Charles Lamb.

Charles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 online

. (page 22 of 33)
Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 → online text (page 22 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

O give my passions leave to run their race ;
Let Fortune lay on me her worst disgrace ;
Let folk, o'er-charged with brain, against

me cry.
Let clouds bedim my face, break in mine

Let me no steps, but of lost labour, trace ;
Let all the earth with scorn recount my

But do not will me from my love to fly.
I do not envy Aristotle's wit.
Nor do aspire to Cccsar's bleeding fame ;
Nor aught do care, though some above me

Nor hope, nor wish, another course to frame.
But that which once may win thy cruel

Thou art my wit, and thou my virtue art.


Love still a boy, and oft a wanton, is,
School'd only by his mother's tender eye ;
What wonder then, if he his lesson miss.
When for so soft a rod dear play he try ?
And yet my Star, because a sugar 'd kiss
In sport I suck'd, while she asleep did lie.
Doth lour, nay chide, nay threat, for only

Sweet, it was saucy Love, not humble I.
But no 'scuse serves ; she makes her wrath

In beauty's throne— see now, who dares

come near
Those scarlet judges, threat'ning bloody


heav'nly Fool, thy most-kiss-worthy face
Anger invents with such a lovely grace.
That anger's self I needs must kiss again.


1 never drank of Aganippe well.
Nor ever did in shade of Tempe sit,

And Muses scorn with vulgar brains to

dwell ;
Poor lay-man I, for sacred rites unfit.
Some do I hear of Poets' fury tell,
But (God wot) wot not what they mean by it;
And this I swear by blackest brook of hell,
I am no pick-purse of another's wit.
How falls it then, that with so smooth an

My thoughts I speak, and what I speak

doth flow
In verse, and that my verse best wits doth

please ?
Guess we the cause — what is it thus ? —

fye, no.
Or so ?— much less. How then ? sure thus

it is.
My lips are sweet, inspired with Stella's



Of all the kings that ever here did reign,
Edward, named Fourth, as first in praise I

Not for his fair outside, nor well-lined

brain —

Although less gifts imp feathers oft on

Nor that he could, young- wise, wise-valiant,

His sire's revenge, join'd with a kingdom's

And, gain'd by Mars, could yet mad Mars

so tame.
That Balance weigh'd what Sword did late

Nor that he made the Floure-de-luce so

Though strongly hedged of bloody Lion's

That witty Lewis to him a tribute paid.
Nor this, nor that, nor any such small

cause —
But only, for this worthy knight durst

To lose his crown rather than fail his


happy Thames, that didst my Stella


1 saw thyself, with many a smiling line
Upon thy cheerful face, Joy's livery wear.
While those fair planets on thy streams did

shine ;
The boat for joy could not to dance forbear;
While wanton winds, with beauty so divine
Ravish 'd, stay'd not, till in her golden hair
They did themselves (O sweetest prison)

And fain those ^ol's youth there woukl

their stay
Have made ; but, forced by nature still to

First did with puffing kiss those locks dis-

She, so disshevel'd, blush'd; from window I

With sight thereof cried out, O fair dis-

Let honour's self to thee grant highest
place !


Highway, since you my chief Parnassus

And that my Muse, to some ears not un-

Tempers her words to trampling horses*

More soft than to a chamber melody, —
Now, blessed You, bear onward blessed Me
To Her, where I my heart safe left shall

My Muse and I must you of duty greet
With thanks and wishes, wishing thank-
Be you still fair, honour'd by public heed.
By no encroachment wrong'd, nor time

forgot ;
Nor blamed for blood, nor shamed for sin-
ful deed.
And that you know, I envy you no lot
Of highest wish, I wish you so much bliss,
Hundreds of years you Stella's feet may

i 8^.]] Defence of the Sonnets of' Sir Philip Sydney.


