The second canto introduces John Moultrie's hero, good, moral, Sir Lanvil, who departs from King Arthur's wicked court in a destitute condition. Returning to his native hamlet he is spurned as an enchanter, but is loved by the Blanche, daughter of the Lord Mayor, who dies of grief when her forbidden affection is not reciprocated.
As in the first canto, most of the poem is given over to digressions: on the Cockney Poets (including a lament for John Keats), memories of the theater, and a long retrospective on the poet's love life: "In fact, the present Canto's whole demerit's | Occasion'd by my utter want of spirits" p. 418. The stanzas about Leigh Hunt, not surprisingly, found their way into Blackwood's Magazine for October 1823. The poem is continued in the number for January 1824 with considerably more spirit and a number of references and allusions to Spenser's Faerie Queene.
John Wilson: "NORTH. It is a gentlemanly miscellany — got together by a clan of young scholars, who look upon the world with a cheerful eye, and all its outgoings with a spirit of hopeful kindness. I cannot but envy them their gay juvenile temper, so free from gall and spite; and am pleased to the heart's core with their elegant accomplishments. Their egotism is the joyous freedom of exulting life; and they see all things in a glow of enthusiasm which makes ordinary objects beautiful, and beauty still more beauteous. MR. JOYEUSE. Upon my honor, Sir Christopher, I am quite over-powered. Forgive me, when I confess that I had my misgivings on entering your presence. But they are all vanished. Believe me that I value most highly the expression of your good-will and friendly sentiments towards myself and my coadjutors. NORTH. Love freedom — continue, I ought to say, to love it; and prove your love, by defending all the old sacred institutions of this great land. Keep aloof from all association with base ignorance, and presumption, and imposture. Let all your sentiments be kind, generous and manly, and your opinions will be safe, for the heart and the head are the only members of the Holy Alliance, and woe unto all men when they are not in union. Give us some more of your classical learning — more of the sparkling treasures of your scholarship, for in that all our best miscellanies are somewhat deficient, (mine own not excepted,) and you may here lead the way. Are you not Etonians, Wykeamists, Oxonians, and Cantabs, and in the finished grace of manhood? Don't forget your classics. THE SHEPHERD. Dinna mind a single word that Mr. North says about classics, Mr. Joyous. Gin ye introduce Latin and Greek into your Magazine, you'll clean spoil't. There's naething like a general interest taken in the classics throughout the kintra; and I whiles jalouse that some praise Homer and Horace, and Polydore Virgil, and 'the rest,' that ken but little about them, and couldna read the crabbed Greek letters aff-hand without stuttering" Blackwood's Magazine (October 1823) in Noctes Ambrosianae (1857) 1:364.
Charles Knight: "The second number of the Magazine was getting into shape in the middle of September of 1823, although its publication was a month behind its due time. With me this was a pleasant autumn. Mr. Moultrie had come to reside at Eton. We had friendly walks together. He was writing the second Canto of La Belle Tryamour, and as we sat on the lawn of a little village inn he was rapidly jotting down his verses. In a piece of nonsense which I also wrote as we laughed and lounged, I said, "I have seen, as I watched Gerard's impassion'd countenance, the infancy of a thought struggling into energy in its perilous contest with the fetters of a rhyme, and at last triumph in the maturity of a stanza'" Passages of a Working Life (1864) 1:312.
Four mouths are past, since I've put pen to paper;
Four months of mingled sun, and wind, and rain,
Fog, thunder, morning frost, and evening vapour;
These soaking summers spoil one's rhyming vein;
But now I'll mend my pen, and trim my taper,
And sit down steadily to work again;
Because the public will be glad, I'm sure,
To hear some further news of Tryamour.
We left King Arthur and his lovely bride
Safe at Carlisle — the honey-moon was over,
The happy pair had now grown sober eyed,
Yet still, for several months, they lived in clover;
She seem'd a guardian angel at his side,
And he was less a husband than a lover;
Soon, from this Virgo, Gemini were born,
And then she made King Arthur Capricorn.
I don't know how it happen'd — and indeed,
Some people think the tale a fabrication
Invented by the Tories, to mislead,
For their own selfish ends the British nation;
For my part, I say nothing — you must read,
And then decide; 'tis true my information
Bears hard against the virtue of Queen Guenever,—
But then who can believe so gross a sin of her?
All the world knows Anne Boleyn was a martyr—
So was the late Queen Caroline, I've heard;
So might have been the spotless wife of Arthur,
Had similar impeachments been preferr'd;
But her foes fear'd that they might catch a Tartar;
She had such able counsel at her word,
In her defence to bluster and look big,
With spear and target, not with crown and wig.
Well! stories will be told, and fools believe them,
And awkward facts will come perversely out,
Perplexing loyal subjects who receive them.
With most unpleasant mystery and doubt,
I know were I a monarch, I should leave them
To the supreme decision of the knout—
That best Attorney-General — but I'm prating,
While King and Queen and readers all are waiting.
I'm really vastly sorry to detract
From any Sovereign's character — but now,
Having no time to ascertain the fact,
I must request you, gentles, to allow
That the fair fame of Guenever was crack'd,
And that King Arthur wore upon his brow
Some ornaments less seemly than his crown—
Or else the following story won't go down.
But here, at starting, I must just premise
(Lest any readers should look grave and cold)
That 'tis not my intention to disguise
A tale immortal in decorous mould.
Approach not me — ye cockneys, good and wise,
And other great philosophers, who hold
That Epicurus is Man's best physician,
And chastity a "monkish superstition."
You think you've found, in me, a new recruit—
You're devilishly mistaken I assure you;
I hate your doctrines, and your rhymes to boot,
And tell you, in plain terms, I can't endure you;
I'd thresh you soundly, if I'd time to do't
And thought a canto's horse-whipping would cure you,—
Though, I confess, t'would grieve me to affront
That cleverest coxcomb in the world, Leigh Hunt.
I'll spare thy weaker brethren for thy sake—
I love thee, when I laugh at thee, sweet Leigh;
But do, my gentle Indicator, take
A friend's advice, and soon recross the sea.
How can'st thou tarry with the jaded rake,
The heartless bard, the hoary debauchee,
The impotent reviler, who's unfurl'd
His Atheist banner to reform the world?
