In the third canto of "La Belle Tryamour," after a hundred stanzas of digression, Sir Lanval approaches the fairy bower of Tryamour, whom it turns out has been guiding his steps all along. A promised fourth canto, in which the story would have returned to Arthur's court, was not published and probably never written.
John Moultrie takes the story of Elf and Fay from the genealogy of the fairies in Faerie Queene 2.10.71-72, introducing it thus: "Now to my tale — oh! thou bewildering Spenser, | With thy machinery what had I to do?— | The Muse confound me, if I e'er again, Sir, | Meddle with weapons used before by you; | They're far too heavy for so poor a fencer" p. 132. Sir Lanval's arrival at the palace of Tryamour is compared to Scudamour's adventures at the Temple of Venus in Faerie Queene 4.10, and their love-making to the famous scene in the Bower of Bliss.
"W*****" is the Shakespeare scholar Sidney Walker (1795-1846), like Moultrie of Eton and Trinity, who contributed to Knight's under the pseudonym "Edward Haselfoot." "Mr. Day" is Thomas Day (1748-89), author of Sandford and Merton.
John Wilson: "NORTH. Is Knight's Quarterly Magazine dead, think ye, Tickler? TICKLER. I fear so. But some of the contributors, I believe, are yet alive — so is Knight himself, I am glad to see — and I wish him all prosperity, for he is a very gentlemanly person — a man of honor and abilities" Blackwood's Magazine (July 1827) in Noctes Ambrosianae (1857) 2:429.
In Poems (1876) Moultrie has added the following "Conclusion":
"Before next April!" — Thirteen years ago
Thus spake I; but or ere that April shone,
My fancy's frozen stream had ceased to flow,
My dreaming time of life was past and gone.
And now when summer flowers no longer blow,
And the near autumn stealthily creeps on,
I must not with my primrose wreath of spring
Mix scentless buds of later blossoming.
So if there be who would the tale pursue
Of my sweet fairy and my gentle Knight,—
(An old quaint tale of passion fond and true,
Which did the taste of simpler days delight)—
Even to the fount from which my fancy drew
Let me such readers, ere we part, invite.
There, unrestricted, let them, if they will,
Of pure and tender beauty, quaff their fill.
To them — to all who shall my page peruse,
Adieu! — a long — perchance a last adieu!—
Friends of my youth, who cheer'd my early muse,
In whose warm smile my budding fancy grew,
Yours be these lays — nor ye a gift refuse,
Poor though it be, which haply shall renew
In your ripe hearts, as now it doth in mine,
The long lost feelings of the Auld lang syne.
Are you a poet, reader? — if you are,
And under twenty, be advised by me;—
Give up the trade in time — you'd better far
Endure disgrace, chains, exile, poverty;—
You'd better die at once, than live to mar
This world's best hopes, in thankless slavery
Grinding your soul, that, ere your bones are rotten,
You may be mock'd, belied, reviled, forgotten.
You'd better turn cosmopolite — or pandar—
Pick pockets — keep a brothel — write John Bull—
Furnish the Morning Chronicle with slander—
Sell heart and head to earn a belly-full—
Sink deeper, if you can, than Lord Leander—
Be any thing that's base, or mean, or dull—
You'd better do all these things — ay, or worse,
Than serve your full apprenticeship to verse.
Why I give this advice is not the question;
Perhaps I've private reasons — never mind;
I charge you nothing for my bare suggestion,
And though my words are coarse, my meaning's kind;—
Perhaps I'm rather hipp'd from indigestion,
Which proves, at least, that (though a bard) I've dined—
But to return — do any thing you will
But dream of reaching the Castalian rill.
That is, unless you've blood, and wind, and mettle,
And constant training, and five feeds a day—
"Books, leisure, perfect freedom," and can settle
In rhyme as a profession: — I dare say,
On terms like these, a bard of proper metal
May snap his fingers at the dense array
Of stupid heads, cold hearts, and adverse fortune,
Which mostly make the poet's life a short one.
Go — if you can; for poesy's sweet sake
Renounce all social comforts; — live and die,
A lone enthusiast, near some northern lake,
With your thick-coming thoughts for company;
And if contempt and slander fail to break
Your heart — e'en earn your immortality:
But then the hope of posthumous renown
Is all you'll have to wash life's bitters down.
Make up your mind to be traduced — to quarrel
With your best friends — to be misunderstood—
Pronounced unfeeling, and of course "immoral,"
Because you've felt more deeply than you should—
Bear this and more — and you may wear the laurel;
And may it do you, for your pains, much good.—
No doubt true fame's an ample compensation
For a life's anguish and a soul's prostration.
Only don't half and half it — be a poet
Complete, or not at all — the Muse is chary
To mortals of her love, and won't bestow it
On wooers scarce lukewarm, or prone to vary;
If you've another hobby, you must throw it
Away — in this she's downright arbitrary;
And if to her you must devote your heart,
Devote it whole — she won't accept a part.
For my part, I can't do it, and I couldn't
Were I ten poets — neither heart nor head
Have I to make a true Parnassian student,
For I must be loved, petted, praised, well-fed,
Or else — good night; without these aids, I shouldn't
Write verses fit to be review'd or read;
And, therefore, I'm determined to retire
Before the public ceases to admire.
This is of small importance; but I know
Some real poets, whom I grieve to see
Wasting, alas! their fancy's summer glow
In cold half-courtship of Calliope.
O! for some less asthamatic lungs to blow
A trumpet to their slumbering vanity,
And make them feel (the blockheads) that they're doing
Precisely what must cause their utter ruin.
Up! W*****! — where the deuce have you been dozing
These six years? Is your Muse effete, or dead,
That you persist in idling, punning, prosing,
Spinning fine cobwebs from your heart and head,
And miscellaneous monthly trash composing
For journals never fated to be read?
For shame — for shame, — if you'd preserve your credit,
Make haste and use some nobler means to spread it.
The world imagines, (but the world's an ass)
That I, not you, am Mr. Knight's Apollo;
The fame of Tristram doth your fame surpass,
The Troubadour beats poor Gustavus hollow.
You'll hardly save your distance, — though, alas!
'Tis you who ought to lead, and we to follow,
We're clever fellows, (and, I think, we've shown it,)
But far from first-rate poets, — I must own it.
But you — you must be perfectly aware
That you've been long neglecting sacred powers,
And playing tricks with genius rich and rare,
In its true worth as far transcending ours
As the best China the worst crockery-ware.
Now, by Parnassus, and its laurel bowers,
Could I but half your inspiration borrow,
I'd try my hand at Aeschylus to-morrow.
I've done — now where's Sir Lanval? who's the bore—
Plague — torment — burthen — bane of my existence;
A tertian fever, a perpetual sore,
A fool who can't be taught to keep his distance,
But raps, most importunely, at my door
Ten times a day, to ask for my assistance,
(Such at it is) to serve his private ends,
When I'm for chatting with my public friends.
The puppy! — It was I that got him knighted,
Ruin'd him — found a mistress for him — fill'd her
With love too great to bear — and when he slighted
That love, against my inclination, kill'd her.
All this I did — and thus am I requited;
I can't lie down in peace, but must bewilder
My bashful muse in an affaire de coeur
Between his knightship and queen Tryamour.
