1820
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Godiva, — a Tale.

The Etonian No. II (1820).

Rev. John Moultrie


A comic tale in 67 ottava rima stanzas. John Moultrie (who signs himself "Gerard Montgomery") was a Cambridge undergraduate when his delightful and highly-regarded poem was published in the Etonian. The use of this stanza in a story of olden times may have been inspired by William Tennant's Anster Fair (1812), set in sixteenth-century Scotland or John Hookham Frere's The Monks and the Giants (1817), a burlesque narrative set in the Middle Ages. But the influence on Moultrie of Byron's Beppo and Don Juan is already apparent and would be even more apparent in Moultrie's more baroque later poems: "Maimoune," a burlesque fairy tale also published in the Etonian, and "La Belle Tryamoure," a Spenserian burlesque that appeared in 1823 in Knight's Quarterly Magazine.

Monthly Review: "This young minstrel must possess great versatility of talent; for he appears in the same volume in the character of a very humorous, and perhaps somewhat free writer of burlesque verse, on the well-known story of Lady Godiva. Not a very prudent choice of a subject, we think, has here been made: but little if any thing objectionable occurs in the management of it; and a surprising facility of composition, in the best manner of Beppo himself, is manifested throughout this odd display of juvenile ability. We cannot, however, approve the taste of some other contributor to these volumes, who talks in such excessive raptures of the genius of his versatile coadjutor, as could hardly be warranted in any private association of authors, and much less in their public and printed capacity. These youths, indeed, praise each other a great deal too much throughout the work" NS 100 (February 1823) 166-67.

Quarterly Review: "Godiva is a successful imitation of the new Whistlecraft style; we think, however, that with much of the instinctive delicacy and native gentility of the poet of 'Gyges,' the author has not succeeded in handling this subject with the same dexterity and decorum; and if our literature is to be disgraced (as is threatened) by the publication of an English Pucelle, we do not wish to see, in a work like The Etonian, any thing which may, in the most distant degree, remind us of such compositions" 25 (1820) 106; quoted in Byron, Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1904) 5:352-53n.

Harvard Lyceum [Cambridge]: "The poetry of the Etonian is also of great merit. There is a grace about it that is seldom found in juvenile compositions. The Muses worshipped by these youthful votaries are not stiff dames that are two thousand years older than they were in Homer's time (I suppose you will say I am some years out in my chronology), nor are they ladies of a certain age, dressed in the style of fifty years ago, but mere youthful flesh and blood, with whom they can chat, laugh, talk scandal, dance, and even waltz, if there be an opportunity" 1 (September 1827) 219.

Alaric Alexander Watts: "The admirable poem is attributed to the Rev. J. Moultrie; and is extracted from the Etonian. It was an especial favourite with the late Mr. Gifford, who was wont to express the highest admiration of the talents of its author. Certain it is, that Mr. Moultrie has written some of the most delightful poems in the whole range of modern literature. It is to be lamented, that he does not give us the many fugitive poems of which he is the author, in a collected form. They could not but be popular, for most of them are of transcendent beauty" Poetical Album, Second Series (1829) 395n.

David Macbeth Moir: "His Godiva is said to have been a great favourite with the late Mr. Gifford of the Quarterly — a not very lenient judge; and many of his lyrics overflow with sentiment and feeling" Sketches of the Poetical Literature of the Past Half-Century (1851; 1852) 307.

Robert Chambers: "Associated with Praed, Macaulay, Henry Nelson Coleridge, and others in the Etonian and Knight's Quarterly Magazine, was the REV. JOHN MOULTRIE (1799-1874), for some time rector of Rugby — an amiable and accomplished man, and one of the most graceful and meditative of the minor poets. He published two volumes — My Brother's Grave, and other Poems, 1837; and The Dream of Life, and other Poems, 1843; also a volume of Sermons preached in the Parish Church of Rugby, 1852. A complete edition of Moultrie's poems was published in 1876, with memoir by the Rev. Derwent Coleridge, one of the most attached and admiring of his college friends" Chambers's Cyclopedia of English Literature (1840-44; 1879) 7:54.



Whoe'er has been at Coventry must know
(Unless he's quite devoid of curiosity,)
That once a year it has a sort of show,
Conducted with much splendor and pomposity.
I'll just describe it, if I can — but no,
It would exhaust the humour of a Fawcett, I
Am a vile jester — though I once was vain
Of acting Fawcett's parts at Datchet-lane.