With all thy follies, thou wast still sincere,
And gentle (save in politics) though blind,
And very often silly, and, I fear,
Hast done some harm among the Cockney kind;
But what in that same misanthropic peer,
What, in the name of wonder, could'st thou find,
Which could induce thee to suppose that he
Would make a good enthusiast, simple Leigh?
Thou wast a faithful and a fit Achates,
Once, to a great Aeneas, Percy Shelley—
A vast, though erring spirit, whose sad fate is
A thing which I deplore — but let me tell ye,
You made yourself a monstrous ninny gratis
With that same funeral pile — he might as, well lie,
Methinks, beneath the turf o'ergrown with flowers,
As dance among the winds and thunder-showers.
However, he and you of course knew best;
His life, at least, was suited to his end,—
His obsequies to both — so let them rest;
But how Achates could at once descend
From His to Byron's friendship, I protest,
Is what it puzzles me to comprehend;
Take care, sweet Leigh, or you'll afford the Tories
A handle to invent ill-natured stories.
They'll say — I shan't believe 'em — but they'll say
That Leigh's become what once he most abhorr'd,
Has thrown his independence all away,
And dubb'd himself toad-eater to a Lord;
And though, of course you'll hit as hard as they,
I fear you'll find it difficult to ward
Their poison'd arrows off — you'd best come back,
Before the Cockney kingdom goes to wrack.
The Examiner's grown dull as well as dirty,
The Indicator's sick, the Liberal dead—
I hear its readers were some six and-thirty,
But really 'twas too stupid to be read.
'Tis plain your present partnership has hurt ye:
Poor brother John "looks up and is not fed;"
For scarce a soul will purchase or get through one
E'en of his shilling budgets of Don Juan.
Poor brother John! — poor Cockneys! — but I've spent
More time upon you now than you deserve:
Because your King for better things was meant,
And shows, on most occasions, pluck and nerve,
I hope, sincerely, he may yet repent;
For you, sweet Cockneys, these few hints must serve—
Perhaps, I may expand them, by, and by,
But have, at present, other fish to fry.
Buz on, poor drones, too stingless to be fear'd,
Obscurity and dullness will protect you all;
I only wish your notions ne'er had sear'd
Far nobler hearts and heads more intellectual,—
Some whom to me deep feelings have endear'd,—
Whom — but regret's absurd and ineffectual;
Oh! that such souls should quit their flights divine,
To herd with Epicurus and his swine!
This will be understood, (at least, I hope so,)
By all for whom 'tis meant. I should not dare,
Perhaps, to my free language to give scope so,
But that I think they'll know my meaning fair.
My Muse ne'er quail'd for prelate or for pope, so
I trust I may permit her to declare
Her notions freely upon nicer matters,
Provided she steers clear of gibes and satires.
I hope I don't offend; — but, oh! sweet Fortune,
If thou hast eyes where I may favour find,
Or ears to hear my prayers — grant now this short one;
Oh! bore me with the dullest of mankind—
With fools most grave, and puppies most importune,
With talkative old women deaf and blind,
Kill me with pedants, dandies, dolts, and oafs,
But save — oh! save me from all philosophes.
They'll say I'm foolish — prejudiced — absurd—
Unphilosophical — the slave of custom;
And I acknowledge that I've still preferr'd
The old worn paths — for I can safely trust 'em;
To love one's country, and to keep one's word,
Are good old maxims, nor will time e'er rust 'em—
Our modern creed's are wiser I dare say,
But sometimes lead us deucedly astray.
I knew a great philosopher, when young,
A subtle thinker, an acute logician,
A man of mighty mind and honey'd tongue,
Close, learned, and a clever Politician;
He "walked as free as light, the clouds among,"
Despised, of course, his country's superstition,
But kept his counsel (as no doubt 'twas best,)
And rarely ventured on too bold a jest.
Well, this philosopher — but keep due bounds,
Rash Muse, — for I've no mind to fight a duel;
I'd not mis-state the truth for forty pounds,
And can't endure to think of water-gruel;
Besides, 'twas done on philosophic grounds,
As you, and I, and every body knew well,
And if philosophy sometimes should lie,
Who'd dare to blame philosophy? — not I.
Strict justice shall be done — the man I mention
Was, I believe, just, honest, and sincere,
And, if he err'd, err'd with no ill intention—
His mind was upright and his judgment clear;
And, though his doctrine's past my comprehension,
He was, to many whom I loved, most dear;
For me — I only grieve that hearts so high
Should be the victims of — philosophy!
'Tis hard, to find the souls long used to blend
With yours, infected by Hell's deadly leaven;
'Tis hard, to find your "own familiar friend,"
The foe of all your hopes in Earth or Heaven;
'Tis hard — but hush! these thoughts must not be penn'd—
Kind reader, let my folly be forgiven—
'Tis over — and we'll now transgress no farther,
But travel back to Britain and King Arthur.
It was a merry time in Old Carlisle;
The royal pair had closed their wedding tour,
And all the first and fairest of the isle,
Knight, squire, and lady — page and paramour,
Came to do homage there in proper style,
And feast, for several months, both rich and poor;
You may conceive the bustle and the row,
Which I've no time to paint minutely now.
The entertainments were of different kinds,
Adapted to each colour and capacity,
Both of patrician and plebeian minds—
Balls, masks, and plays for tempers of vivacity,
Bear-baits and singlestick for boors and hinds,
And feasts for every species of edacity;
With butts of ale and, hogsheads of metheolin,
And amorous songs to set the ladies giggling.
I wish I could depict, in colours glowing,
The knights who figured in King Arthur's train;
Sir Persevall, Sir Tristram, and Sir Gawain,
Sir Eglamour, Sir Guy, Sir Agrafayn,
Sir Launcelot of the Lake, Sir Kay, Sir Owen,
Sir Hugh, Sir Lanval — each of whom I'd fain
Immortalize in numbers ne'er surpast,
But must confine that honour to the last.
Sir Lanval, or Sir Lonvil — which you please,
(Sir Launfal, I believe's the genuine reading)
Except Sir Launcelot, was, by some degrees,
The noblest knight alive for grace, and breeding;
A finer face than his one seldom sees;
A nobler form hath seldom ta'en the lead in
Battle or ball; a heart more deep and free,
I never found, lone, save in thee.
His birth was princely, and his fortune large—
At least, had been so, for his liberality
Was boundless, shrinking from no cost or charge;
In fact, profusion seem'd his leading quality;
Had he been "heir of Calydon and Arge,"
His coffers would have dwindled to a nullity,
Beneath the constant round of princely presents,
He lavish'd daily upon slaves and peasants.