Reader — I hope you've read the Fairy Queen—
If not, don't stop to ask me why or wherefore,
But shut at once this peerless magazine,
Though it should be the only book you care for,
And not to be resign'd without chagrin—
The fact is that I'm press'd for time, and, therefore,
Must e'en refer you, without more apology,
To the said poem for my own mythology.
I can't point out the very place, nor will I
At threading Spenser's mazes try my skill;
As if a man should walk from Piccadilly,
To find a sovereign dropt on Ludgate-Hill;
Which project would, at best, be worse than silly;
But if you've time which you're inclined to kill,
Read the whole poem, my dear Sir, and I'll
Engage you'll find it fully worth your while.
Well, but suppose you won't, — which I dare say
Is not unlikely; for what soul will pore
On bards like Spenser at this time of day,
When Clare's alive, and Rogers, and Tom Moore?
Why then I must, as briefly as I may,
Concenter all I know of fairy lore
In a few stanzas, just to let you see
My heroine's noble birth and pedigree.
Once on a time there lived a certain man,
By name Prometheus, who was shrewd and clever,—
Indeed, so much so, that he soon began
To fancy it would cost him small endeavour
To beat Apollo, Jupiter, or Pan
At their own trades (take notice, if you've never
Heard of these names, and don't know who they were,
You'll find their histories in Lempriere.)
Well, what d' you think he did to show his wit?—
He made a human figure, all of clay,
Proportion'd and arranged it, bit by bit,
And gave it life and motion, with a ray
Filch'd from the sun — when all was right and fit,
Up jump'd this hopeful imp and ran away;
Leaving Prometheus in desponding attitude,
Shock'd and astonish'd at such gross ingratitude.
I think it served him right, I must confess,
For following so absurd an occupation;
Whereas it was his duty to repress
The geometric growth of population
By all due means — I can't pretend to guess
Why he devised new modes of propagation;
When 'tis well known the earth yields far too little
E'en to supply her natural stock with victual.
The course that he pursued was clearly wrong;
He might as well have studied to invent
Some means to make men's appetites more strong,
Or cause a general dearth of nutriment:
However, as such topics don't belong
To verse by right, it is not my intent
To speculate at present — only I
Don't think man wants new means to multiply.
In spite of all Leigh Hunt may chuse to say,
In spite of all that Godwin e'er has written,
I'm strongly for the old establish'd sway
Of Hymen in the kingdom of Great Britain,
As the laws fix it at the present day—
So till same new economist shall hit on
A likelier plan to make the nation thrive,
A fig for Malthus — let good subjects wive.
I'm very far from wishing to improve
Our marriage code, like some wise friends of mine;
I'm quite against the reign of lawless love,
Though all that sort of thing's extremely fine;
But since such speculations are above
An understanding so confined as mine,
I hope I may declare, without impiety,
I'm for the present system of society.
I've dipp'd into some writers on equality—
Condorcet, Wallace, Godwin, and Rousseau;
And trust there's no extreme illiberality
In owning that conviction comes but slow:
I'd not subvert court, crown, and principality,
Nor quash all penal statutes at a blow;
Because, in spite of Human Nature's purity,
I think they'd always add to my security.
Indeed, I never liked that state of things
Which puling poets call the age of gold;
I don't think Saturn was the best of kings;
Nor George the Third the worst — and I'll make bold
To say, in spite of all that Hesiod sings,
That if mankind's opinions should be poll'd,
A vast majority of votes would be
In favour of the nineteenth century.
Books — parties — educated women — scandal—
Theatres — winter-evenings — cofee — tea—
Piano-fortes — cards — Mozart and Handel—
The fire-side laugh — the weekly coterie—
Though unattractive to a Goth or Vandal,
Are things as indispensable to me
As meat and drink — of these, without exception,
The blessed golden age had no conception.
Folks hadn't then a notion of good breeding,
Were quite unfashion'd, both in words and looks,
And never dreamt of writing, or of reading,
Because, in fact, they'd neither pens nor books;
Were absolute barbarians in their feeding—
Had no French wines, French dishes, or French cooks,
French plays, or French philosophy, in which
Old England has of late become so rich.
I wonder what they did for conversation—
Or whether people then conversed at all;
Since, from their mode of life and occupation,
Their range of subjects must have been but small.
How to transact the business of flirtation,
If e'er the golden age produced a ball,
Must have perplex'd young partners altogether,
When once they'd talk'd about the crops and weather.
Then just conceive their vegetable diet—
(Raw acorns, I suspect, are indigestible,)
A year ago I took a whim to try it,
And found it inexpressibly detestable.
Fresh water from the spring (I can't deny it)
Is most salubrious — yet 'tis incontestable
That most men find it tasteless to a fault,
Unless impregnated with hops and malt.
No doubt, it's very pleasant, after dining,
(As poets seldom dine) on fish, fowl, flesh,
Before a blazing fire and wine reclining,
To dream of fruits and streamlets fine and fresh—
Feasts of the golden age — and thus refining
On fancy and repletion, weave a mesh
Of most convincing argument, to prove
How men might thrive on lettuces and love.
Again I say — such theories are fine,
But when one comes to practice, I confess
I'd still continue on roast beef to dine,
Nor drink one single glass of port the less,—
No, not an oyster nor a shrimp resign;—
I'm not at all particular in dress;
But the deuce take me if I ever try
The golden age's plan of nudity.
Heaven help us! what a merciless digression!
Prometheus, Hymen, and the golden age—
Upon my word, such folly's past expression,
When I've as much to do as might engage
The House of Commons for at least a session:
But I'll turn over a new leaf — next page;—
This graceless cub Prometheus christen'd 'Elfe,'
Or 'Quick' — and shortly found him so himself.
Away ran Elfe — Prometheus strove to follow,
Beseeching and imploring him to stay;
'Twas all in vain, — the goblin beat him hollow,—
He found he'd thrown his time and toil away,
And felt as disappointed as Apollo
At clasping in his arms some boughs of bay,
When he pursued, in hopes of kissing, Daphne,
While the rude wind display'd her leg and half knee.
Away rail Elfe, rejoicing in his vigour,
O'er hill and dale, through river, lake, and sea;
An active sprite, and of a handsome figure,
And wild, but winning, countenance was he.
Shaped like a mortal, — neither less nor bigger—
A goodly work of human fantasy,
When fantasy as yet was in her prime—
Not the weak dreamer of the present time.
Away rail Elfe — through village, town, and city,
Made close acquaintance with the sons of men,
And on their follies was severely witty,
Though things occurr'd, that pleased him, now and then.
He thought some men sincere, some women pretty—
But if he loved, was ne'er beloved again:
There was a sort of wildness in his eye,
Of which young ladies were extremely shy.
For, not to mention his absurd creation,
(Which form'd one grand objection, not ill grounded,)
And strange ingredients, of whose combination
His extra-human nature was compounded—
The source whence he derived his animation
Was a sufficient cause to have confounded
All hopes of love — for from the sun it came,
And so was mingled with poetic flame.
Therefore no woman loved him — nor could love;
'Twas not his fault nor their's — 'tis the condition
Of genius, which nought human can remove;
If you've a spark, in all your composition,
Of poetry, remember you may rove
From East to West, and light on no physician,
Who can enable you, with charms or philtres,
To gain the affections of these pretty jilters.
Not but they'll all caress you, and admire,
Doat on your rhymes, request you to transcribe
In gilt morocco, till your fingers tire,
With sweetest smiles and speeches for a bribe.