Ah! those were pleasant days, when you and I,
Dear Fred. Golightly, trod those boards of yore;
I often grieve to think that they're past by,
As you must — on a rainy after-four:
Though, now it's fairly quash'd, you won't deny
That that same stage was frequently a bore;
It spoilt our cricket, which we're all so proud on,
Nor let us beat the Kingsmen — as we've now done.

Oh! sweet is praise to youthful poet's ear,
When gently warbled by the lips he loves,
'Tis sweet one's exercise read o'er to hear,
(Especially the week before Removes);
But sweeter far, when actors first appear,
The loud collision of applauding gloves,
The gleam of happy faces o'er them cast—
Moments of triumph not to be surpass'd!

Oh! stolen joys, far sweeter for the stealing,
Oh! doubts, and fears, and hopes of Eton all,
Ye are departed; but a lingering feeling
Of your enchantments holds my heart in thrall.
My eyes just now are fixed upon the ceiling—
I feel my cheek gush — hear my inkstand fall;
My soul is wandering through the distant groves
Of that dear schoolboy-dwelling which it loves.

But to my tale — I'm somewhat given to prating,
I can't but own it, but my theme was fine,
And all the feelings which I've been narrating
Are worth enjoying — and they've all been mine!
But I'll no longer keep the reader waiting,
So, without wasting now another line,
My Poem I'll begin, as Poets use,
With a short invocation to my Muse,

Spirit which art within me, if in truth
Thou dost exist in my soul's depths, and I
Have not mistaken the hot pulse of youth,
And wandering thoughts, for dreams of poesy,
Rise from thy lone recesses, rise and soothe
Each meaner thought to aspirations high,
Whelm me in musings of deep joy, and roll
Thy radiant visions on my kindling soul.

If, when at morn I view the bright blue Heaven,
Thoughts are around me which not all have felt;
If, in the dim and fading light of Even,
A Poet's rapture on my soul hath dwelt;
If to my wayward nature have been given
Dreams that absorb, and phantasies that melt,
Sweet tears, and wild attachments — lend thy wings,
Spirit, to bear me in my wanderings.

But these are boyish dreams. — Away, away,
Ye fond enchantments of my foolish brain;—
And yet, methinks, I would a while delay,
Ere my frail vessel tempt Life's dangerous main.
Still, dear delusions of my boyhood, stay,
Still let me pour my weak, but harmless strain!
In fancied draughts my thirst poetic slake,
And never, never from that dream awake!

This is a very pretty invocation,
Though scarce adapted to my present style;
I wrote it in a fit of inspiration,
The finest I've enjoy'd a monstrous while;
For most uncertain's my imagination,
And 'tis but seldom that my Muse will smile.
Come reader, we'll her present humour try;
Draw up the curtain — the scene's Coventry.

It is an ancient and a gallant town,
Nor all unknown to loftier lays than mine;
It has of old seen deeds of high renown—
Its situation's not extremely fine.
Its name it wishes to be handed down,
And still in England's annals longs to shine;
And Mr. Cobbett wants to represent
This self-same Coventry in Parliament.

But at the period when my tale commences
There were no Cobbetts — 'twas a barb'rous age;
The "Sovereign People" scarce were in their senses,
For Radical Reform was not the rage:
Though then Sir Francis might have found pretences
Just war against the Government to wage;
For King and Nobles thought it no great crime
To be confounded tyrants at that time.

There was of yore an Earl of Coventry,
Famous for wine and war — one Leoffic;
A genuine Saxon — he'd a light blue eye,
His stature tall — his frame well-built and thick:
His flaxen locks fell down luxuriantly
On his fine shoulders — and his glance was quick.
But though he really was a handsome Earl,
He was at times a most uncommon churl.

He had fought well and often — miles around
Chieftain and vassal trembled at his name;
He held some thousand acres of good ground,
To which his weapon form'd his strongest claim:
His legal title was sometimes unsound—
And he was wedded to a matchless dame,
The fair and chaste Godiva — whom alone
He seem'd to love, of all that was his own.

Well might he love her; — in that shape of lightness
All woman's choicest beauties were combined;
Her long dark locks set off her bosom's whiteness
In its calm heavings, warm, and chaste, and kind.
Her deep blue eyes shone with peculiar brightness,
When through them flash'd the sunbeams of her mind;
When swiftly sparkled joys, or hopes, or fears,
Or sorrow bathed them in delicious tears.