Silver, and gold, and garments rich and rare,
He sent, with courteous words, to squire and knight;—
Jewels and gauds to ladies brown and fair,—
Gave tournaments by day and balls at night,
With dinners fit to surfeit a Lord Mayor;
In short, so bounteous was this worthy knight,
That Arthur, with his princely conduct smitten,
Had made him Lord High Steward of Great Britain.
This free and generous spirit, by the by,
Induces me to think there's some foundation,
For a tradition not to be past by,
Which makes Sir Lonvil (mark his appellation)
First founder of the L— family;
If so, I'm sure the present generation
Inherits all his worth, and if you'll try,
Reader, you'll know the fact as well as I.
I'll introduce, you, if you please — they dwell
By the Welsh border, near the banks of Dee,
Just where the Shropshire hills begin to swell
With bolder undulations; — there you'll be
(Experto crede) lodged and feasted well,
With frank and friendly hospitality;—
Yet stay not long, I charge you, but depart,
While that wild eye hath left you half a heart.
Psha! what's your heart to me? Come, let's be laughing;
Life and my poem are too short for sighs;—
On with the tale! there's more delight by half in
Thalia's smile than Cytherea's eyes;
And, reader, 'tis high time we should be quaffing
Some inspiration from the founts that rise
As near as possible to mount Parnassus,—
We'll drink it, if you please, in half-pint glasses.
Sir Lonvil bore his blushing honours well,
Without the smallest pride or ostentation,
So that he never for a moment fell
In popular regard and estimation;
Still was he courteous, kind, and affable,
Behaving as became his rank and station,—
His manners never alter'd for the worse,
His heart was not less open, — nor his purse.
At every public place he still was seen
The model of true knights, the love of ladies,
Distinguish'd by his grave and thoughtful mien,
His proud commanding figure, like Macready's,
His head of Kemble, and his eye of Kean,
His air and gait like Young's, who I'm afraid is,
A gentlemanly actor, and I'm sure once,
In Hamlet, quite exhausted my endurance.
I know this is flat heresy — I know
'Tis scandalum magnatum — libel — treason,
Against the king of fashionable woe,
That sweet-voiced Roscius of the winter season;
Who makes all eyes and boxes overflow,
Traduces Richard without rhyme or reason,
Tortures Iago, and for Duncan's death
Inflicts such signal justice on Macbeth.
Well; treason be it — but oh! gentle Young,
Read the commandments, and proceed no further,
(If thou wouldst ever be by poet sung,)
In this most foul, strange, and unnatural murther;
With that fine person and that silver tongue,
Methinks you'd make an admirable Werther;
But, trust me, Shakspeare never meant Othello
For actors of your metal, — Kean's the fellow.
Dear Sara! the next lime you come to town,
(Where, please the stars, I'll do my best to meet you,)
Allow me to request you won't go down
To Shropshire, (if you do, I vow I'll beat you)
Without confirming the well-earn'd renown
Of Mr. Kean's Othello; — I entreat you,
Conjure you, as you hope in love to thrive,
Whene'er he acts that part, to dine at five.
Then you'll have time for coffee, if you please;
And if you won't exceed the second cup,
You may be fairly seated at your ease
In the stage-box, before the curtain's lip;
Then — but I won't forestall such joys as these—
When the play's over, we'll go home and sup;
And when you've dried your tears and spent your pretty sighs,
We'll turn to Shakspeare, and begin to criticise.
And yet methinks we won't; — oh! 'tis the devil—
This critical acuteness, which first sears
Our fresh emotions, and with hints uncivil,
Reminds us of the lapse of youthful years.
Alas! no more our hearts must hope to revel.
In all the deep deliciousness of tears,
No more, hereafter, shall we dream and feel
As when we first were charm'd by lost O'Neill.
The head's a most impertinent intruder,
When once we're turn'd of twenty, on the heart;
For instance, what can possibly be ruder
Than not allowing gentle tears to start
Because Ophelia's acting's far from good, or
Because Laertes does not know his part;
Ten years ago what matter'd it to us,
If Kean played Cloton — Liston, Posthumus?
We came to be delighted, and we were,
Without the trouble of inquiring why;
The gallery sounds, the stage-lamp's dawning glare,
The near orchestra's opening symphony,—
Each object seem'd enchanted that was there;
The prompter's bell was Heaven's own melody,
And, when the curtain rose, before our eyes
Shone the reveal'd abodes of Paradise.
O! Astley's ampitheatre! (alas!
Now Astley's amphitheatre no more!)
O! Sadler's Wells, how all your glories pass,
Those bright and strange realities of yore!
Who shall give back your splendour as it was?
Who shall my heart's implicit faith restore,
Which made you what you were, when I was six,
And wholly unconcern'd in politics?
O! Harlequin, and Columbine, and Clown,
And Pantaloon, and Lover, who to me
Had each a bright, existence of your own,
Mysterious, yet undoubted — must ye be
Henceforth mere mortals — dwellers about town—
Grimaldi, and Bologna, and Miss Tree?
Is it but painted canvas — that fine scenery?—
Are all your transformations mere machinery?
O! Covent Garden! and O! Drury-lane!
Ye graver glories of a riper age
How are ye faded! — oh! how few remain
Of the once strong enchantments of the stage!
The old faces now begin to give me pain,
And (what's far worse) the young ones cease to engage;
The new performers — if you fail to better 'em,
I fear I shall become a fautor veterum.
Where's Mrs. Jordan? where's the greater Kemble?
Where's Emery's hard, impenetrable, brow?
Where's Bannister, whose voice once made me tremble?
Where's little Simmons? where's stout Tokely now?
Where's Irish Johnstone? where, (I can't dissemble
My grief,) oh! where divine O'Neill art thou?
Heavens! is it possible so bright a creature
Should sink from Juliet down to Mrs. Becher!
I own, at soft fifteen my foolish heart
Was tangled in thy spells, and many a day,
Like a trite boy, I play'd the lover's part,
And fairly sigh'd six summer weeks away
Wrote sundry sonnets about 'Cupid's dart,'
And rhymed and raved till I'd no more to say;
And then — and then thy form no longer hover'd
Before my memory's gaze, — so I recover'd.
You're now, a wedded dame of thirty years
And upwards, if I calculate aright,
Full of maternal feelings, hopes, and fears,
And kisses, and trite conjugal delight;
But don't you sometimes think upon the tears
You drew in Juliet on your maiden night?