And cold the Muse such prizes can't inspire—
For my part, I avow, without a gibe,
That to my mind no critic's praise can vie
With one bright twinkle in a woman's eye.
And there are noble creatures (though uncommon)
Who'll give you noble friendship — such as far
Transcends the love of any meaner woman,
And may be worshipp'd as the polar star
To your world-weary bark — but further no man
Must hope to pass that dim mysterious bar
Between the woman's and the poet's heart,
Which keeps them (more's the pity) miles apart.
That is, when once the woman's turn'd of twenty;
Till then, from warm sixteen, I doubt not you
May find full-hearted little things in plenty,
Who'll love you — or at least believe they do;
But when her head's once ripe, and heart half spent, I
Fear 'tis in vain for any bard to woo
A fair one, whether talented or stupid,
Or bid Calliope shake hands with Cupid.
Woman — I grieve to say it — is a creature—
A heavenly one, no doubt — but ne'ertheless
Extremely unpoetical by nature,
As those, who form exceptions, all confess.
I can't tell why this is — indeed I hate your
Reasons in rhyme — perhaps they don't possess
The organs (as Gall says) of ideality—
They never dream — their lives are all reality.
They — but I wont philosophize — in short
Terpsichore's the female's only Muse;
A bard can have no chance who comes to court
Against some whisker'd bully of the blues,
Who piques himself on dancing as his forte,
And stands full six feet six without his shoes.
Or should the bard find favour, yet in sooth
The course of his love never does run smooth.
Shakspeare and Spenser, Petrarch, Tasso — others
Of note — some dead and buried, some alive—
The tunefullest of all the tuneful brothers,
Are proofs how badly love-sick poets thrive.
Few make their Lauras either wives or mothers,
Or live to stock their Hymeneal hive
With offspring fruitful of poetic honey,
Begot and born in lawful matrimony.
There were three Mrs. Miltons to be sure—
But I suspect they shortly saw their blunder;
The first soon found her place no sinecure,
So took French leave, at which I don't much wonder;
He must have been (besides that he was poor)
A terrible old fellow to live under;
And I conceive it must be hard to find
A handsome wife who'd have her husband blind.
But they've all motives, foolisher or fitter—
I've heard a woman of true genius say
She thought that poets were too apt to fritter
Their hearts on light and worthless things away:
The observation was correct, though bitter—
There is no doubt we're apt to go astray:
Falling in love head foremost, as we do,
It's seldom that our hearts sink deeply too.
But when they do — oh! then we love indeed—
With true devotion both of heart and brain,
Nor wholly from that thraldom can be freed,
While life and thought and fantasy remain;
Or if we are, according to my creed,
"Love's flower, once blighted, never blooms again."
The last line's from Glenarvon, slightly alter'd,—
I heard it sung once by a voice that falter'd:
And, ever since, its melody hath haunted
Mine ear, although I really scarce know why—
But it does haunt me, like some voice enchanted,
As if the phantom of young hopes gone by
Wail'd at my side — and yet no ghost seems wanted
To tell one that such hopes are born to die:
Such bubbles are as stale as melted vapours,
Or lists of bankrupts in the London papers.
Therefore I count myself a lucky fellow,
To find my feelings, with my hopes, decay;
My heart, which once was as a medlar mellow,
Is crusting like a walnut, day by day;
So that I never shall look green and yellow
With melancholy thoughts, but cast away
Care for the future, sorrow for the past,
And die a good old bachelor at last.
One thing perplexes me — and I must leave it
To great philosophers, who'll either see all
The reasons at a glance, or won't believe it—
Which is, that grief, when palpable and real,
Falls pointless on my heart, and fails to grieve it,
While I still weep for sorrows half ideal,
Or dimly known — I'm sometimes touched with woe
E'en now, when thinking of Christine T*****t.
Not that I ever saw her; but her story
Was told me by a tongue which I can trust;
And as I've promised to extend her glory
Far as my song can bear it — why I must;
Though she's a Buonapartist — I a Tory—
At least an Anti-Gallican — but dust
And book-worms be my portion, if I mix
My English gallantry with politics!
Some years ago from green Montpelier came
This pale but pretty Protestant — her sire
Fell at Vittoria, where King Joseph's game
Was lost — a grenadier thought fit to fire
Into his carriage, which you'll think a shame;
But it appears that some confounded liar
Declared he was the king, and so they shot him,
While Joe himself escaped in safety — rot him.
T*****t in fact was only Joe's physician,
And died to save his patient, which, I own,
Was to the usual course in opposition,
But proves his strong attachment to the throne.
He left his widow in a sad condition,
His son a prisoner — his young daughter thrown
On the wide world, and then scarce ten years old,
With a sweet face, blue eyes, and locks of gold.
They bade farewell to Spain, and shed some tears
No doubt, at parting with each favourite spot—
'Twas hard to quit the home of many years,
E'en for their country — which received them not;
For France was then hemm'd by avenging spears,
Their friends all ruin'd, guillotined or shot—
And so they came to England, where (poor things)
They found a refuge from their sufferings.
I know the spot they chose — 'tis not a village,
Nor lonely vale, but a neat market-town
Full in the heart of rich Salopian tillage,
Where cornfields wave, and ale is bright and brown;
There safe at length from slaughter, fire, and pillage,
In melancholy comfort they sate down,
(The mother and her child,) and sweet Christine
Grew up, and knew nor guilt nor guillotine.
The country people loved her for her beauty,
Kind words, sweet smiles, and little winning ways,
Her patient toils of unaffected duty,
Which her fond mother would full often praise;
Yet she was mostly grave, and would not suit ye
If you're a laughing lover — her young days have left
The trace of sorrow on her brow,
Which makes its beauty more bewitching now.
An English lady (my own fair relation)
Was this sweet exile's friend, and it was she
Who furnish'd me with all this information,
And bade me weave it into poesy:
Full often has she shared her occupation,
And listened to the eloquent witchery
Of her slight foreign accent, — which I've found,
From female lips, the sweetest earthly sound.
She says (this English lady) that Christine
Was seldom gay, and might have been mistaken
For English, froin her grave and sadden'd mien,
Which shew'd how her young spirit had been shaken;
For Nature meant her for the Fairy Queen
Of mirth — and when at times she would awaken
Her childhood's ditties, — some religious strain
Of France, or ballad of heroic Spain—
Her eye would kindle and her pale cheek glow
With an unusual fervour — and her tone
Was such as made the hearers' eyes o'erflow,
Till floods more bitter started from her own
With the re-action of suspended woe—
The consciousness revived of hopes o'erthrown,
Friends lost, and fortunes wreck'd and crush'd affections,
And other such consoling recollections.
Ah! poor Christine! — but fortune's frowns are over,
And thy pale star with milder aspect shines;
No more from thy own France art thou a rover,
No more an exile from Montpelier's vines—
Perhaps while now I write, some Gallic lover
His wedded arms around thy beauty twines;—
Perhaps — but no, too highly I respect your
Fair image, to indulge such vague conjecture.
You've left some friends behind you, here in Britain,
Who won't forget you, maiden — two or three
Young men, I hear, were desperately smitten,
To whom, perhaps, you might have added me,
Had fate so will'd it — but, whate'er I've written,
I never saw you — nor will you e'er see
This tribute to your charms, devoutly penn'd
At the injunction of your gentle friend.
