursing with their echoes all day long,
Their only conversation was, 'ding-dong.'
Those giant-mountains inwardly were mov'd,
But never made an outward change of place
Not so the mountain-giants — (as behov'd
A more alert and locomotive race),
Hearing a clatter which they disapprov'd,
They ran straight forward to besiege the place
With a discordant universal yell,
Like house dogs howling at a dinner bell.
Historians are extremely to be pitied,
Oblig'd to persevere in the narration
Of wrongs and horrid outrages committed,
Oppression, sacrilege, assassination;
The following scenes I wish'd to have omitted,
But truth is an imperious obligation.
So — 'my heart sickens, and I drop my pen,'
And am oblig'd to pick it up again,
And, dipping it afresh, I must transcribe
An ancient monkish record, which displays
The savage acts of that gigantic tribe;
I hope, that from the diction of those days,
This noble, national poem will imbibe
A something (in the old reviewing phrase),
'Of an original flavour, and a raciness;'
I should not else transcribe it out of laziness.
The writer first relates a dream, or vision,
Observ'd by Luke and Lawrence in their cells.
And a nocturnal hideous apparition
Of fiends and devils dancing round the bells:
This last event is stated with precision;
Their persons he describes, their names he tells,
Klaproth, Tantallan, Barbanel, Belphegor,
Long-tail'd, long-talon'd, hairy, black, and meagre.
He then rehearses sundry marvels more.
Damping the mind with horror by degrees,
Of a prodigious birth a heifer bore,
Of mermaids seen in the surrounding seas,
Of a sea-monster that was cast ashore;
Earthquakes and. thunder-stones, events like these,
Which serv'd to shew the times were out of joint,
And then proceeds directly to the point.
Erant rumores et timores varii;
Dies horroris et confusionis
Evenit in calendis Januarii;
Gigantes, semeu maledictionis
Nostri potentes impii adversarii,
Irascebantur campanarum sonis,
Hora secunda centum tres gigantes
Venerunt ante januam ululantes.
At fratres pleni desolationis,
Stabant ad necessarium praesidium,
Perterriti pro vitis et pro bonis,
Et perduravit hoc crudele obsidium,
Nostri claustralis pauperis Sionis,
Ad primum diem proximorum Idium;
Tunc in triumpho fracto tintinnabulo,
Gigantes ibant alibi pro pabulo.
Sed frater Isidorus decumbebat
In lecto per tres menses brachio fracto,
Nam lapides Mangonellus jaciebat,
Et fregit tintinnabulum lapide jacto;
Et omne vicinagium destruebat,
Et nihil relinquebat de intacto,
Ardens molinos, Casas, messuagia,
Et alia multa damna atque outragia.
Those Monks were poor proficients in divinity,
And scarce knew more of Latin than myself;
Compar'd with theirs they say that true Latinity
Appears like porcelain compar'd with delf;
As for the damage done in the vicinity,
Those that have laid their Latin on the shelf
May like to read the subsequent narration
Done into metre from a friend's translation.
Squire Humphrey Bamberham, of Boozley Hall,
(Whose name I mention with deserv'd respect),
On market-days was often pleas'd to call,
And to suggest improvements, or correct;
I own the obligation once for all,
Lest critics should imagine they detect
Traces of learning, and superior reading,
Beyond, as they suppose, my birth and breeding.
Papers besides, end transcripts most material,
He gave me when I went to him to dine;
A trunk full, one coach-seat, and an imperial,
One band-box — But the work is wholly mine;
The tone, the form, the colouring etherial,
'The vision and the faculty divine,'
The scenery, characters, and triple-rhymes,
I'll swear it — like old Walter of the Times.
Long, long before, upon a point of weight,
Such as a ring of bells complete and new,
Chapters were summon'd, frequent, full, and late;
The point was view'd in every point of view,
Till, after fierce discussion and debate,
The wiser monks, the wise are always few,
That from the first oppos'd the plan in toto,
Were over-borne, canonicali voto.