Hers was the face we look on once and love,
Her voice was Music's echo — like the strain
Of our own land, heard, when afar we rove,
With a deep sense of pleasure mix'd with pain:
And those who once had heard it vainly strove
To lose its echoes lingering in the brain:
As for her figure — if you once had met it,
Believe me, Sirs, you never could forget it.

She was the idol of her native land,
The comforter and friend of its distress;
Herself, unchasten'd by Affliction's hand,
Felt for the woes of others not the less.
The serfs, who trembled at her Lord's command,
Forbore to curse him for her loveliness.
They were a pair one often meets in life,—
A churlish husband with a charming wife.

It chanced, A.D. Eight Hundred and Eighteen,
(I love to be correct in my chronology,
And all the tables which by chance I've seen
Concur in this date. When I was in College I
Conducted once the famous Magazine,
Th' Etonian's predecessor. This apology
Will serve, I hope, among all folks discerning,
For my correctness — both in taste and learning.)

It chanced, A.D. Eight Hundred and Eighteen,
'Twas a bad season: rain, and blight, and frost
Destroy'd the harvest, while the crops were green,—
Wheat — barley — oats — and turnips, all were crost.
The ruin'd peasants grew extremely lean,
There's no computing what that year they lost:
They look'd just like so many half-starved weasels,
The sheep all died — the pigs had got the measles.

Leofric's table suffer'd: he was ever
(As Earls are sometimes) an enormous glutton;
Venison he loved, but, though a dainty liver,
He was a perfect Colleger at mutton.
He now discover'd that his table never
A decent leg or shoulder could be put on;
Dry was each wither'd joint, where fat was not,
And sometimes tasted strongly of the rot.

There was a sad deficiency in greens;
Parsnips and carrots nowhere could be found,
The very horses scorn'd to eat the beans,
The turnips were frost-bitten and unsound.
In fact the hungry peasants had no means
To pay their rents: — the Earl look'd grim and frown'd;
And wisely judged it would be saving trouble,
Like Harrow cricketers, to tax them double.

Whether this plan was likely to succeed,
Is more than I can possibly divine;
Physicians seldom think it right to bleed
A patient dying of a deep decline.
The poor petition'd in this utmost need
Alas! they found it was in vain to whine;
The hungry Earl refused to hear a word;
(We know petitions are sometimes absurd.)

"He grieved," he said, "but 'twasn't his look-out,
If all his serfs and vassals starved together;
The year had been a rainy one, no doubt,
But what of that? — he didn't make the weather.
They should have minded what they were about,
And not have sent such mutton — 'twas like leather.
In short, unless they paid in their arrears,
He'd beat their houses down about their ears."

Then fell despair upon them: — home they went
With wild and gloomy aspects, and sat down
Each by his desolate hearth; some, weeping, leant
Their heads on their clasp'd hands; throughout the town
Went female shrieks and wailings; all content,
Domestic joy, and peace, and hope were flown;
And each look'd round upon his family,
And said that nought was left them — but to die.

One had been lately wedded, — his young bride
Gazed, as he enter'd, on his frenzied eye,
And read her fate, yet she essay'd to hide
Her own forebodings of deep misery;
And strove to smile, and, seated by his side,
Used all her loved caresses cheeringly;
And said those sorrows soon would be forgot,
And fondly whisper'd hope — where hope was not.

And then she spoke of their long mutual love,
Their youthful vows, and lately plighted troth,—
And then she said that there was One above
Who had protected — would protect them both.
Remorse might yet the Earl's stern nature move,
"Herself," she added, "to despair was loath."
But when she found her arts were vain, she crept
Into his bosom — hid her face — and wept.

It was a night of horror and despair!
Mothers were shrieking in distraction wild,
And Fathers, with a fix'd unconscious glare,
Gazed on the wan cheeks of each starving child!
A few were kneeling, wrapt in fervent pray'r,
And these alone, in their devotion, smiled;
While he, the author of an earldom's woe—
Slept upon fair Godiva's breast of snow.

Alas! Godiva, that a heart like thine
Should by so stern a tyrant's head be press'd!—
Short were his dreams, he woke at half-past nine,
Feeling a strange oppression at his chest;
And yet that day he'd drank five quarts of wine,
Which one would fancy would have made him rest.
Whether 'twas conscience or an indigestion
Produced this nightmare, still remains a question.

Godiva was awake — she had not slept
For sad reflections on her country's woes,
And bitter floods of anguish had she wept,
Her grief was far too burning for repose.
As down her cheeks the tears in silence crept,
At last they trickled to her husband's nose,
Who in plain terms (he seldom used to flatter)
Demanded "What the Devil was the matter."