I made a pilgrimage, some three months back,
To see your favourite rose-tree, and the cottage
In which you dwelt — but both had gone to wrack,
Which served me right for my romantic dotage;
The white-wash'd walls are now defaced and black,
The rose-tree dead, and not a mess of pottage
E'er reeks on that cold hearth which used to glow,
Stirr'd by thy fingers, sweet Christine T*****t.
And in the neighbouring church thy voice no more
Is heard, of which the rustics love to tell,
Such mystic feelings to their hearts it bore—
(In sooth it might have mov'd an infidel)
And there the meekness which thy forehead wore,
And thy white bosom's pure and heavenly swell
Are yet remember'd — and thine eyes oft dim
With tears that might become the seraphim.
Peace to thee, sweet one, wheresoe'er thou art,
Dead or alive; for thou wert fair and good
And, for thy sake, I'll own a Gallic heart
May know the graces of true womanhood.
But now farewell for ever — here we part—
I've hymn'd your praises, as I said I would;
And, rather than indite a song or sheepish ode,
Immortalized you in this touching episode.
I hope I've told no very monstrous lies
About you, for in truth I've half forgot
Your story, and the colour, of your eyes,
And don't know whether I'm correct or not;
But this I know; — I meant to eulogize,
And if I'd wrong you, wish I may be shot.
Some fools, no doubt, will call this personality—
Never mind that — you've got your immorality.
Reader, I hope you're not much out of breath
This last, I own, has been a long excursion;
We've frisk'd and scamper'd over hill and heath,
Forest and fen, in search of new diversion;
Fatiguing poor old Pegasus to death—
Now let's be sober as the Turk or Persian;
We mustn't leave sweet Tryamour forlorn—
Poor thing! — she's quite impatient to be born.
I wish I hadn't volunteer'd to act,
In this case, as man-midwife — for my verse
Is wholly unaccustom'd to transact
Such matters, though the business of dry-nurse
Perhaps might suit me better, and, in fact,
I've duties similar, and sometimes worse.
O! mortal man, on rhyme who hast thy head agog,
Shun, while thou liv'st, the office of a pedagogue.
Not but it's both desirable and pleasant
To have fine boys about you — three or four—
If docile and good-natured; (mine, at present,
Are both) — you can't be happy well with more,
Unless you wish to make your toil incessant;
Although I've known some men who liked five score:—
A fact which I could never understand—
But then my notions are so far from grand!
Now to my tale — oh! thou bewildering Spenser,
With thy machinery what had I to do?—
The Muse confound me, if I e'er again, Sir,
Meddle with weapons used before by you;
They're far too heavy for so poor a fencer—
Besides your goblinogony's not new;
And such details, though brilliant and sublime,
Are too unwieldy for the octave rhyme.
I've got myself entangled, (more's the sorrow,)
In your confounded mazes allegorical;
Forgetting, when I came to you to borrow,
That my own work was meant to be historical,
Like dear Lord Byron's Memoirs of Suwarrow—
So, not being good at phrases oratorical,
I now must mangle you, without apology,
Just as you've mangled the old Greek mythology.
Elfe, as I said, could find no paramour
Among Earth's daughters. (I assign'd a reason,
And hope no lady took offence, I'm sure;
Upon my word I meant no sort of treason)
—He did his best, poor devil, to endure
Their coldness — and endured it for a season;
And then he wander'd from his ancient cronies,
And reach'd, at last, the gardens of Adonis.
The gardens of Adonis! — Here's a theme
On which I might digress from now to Lammas;
But Mr. Knight informs me that a dream
So long protracted would be sure to damn us:
So I must not describe, but skim the cream
Of old poetic fable, which won't shame us.
The gardens of Adonis, in one word,
Were Nature's workshop, as of course you've heard.
And there, amidst all shapes and shapeless things,
The embryos of realities to be,—
The unembodied souls of slaves and kings,—
The forms that people earth and air and sea,—
And pre-existences of rocks and springs,—
And many another nameless mystery,
In strange and solemn wonder roam'd poor Elfe,
Looking as if he were beside himself.
Much like a country bumpkin, just alighted
At Hatchett's White-Horse Cellar, Piccadilly,
For the first time, bewilder'd and affrighted,
And looking (where's the wonder?) somewhat silly;
Yet, you may see, upon the whole delighted—
But I declared I'd not describe — nor will I.
Well — on roam'd Elfe, without an aim or guide,
Then turn'd, and found a Lady at his side.
A Lady! — pray, Sir, was she old or young?—
Old, Sir, — extremely old — at least five hundred;
And yet, if you expect, Sir, to behold
A wrinkled wither'd crone, you've grossly blunder'd.
The sky, you know with all its studs of gold,
Is very old indeed — and yet you've wonder'd,
I dare say, fifty times, at the excess
Of their imperishable loveliness.
Therefore you mustn't think that I've mis-stated
Or falsified the truth, when I declare
That this same Lady (though so long she'd waited
For wedlock) was superlatively fair;
Though how she was begotten or created,
Whence she derived her face and shape, and air,
The author, whom I follow, does not say—
But she was lovely, and her name was Fay.
Not to be tedious, she and Elfe were married,
And had a numerous progeny — had time
And space allow'd, I should have gladly tarried
To hymn their nuptials in this faithful rhyme.
However, (though 'tis said she once miscarried)
Their loves were both productive and sublime.
We can't conceive (poor fickle human creatures)
The passion of such high mysterious natures.
Their offspring was the race of Sprites and Fairies,
Sylphs, Goblins, all the preter-natural tribe,
Whose whims and pranks, opinions and vagaries,
'Twould take me forty volumes to describe.
So much their nature and employment varies:—
Hence, though I wish young people to imbibe
Instruction from my rhymes, 'tis not my plan to
Touch on this subject in the present Canto.
But of all Powers, whom old Romance and Fable
Employ to people sea and air and earth,
Were Elfe and Fay the parents — I'm not able
To classify the species, though 'twere worth
One's while, and would be highly commendable
To do so, and to trace them, from the birth
Of the first-born, up to the present day,
Through Europe, Asia, and America.
Goblin and Genius, Demigod and Peri,
Vampyre and Brownie, Incubus and Goule,
Witch, Warlock, Wizard, Ghost, and Nightmare dreary,
Satyr and Nymph, (of whom we read at school,)
All these I might describe till I were weary,
Were I at liberty to play the fool.
But Fate obliges me to waste my wit on
Those tribes alone which settled in Great Britain.
Some most erroneous notions have been cherish'd,
By sceptics, on this subject — some suppose
That the whole Fairy race has long since perish'd,
Extirpated by its relentless foes,
Philosophy and Science, who've so flourish'd
Of late, that one can scarcely wear a nose,
But they'll deny or doubt of its existence,
Unless one proves the fact by their assistance.
I wonder where Philosophy will stop!
I wonder what will next be disbelieved!
'Tis really time for Bards to shut up shop,
Thus of their lawful property bereaved.
In the Castalian spring there's scarce a drop
Of water left, which has not yet received
Some taint or other from the analytical
Muddlings of science, natural or political.
I think it's time for Poets of condition
To cheek this growing nuisance, and present
Some sort of strong remonstrance or petition,
Next Session, to the British Parliament;
Praying, in terms of dutiful submission,
That Malthus may be ordered to invent
Some means to stop this propagating evil,
Which else will soon drive Fancy to the devil.
Not that I disapprove of speculation
On metaphysics; and that sort of stuff;
Because it doesn't hurt Imagination,
And may be pleasant and profound enough,
Without encroaching on the Bard's vocation—
Therefore I'd not put Coleridge in a huff.