A prudent monk, their reader and librarian,
Observ'd a faction, angry, strong, and warm,
(Himself an anti-tintinnabularian),
He saw, or thought he saw, a party form
To scout him as an alien and sectarian.
There was an undefin'd impending storm!
The opponents were united, bold, and hot;
They might degrade, imprison him — what not?
Now faction in a city, camp, or cloister,
While it is yet a tender raw beginner,
Is nourish'd by superfluous warmth and moisture,
Namely, by warmth and moisture after dinner;
And therefore, till the temper and the posture
Of things should alter — till a secret inner
Instinctive voice should whisper, all is right—
He deem'd it safest to keep least in sight.
He felt as if his neck were in a noose,
And evermore retir'd betimes from table,
For fear of altercation and abuse,
But made the best excuse that he was able;
He never rose without a good excuse,
(Like Master Stork invited in the fable
To Mr. Fox's dinner); there he sat,
Impatient to retire and take his hat.
For only once or twice that he remain'd
To change this constant formal course, he found
His brethren awkward, sullen, and constrain'd,
—He caught the conversation at a bound,
And, with a hurried agitation, strain'd
His wits to keep it up, and drive it round.
—It sav'd him — but he felt the risk and danger,
Behav'd-to like a pleasant utter stranger.
Wise people sometimes will pretend to sleep,
And watch and listen while they droop and snore—
He felt himself a kind of a black sheep,
But studied to be neither less nor more
Obliging than became him — but to keep
His temper, stile, and manner as before;
It seem'd the best, the safest, only plan,
Never to seem to feel as a mark'd man.
Wise Curs, when canister'd, refuse to run,
They merely crawl and creep about, and whine,
And disappoint the Boys, and spoil the fun—
That picture is too mean — this Monk of mine
Ennobled it, as others since have done,
With grace and ease, and grandeur of design;
He neither ran nor howl'd, nor crept nor turn'd,
But wore it as he walk'd, quite unconcern'd.
To manifest the slightest want of nerve
Was evidently perfect, utter ruin,
Therefore the seeming to recant or swerve,
By meddling any way with what was doing,
He felt within himself would only serve
To bring down all the mischief that was brewing;
"No duty binds me, no constraint compels
To bow before the Dagon of the Bells,
"To flatter this new foolery, to betray
My vote, my conscience, and my better sense,
By bustling in the Belfry day by day;
But in the Grange, the Cellar, or the Spence,
(While all are otherwise employ'd), I may
Deserve their thanks, at least avoid offence
For (while this vile anticipated clatter
Fills all their hearts and senses), every matter
"Behoveful for our maintenance and needs
Is wholly disregarded, and the course
Of our conventual management proceeds
At random, day by day, from bad to worse;
The Larder dwindles and the Cellar bleeds!
Besides, — besides the bells, we must disburse
For masonry, for frame-work, wheels and fliers
Next winter we must fast like genuine friars."
As Bees, that when the skies are calm and fair,
In June, or the beginning of July,
Launch forth colonial settlers in the air,
Round, round, and round-about, they whiz, they fly,
With eager worry whirling here and there,
They know not whence, nor whither, where, nor why,
In utter hurry-scurry, going, coming,
Maddening the summer air with ceaseless humming;
Till the strong Frying-pan's energic jangle
With thrilling thrum their feebler hum doth drown,
Then passive and appeas'd, they droop and dangle,
Clinging together close, and clust'ring down,
Link'd in a multitudinous living tangle
Like an old Tassel of a dingy brown;
The joyful Farmer sees, and spreads his hay,
And reckons on a settled sultry day.
E'en so the Monks, as wild as sparks of fire,
(Or swarms unpacified by pan or kettle),
Ran restless round the Cloisters and the Quire,
Till those huge masses of sonorous metal
Attracted them toward the Tower and Spire;
There you might see them cluster, crowd, and settle,
Throng'd in the hollow tintinnabular Hive;
The Belfry swarm'd with Monks; it seem'd alive.