Her tears fell faster, but she answer'd not;
In vain at first she strove her voice to find;
The courteous Saxon thought his wife had got
The tooth-ache, and grew wonderfully kind.
But when Godiva gently told him what
So much afflicted not her teeth — but mind,
He scratch'd his head, and stared like, one confounded—
Never was man so perfectly astounded.

He could not form, for his part, the least notion
Of what appear'd so singular a whim,
He'd always fancied that his wife's devotion,
Thoughts, passions, wishes, centred all in him.
Much was he puzzled by this strange emotion,—
How was it possible a dame so slim,
So elegant and tasty as his wife,
Could feel for wretches quite in humble life?

It was a problem which he could not solve,
'Twas just what mathematics are to me,
A science which the longer I revolve,
The surer am I we shall ne'er agree:
And so I very prudently resolve
To give it up, and stick to poetry,
Which is, in fact, extremely pretty sport,
And I'm inclined to fancy quite my forte.

My Simpson's Euclid, you're a cursed bore,
Although, no doubt, a treasure in your way,
And those who doat on science may explore
Your problems — with what appetite they may.
I have no head for mathematic lore,
Therefore, my Simpson's Euclid, I must say
(Though I'm desirous not to be uncivil)
I most devoutly wish you at the Devil.

But oh! the thousand joys of versifying!
One writes, and blots, and reads 'em o'er and o'er,
And, every time one reads 'em, can't help spying
A thousand beauties unobserved before;
And then one fancies all the ladies crying—
Reviewers make some rhymesters rather sore;
I for my own part am a careless dog,
And love to hear mine criticised — incog.

But poor Godiva — in her tears she lay,
'Twas a sad pity that 'twas in the night,
Because, had it but happen'd in the day,
Her weeping beauty had prevail'd outright:
E'en then she charm'd her husband's rage away,
And nearly gain'd her purpose — though not quite;
For, after all her eloquent persuasion,
He tried to cheat her by a mean evasion.

"My dear,"' said he, "you've argued wondrous well,
I'm quite delighted with your long oration,
On all its beauties I forbear to dwell,
Enough that it hath met my approbation;
So much so, that to-morrow you may tell
Fair Coventry, it's free from all taxation,
If but these terms your approbation meet—
That you ride naked through the public street."

Godiva started — well indeed she might,
She almost doubted her own ears' veracity
My modest pen can scarce endure to write
A speech of such unparallel'd audacity.
Leofric thought he had perplex'd her quite,
And grinn'd immensely at his own sagacity;
For which I hold him a consummate beast,
Deserving of the pillory at least.

Shame on the heartless churl! — could he repose
On that so lovely bosom, which, he knew,
For him, albeit the author of its woes,
Throbb'd with affection, warm, and chaste, and true?
And could he thus its holy charms expose
Unveil'd and blushing to the public view?
Ay, bid slaves gaze on beauties, which alone
(Though Kings had sigh'd for) he might call his own!

And yet I can't but own that modern spouses
In his opinion seem to acquiesce;
I've seen, in many fashionable houses,
The ladies waltzing in complete undress;
A custom which no sort of feeling rouses
Amongst their husbands — and I must confess,
(Being unmarried) that I see no faults in
Ladies, young, lovely, and half-naked, waltzing.

I must say I enjoy it — 'tis a pleasure
Good-natured fair ones grant to amorous swains;
I like to whirl to that bewildering measure,
Which, "just like love" — or brandy, turns one's brains;
I like to view my partner's charms at leisure,
Till scarce a secret for the bride remains;
While round her waist each wanton finger strays,
And counts the whalebones in her panting stays.

Let jealous husbands (if such still there be
In this improving age) cry out "For shame!"
Let Quakers say our manners are too free,
And gouty folks quadrilles and waltzes blame;
I here protest I never will agree
In such reproaches — till I'm blind and lame.
Let maids of fifty prate of immorality,
I'm for the sexes' rational equality.

These are new doctrines: in Godiva's age
Husbands alone were privileged to kiss;
I said before, Reform was not the rage,
So that such nonsense was not amiss;
And, though I've ransack'd many an ancient page,
I find but one case similar to this,—
That of Candaules — handed down to us
By Barry Cornwall, and Herodotus.