And don't you sometimes sigh for all the praise
You won so nobly in your maiden days?
Sic transit gloria mundi! — Yet Miss Foote
May still console us with her face; — we've Munden
And Dowton still, and Elliston to boot,
And Knight, whose name's so mercilessly punn'd on;
We've Farren, whose great skill I won't dispute,
And Liston still adorns the boards of London;
We've Fawcett, Harley, Matthews, Blanchard, Terry,
Enough to make the gravest audience merry.
Charles Kemble's in full bloom at forty-five,
And Kean's still young, (though Young will ne'er be keen)
And Mrs. Davison is yet alive,
Though scarce so killing as at sweet seventeen;
And long may thunder-tounged Macready thrive,
The second bulwark of the tragic scene;
And may Miss Kelly finally turn out
A second Mrs. Siddons — which I doubt.
And thus have I immortalized in rhyme
Our histrionic conclave, leaving out
Some names I'd fain speak well of, if I'd time,—
Miss Chester — Madame Vestris — and the rout
Of singers, who, of course, are sublime.
But now, kind reader, we must veer about,
And think of poor Sir Lonvil, who should not,
In these profane digressions, be forgot.
For full twelve months Sir Lonvil's presence graced
King Arthur's court, although 'twas clearly seen
It's morals were ill suited to his taste,
And he was sorely hated by the queen,
Whose favourites people thought were rarely chaste;
While you might read in good Sir Lonvil's mien,
That he (although his virtue made no fuss)
Was most unfashionably virtuous.
'Tis true, he seldom used that fine word "moral,"
That Shibboleth of prudes, which simply says,
As people use it now, "I choose to quarrel
With Love, Wit, Beauty, Feeling, Shakspeare's Plays,
And poems by Montgomery, — I abhor all
Attempts of every sort which tend to raise
Laughter on virtuous lips, — I hate Tom Moore,—
I'm perfectly amazed at Tryamour.
"I hate the dim and waning light of even,
For that's the hour when happy lovers stray—
I hate the moon, for she looks down from heaven
On their curst vows — I hate the month of May—
For she outraptures the preceding seven
In smiles and tears — I hate the new-mown hay,
When gather'd into cocks, for Tristram Merton
And that young minx, Miss Rosamond, to flirt on.
"I hate the richness of Ione's tresses—
I hate, the flashes, of her quick bright eye—
I hate young girls, except in ancient dresses
I hate a snowy bosom bitterly—
I hate each sigh that heaves, each smile that blesses
Fond, foolish hearts — I hate to laugh or cry—
I hate all sorts of freedom, mirth, and ease—
In short, I'm made up of antipathies."
Sir Lonvil's virtue was no more like this,
Than Solomon's love-strains are like Tom Moore's;
Whose Muse, disdaining now to drink and kiss,
Is doing penance for her past amours
By preaching, in bad rhyme, to maid and miss,
And dealing but damnation to ill-doers;—
No doubt, her transformation's neat and handy,
But still she smells confoundedly of brandy.
Ah! Tommy Moore, methinks this reformation,—
But you mean well, and therefore I won't hurt you;
You're very right, I own, to cut flirtation,
And train your children in the paths of virtue;
Though as a poet you resign your station;
And I rejoice your rhymes can still divert you;
They once were charming, but the muse who lent 'em
Seems worn with service, — solve senescentem.
The festival had now attain'd its height
Carlisle was throng'd with fashion; every day
The court was treated with some new delight;
And, ere the sports were done, old authors say,
Queen Guenever bestow'd on every knight
Some token of her love to bear away;
Sir Launcelot had a ring, Sir Guy a jewel,
Sir Lonvil nothing, which he thought was cruel.
He could not brook this palpable neglect,—
He thought the queen had shown a want of taste;
And, as his fortune now was nearly wreck'd
By his long habits of expense and waste,
He told his majesty, with due respect,
That "he was forced to leave the court in haste;—
He wish'd he could have seen the approaching tourney,
But couldn't, for a day, defer his journey.
"His father now in years, his letters told him,
Was sick and like to die, and wish'd once more,
Before his grave was ready, to behold him;
In fact, his horse was saddled at the door,
And he, unless his monarch's will controll'd him,
Quite ready to depart." The king was sore
At heart to lose him, but gave free permission,
Entreating him to use all expedition.
So forth, Sir Lonvil rode one autumn morning,
With a light pocket and a heavy heart;
Hopeless and nearly pennyless, but scorning
To play at court a base dependent's part,
And thinking, since, in spite of every warning,
He'd wasted thus his wealth, he'd bear the smart
In silence, as became him, without troubling
His friends in London, Aberdeen, or Dublin.
There's something in a solitary ride
Most cheering to one's spirits — though I own
'Tis better with a lady at one's side,
Pretty and witty — but when alone
And hippish, I advise you to bestride
Your favourite chesnut, sorrel, bay, or roan,
And o'er the nearest common take a canter
As if you were pursued like Tam o' Shanter;
By which I mean, as if the devil drove—
For when you're hippish, in your youthful hours,
The devil's in you, if you're not in love—
(The devil, and Cupid are two knavish, powers,
Who, for their joint amusement, kick and shove
'Twixt joy and grief this foot-ball world of ours;
And whether Cupid or the devil wins
We're sure to be blue-devill'd for our sins.)
But, gentle lover, if 'tis love indeed,
And not the fall of stocks, or rise of beef,
Which gives you the blue-devils, pray take heed
How you walk out alone, or seek relief
In lonely vale or daisy-dappled mead—
You'll find new objects there to feed your grief—
In each green grove, by every purling stream,
You'll be for lying down, to weep and dream.
You'll stop and gather cowslips — you'll
And pick them all to pieces — then you'll sigh
For their untimely fate — so like your own—
And then your tears will gush from either eye,
As if yourself, as well as woes, they'd drown—
And then will sad and sleepless memory
Summon a host of absent looks and tones,
Enough to break the heart of stocks and stones.
No, no, touch not the earth, but mount mid scurry
O'er hill and dale, o'er rugged ground and even;
Leap turnpike-gates — swim rivers in your hurry;
Shoot, like a whirlwind, between earth and heaven,—
And thus, amidst the fever and the flurry,
In which your senses all are tost and driven,
Sunshine above, and thy good steed beneath thee,
Thou may'st contrive to drain a draught of Lethe.