Then, while the Cloisters, Courts, and Yards were still,
Silent and empty, like a long vacation;
The Friar prowl'd about, intent to fill
Details of delegated occupation,
Which, with a ready frankness and good will,
He undertook; he said, "the obligation
Was nothing — nothing — he could serve their turn
While they were busy with this new concern."
Combining, prudence with a scholar's pride,
Poor Tully, like a toad beneath a harrow,
Twitch'd, jerk'd, and haul'd and maul'd on every side,
Tried to identify himself with Varro;
This course our cautious Friar might have tried,
But his poor convent was a field too narrow;
There was not, from the Prior to the Cook,
A single soul that car'd about a book:
Yet, sitting with his books, he felt unclogg'd,
Unfetter'd; and for hours together tasted
The calm delight of being neither dogg'd,
Nor watch'd, nor worried; he transcribed, he pasted,
Repaired old Bindings, index'd, catalogued,
Illuminated, mended Clasps, and wasted
An hour or two sometimes in actual reading;
Meanwhile the belfry business was proceeding;
And the first opening Peal, the grand display,
In prospect ever present to his mind,
Was fast approaching, pregnant with dismay,
With loathing and with horror undefin'd,
Like th' expectation of an Ague-day;
The day before he neither supp'd nor din'd,
And felt beforehand, for a fortnight near,
A kind of deafness in his fancy's ear:
But most he fear'd his ill digested spleen,
Inflam'd by gibes, might lead him on to wrangle,
Or discompose, at least, his looks and mien;
So, with the Belfry's first prelusive jangle,
He sallied from the Garden-gate unseen,
With his worst hat, his boots, his line and angle,
Meaning to pass away the time, and bring
Some fish for supper, as a civil thing.
The prospect of their after-supper talk
Employ'd his thoughts, forecasting many a scoff,
Which he with quick reply must damp and balk,
Parrying at once, without a hem or cough,
"Had not the bells annoy'd him in his wall?—
No, faith! he lik'd them best when farthest off."
Thus he prepar'd and practis'd many a sentence,
Expressing ease, good-humour, independence.
His ground-bait had been laid the night before,
Most fortunately! — for he us'd to say,
'That more than once the belfry's bothering roar
Almost induc'd him to remove away;'
Had he so done, — the gigantean corps
Had sack'd the convent on that very day,
But providentially the perch and dace
Bit freely, which detain'd him at the place.
And here let us detain ourselves awhile,
My dear Thalia! party's angry frown
And petty malice in that monkish pile,
(The warfare of the cowl and of the gown),
Had almost dried my wits and drain'd my style;
Here, with our legs, then, idly dangling down,
We'll rest upon the bank, and dip our toes
In the poetic current as it flows.
Or in the narrow sunny plashes near,
Observe the puny piscatory Swarm,
That with their tiny Squadrons tack and veer,
Cruizing amidst the shelves and shallows warm,
Chasing, or in retreat, with hope or fear
Of petty plunder or minute alarm;
With clannish instinct how they wheel and face,
Inherited arts inherent in the race;
Or mark the jetty, glossy Tribes that glance
Upon the water's firm unruffled breast,
Tracing their ancient labyrinthic dance
In mute mysterious cadence unexpress'd;
Alas! that fresh disaster and mischance
Again must drive us from our place of rest!
Grim Mangonel, with his outrageous crew,
Will scare us hence within an hour or two.
Poets are privileg'd to run away—
Alcaeus and Archilochus could fling
Their shields behind them in a doubtful fray;
And still sweet Horace may be heard to sing
His filthy fright upon Philippi's day;
(— You can retire, too — for the Muse's wing
Is swift as Cupid's pinion when he flies,
Alarm'd at periwigs and human Tyes).
This practice was approv'd in times of yore,
Though later bards behav'd like gentlemen,
And Garcilasso, Camoens, many mole,
Disclaim'd the privilege of book and pen;
And bold Aneurin, all bedripp'd with gore,
Bursting by force from the beleaguer'd glen,
Arrogant, haughty, fierce, of fiery mood,
Not meek and mean, as Gray misunderstood.