But what can any miserable Bard do
Against Sir Humphry Davy and Ricardo?
The first, with all his pumps and lamps and gases,
Anatomizing Nature, to our sight
Reveals, as 'twere through magnifying glasses,
Each fibre, — which puts Phantasy to flight.
The second — but alas! it far surpasses
My art on subjects such as these to write:
I'm but a poor, half-witted, crazy devil,
Scarce able to distinguish good from evil.
I'm very ignorant, I must confess,
Although I spent three pleasant years at Trinity,
And read some mathematics, (more or less)
Was thought a good proficient in Latinity,
And could, perhaps, at Greek have beat Queen Bess;
Wrote for the English prize — but didn't win it — I
Once bore the "Bell" at scholarship, 'tis true,
But then I fancied I'd no more to do.
Historic smatterings — fragments of chronology—
A course of Walker's lectures, twice attended,—
Some desultory scraps of rambling knowledge, I
Have pick'd tip in my travels, strangely blended,—
These form my stock, — which serves for my apology,
If my unletter'd Muse hath e'er offended
The learned reader — but 'tis hypercritical
To tax a poet with mistakes political.
But to the point — I was remarking, Madam,
That many false and scandalous opinions
Have found supporters since the days of Adam,
Touching his Elfin Majesty's dominions
To combat which I'd travel (if I had 'em)
Upon the Muse's most excursive pinions,
Through disquisitions which I'd make as fine as
E'en S. T. Coleridge or S. T. Aquinas.
But 'tis sufficient to observe, at present,
The race of whom I now propose to treat
Are not dwarf'd goblins, mischievous though pleasant,
Who roam about at night to pinch and beat
Poor housemaids, and awake the toil-worn peasant
With the near music of their echoing feet;
Or thresh the corn, with swift though shadowy flail,
Or mar the beauty of the grey mare's tail.
Neither (which is material to my story,)
Are Fairies immaterial — shadowy things
Invested with an unsubstantial glory,
Trick'd out in sunshine robes and rainbow wings:
Forms unembraceable by Whig or Tory,
With lips that can't be kiss'd by mightiest Kings—
But bright realities of flesh and blood—
A fact Sir Lanval shortly understood.
'Tis true they can throw off their fleshly dross,
And roam, unshackled spirits — then, at pleasure,
Resume the same, when weary of its loss—
A privilege convenient beyond measure,
Which forms their chief distinction from the gross
Terrestrial race — when I've six months of leisure,
I'll write a learned treatise to explain
How these strange beings form a sort of chain
Between mankind and pure ethereal natures,
Sharing the pleasures and the pains of both;
I only hope that no ill-natured creatures
Will doubt 'tis so — I own 'twould make me wroth.
One of this poem's most peculiar features
Is, that I'm ready to attest on oath
The truth of every fact therein related,
Although not always accurately dated.
If any person questions my authority,
Or thinks this daemonology all stuff,
He lies confoundedly — (I'm sorry for it) — I
Inform him that I dreamt it — that's enough.
Its hard if Bards can't carry a majority
Of firm believers, when no truth's too tough
For speculative gullets. — Why Apollo
Kecks at the facts your philosophe will swallow.
The genuine Poet and Metaphysician
(Excuse the accent) differ but in this,
That the first knows, from dream and intuition,
Truths which the second oft contrives to miss
After a life of thought and erudition;
Still losing, in the process, all the bliss,
Which, though with intervals of deep alloy,
The Poet, from his nature, must enjoy.
But to proceed — the Anglo-Faery kings,
From Elfe to Oberon, and their horde's migrations,
And how they did a thousand wondrous things,
And reign'd in peace for many generations,
Built Windsor Castle, (all except the wings)
And London Bridge, the Tower, and other stations—
In short, their actions, whether great or mean,
Are they not written in the Faery Queene?
King Oberon, last upon the list, was reckon'd
The wittiest Faery monarch ever known,
A sort of supernatural Charles the Second,
Who liked the ladies better than his throne
And, following just wherever Cupid beckon'd,
Was not content with one fair face alone;
But still from Fay to Fay kept lightly roving,
As if the object of his life were loving.
Many a curtain lecture, long and moral,
From Queen Titania was he doom'd to hear;
Many a gentle matrimonial quarrel
Their Majesties' enjoy'd from year to year,
Sung by the mightiest Bard who wears the laurel,
In that sweet "Dream," to me grown doubly dear
Since, for thy pleasure, dearest Friend, I read it,
And won from you, and others, smiles and credit.
Of all King Oberon's manifold connexions,
(The loveliest daughters both of Elves and Men)
She who the most took hold of his affections
Was the young blue-eyed Fairy Guendolen;
Through whose dark story, as I hate reflections
On such sad subjects, I shall draw my pen;
Just stating that Titania soon discover'd
Around what charms the King's attentions hover'd.
And Guendolen's dread fate was never known,
Nor could e'en Oberon's self presume to guess
Whether she was condemn'd for aye to moan
Within the dark earth's innermost recess
Or bound with ice-chains to the frigid zone,
In her most white and tender nakedness
Or — but in short Titania was a Tartar,
And so 'tis sure her rival proved a martyr.
She left one daughter, lovelier than the Hours,
The infant pledge of her unhappy love;
Whom Oberon convey'd to distant bowers,
And nurtured in a deep, enchanted grove,
Beyond the reach of fierce Titania's Powers—
Kind reader, when tow'rd Westmoreland you rove,
You'll find it (if still extant) somewhere near
The classic margin of Winandermere.
The ground is, still enchanted — a magician,
The mightiest of our times, hath fix'd his dwelling
Among those haunts of ancient superstition
O'er-shadow'd by huge, Skiddaw and Helvellyn;
Near whom, I've heard, two Fairies of condition
Reside (whose names I must not now be telling)
Of form as lovely and of heart as pure
As was of old my gentle Tryamour.
Sweet Tryamour! she grew apace and flourish'd
In the fresh vigour of her infant years,
By gentlest sprites, with food ambrosial, nourish'd,
And filling oft her Father's eyes with tears,
Swift gushing at the thought of her who perish'd
For his ill-omen'd love — Beyond her peers
Shone this sweet child in beauty, and became
The loveliest thing that bore the Faery name.
And to that charmed forest, day by day,
Came crowds of Faery suitors — wondrous forms
Dashing the lightning from their wings away,
And riding on the necks of winds and storms,
From distant Ind and desert Africa,
And the fair Western regions — countless swarms
Of unimaginable beings, all
Of glorious shape and mien majestical.
In vain they came: — the coy retiring maiden
Received them coldly and deferred to wed:
Whether her Mother's dreadful story weigh'd on
Her mind, and made her shun a Fairy's bed,
Or whether some strange spell her heart was laid on,
I know not — but a single life she led;
Chusing, in perfect freedom, still to rove
Amongst her maidens in the charmed grove.
Viewless alike to mortal and immortal,
Within that grove her crystal palace stood;
Nor e'en could Faery footsteps pass its portal
To interrupt her virgin solitude;
But thither, at her summons, did resort all
Beautiful dreams, and visions bright and good,
And Powers at whose strong bidding is unfurl'd
The deep and secret beauty of the world.