I say this from experience, and address it
To lovers without hope, and under age;
Whose flame's at best a bright but wavering cresset,
A heart-burn which prompt medicines may assuage.
My skill's not universal, (I confess it,)
I can't prescribe for fools more grave and sage,—
Love at sixteen, and love at twenty-three,
Differ no less in nature than degree.
Love at sixteen's a sort of mental measles—
A thing you must have once, but soon get over,
Not grave and steady, like Sir Peter Teazle's,
But fierce and soon burnt out; — your school-boy lover
Eats, drinks, and sleeps on love, but little sees else
Than dim, and shapeless dreams which round him hover;
He seldom dreams of marriage, (the fond elf,)
At least if I may judge him from myself:
Or if he does, 'tis as bards dream of turtle,
A dream of other worlds, remote, ideal—
A vision of green dells, and groves of myrtle,
And lonely cots, where two fond hearts must be all
In all to one another — 'twould subvert all
His air-built fabric, should you make it real
By introducing marriage-deeds, and rings,
And parsons, and such gross material things.
And yet his passion is sincere and fervent,
And blind of course, (that's not his case alone
'Tis true, for instance, of myself and Derwent,
Whose years are riper, and whose hearts full-grown:)
Six weeks he lives the fair one's humblest servant,
Sees all her faults as clearly as his own,
Lives on her smiles till he returns to school,
And then a fortnight makes his passion cool.
Now love at twenty-three's a graver madness,
For at those years the heart hath ceased to dream;
You're broad awake, in calm and sober sadness,
Where all things are as real as they seem;
And if young Hope should turn your sighs to gladness,
E'en in your spring of bliss, 'tis still a theme
For grave considerations, hopes and fears,
And cool provision for the after years.
And Reason wakes, and Love's no longer blind,
And Hymen his true face doth now discover;
And you must look into the fair one's mind,
And fathom well her heart, before you love her;
But when the heart and head are once combined,
And Reason sanctions Passion — it's all over
You're dish'd — and if she's cruel, (this bright she)—
Alas! poor gentleman of twenty-three!
For you're too young to bear your fate discreetly
And coolly, as you ought; and you're too old
To rend and break your twisted chains completely,
Cast your crush'd passion in some other mould,
And, with new hopes, at more propitious feet lie—
Alas! when that fit's o'er, your heart grows cold,
And if you ever wed, you wed for money—
Which is the usual end of matrimony.
Methinks the reader stares (and well he may,)
At this most gross, and unprovoked digression—
"Plague on this prosing fool," I hear him say,
"What's all this (which looks so like confession,)
To poor Sir Lonvil on his lonely way,
With scarce five hundred pounds in his possession?
Sir Lonvil had no love, and if he had,
I'm sure this sermon would have driven him mad."
True, gentle reader yet forgive my folly—
In thy soul's worst dejection, hast thou ne'er
Charm'd the dull weight of brooding melancholy
By that strange self-derision which lays bare,
With cool anatomy, our dreams most holy?
Trust me, the jest that dallies with despair
Relieves the spirit's bitterness, and I
Can laugh sometimes, when I'm too sad to cry.
I've been a lover oft, — and once a true one—
But that's all over; you behold me now
A grave calm proser, a reform'd Don Juan,
With a cold heart and very sapient brow.
So, for the world's instruction, I'll review one
Or two of my past dreams, if you'll allow
My Muse to wander back to fine old days
When feelings, long since perish'd, fired her lays.
I was fifteen, unless my memory errs,
Nay more, when first I bow'd at Cupid's shrine;
My years, of course, were not so ripe as her's
Whom I adored, — her name was Caroline;
And I embalm'd it in indifferent verse,
Which, in those days, I thought extremely fine;—
She had bright flaxen ringlets and blue eyes—
A pretty creature — but not over-wise.
Oh! 'twas a rare boy-love, and dawn'd and rose
Just as it should do; for we seldom met,
Because our fathers had for years been foes—
The village Montague and Caplet;
Yet Rea's green banks could many a tale disclose
Of the young poet and the fair coquette—
I don't remember that I ever kiss'd her—
But soon transferr'd my passion to her sister.
She's now, as I'm inform'd, the happy wife
Of a fond Yorkshire squire; their calm days slip on
In meek contentment, free from storm or strife,
In the romantic neighbourhood of Ripon;
And long may they enjoy this tranquil life,
And long, with rapture, may they love and lip on.
In the mean time I'll here subjoin some strains
Strongly descriptive of my boyish pains.
Yes, "poet's are allow'd to feign—"
Too well that privilege I know,
When careless looks belie my strain,
And smiles disguise my silent woe.
But oh! when late I breathed to thee
The dictates of this burning breast,
I thought that thou their truth wouldst see,
And feel the verse unfeign'd at least.
The lines I sent were weak and bad,
Nor meet to please thy gentle ear;
One only charm I deem'd they had,—
The heart that breathed them was sincere.
Perhaps I err'd to speak of love,
When kindled by such eyes as thine,
But vainly with my heart I strove—
I know thou never canst be mine.
Yet must that heart thine image keep,
Till, laid beneath the silent stone,
It rests in that unstartled sleep
The living eye hath never known.
Mine is the pure, platonic flame,
Which boasts an ardour, deep, refined,
In youth and age is still the same,
And seeks enjoyment in the mind!
When time with wrinkles stamps thy brow,
And life is verging to the tomb,
To me thou wilt be dear as now,
And lovelier than in beauty's bloom.
And years on years may o'er me roll,
And this unhallow'd dust may die—
But love exists within the soul,
And shares its immortality.
These lines are, bons fide, seven years old,
And really, for a youngster, not so bad;
Yet I don't know that I was ever told
They drove the lady desperate or mad.
Well! she soon married, and my love grew cold
A pardonable frailty in a lad:
And next to her proud sister did I kneel—
That was a graver business, a good deal.
Nay, I'll not jest at that; — though four long years
Have tolerably calm'd my first regret,
In memory's vista, many a form appears
Which hath strange power to melt my nature yet;
That folly was well water'd with true tears,
And nurst in scenes which I cannot forget:
I must acknowledge, though you'll think me rash,
She was the subject of the "Lines to —."
A fiery soul was she, and (I don't flatter)
Most queen-like in her person and her mien;
Of lively wit, and somewhat given to satire,
Which to her sadness lent a sting so keen
As for some weeks reduced my heart to batter:—
So there's a sketch of passion at nineteen.