But we, that write a mere Campaigning Tour,
May choose a station for our point of view
That's picturesque and perfectly secure ;
Come, now we'll sketch the friar — That Will do—
'Designs and etchings by an amateur;'
A frontispiece, and a vignette or two:'
But much I fear that aquatint and etching
Will scarce keep pace with true poetic sketching.
Dogs that inhabit near the banks of Nile,
(As ancient authors or old proverbs say),
Dreading the cruel critic Crocodile,
Drink as they run, a mouthful and away;
'Tis a true model for descriptive style;
"Keep moving," (as the man says in the play),
The power of motion is the poet's forte—
Therefore, again, "keep moving! that's your sort!"
For, otherwise, while you persist and paint,
With your portfolio pinion'd to a spot,
Half of your picture grows effac'd and faint,
Imperfectly remember'd, or forgot;
Make sketch, then, upon sketch; and if they a'n't
Complete, it does not signify a jot;
Leave graphic illustrations of your work
To be devis'd by Westall or by Smirke.
I'll speak my mind at once, spite of raillery;
I've thought and thought again a thousand times,
What a magnificent Poetic Gallery
Might be design'd from my Stowmarket rhymes;
I look for no reward, nor fee, nor salary,
I look for England's fame in foreign climes
And future ages — Honos alit Artes,
And such a plan would reconcile all parties.
I'm strongly for the present state of things;
I look for no reform, nor innovation,
Because our present Parliaments and Kings
Are competent to improve and rule the Nation,
Provided Projects that true Genius brings
Are held in due respect and estimation.
I've said enough — and now you must be wishing
To see the landscape, and the friar fishing.
A mighty current, unconfin'd and free,
Ran wheeling round beneath the mountain's shade,
Battering its wave-worn base; but you might see
On the near margin many a wat'ry glade,
Becalm'd beneath some little island's lee
All tranquil, and transparent, close embay'd;
Reflecting in the deep serene and even
Each flower and herb, and every cloud of Heaven;
The painted kingfisher, the branch above her,
Stand in the stedfast mirror fixt and true;
Anon the fitful breezes brood and hover,
Fresh'ning the surface with a rougher hue;
Spreading, withdrawing, pausing, passing over,
Again returning to retire anew:
So rest and motion, in a narrow range,
Feasted the sight with joyous interchange.
The Monk with handy jerk, and petty baits,
Stands twitching out apace the perch and roach;
His mightier tackle, pitch'd apart, awaits
The groveling barbel's unobserv'd approach:
And soon his motley meal of homely Cates
Is spread, the leather bottle is a-broach;
Eggs, Bacon, Ale, a Napkin, Cheese and Knife,
Forming a charming Picture of Still-life.
The Friar fishing — a design for Cuyp,
A cabinet jewel — 'Pray remark the boot;
And, leading from the light, that shady stripe,
With the dark bulrush-heads how well they suit;
And then, that mellow tint so warm and ripe,
That falls upon the cassock, and surtout:'
If it were fairly painted, puff'd and sold,
My gallery would be worth its weight in gold.
But hark! — the busy Chimes fall fast and strong,
Clattering and pealing in their full career;
Closely the thickening sounds together throng,
No longer painful to the Friar's ear,
They bind his Fancy with illusion strong;
While his rapt Spirit hears, or seems to hear,
"Turn, turn again — gen — gen, thou noble Friar,
Eleele — leele — leele — lected Prior."
Thus the mild Monk, as he unhook'd a gudgeon,
Stood musing — when far other sounds arise,
Sounds of despite and ire, and direful dudgeon;
And soon across the River he espies,
In wrathful act, a hideous huge Curmudgeon
Calling his Comrades on with shouts and cries,
"There! — there it is! — I told them so before;"
He left his Line and Hook, and said no more;
But ran right forward, (pelted all the way),
And bolted breathless at the Convent-gate,
The messenger and herald of dismay;
But soon with conscious worth, and words of weight,
Gives orders which the ready Monks obey:
Doors, windows, wickets, are blockaded straight;
He reinspires the Convent's drooping sons,
Is here and there, and every where, at once.