The elements obey'd her — she had power
O'er frost and blight and thunder and eclipse,
Could raise the wind, and bid the welkin lour,
And founder, in their harbours, mightiest ships:
But oftener fell the cooling summer shower
At the mild bidding of her gentle lips;
And flowers sprung forth, and hawthorn buds appear'd—
For she chose rather to be loved than fear'd.
She loved mankind, and all mankind loved her;
For, though no eye had seen her, maidens felt
Her presence in the green leaves' rustling stir,
And in the vernal breeze which seem'd to melt
Into their hearts; the humble cottager,
Who in that old mysterious forest dwelt,
Knew she was near him, and ne'er fail'd to bless
The Fairy for the season's fruitfulness.
All kindly deeds were hers — The hopes and fears
Of love — the bridal bed — the first-born's sleep
On his young mother's bosom, bathed in tears
Which that first fondness cannot chuse but weep,—
The young bard's dreams — the sports of childish years,
By her were blest; and often would she keep
Her moonlight watch beside the maiden's grave,
And bid fresh flowerets o'er its verdure wave.
This brings me back to Blanch, whose fate I'd nearly
Forgotten, and Sir Lanval soon forgot,
Though, when he heard it, he was shock'd severely—
Poor thing! — you recollect she went to pot,
Because she loved so vainly, though so dearly—
Her's was indeed a melancholy lot;
And I'm extremely sorry to confess
'Twas Tryamour that caused it — more or less.
Nor let the reader deem this inconsistent—
For my sweet Fairy was a female too,
And females, when they've love for an assistant,
And a young handsome gentleman in view,
Assume a harshness from their nature distant,
And use a luckless rival like a Jew.
When once a woman's heart's in palpitation,
She's neither conscience nor consideration.
It chanced that at the time when England's court
Was at its height of frolic, show, and revel,
To do the new Queen honour, in such sort
As in those days was judg'd correct and civil,
The Fairy left her wood, to view the sport,
Not wishing or designing any evil;
But merely meditating an excursion,
To see, and haply share, the court's diversion.
Invisibly she roam'd (this gamesome Fairy)
Through hall, state-chamber, and superb saloon;
Peep'd e'en into the kitchen and the dairy;
Saw all the humours of the Honey-Moon;
Laugh'd loud, and sometimes, in a mad vagary,
At balls put all the fiddles out of tune;
Or, in the dance, let slip a lady's stocking,
Which caused confusions laughable, though shocking.
But on one luckless Morn, as it befell,
She went to see a tournament, wherein
The brave Sir Lanval bore himself so well,
And look'd so handsome when he chanced to win,
That, over head and ears, in love she fell,
And vow'd 'twould be a burning shame and sin,
If such a noble Knight should waste his worth
On any daughter of the sons of Earth.
And from that day Sir Lanval's wealth declined,
And ladies look'd upon him with cold eyes;
It seem'd as if some spell had struck them blind,
Though you may guess the reason, if you're wise.
These two misfortunes mostly are combined—
As soon as wealth deserts you, girls despise:
And when you've ceased to be a "speculation,"
You lose, at once, all claim to toleration.
So by these means the Fairy strove to stem
Sir Lanval's tide of favour, and to wean
The ladies' hearts from him, and his from them,
And make him weary of the court's gay scene.
It was a method which I don't condemn,
At least it fully answer'd with the Queen;
But with poor Blanch it had a bad effect,
She loved him better for the world's neglect.
And so she broke her heart, for which I'm sorry,
And would undo the mischief, if I could;
But mustn't alter this authentic story—
Perhaps it pleased the Fairy's wayward mood
To hurl Sir Lanval from his height of glory,
And prove him, in misfortune, wise and good:
But that Sir Lanval with poor Blanch should fall
In love, she could'nt tolerate at all.
Therefore she hung a spell around his heart,
And lull'd his earthly sympathies to sleep,
With the strong magic of her wondrous art;
And underneath his eyelids would she creep
(Of course I mean her spiritual part)
At night, and in her charms his senses steep;
Till he awoke, with thoughts perplex'd and dim
Of the strange beauty which so haunted him.
And thus she train'd him for her paramour—
Wiling his fancy from the world away;
A scheme which prosper'd better, to be sure,
In her hands than in those of Mr. Day);
Whose pair of breaking tits would not endure
The strictness of his pre-connubial sway;
But married persons of inferior fortunes,
Because they liked long sleeves instead of short ones.
'Twas summer — the enchanted forest lay,
Rich with the teeming leafiness of June,
In the still silence of meridian day,
Save when, at times, a low and fitful tune
Some wandering Zephyr on the leaves did play,
Or the unseen cicada hail'd the noon
With his shrill chirp, or, with a deep-fetched note,
Some meditative blackbird clear'd his throat.
There were some children, playing in the shade,
In one place, on their earnest sports intent;
When a new sound, did suddenly invade
Their gambols, and anon their eyes were bent
On an unusual object — through the glade
A handsome Knight, upon a steed sore-spent
With travel and starvation, took his way—
The Knight was young, but pale — the steed a bay.
His eyes were sunk and dim — his head was bare;
His arms hung idly at his saddle-bow;
There was a pensive sadness in his air,
Which told that he had made fast friends with woe:
And yet a gentle patience linger'd there,
Softening his haggard eyes — his pace was slow;
Listlessly on his way he seem'd to wend,
He knew not whither — without aim or end.
The little children look'd upon his face
With awe, and turn'd not to their sports again
When he had past; his melancholy grace
Sunk on their spirits with such tender pain:
The Knight soon reach'd the forest's loneliest place,
Dismounted, and took off his charger's rein,
Then, throwing his worn frame beneath a tree,
Began to gather daisies tristfully.
'Twas poor Sir Lanval, who had lately bidden
Farewell to Blanch, and all the, world beside;
And thus far, on his lonely journey, ridden,
Seeking some savage place, wherein to hide—
What every body wishes to have hidden—
His poverty — and so to spare his pride,
Not dreaming (lucky dog) of what was brewing
To raise him to the height of bliss from ruin.
While thus he lay, dejected and forlorn,
Under the shadow of the old oak tree,
Lamenting that he ever had been born
To such a doom of abject penury,—
Behold two damsels, brighter than the morn,
Came tow'rd him through the green-wood suddenly,
Array'd in garments of transparent splendour,
Which dimm'd their beauties to a gleam more tender.
Of an immortal loveliness were they,
And yet seem'd mortal women — I've not time
To speak minutely of their dress to-day,
But you may find it in the ancient rhyme;
Which names each article of their array—
In terms no less exact than they're sublime.
My Muse, you know, has got into distresses
Ere now, for meddling with young ladies' dresses.
Dear Mrs. L., don't dub my rhymes "immoral"
Again, before you've read them, I request;
You know you did so, when you chose to quarrel
With my first canto, and, I hear, express'd
A firm determination to abhor all
Mention of ladies not completely dress'd
In chintz and cambric to the very chin—
Alleging that bare necks were baits of sin.
Pray have you ever seen the Medicean
Venus? — or, when you meet the Italian's tray,
Is it your custom, that you, may not see an
Object so foul, to turn your eyes away?
Would you trick put, in modish European
Costume, the airy forms of Sylph and Fay?
And cramp the ancient heathen Gods and Goddesses
In pucker'd pantaloons and whale-bone boddices?
There lives a lady, I've been told, at Florence,
Who has a charming Venus — an antique;
Which tasty English travellers go in torrents
To look at, every year, and month, and week:
I don't suppose that e'en Sir Thomas Lawrence
(Though on this point I can't presume to speak
Decisively) on canvass could express
A quarter of its sculptured loveliness.
