1787
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Cambridge Commencement.

Whitehall Evening Post (5 April 1787).

Anonymous


A burlesque pastoral ballad in ten anapestic quatrains, not signed. The poem dwells, as college burlesques were wont to do, on the attractions of the sex. Of all the details observed on the occasion, perhaps the most interesting is the account of the band leader, who does not conduct in the reputedly stolid manner eighteenth-century band-leaders are thought to have adopted: "Doctor Randal stuck up in the front, | (With the gay London fidlers behind) | Like a fine paper Punch pull'd by strings, | Throws his arms and his legs to the wind." As a boy John Randall (1715-1799) had sung the part of Handel's Esther in 1732; he had composed the music for Gray's Installation Ode in 1769, and was appointed organist of Trinity College in 1777.



A Cambridge Commencement's the time
When gentlemen come for degrees,
And with wild-looking cousins and wives
Thro' a smart mob of Pensioners squeeze.

The music that plays in the church,
Attracts them, tho' broiling the weather;
Like the good folks by Orpheus of old,
Who sat list'ning and steaming together.

Doctor Randal stuck up in the front,
(With the gay London fidlers behind)
Like a fine paper Punch pull'd by strings,
Throws his arms and his legs to the wind.

The pretty town misses have each
Some Sizar their humble beholder,
While the nymphs of the Lodge think there's nought
Like a bit of gold lace on the shoulder.

O'er the poor country curate's that's near
How their eyes (in fine language call'd killers)
They carelessly glance, till they rest
On the silk gown and long nose of V—.

But now to the Senate the troop
Perspiring and panting repair,
Where the good lady president sits,
Like a lobster that's boil'd, in the chair.

And there the gruff father of physic,
And the dark little father of law,
Stretch their hands o'er their children, and there
Divinity's lion his paw.

With kisses, with rings, and with hugs,
The old gentlemen treat one another,
Till by magic of hugs they become
From a son, in a moment a brother.

Miss, who sits in the gallery above,
Declares she conceives not the fun!
Nor how kisses and hugs make a brother,
Tho' she knows they have oft made a son.

Fair nymph, I'll unriddle the jest:
The kisses and hugs are by proxy;
The professors are but go-betweens,
'Tis old Alma Mater's the doxy.

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