"Friends! fellow-Monks!" he cried, ("for well you know
That mightiest Giants must in vain essay
Across yon river's foaming gulf to go:
The mountainous, obscure and winding way,
That guides their footsteps to the Ford below,
Affords a respite of desir'd delay—
Seize then the passing hour!" — the Monk kept bawling,
In terms to this effect, though not so drawling.
His words were these, "Before the Ford is crost,
We've a good hour, — at least three quarters good—
Bestir yourselves, my lads, or all is lost—
Drive down this Staunchion, bring those Spars of wood;
This Bench will serve — here, wedge it to the Post;
Come, Peter, quick! strip off your Gown and Hood—
Take up the Mallet, Man, and bang away!
Tighten these Ropes — now lash them, and belay.
"Finish the job while I return — I fear
Yon Postern-gate will prove the Convent's ruin;
You, brother John, my Namesake! stay you here,
And give an eye to what these Monks are doing;
Bring out the scalding Sweet-wort, and the Beer,
Keep up the Stoke-hole fire, where we were brewing:
And pull the Gutters up and melt the Lead—
(Before a dozen aves can be said,)
"I shall be back amongst you." — Forth he went,
Secur'd the Postern, and return'd again,
Disposing all with high arbitrament,
With earliest air, and visage on the main
Concern of public safety fixt and bent;
For now the Giants, stretching o'er the plain,
Are seen, presenting in the dim horizon
Tall awful forms, horrific and surprising—
I'd willingly walk barefoot fifty mile,
To find a scholar, or divine, or squire,
That could assist me to devise a Style
Fit to describe the conduct of the Friar;
I've tried three different ones within a while,
The Grave, the Vulgar, and the grand High-flyer;
All are I think improper, more or less,
I'll take my chance amongst 'em — you shall guess.
Intrepid, eager, ever prompt to fly
Where danger and the Convent's safety call;
Where doubtful points demand a judging eye,
Where on the massy gates huge maces fall;
Where missile vollied rocks are whirl'd on high,
Pre-eminent upon the embattl'd wall,
In gesture, and in voice, he stands confest;
Exhorting all the Monks to do their best.
We redescend to phrase of low degree—
For there's a point which you must wish to know,
The real ruling Abbot — where was he?
For (since we make so classical a show,
Our Convent's mighty structure, as you see,
Like Thebes or Troy beleaguer'd by the foe:
Our Friar scuffling like a kind of Cocles),
You'll figure him perhaps like Eteocles
In Aeschylus, with centries, guards and watches,
Ready for all contingencies arising,
Pitting his chosen chiefs in equal matches
Against the foe — anon soliloquizing;
Then occupied anew with fresh dispatches—
Nothing like this! — but something more surprising—
Was he like Priam then — that's stranger far—
That in the ninth year of his Trojan war,
Knew not the names or persons of his foes,
But merely points them out as stout or tall,
While (as no Trojan knew them, I suppose),
Helen attends her father to the wall,
To tell him long details of these and those?
'Twas not like this, but strange and odd withal;
Nobody knows it — nothing need be said,
Our poor dear Abbot is this instant dead.
'They wheel'd him out, you know, to take the air—
It must have been an apoplectic fit—
He tumbled forward from his garden-chair—
He seem'd completely gone, but warm as yet:
I wonder how they came to leave him there;
Poor soul! he wanted courage, heart, and wit
For Times like these — the Shock and the Surprise!
'Twas very natural the Gout should rise.
'But such a sudden end was scarce expected;
Our parties will be puzzled to proceed
The belfry set divided and dejected:
The crisis is a strange one, strange indeed
I'll bet yon fighting Friar is elected;
It often happens in the hour of need,
From popular ideas of utility,
People are pitch'd upon for mere ability.