Hereafter I, perhaps, may let you see
Some sonnets penn'd by love at twenty-three.
So much, at present, for a bard's confessions;
You know "confessions" are in vogue just now,
Which makes me give full scope to my expressions:
But really 'tis high time to make my bow
To these fatiguing, though well-meant, digressions.
Alas! poor, dear Sir Lonvil, where art thou?
Jogging on gently on the northern road,
And thinking where to make your next abode.
Not being in love, Sir Lonvil travell'd slowly;
He had no sad remembrances to shun;
It was the future which perplex'd him solely,—
The thought of what the devil must be done—
Which made his pace more grave and melancholy;
And thus he journey'd till the setting sun
Forewarn'd him of the near approach of night,
And he began to feel an appetite.
The dew rose dankly as the sun went down,
And the autumnal breeze grew damp and chill,
While poor Sir Lonvil, and his courser brown,
Were unprovided with a lodging still;
At last, as evening fell, his native town
Lay right before his eyes, and made them fill
With memory's sweetest tears. Ten years had pass'd
Since Lonvil saw that much-lov'd steeple last.
And up rose many a dormant recollection
In the most lone recesses of his of his mind,
And many a dream gone by and crush'd a affection
Came o'er him; but Sir Lonvil had not dined
And was too hungry for profound reflection;
Besides, his horse had feelings less refined,
And gave strong symptoms of a disposition
To sink from sheer fatigue and inanition.
So on they fared, (Sir Lonvil and his horse,)
And though the twilight city took their way;
The former thinking of old times, of course,
The latter wrapt in dreams of oats and hay;
How hunger freezes feeling at its source!
Poor courser! after fasting a whole day,
With what emotions dost thou now behold
The very stable where thy dam was foal'd?
Say, know'st thou not yon green and stagnant pool?
'Twas there that thou did'st quench thy youngling thirst,
When first maternal tenderness grew cool;
In yonder paddock wast thou halter'd first,—
There thy first hay was munch'd; poor hairy fool
Is not thy soft heart swelling fit to burst?
Alas! I might as well address thy crupper—
Thou think'st of nothing but thy stall and supper.
As through the market-place Sir Lonvil rode,
The gossips all came out to peep and stare;
And many a young cheek at his aspect glow'd
And many an unforgotten face was there—
At last the charger with his handsome load
Stopp'd right before the mansion of the Mayor,
He was the old Sir Lonvil's groom of yore,
Which made the wise steed fix upon his door.
And forth he came (this corpulent old man),
In a prodigious hurry, and knelt down
And kiss'd Sir Lonvil's stirrup, and began
In good set terms to welcome him to town,
"Which was unworthy" (thus the oration ran)
"To entertain a knight of such renown
But bonfires should be lit, and bells should ring—
And pray how fared his Sovereign Lord the King?"
More had he spoken, but the knight cut short
His courteous greeting with, "My good Lord Mayor,
His Majesty was well when I left court—
And that he long may be so is my prayer;
Though I no more his favour and his sport
(Such is my wayward destiny) must share;
Nor rain on thee and thine, with liberal hand,
The honours and the fatness of the land.
"My race is run. Henceforth let men no more
Love poor Sir Lonvil for his Sovereign's sake;
The splendour of my life is past and o'er,
My dreams dispers'd, my senses wide awake;
I've kept my virtue, but I've spent my store;
And now my solitary way I take,
Here, in my native town, to mend my ways,
And waste the frugal remnant of my days.
"Here, my old faithful servant, in thy house
Fain would I, for a while, find rest and ease."—
The Mayor (a man remarkable for nouse),
During Sir Lonvil's speech had, by degrees,
With all the silence of a mighty mouse,
First let the stirrup drop, then from his knees
Recovering, stood before his patron's eyes,
The gaping picture of chagrin'd surprise.
Three times his faltering lips essay'd to speak;
Three times the imperfect sounds were lost in air;
Three times he clear'd his throat, and seem'd to seek,
Words to express the depth of his despair:
At last they came — "Sir Knight, for the last week,
Seven of your order I've expected there;
My house is all bespoke — you're come too late—
Good lack! 'tis really most unfortunate.
"Had you but sent to let me know, or written, I
Would have procured you lodgings — at least tried—
If not put off these knights from little Britany;
But now each house is taken far and wide—
Yet stop —" (he scratch'd his head) "this plan I've hit on, I
Have a small cottage by my orchard side,
Where, if with moderate room you'll be content,
You can reside — I sha'nt charge much for rent.
"The house, though small, is dry — the situation
Extremely pleasant, healthy, light and airy;
And, if you're fond of cows, for recreation
Your honour may, at will, look through my dairy,
Which forms the chief delight and occupation
Of Blanch, my daughter, whom men call 'the Fairy,'
Whom — but profoundly as I dote upon her,
I know that I may trust Sir Lonvil's honour."
Sir Lonvil's cheek grew red, — his eyes shot fire,
He felt inclined to spurn the ungrateful proffer;
But soon, on cooler thoughts, he check'd his ire,
Feeling that nothing else so fit might offer,
As this lone cottage of his quondam squire,
To one who'd nearly wasted his last coffer—
And so, to cut a tedious story short—
Sir Lonvil hired the place — and paid him for't.
Sir Lonvil, when a boy, had learnt to read,
And (what was still more wonderful) to write;
And his old studies, in his time of need,
Proved now a source of comfort and delight.
He grew a most amazing clerk indeed,
Was very often at his books all night;
He then turn'd author, wrote some sheets of rhymes,
And "Memoirs of King Arthur's Court and Times."
The country people took him for a wizard—
It seemed they all misconstrued the word "spell;"
In those days not a soul knew A from Izzard,
As now we all do, thanks to Doctor Bell;
So this book-learning stuck in every gizzard,
And if they met him after evening fell,
Poor devils! how they quaked! — though all conceded
That no bad spirit could behave as he did.
When the spring came, Sir Lonvil took to fishing,
And though he never fish'd without his book,
Contrived sometimes to bring a handsome dish in,
Which little Blanch with ready smiles would cook,
For she presided o'er Sir Lonvil's kitchen;
Poor little Blanch! beware how thou dost look
On that fine face, or thine will soon be pale,
And I shall have to tell a piteous tale.