Oh! matrimonial love, which I so long
Have fondly painted to my fancy's eye,
In vain would I embody now in song
My young conceptions of thy purity.
Thou should'st be chaste, tho' ardent; mild, tho' strong;
Thou should'st be — hang it, it's in vain to try,—
Thou should'st be — all that in my heart's recess
I long have worshipp'd, but can ne'er express.

And thou, fair image, whatsoe'er thou art,
The loved creation of my boyish brain,
The destined partner of my cares and heart,
To share my pleasures, and to soothe my pain;
Still of my dearest visions be a part,
In many a midnight dream appear again;
Still let me clasp thee to my glowing breast,
Enjoy thy converse, and in sleep be blest.

And if not all a phantom of my thought,
And thou indeed hast being, may thy young
And sinless years be happy, and may nought
That tastes of sorrow in thy path be flung:
May purest lessons thy young heart be taught,
And each expanding thought to virtue strung;
May'st thou have some accomplishments — much grace,
And lovely as thy spirit be — thy face.

I shall be quite enraptured if you sing,
So but your taste is pure as was the Attics';
I only beg you'll take care not to fling
Your time away in learning mathematics;
Nor to my arms a heavy portion bring
Of chemistry — and Greek — and hydrostatics;
You may nurse pinks and tulips, if you've got any,
But be no florist, love, — nor deal in botany.

I mention this, because I know some ladies
Whose conversation is almost a bore;
But I should laud them, as the Poet's trade is
So won't pursue this topic any more.
Return we to our tale, which, I'm afraid is
Too long in telling — but it's nearly o'er:
Godiva turn'd at last, with looks imploring,
And found her husband (like my reader) snoring.

Too well she knew to wake him would be vain;
She thought 'twas best to let him slumber on,
Or else his humour might relapse again,
And all she had effected be undone.
She lay, and communed with her heart and brain,—
Her thoughts I know not, but when morning shone,
She told her husband, with a steadfast eye,
She had revolved the matter — and would try.

Her speech on this occasion I'd recorded
In my foul copy, and we all agreed
That it was most astonishingly worded,
For one who never learnt to write or read;
Yet scope for mirth it might have well afforded
To modern misses of our British breed;
And grave blue-stockings would, no doubt, have said
"Godiva's heart was better than her head."

Had she at some snug boarding-school been placed
Of modern growth for female education,
She would have had a most uncommon taste,
And I might now have printed her oration.
Her native genius she would then have graced
With stores of every sort of information,
And had, at twelve years old, more general knowledge
Than boys of fifteen gain at Eton College.

She turn'd and left his Lordship sore perplex'd,
He almost question'd if he was awake,
And knew not whether to feel pleased or vex'd;
Still less, what step it would be right to take.
He "wonder'd what the Devil she'd do next
Who could so bold a resolution make:"
And felt a sort of shame that he'd consented,
And, for the first time in his life, repented.

But then he felt he never could retract,
(At least he would not — which was much the same)
And if his wife thought proper thus to act,
He couldn't help it — he was not to blame!
So that day, after breakfast, off he pack'd
A trumpeter (I quite forget his name)
To tell the people, in the market-place,
His wife's intention — and his own disgrace.

It was an idle morn in Coventry,
The people wander'd through the gloomy mart;
Labour with hope was o'er, and listlessly
Their footsteps traversed each unheeded part;
Despair was yielding fast to apathy—
They were prepared to die, — and every heart
Its weight of woe had half forgot to feel,—
When in their ears shrill rung a trumpet-peal.

There was a sudden crowding round the space—
Whence the sound came — and then from man to man,
Throughout the full and spacious market-place,
A sudden, cold, electric shudder ran;
And each glanced quickly on his neighbour's face,
As if the working of his thought to scan,—
And then in every countenance were blent
Joy, love, and anger, and astonishment.

A breathless pause succeeded, — then arose
A low and gathering murmur in the crowd,
Like the far peal that breaks the dread repose
Cast by the shadow of a thunder-cloud:
And fast and far that thrilling murmur flows
On through the multitude — yet grows not loud.
Slowly it died, — and nought but trampling feet
Of crowds dispersing sounded in the street.

Noon came, yet ne'er in Coventry had reign'd
At deepest midnight silence so profound;
In the wide streets no human form remain'd,
It seem'd as Death had swallow'd all around:
It was like that enchanted city, feign'd
In Oriental Tales, where all were bound
In magic slumbers, and transform'd to stone—
A story pretty generally known.