This statue, upon holidays. and high days,
And common week-days also, you may see
In all its beauty, but on Fasts and Fridays
It wears a gown and apron bashfully.
Now Mrs. L., this sort of taste at thy days
May be correct, but seems absurd to me;
Who am resolved to laugh at all such nonsense,
And bow before no censor but my conscience.
If e'er to painting Vice, in hues less hideous,
I dedicate my Muse's poor ability;
If e'er I pamper lust with strains insidious,
Or sneer, like Byron, at a wife's fidelity;
Or trick out shameless sense in phrase perfidious,
Or treat the Cockney doctrines with civility;
Brand me, as I deserve, for immorality,—
But don't call taste for beauty sensuality.
I wish the moral world (which I respect)
Would learn to know its real friends and foes;
And not, from sheer stupidity, reject
Virtue's true champions, to pay court to those
Prim doctors of the Pharisaic sect,
Whose favour does wore mischief than their blows
Who make poor Truth an object of such terror,
That folks are fairly frighten'd into error.
Caricaturing Sin is not the way
To make her less seductive: — paint her fairly;
And as for Virtue — let her mien be gay
In general — grave sometimes — austere but rarely;
Be not too harsh, and I'll be bound to say
That virtuous minds will not be found more sparely
About you — where none's meant, don't seek offence,
Knowing that freedom still is innocence.
Thus you'll be useful in your generation,
And make a worthy member of society;
Proving, by practice, that Imagination
And Taste are not the foes, but friends, of Piety.—
I'd not say this without consideration;
But I'm convinced I'm speaking with propriety;
And 'tis my gravest hope, for years to be,
That I may thus do good in my degree.
This, I'm resolved, shall be my last digression;
'Tis really time the canto should be ended
Although I think the reader's free confession
Must grant that I've considerably mended
My pace, since I contrived to gain possession
Of the high road — Well! — on these damsels wended
To where Sir Lanval lay beneath the tree;
Who rose and went to meet them courteously.
Short greeting pass'd between the dames and Knight,—
Then thus the lovelier spake, with smile demure—
"Will't please yon, Sir, to meet the presence bright
Of our fair mistress, royal Tryamour?
Who hopes you'll dine and take a bed to-night
At her near palace, and (the more to ensure
Your friendship) begs you to accept this gem—
No brighter shines in England's diadem."
With that, she knelt and placed a charmed ring
Upon Sir Lanval's finger, who, while raising
Felt, in himself, a change the most amazing:
At once his mounting spirit seem'd to spring
Into ethereal worlds, and wildly gazing
Into the wood, he fed his wondering eyes
On sights that mock'd his dreams of Paradise.
I've known a ring, placed on a maiden's finger
Produce a like effect — and mark'd with pleasure,
To what new thoughts and feelings it could bring her,
Unlocking, in her bosom, many a treasure,
Which, but for that, might have been doom'd to linger
For years unsunn'd, and waste away at leisure,
Like gold deep buried in a virgin mine—
But oh! Sir Lanval, what surprise was thine!
For all that forest-space where late uprear'd,
Thick, gnarled oaks, tall elms and beeches stood,
To his cleans'd vision suddenly appear'd
Peopled with an ethereal multitude
Of bright and wond'rous beings — some career'd,
Chasing each other, as in playful mood,
Through air and earth and water; others bent
Their eyes upon him in mute wonderment.
He stood amidst a region fair and proud,
Round whose horizon, lost in viewless space,
Mountain on mountain rose, like cloud on cloud
In the bright sunset sky, and at their base
Fair valleys spread, and mighty forests bow'd,
And gentle rivers ran a pleasant race,
And giant lakes lay scatter'd here and there,
And sweetest scents and sounds were floating everywhere.
And scarce a bow-shot off stood the pavilion
Of crystal, where the Fairy held her court,
Flooded with rays of azure, and vermilion,
And purple, and bright hues of every sort.
Had I the pencil of the Bard of Lillian—
Could I suppose description was my forte—
I'd try to paint the place as it deserves;
But such an effort now would shake my nerves.
But let no reader deem what's writ a fiction,
Swearing that no such place can now be found—
A mere bravado of poetic diction,
Existing really nowhere above ground.
Know that, beneath the Muse's jurisdiction,
Such Faery regions every where abound;
Yea, e'en in crowded cities, or in gaols—
Surpassing all the beauty of North Wales.
Over the portal of the Fay's abode
There stood a mighty eagle, of pure gold,
Whose diamond eyes with such resplendence glow'd
As no rash gaze of mortal might behold
Unblinded; but on Lanval was bestow'd
Strange power of vision: — through the thickest fold
Of midnight. darkness pierced the bird's keen eyes,
And served for gas lights to this Paradise.
And round the gate, in Spenser's words, there "lay
Great sorts of lovers, piteously complaining"—
The Elfin suitors of the wayward Fay,
Who proved an arch Penelope, not deigning
To let them know 'twas time to go away—
But when they saw Sir Lanval, the whole train, in
An instant, knew their fate, and clear'd the portal
For the admission of the favour'd mortal.
Anon, from that strange company, arose
A sound of tumult wild and lamentalion,
Till, in mid air, from cries they came to blows—
The general disappointment and vexation
Ruffled their rival tempers I suppose,
Which threaten'd the whole race with extirpation:
But soon those thunderclouds dispersed, and then
The sky was silent and serene again.
Sir Lanval stood beneath the dome alone,
(For his two guides had left him,) and survey'd
The walls that gleam'd with many a precious stone,
The emerald ceilings, with pure gold inlaid,
The windows arch'd, through which pale light was thrown
On many a pillar'd cloister's long arcade;
And, of all else forgetful, paused a space,
To view the splendours of that wond'rous place.
Through many a long saloon and echoing hall,
Fair court and spacious vestibule, he pass'd:
Unutterably glorious seem'd they all,
And yet each seem'd more glorious than the last:
And now, reflected from the crystal wall
On his own passing form a glance he cast,
And started — for his dress, and face, and air
Proclaim'd that strange enchantment had been there.
His robes, when he set out, I grieve to say,
(You recollect he'd been in sad distress)
Were neither very new, nor very gay,
Nor at all singular for cleanliness:
In fact he hadn't wherewithal to pay
For washing or for mending; so you'll guess
That, though he strove his tatter'd plight to hide, he
Was the reverse of any thing that's tidy.
His cloak and pantaloons were sadly torn,
His boots and hose as bad as bad could be;
And his thin cheeks, so pale and famine-worn,
Told tales of long and abject poverty.
He look'd indeed an object most forlorn,
And his gaunt steed look'd more forlorn than he
They seem'd (though both their frames were strong and thick-set)
The ghosts of Rozinante and Don Quixote.
But now so perfect was his transformation,
That scarcely could the Knight believe his eyes,
But doubted if so strange an alteration
Was to be class'd with grave realities,
Or dreams of a deranged imagination;
He almost fancied that his miseries
Had turn'd his brain: for now from top to toe.
He was bedizen'd like a finish'd beau.
And his late haggard eyes were now grown brighter
Than ever they had been in days of yore;
His cheeks were plumper, and his teeth were whiter
Than when, at Arthur's court, the palm he bore
No less for his good looks than as a fighter—
Besides, so costly were the robes he wore,
That, gazing on his mien and his attire,
He sigh'd that none were near him to admire.