'I'll hint the subject, and communicate
The sad event — He's standing there apart;
Our offer, to be sure, comes somewhat late,
But then, we never thought he meant to start,
And if he gains his end, at any rate,
He has an understanding and a heart;
He'll serve or he'll protect his friends, at least,
With better spirit than the poor deceas'd;
'The convent was all going to the devil
While he, poor creature, thought himself belov'd
For saying handsome things, and being civil,
Wheeling about as be was pull'd and shov'd,
By way of leaving things to find their level.'
The funeral sermon ended, both approv'd,
And went to Friar John, who merely doubted
The fact, and wish'd them to enquire about it;
Then left them, and return'd to the attack:
They found their Abbot in his former place;
They took him up and turn'd him on his back;
At first (you know) he tumbled on his face:
They found him fairly stiff, and cold, and black;
They then unloos'd each ligature and lace,
His neckcloth and his girdle, hose and garters,
And took him up, and lodg'd him in his quarters.
Bees serv'd me for a simile before,
And bees again — 'Bees that have lost their king,'
Would seem a repetition and a bore;
Besides, in fact, I never saw the thing;
And though those phrases from the good old store
Of "feebler hummings and a flagging wing,"
Perhaps may be descriptive and exact;
I doubt it; I confine myself to fact.
Thus much is certain, that a mighty pother
Arises; that the frame and the condition
Of things is alter'd, they combine and bother,
And every winged insect politician
Is warm and eager till they choose another.
In our monastic Hive the same ambition
Was active and alert; but angry fortune
Constrain'd them to contract the long, importune,
Tedious, obscure, inexplicable train,
Qualification, form, and oath and test,
Ballots on ballots, ballotted again;
Accessits, scrutinies, and all the rest;
Theirs was the good old method, short and plain,
Per acclamationem they invest
Their fighting Friar John with Robes and Ring,
Crozier and Mitre, Seals, and every thing.
With a new warlike active Chief elected
Almost at once, it scarce can be conceiv'd
What a new spirit, real or affected,
Prevail'd throughout; the monks complain'd and griev'd
That nothing was attempted or projected;
While Quiristers and Novices believ'd
That their new fighting Abbot, Friar John,
Would sally forth at once, and lead them on.
I pass such gossip, and devote my cares
By diligent enquiry to detect
The genuine state and posture of affairs:
Unmanner'd, uninform'd, and incorrect,
Falsehood and Malice hold alternate chairs,
And lecture and preside in Envy's sect;
The fortunate and great she never spares,
Sowing the soil of history with tares.
Thus, jealous of the truth, and feeling loth
That Sir Nathaniel henceforth should accuse
Our noble Monk of cowardice and sloth,
I'll print the Affidavit of the Muse,
And state the facts as ascertain'd on Oath,
Corroborated by Surveys and Views,
When good King Arthur granted them a Brief,
And Ninety Groats were rais'd for their relief.
Their arbours, walks, and alleys were defac'd,
Riven and uprooted, and with ruin strown,
And the fair Dial in their garden plac'd
Batter'd by barbarous hands, and overthrown;
The Deer with wild pursuit dispers'd and chas'd,
The Dove-house ransack'd, and the Pigeons flown;
The Cows all kill'd in one promiscuous slaughter'
The Sheep all crown'd, and floating in the water.
The Mill was burn'd down to the water wheels;
The Giants broke away the Dam and Sluice,
Dragg'd up and emptied all the Fishing-reels;
Drain'd and destroy'd the Reservoir and Stews,
Wading about, and groping carp and eels;
In short, no single earthly thing of use
Remain'd untouch'd beyond the convent's vail:
The Friars from their windows view'd it all.
But the bare hope of personal defence,
The church, the convent's, and their own protection,
Absorb'd their thoughts, and silenc'd every sense
Of present loss, till Friar John's election;
Then other schemes arose, I know not whence,
Whether from flattery, zeal, or disaffection,
But the brave Monk, like Fabius with Hannibal,
Against internal faction, and the cannibal
Inhuman foe, that threaten'd from without,
Stood firmly, with a self-sufficing mind,
impregnable to rumour, fear, or doubt)
Determin'd that the casual, idle, blind
Event of battle with that barbarous Rout,
Flush'd with success and garbage, should not bind
Their future destinies, or fix the seal
Of ruin on the claustral Common-weal.