What were Godiva's thoughts at that dread hour
In her lone chamber? Silent did she kneel,
Her deep blue eyes raised meekly to the Power
Of Heaven, in dumb, yet eloquent appeal.
Thus pray'd the gentle lady in her bower,
Till o'er her sorrows peace began to steal,
And the calm rapture of the silent skies
Had sunk into her spirit through her eyes.

The lady rose from prayer, with cheek o'erflush'd,
And eyes all radiant with celestial fire,
The anguish'd beatings of her heart were hush'd,
So calmly heavenward did her thoughts aspire.
A moment's pause — and then she deeply blush'd,
As, trembling, she unclasp'd her rich attire,
And shrinking from the sunlight, shone confest
The ripe and dazzling beauties of her breast.

And when her white and radiant limbs lay bare,
The fillet from her brow the dame unbound,
And let the traces of her raven hair
Flow down in wavy lightness to the ground,
Till half they veil'd her limbs and bosom fair,
In dark and shadowy beauty floating round,
As clouds, in the still firmament of June,
Shade the pale splendors of the midnight Moon.

But then her spirit fell when thus alone
She stood in the deep silence of her bower,
And felt that there she was beheld by none
Save One unknown, supreme, eternal Power.
She dared not raise her meek eyes, trembling one,
Again from earth; she could have wish'd that hour
Rather in view of thousands to have stood,
Than in that still and awful solitude.

Away — away, with wild and hurried pace,
Through many a long and echoing room she stole:
No voice arrests her ear, no human face
Bursts on the dreamy wildness of her soul.
All silent now is that proud dwelling-place,—
On — on she presses till she reach the goal;
The portal's pass'd — she sees her palfrey stand,
Held by a weak and weeping maiden's hand.

Away, away! — the Lady hath departed;
The freedom of the land will soon be won:
Rejoice, ye wrong'd, and spurn'd, and broken-hearted,
Rejoice! — for your deliverance is begun.
It's full five minutes since Godiva started,
She'll be among you before half-past one;
Therefore, take care, both bachelors and spouses,
All but the blind, to keep within your houses.

Godiva pass'd, but all had disappear'd,
Each in his dwelling's innermost recess:
One would have thought all mortal eyes had fear'd
To gaze upon her dazzling loveliness.
Sudden her palfrey stopp'd, and neigh'd, and rear'd,
And prick'd his ears — as if he would express
That there was something wicked in the wind;
Godiva trembled and held fast behind.

And here I also must remark that this is
With ladies very frequently the case,
And beg to hint to all Equestrian Misses,
That horses' backs are not their proper place.
A woman's forte is music — love — or kisses,
Not leaping gates, or galloping a race;
I used sometimes to ride with them of yore,
And always found them an infernal bore.

The steed grew quiet, and a piercing cry
Burst on Godiva's ear; — she started, and
Beheld a man, who, in a window high,
Shaded his dim eyes with his trembling hand.
He had been led by curiosity
To see her pass, and there had ta'en his stand;
And as he gazed ('tis thus the story's read),
His eye-balls sunk and shrivell'd in his head.

I know not, gentles, whether this be true;
If so, you'll own the punishment was just;
Poor wretch! — full dearly had he cause to rue
His prying temper, or unbridled lust.
No more could he his daily toil pursue—
Be was a tinker — but his tools might rust,
He might dispose of all his stock of metal,
For ne'er, thenceforward, could he mend a kettle.

Alas! poor Peeping Tom! Godiva kept
And fed him — Reader, now my tale is told;
I need not state how all the peasants wept,
And laugh'd, and bless'd their Countess — young and old.
That night Godiva very soundly slept—
I grieve to add she caught a trifling cold;
Leofric's heart was so extremely full,
He roasted for the populace a bull.

There stood an ancient cross at Coventry,
Pull'd down, of late, by order of the Mayor,
Because 'twas clear its downfall must be nigh,
And 'twould be too expensive to repair;
It bore two figures carved — and you might spy
Beneath them graved, in letters large and fair,
GODIVA, LEOFRIC, FOR LOVE OF THEE,
DOTH MAKE HENCEFORTH FAIR COVENTRY TOLL TREE.

The tale's believed by all the population,
And still a sham Godiva, every year,
Is carried by the Mayor and Corporation
In grand procession — and the mob get beer.
Gentles, I've spent my fit of inspiration,
Which being over, I must leave you here
And for Godiva — hope you'll decent think her,
Laugh at her husband, and forgive the tinker.

[(1823) 1:186-206]