But now before two folding doors he stood
Of soft and pearly lustre, and within
That hidden room's mysterious solitude
Heard, as of waters, a low murmurous din,
Inviting noon-day sleep; in anxious mood
He paused as if he thought 'twould be a sin,
With step irreverent and o'er-curious eye,
To interrupt that deep tranquillity.
Thus while he stood, with restless feelings burning,
A low sweet music suddenly arose,
To which the doors on noiseless hinges turning,
Reveal their hidden secrets, and disclose
A hall whose light just served him for discerning
That 'twas constructed chiefly for repose;
And through that tender and voluptuous gloom,
Unconscious Lanval view'd his nuptial room.
No window into that enchanted place
Pour'd the full light of sun or stars or moon:
Mother-of-pearl wall'd round the sacred space,
Drinking in mellow'd floods the fiery noon,
And starr'd with gems that did the darkness chase,
Like those that peep through fleecy clouds in June;
Whence a still gleam on all the chamber lay,
Brighter than moonlight, softer far than day.
And in the midst, with low and slumberous sound,
By night and day, a bubbling fountain play'd,
Whose voice alone the silentness profound
Of that delicious chamber did invade:
And at one end, as if in slumber bound,
On a bright couch the beauteous Fay was laid;
Tow'rd whom Sir Lanval did on tiptoe creep,
While still she soundly slept, or feign'd to sleep.
Her shape was perfect symmetry, though less
In stature than most forms of woman-kind;
But who shall paint the perfect loveliness
Of her resplendent features, which combined
All that of Heavenly Beauty poets guess,
With all that painters upon Earth can find?
And who shall paint the light, not yet reveal'd,
Which those long silken eyelashes conceal'd?
Her snow-white vest was fasten'd by a zone
Of gold with brightest diamonds studded over,
Which yet less brightly than her bosom shone;
It chanced the silken folds, which used to cover
That white Elysium, had aside been thrown
For heat, and o'er its charms her mortal lover
Might suffer his fond eyes to roam at will,
And of that dazzling beauty gaze their fill.
And o'er her delicate cheek a flush was gleaming
And, with quick tumult, did that bosom swell—
Whether of some strange raptures she was dreaming
I know not — so I shan't pretend to tell:
But I suspect her sleep was all a seeming,
And that the eyes of him she loved so well,
Fix'd on her beauty, caused her cheek to burn—
But 'tis a secret I could never learn.
Description, as I've said, is not my forte;
So we'll give o'er describing — Lanval knelt
Some time — he knew not if 'twas long or short—
Beside her, and his heart began to melt
And leap and throb in such tumultuous sort
As he had never, till that moment, felt.
He knew, at once, his dream's mysterious beauty,
And saw that love was now become a duty.
And so he fell in love without delay,
And soon, by dint of gazing, grown more bold,
Press'd to his lips the fingers of the Fay—
A mode of courtship, in such cases, old.
It woke her — yet the story does not say
That she thought fit to look displeased, or scold;
But fix'd her eyes, that seem'd with love to swim,
Full on his face, and fondly welcomed him.
When will this canto end? — the situation
Of these two lovers would be quite a prize
To any bard who'd time for the narration
Of melting tones, fond looks, and burning sighs.
They sat some time, in mutual agitation,
Gazing devoutly on each other's eyes;
And then the Fairy sunk on Lanval's breast,
And the whole story of her love confess'd.
She "fear'd that he would think her very bold,
For having dared to love him — she should seem
Indelicate to beings of his mould—
—Women would call her forwardness extreme—
And, she confess'd, her heart was not so cold
As she could wish: — and then a brighter gleam
As she gazed on him through her fond eyes rush'd—
And then she look'd upon the ground and blush'd.
"He had strange power of witch-craft, she was sure,
Who thus could charm a hapless Fairy's heart—
A Fairy's too, who never could endure
A Faery suitor, and had mock'd the dart
Of Cupid, till she fell into his lure—
—She scarcely dared to hope that he would part
With Earth's most radiant Beauties for her sake—
She had few offers for such love to make.
"Yet if he would be true to her, and live
Content with her poor beauty, he should be
Endow'd with all that Faery-land could give
Of wealth and power and bliss and dignity;
And she would roam (she hoped he would forgive
Her freedom) at his side o'er land and sea;
And make him still victorious in the fight,
And love him ever truly, day and night."
You may conceive (if you have ever been
Engaged in courtship that resembled this)
Thus basking in young eyes of tenderest sheen
In the full glow of love's acknowledged bliss)—
Sir Lanval's answer to the Faery queen;
So that I need not tell you 'twas a kiss—
"A long, long kiss" in Byron's phrase, which I,
On this occasion, deign to ratify.
And when that first and holiest rapture past,
Ere yet their sever'd lips had ceas'd to tingle,
(Pity such kisses can't for ever last,
When love and duty, as in wedlock, mingle)—
Tryamour — since it's not the thing to fast,
For married people any more than single—
Summon'd her Fays and bade them serve up dinner,
At which Sir Lanval feasted like a sinner.
You know he'd fasted long, and (though half married)
Was glad his craving stomach to replenish:
Whence over his repast so long he tarried
That Tryamour scarce thought he'd ever finish:
She laugh'd to see the loads his trencher carried,
The goblets that he quaff'd of mead and Rhenish;
Playing at once the lover and the glutton,
And murmuring tenderest raptures o'er his mutton.
And when that marriage feast at length was o'er,
The Queen a goblet to her lips did raise,
And pledged Sir Lanval as her spouse, before
The assembled company of Elves and Fays;
And gave him full possession of her store,
And vow'd to love him truly all her days;
He pledged the draught, and thus, with mutual passion,
The pair were wedded in the Faery fashion.
And here I once intended to describe,
In the best verses that my Muse could write,
The feasts and frolics of the Elfin tribe
In celebration of that nuptial night;
The dance, the song, the gambol, and the gibe,
The illuminations, and the bonfires bright;
And how the groves were sprinkled with pavilions
Of sprites, who came to join the sport by millions.
And how, at midnight, the full moon and stars
Their brightest beams on those wild revels shed,
Gaily careering on their fiery cars,
As if they too were dancing over-head;
And how Jove laugh'd, and Venus wink'd at Mars,
And Mars, beneath her glance, turn'd doubly red;
And Dian, more than once, thought fit to shroud
Her virgin splendours in a fleecy cloud.
I meant to have described Sir Lanval's sleep
Dream-haunted, and the sights his inward eye
Saw, while his bride a loving watch did keep,
Kissing, full oft, his eyelids tenderly,
And giving his wrapt spirit power to peep
Into the secrets of earth sea and sky;
All which, for want of room, must be omitted,
Although the tasteful reader's to be pitied.
I'm really quite alarm'd when I survey
The quantity of work that's to be done
In the remaining canto of this lay—
(For I'm resolved to finish it in one,
Whatever Mr. Knight may choose to say)
Indeed, I half regret that I've begun
An undertaking which, I see, will double
The estimate I'd form'd of ink and trouble.
Canto the fourth will tell you how the Knight
Return'd, in triumph, to the court of Britain;
And how he was admired by ladies bright;
And how Queen Guenever herself was smitten,
And suffer'd for her crimes, what served her right;
All which, before next April, shall be written:
But, for the present, here my toils I close,
Leaving the lovers to their night's repose.