He check'd the rash, the boisterous, and the proud,
By speech and action, manly but discreet
During the siege he never once allow'd
Of chapters' or convok'd the monks to meet,
Dreading the consultations of a crowd.
Historic parallels we sometimes meet—
I think I could contrive one — if you please,
I shall compare our Monk to Pericles.
In Former Times, amongst the Athenians bold,
This Pericles was plac'd in high command,
Heading their troops (as statesmen us'd of old),
In all their wars and fights by sea and land;
Besides, in Langborne's Plutarch we are told
How many fine ingenious things he plann'd;
For Phidias was an Architect and Builder,
Jeweller and Engraver, Carver, Gilder;
But altogether quite expert and clever;
Pericles took him up and stood his friend
Persuading these Athenians to endeavour
To raise a Work to last to the world's end,
By means of which their Fame should last for ever;
Likewise an Image (which you comprehend,
They meant to pray to, for the country's good):
They had before an old one made of wood,
But being partly rotten and decay'd,
They wish'd to have a new one spick and span,
So Pericles advis'd it should be made
According to this Phidias's plan,
Of ivory, with gold all overlaid,
Of the height of twenty cubits and a span,
Making eleven yards of English measure,
All to be paid for from the public treasure.
So Phidias's talents were requited
With talents that were spent Upon the work,
And every body busied and delighted,
Building a Temple — this was their next quirk—
Lest it should think itself ill-used and slighted.
This Temple now belongs to the Grand Turk,
The finest in the world allowed to be,
That people go five hundred miles to see.
Its ancient Carvings are safe here at home,
Brought round by shipping from as far as Greece,
Finer, they say, than all the things at Rome;
But here you need not pay a penny-piece;
But curious people, if they like to come,
May look at them as often as they please
I've left my subject, but I was not sorry
To mention things that raise the country's glory.
Well, Pericles made every thing complete,
Their town, their harbour, and their city wall;
When their allies rebell'd, he made them treat
And pay for peace, and tax'd and fin'd them all,
By which means Pericles maintain'd a fleet,
And kept three hundred gallies at his call;
Pericles was a man for every thing;
Pericles was a kind of petty king.
It happen'd Sparta was another State;
They thought themselves as good; they could not bear
To see the Athenians grown so proud and great,
Ruling and domineering every where,
And so resolv'd, before it grew too late,
To fight it out and settle the affair;
Then, being quite determin'd to proceed,
They muster'd an amazing force indeed;
And (after praying to their idol Mars)
March'd on, with all the allies that chose to join,
As was the practice in old heathen wars,
Destroying all the fruit trees, every vine,
And smashing and demolishing the jars
In which those classic ancients kept their wine;
The Athenians ran within the city wall
To save themselves, their children, wives, and all.
Then Pericles (whom they compar'd to Jove,
As being apt to storm and play the deuce),
Kept quiet, and forbad the troops to move,
Because a battle was no kind of use;
The more they mutinied, the more he strove
To keep them safe in spite of their abuse,
For while the Farms were ransack'd round the Town,
This was the people's language up and down:
"Tis better to die once than live to see
Such an abomination, such a waste;'
'No! no!' says Pericles, 'that must not be,
You're too much in hurry, — too much haste—
Learned Athenians, leave the thing to me;
You think of being bullied and disgrac'd;
Don't think of that, nor answer their defiance;
We'll gain the day by our superior science.'
Pericles led the people as he pleas'd,
But in most cases something is forgot:
What with the crowd and heat they grew diseas'd,
And died in heaps like wethers with the rot;
And, at the last, the same distemper seiz'd
Poor Pericles himself — he went to pot.
It answer'd badly: — therefore I admire
So much the more the conduct of the Friar.
For in the Garrison where he presided,
Neither distress, nor famine, nor disease,
Were felt, nor accident nor harm betided
The happy Monks; but plenteous, and with ease,
All needful monkish viands were provided;
Bacon and Pickled-herring, Pork and Peas;
And when the Table-beer began to fail,
They found resources in the Bottled-ale.