She was a young and most enchanting creature
This "Fairy" Blanch, then scarcely turned sixteen;
As some one sings "with gay and delicate feature,"
And her heart flashing through her guileless mien;
For Nature still had been her only teacher,
And taught her nought but happiness — I've seen
But one face, that I know of, to compare
With her's for radiant smiles, and few so fair.
The face that I allude to — but I'll not
Digress when I can help it — I'll but say,
En passant, that it ne'er can be forgot,
While my soul lingers in it's home of clay.
And, whatsoe'er may be its owner's lot,
Her goodness, which I never can repay,
Among my holiest thoughts shall still be shrined,
Yea, near Ione in my inmost mind.
But to my task. This happy creature's song
Each morning, in his dreams, Sir Lonvil heard,
Beneath his lattice as she tripp'd about,
Sweet as the hymn of morn's full-hearted bird,
And no less joyous; — for she thought no wrong,
Nor ever had the breeze of passion stirr'd
Her heart's clear waters — so her voice was free
In its full gush of natural melody.
And through her garden, with the morn's first light,
With fawn-like footsteps would the maiden roam,
To pluck fresh garlands for the stranger knight,
Which in her lap she laughingly brought home,
And flung them o'er him with a girl's delight,
If by such playful wiles she might o'ercome
His melancholy mood; — the good knight smiled—
And gladden'd with kind looks that loveliest child.
Even as a father or some tender friend,
To her at times full gently would he speak,
Smooth her fair clustering locks, and mildly bend
To kiss her ivory forehead or soft cheek,
For greeting or good night. — I don't pretend
To know how he contrived, for many a week,
To keep his heart untouch'd — Alas! poor Blanch,
Thy gentle bosom was not half so staunch.
Poor bird thou art infected — 'tis too late
To fly; Love's net has tangled thy sweet wings.
Alas! 'tis vain to struggle with thy fate;
Thou hast beheld thy last of happy springs.
Sweet Blanch, too surely art thou desolate—
Oh! for some finer hand to touch my strings!
Oh! for the strains of him who sung so well—
Of slain Lorenzo and his Isabel!
His name is "writ in water;" but some hearts
There are which treasure yet his youthful lays—
Some eyes to which a transient tear yet starts
At the remembrance of his blighted days,
And great heart broken by curst faction's darts;—
I'm sorry to perceive that Byron's praise
Is flung upon his dust — shall Keats's fame
Be coupled thus with Wordsworth's slander'd name?
But for sweet Blanch — Sir Lonvil's tone and looks
Unwittingly had pierc'd her artless breast;
And soon their wonted bloom her cheeks forsook,
And her pale eye-lids were deprived of rest;
Beneath his glance her gentle spirit shook
With love, though scarcely to herself confest;
And still his absent voice was in her ears,
And her lone pillow still was bathed in tears.
Poor little girl! alas, she had no sister
To whom her secret grief she might reveal;
No mother, whose mild counsel might assist her—
Her pangs in secret was she doom'd to feel;
And now Sir Lonvil's looks, when'er he kiss'd her
(Which was but seldom) pierc'd her heart like steel,
They were so cold — for he was not so stupid,
As to o'erlook this handy-work of Cupid.
Therefore from dangerous talk did he refrain,
And hid the tears which to his eyes would start
For pity of the love-sick maiden's pain;
For good Sir Lonvil had a tender heart;
Though, as I said before, and say again,
I can't imagine where he found the art
To keep it as he did — unless some spell:
Lay on his nature — which seems probable.
O Reader! was it e'er thy sad mischance
To be belov'd, when thou no more wast free
To shrink and quail at Beauty's brightest glance,
Because 'twas brightest when it beam'd on thee—
To check each kinder look, each meek advance
Of timorous love, with coldest courtesy—
Yet feel how deep that barbed coldness went?
And she so youthful and so innocent
If such should ever be thy hapless lot,
I charge thee from her presence quickly fly;
Begone, while yet there's time, and linger not
To feed the passion of her ear and eye—
Haply, when absent, thou shalt be forgot;
But if, to glut thy heartless vanity,
Thou triflest with her love — by Heaven, I vow,
There's not on earth a wretch more curs'd than thou.
'Tis hard, no doubt, to say farewell for ever,
To one who loves you, though you love not her,—
'Tis hard your wandering eyes from her's to sever:
But curb your inclinations, or you'll err.
The following couplet is profound and clever.
(Your Poet's still the best Philosopher)
[Greek characters; Sophocles, Ajax 1085-6]
These lines are taken out of Sophocles,
Be not alarm'd, fair ladies; all that's meant
Is, that if once you do whate'er you please,
You're sure to have good reason to repent.
I think, it right to state such facts as these,
For fear some honest Grecian should invent
A meaning for the lines that's false or strain'd,
When ladies come to have the Greek explain'd.
But to proceed. When Blanch's father knew
The love his daughter to Sir Lonvil bore,
(Though sore her strife to hide from outward view
The wound that rankled at her young heart's core)
Pale, on a sudden, and enraged he grew,
And angrily he bade her seek no more
The orchard — cottage, and in secret curst
Sir Lonvil, and the hour he came there first.
So, the poor maiden, to her thoughts confined,
And to the grief that on her heart, did press,
In a perpetual sadness droop'd and pined,
Wasting in tears her youthful loveliness;
Stricken she seem'd in body and in mind,
And those who look'd into her eyes might guess
Her days on earth were number'd; — thus she waned
To death, yet never, save with tears, complain'd.
And every day her wasted cheek grew paler,
And dimmer, every day, her eye became;
And the sweet music of her voice did fail her,
And her light footstep was no more the same.
The neighbours deem'd no natural grief could ail her,
And swore Sir Lonvil had bewitch'd her brain;—
'Twas true Sir Lonvil had bewitch'd her, — not
Her body, but her soul, — which they forgot.
As for Sir Lonvil, he was glad to see
That she return'd no more, — he felt 'twas wise;
Though he oft miss'd her gentle company,
And now would sometimes think of her with sighs,
Recalling to his wakeful memory
Her voice so touching and her love-sick eyes;
And yet Sir Lonvil still was fancy-free,
Which really is most wonderful to me.
Meanwhile, Sir Lonvil's purse began to dwindle
To very small dimensions, yet, the more
It shrank, the more his heart appear'd to kindle
With pity for each beggar at his door;
The Fates for him had turn'd their darkest spindle;
He gave, and gave, until his scanty store
Was spent, and he was fairly in distress,
Without a sixpence, — lone and comfortless.
