1814
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elegiac Stanzas, or returning at Day-Break through an Alley in London.

Posthumous Parodies and other Pieces, composed by several of our most celebrated Poets, but not published in any former Edition of their Works.

Horace Twiss


32 quatrains, after Gray's Elegy written in a Country Churchyard. The complete title is given as "Elegiac Stanzas, or returning at Day-Break through an Alley in London, from a Ball at Lady —'s." In this late entry into the series of burlesques describing London life, Horace Twiss contrasts the lives of urban workers with those of the gentry attending a fashionable ball: "Far from St. James's, far from all the Squares, | Their vulgar footsteps never learn'd to stray; | About St. Martin's Lane, or Lambeth Stairs, | They keep the noisy tenor of their way." The poem concludes with a self-portrait in which the poet announces his marriage and decision to live in retirement. In fact, Twiss did not marry until 1817, and did not live in retirement.

Critical Review: "Parodists are seldom poets, but this parodist is so truly poetical, that we wish he had thrown politics and other people's poetry behind him and filled his pages with his own. His work is in two parts: a 'prefatory paper, by the shade of Mr. Addison, introduces the first part; a like paper, by the shad of Dr. Johnson, the second part. The parodies are fourteen in number" S4 5 (March 1814) 322-23.



The Watchman drawls the hour of dawning day,
The breakfast booth is set with smoking tea,
The dancers homeward wind their weary way,
And leave the streets to morning and to me.

Now brighter beams upon the pavement dart,
Though yet a gen'ral silence holds the air,
Save where some gard'ner drives his early cart,
Or drowsy milkmen clank along the square:

Save that, disguised with liquor and with paint,
The fragile fair complains of some mishap,
From rough patroles, who, stern and ungallant,
Molest her chill and solitary nap.

Beneath these humble roofs, these broken tiles,
Blown from their lay'rs when April winds were high,
On beds uncurtain'd, and in crowded files,
This narrow alley's lab'ring tenants lie.

The pealing knocker at the pompous porch,
The fretful gabble of the elbow'd guest,
The clattering carriage, or the flaring torch,
Has never robb'd them of their lowly rest.

For them no dame shall plan the brilliant ball,
Nor Mr. Speaker ply his evening care:
No lacqueys bow before them through the hall,
Nor scream their titles up the crowded stair,

Oft does the dray their sturdy strength invite,
Their harden'd hands oft haul the stubborn rope,—
How jocund do they shut their shops at night!
How smirk their chins beneath the Sunday soap!

Let not nice Nugent mock their useful toil
Their ill cut raiment, or their homely food,
Nor the Black Dandy hear with scornful smile,
The early hours of that unpolish'd brood.

The pomp of liv'ries and the whirl of wheels,
And all that Hoby, all that Dyde e'er gave,
Are random toys that Fortune blindly deals,—
Grave to the fool, but foolish to the grave.

Nor you, ye fair, contemn their lowly doom,
If fops for them no rapt'rous plaudits raise;
While in the buzz of many a scented room,
Your voice, your dancing swell the note of praise.

Can animating reel, or melting waltz,
Teach you to thread the giddier maze of life?
Can D'Egville's skill redeem one step when false?
Or Cramer lull the jars of man and wife?

Perhaps in yon dark garret may repose
Eyes, of fair Castlereagh's celestial fire;
Hands that, like Congreve's, had consumed our foes,
Or swept, like Southey's, o'er the laureat lyre;

But Fashion to their eyes her fruitful store
Of gay accomplishment did ne'er unroll:
Chill penury repressed each livelier pow'r,
And nipp'd the tender flow'rets of the soul.

Full many a Luttrell's mental ray serene
The wide uncultured bogs of Erin bear:
Full many a Hope is born to blush unseen,
Or waste her sweetness at a village fair.

Some nameless Ward, whose master-wit repress'd
The alehouse patriot's dull disloyal arts,
Some bright untoasted Hertford here may rest—
Some Jersey, guiltless of our broken hearts.

The Morning Post's applause to bear away,
To tease the envious mob of aping cits,
To scatter plenty at a fete ornee,
To learn of Statesmen, and to live with wits,

Their lot forbade: a power supremely wise
Their fate, their fashion, and their faults confin'd:
Forbade, to deal destruction with their eyes,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind:

The modest throes of struggling truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenious shame,
To vie with demireps in paint and pride,
And swell the calendar of evil fame.

Far from St. James's, far from all the Squares,
Their vulgar footsteps never learn'd to stray;
About St. Martin's Lane, or Lambeth Stairs,
They keep the noisy tenor of their way.

Yet, that ev'n these may taste their due delights,
Some Evening Tea-garden with holly fence,
From caxon'd quizzes, and from flounce-cloak'd frights,
Obtains the tribute of their eighteen pence.

Their cakes, their ale, brought by a tidy maid,
The place of venison and champagne supply:
And cocks and hens are clipp'd from yew-tree shade,
That meet their taste for rural scenery.

For who, in Nature's favourite month of June,
Seeks not the velvet of some verdant sod?
Feels the warm ray of Sunday afternoon,
Nor casts one restless, roving look abroad?

Tax'd carts unnumber'd roll through Bethnal Green,
By Hatchett's door a knot of coaches wait:
On Greenwich Hill are some smart ankles seen,
Even at the Horns some fearless husbands bait.

For thee, who, mindful of a friendless race,
Dost in these rhymes their little lives define,
If chance, when years have sped their silent pace,
Some kindred spirit shall enquire of thine,

Haply, some gentle dowager may say,
"Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn,
Kicking from painted floors the chalk away,
While sleepy chaperons would sit and yawn.

"There, where the Palace fronts St. James's Street,
And rears its old fantastic tow'rs so high,
The rattling carriages he loved to meet,
And gossip with the folk that babbled by.

"From rout to rout, now laughing at the tricks
Of wayward jilts and dandies he would rove:
Now deeply wrapt in chit chat politics,
Or slyly jesting on some corner-love.

"One morn I miss'd him in th' accustom'd walks
Along the Park, and near his fav'rite trees;
At night he sate not in my opera box,
Nor came to sup at Lady — 's.

"Next morn I heard that, just two days before,
With a loved bride from busy Town he went:
Sit down with patience a few moments more,
And read a letter that he lately sent:

THE LETTER.
Here lives, retired from all the haunts of men,
A youth, to Fortune and to Fame unknown
The muses frown'd not on his early pen,
But Disappointment mark'd him for her own.

His heart was warm, and his ambition high,
But Heav'n decreed a safer, stiller life:
He gave to pomp and pow'r a parting sigh:
He gain'd from Heav'n a fond and faithful wife.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Nor wake his wishes for a world forgot:
Here , in his rustic home he finds repose,
And love and letters bless his lonely cot.

[pp. 49-58]