Dinner and supper kept their usual hours,
Breakfast and luncheon never were delay'd,
While to the Centries on the walls and towers
Between two plates hot messes were convey'd.
At the departure of the invading powers,
It was a boast the noble Abbot made,
None of his Monks were weaker, paler, thinner,
Or, during all the siege, had lost a dinner.
This was the common course of their hostility;
The giant forces being foil'd at first,
Had felt the manifest impossibility
Of carrying things before them at a burst,
But still, without a prospect of utility,
At stated hours they pelted, howl'd, and curs'd;
And sometimes, at the peril of their pates,
Would bang with clubs and maces at the gates;
Them the brave monkish legions, unappall'd,
With stones that serv'd before to pave the court,
(Heap'd and prepar'd at hand), repell'd and maul'd,
Without an effort, smiling as in sport,
With many a broken head, and many a scald
From stones and molten lead and boiling wort;
Thus little Pillicock was left for dead,
And old Loblolly forc'd to keep his bed
The giant-troops invariably withdrew,
(Like mobs in Naples, Portugal, and Spain),
To dine at twelve o'clock, and sleep till two,
And afterwards (except in case of rain),
Return'd to clamour, hoot, and pelt anew.
The scene was every day the same again;
Thus the Blockade grew tedious: I intended
A week ago, myself, to raise and end it.
One morn the drowsy Centry rubb'd his eyes,
Foil'd by the scanty, baffling, early light;
It seem'd, a Figure of inferior size
Was traversing the Giants' camp outright;
And soon a Monkish Form they recognize—
And now their brother Martin stands in sight,
That on that morning of alarm and fear
Had rambled out to see the Salmon-Weir;
Passing the Ford, the Giants' first attack
Left brother Martin's station in their rear,
And thus prevented him from falling back;
But during all the Siege he watch'd them near,
Saw them returning by their former Track
The Night before, and found the Camp was clear;
And so return'd in safety with delight
And rapture, and a ravenous appetite.
"Well! welcome, — welcome, brother! — Brother Martin!
Why, Martin! — we could scarce believe our eyes:
Ah, brother! strange events here since our parting—"
And Martin din'd (dispensing brief replies
To all the questions that the monks were starting,
Betwixt his mouthfuls), while each friar vies
In filling, helping, carving, questioning
So Martin din'd in public like a king.
And now the Gates are open'd, and the Throng
Forth issuing, the deserted Camp survey;
'Here Murdomack, and Mangonel the strong,
And Gorboduc were lodg'd,' and 'here,' they say,
'This pigsty to Poldavy did belong;
Here Brindleback, and here Phagander lay.'
They view the deep indentures, broad and round,
Which mark their posture squatting on the ground.
Then to the traces of gigantic feet,
Huge, wide apart, with half a dozen toes;
They track them on, till they converge and meet,
(An earnest and assurance of repose)
Close at the Ford; the cause of this retreat
They all conjecture, but no creature knows;
It was ascrib'd to causes multifarious,
To saints, as Jerom, George and Januarius,
To their own pious founder's intercession,
To Ave-Maries, and our Lady's Psalter;
To news that Friar John was in possession,
To new wax candles plac'd upon the altar,
To their own prudence, valour, and discretion;
To reliques, rosaries, and holy water;
To beads and psalms, and feats of arms — in short,
There was no end of their accounting for't.
But though they could not, you, perhaps, may guess;
They went, in short, upon their last adventure:
After the Ladies — neither more nor less—
Our story now revolves upon its centre,
And I'm rejoic'd myself, I must confess,
To find it tally like an old indenture;
They drove off Mules and Horses half a score,
The same that you saw roasted heretofore.
Our Giants' memoirs still remain on hand
For all my notions, being genuine gold,
Beat out beneath the hammer and expand,
And multiply themselves a thousand fold
Beyond the first idea that I plann'd;
Besides, — this present copy must be sold:
Besides, — I promis'd Murray t' other day,
To let him have it by the tenth of May.