The country-people, when his bounties ceas'd
To flow as they were wont, and they could hope
No longer at his cost to drink and feast,
Gave to their fancies and their tongues full scope.
'Twas said, that all his demons were released
By a new bull just issued by the Pope;
And next, 'twas clearly proved, beyond denial,
The devil was come to take him off to trial.
'Twas thought a shame that he'd been thus permitted
To deal, as he'd long dealt, in charms and spells,
By which so many tradesmen he'd outwitted,—
Enough to doom him to ten thousand hells;
Then poor Miss Blanch was sadly to be pitied;
You know she was the pink of country belles,
Till he bewitch'd her with his cursed magic;—
'Twas fear'd her end would be extremely tragic.
The rumour of Sir Lonvil's ruin spread,
Like wildfire, through the town, and young and old
Supp'd upon scandal till they surfeited;
But when to Blanch the heavy news was told.
By some kind gossip, she uprais'd her head,
As if despair, at length, had made her bold;
She felt that sorrow must killler, — but He,
Oh! must he die for very poverty?
And she, as she well knew, had gold, and land,
And flocks and herds, and jewels rich and gay,
(Her mother's legacy,) which, with her hand,
Should be bestow'd upon her wedding-day.
But she — as any fool might understand—
To Death in marriage now was given away;
So why should not her store relieve the dearth
Of the one creature whom she loved on earth.
'Twas the heart's logic: — but the point, alas!
Was her stern father of the gold to rid,
Who kept it closely, and was no such ass
As to yield up, or tell her where 'twas hid.
At last one day when he was gone to mass,
Love lent her instinct, and she found the lid
Which cover'd all her treasures, and her eye
Gleam'd, as she seized the gold triumphantly.
Forgive her, reader; love's a bad logician,
But mostly honest; and if now the tie
Of duty she broke through her lone condition
Must be poor Blanch's sad apology;
True, she forgot parental admonition,
In seizing thus her own — but who'll deny
That when young Love rebels, papa may go
(As the song says) and preach at Jericho.
This chanced one morn of merry Whitsuntide,
When the whole city and it's Corporation,
Sheriffs, and Mayor, and Aldermen beside,
Were in a state of festal preparation;
And company pour'd in from far and wide,
Of every age and sex, and rank and station,
To the great banquet held in the Town-hall,
Which was to be succeeded by a ball.
The noblest knight that ever couch'd a lance
Graced not that banquet — for his wealth was gone;
The loveliest maid that e'er adorn'd a dance
Graced not that banquet — for her cheek was wan;
The former was reduced to trust to chance
For turnips or a crust to dine upon;
The latter was, just then, upon her way
Her whole possessions at his feet to lay.
Indulgent reader, we'll omit the meeting,
Because I couldn't paint it, if I would;
You must conceive Sir Lonvil's courteous greeting,
His mild refusal, and his gratitude—
The pale-faced girl her earnest suit repeating—
His tears dried often and again renew'd—
This, and much more, kind reader, understand,
Because this Canto's longer than I'd plann'd.
Meekly she gazeth on his faded cheek—
His cheek with hunger pale, as her's with love;
And with sad speech and piteous tears doth seek
The stubborn purpose of his heart to move;
Alas! she finds her best persuasion weak
With his unyielding spirit — so she strove
No longer of that boon to be a winner,
But only ask'd him if he'd come to dinner.
"Alas! thy cheek is thin and pale with want,
Famine stares wildly through thy keen wan eye,
And thou art lean, and spectre-like, and gaunt,
Who wast bred up in tenderest luxury;
Thou, of whom Britain did so lately vaunt,
The gentlest knight of all her chivalry;
Thou, still the first in battle and at board—
The bravest champion and the noblest lord.
"I am unworthy that a prince like thee
Should in my father's house such shelter find;
Yet, gentle knight, do me this courtesy
Once, ere I die, (for thou wast ever kind,
And still hast been the noblest friend to me)
And — when part, leave but one kiss behind,
Such as thou gav'st of yore, — which I will keep
For ever — till these eyes have ceased to weep.
Thus, the poor girl, with meek submissive eyes
And earnest supplication, wept and knelt,
Till in Sir Lonvil did such ruth arise,
As half enforced his spell-bound heart to melt—
But the charm held him — so, courteous guise,
Once more did he dissemble what he felt,
And, in mild phrase, declined her gentle proffer—
But thank'd her, very kindly, for the offer.
Yet, lest his words should add one sorrow more
To that sad bosom's pain, did he request
"That she would lend him, from her father's store,
A saddle and a bridle of the best;
(His own were seized for debt some time before)
"With which he would set out upon his quest
Of great adventures, and redeem by strife
His ruin'd fortunes, or else lose his life."
They came: but, ere that mournful knight departed,
The maiden's lips once gently did he press,
Striving in vain to stem the tears which started
At the sad prospect of her loneliness;
He saw the girl for him was broken-hearted,
And why he loved her not, he could not guess;
But was prevented, by some charm or other,
From feeling more than as a friend or brother.
So he departed; — and, when next he came
To that old town, the gentle girl was dead;
Love was too mighty for her tender frame,
Which sunk beneath his shafts — said yet, tis said,
She ne'er was heard to breathe Sir Lonvil's name
Till just before her guiltless spirit fled;
And then, she bless'd him with her parting breath,
And said she died for him, and welcomed death.
Sir Lonvil, visited her grave, and wept
Above it a long gush of silent tears;—
And, in his noon of fortune, when he slept
On an immortal breast, in after years,
Still in his heart her lovely image kept,
A thought distinct from earthly hopes and fears,
But mix'd with yearnings for some after-home,
And memories' sweetening hope of things to come.
Amen! — this Canto's no more like the last
Than copper's like pure gold, or crockery delf;—
I shan't be angry, reader, if it's cast
Behind the fire, or left upon the shelf;
But by the next it shall be far surpast,
(At least in what depends upon myself;—)
In fact, the present Canto's whole demerit's
Occasioned, by my utter want of spirits.
Two more are yet to come; — and then I quit
The octave rhyme — perhaps the Muse — for ever;
So I must try, in these, to shew my wit,
And make my final exit grand and clever;—
I hope that Canto III. may prove a hit,
Nor shall it fail for want of due endeavour;
I only trust the prudes won't deem impure
Sir Lonvil's loves with gentle Tryamour.