Of the foregoing, the 1 st, the 2d;,
and the last sonnet, are my favourites.
But the general beauty of them all is,
that they are so perfectly characteris-
tical. The spirit of " learning and
of chivalry," — of which union, Spen-
ser has entitled Sydney to have been
the '' president," — shines through
them. 1 confess I can see no-
thing of the "jejune" or "frigid"
in them ; much less of the " stiff"
and " cumbrous" — which I have
sometimes heard objected to the Ar-
cadia. The verse runs off swiftly and
gallantly- It might have been tuned
to the trumpet ; or tempered (as him-
self expresses it) to '' trampling
horses' feet." They abound in feli-
citous phrases —

Oheav'nly Fool, thy most kiss-worthy
face — 8M Sonnet.

Sweet pillows, sweetest bed,

A chamber deaf to noise, and blind to

A rosy garland, and a weary head.

2d Sonnet.

That sweet enemy — France —

bth Sonnet.

But they are not rich in words
only, in vague and unlocalised feel-
ings — the faiUng too much of some
poetry of the present day — they are
full, material, and circumstantiated.
Time and place appropriates every
QjjC of them. It is not a feVer of

ssion wasting itself upon a thin
" t of dainty words,* but a trans-

ndent passion perv^ading and illu-

nating action, pursuits, studies.

feats of arms, the opinions of con-
temporaries and his judgment of
them. An historical thread runs
through them, which almost affixes
a date to them ; marks the when and
where they were written.

I have dwelt the longer upon what
I conceive the merit of these poems,
because I have been hurt by the wan-
tonness (I wish I could treat it by a
gentler name) with which a favourite
critic of our day takes every occasion
of insulting the memory of Sir Philip
Sydney. But the decisions of the
Author of Table Talk, &c. (most
profound and subtle where they are,
as for the most part, just) are more
safely to be relied upon, on subjects
and authors he has a partiality for,
than on such as he has conceived an
accidental prejudice against. Milton
wrote Sonnets, and was a king-hater;
and it was congenial perhaps to sa-
crifice a courtier to a patriot. But I
was unwilling to lose dijine idea from
my mind. The noble images, pas-
sions, sentiments, and poetical deli-
cacies of character, scattered all over
the Arcadia (spite of some stiffness
and encumberment), justify to me the
character which his contemporaries
have left us of the writer. I cannot
think with Mr. Hazlitt that Sir Phi-
lip Sydney was that opprobrious thing;
which a foolish nobleman in his inso-
lent hostility chose to term him. I
call to mind the epitaph of Lord
Brooke, to guide me to juster
thoughts of him ; and I repose upon
the beautiful lines in the " Friend's

» A profusion of verbal dainties, with a disproportionate lack of matter and circum-
stance, is I think one reason of the coldness with which the public has received the
poetry of a nobleman now living ; which, upon the score of exquisite diction alone, is en-
titled to something better than neglect. I will venture to copy one of his Sonnets in this
place, which for quiet sweetness, and unaffected morality, has scarcely its parallel in our


J5y Lotd Thurlow.

O melancholy Bird, a winter's day.

Thou standest by the margin of the pool.

And, taught by God, dost thy whole being school

To Patience, which all evil can allay.

God has appointed thee the Fish thy prey ;

And given thyself a lesson to the Fool

Unthrifty, to submit to moral rule.

And his unthinking course by thee to weigh.

There need not schools, nor the Professor's chair,

Though these be good, true wisdom to impart.

He who has not enough, for these, to spare

Of time, or gold, may yet amend his heart.

And teach his soul, by brooks, and rivers fair :

Nature is always wise in every part.


Passion for his Astrophel/* printed
with the Elegies of Spenser and

You knew — who knew not Astrophel ?
(That I should live to say I knew,
And have not iu possession still !) —
Things known permit me to renew —
Of him you know his merit such,
I cannot say — you hear — too much.

Within these woods of Arcady

He chief delight and pleasure took ;

And on the mountain Partheny,

Upon the chrystal liquid brook,
The Muses met him every day,
That taught him sing, to write, and say.

"WHien he descended down the mount,

His personage seemed most divine ;

A thousand graces one might count

Upon his lovely chearful eyne.

To hear him speak, and sweetly smile,
You were in Paradise the while.

A sweet attractive kind of grace ;
A full assurance given by looks ;
Continual comfort In a face^
The lineaments of Gospel books —

Nugce Criticw ; — Sir Philij) Sydney.


I trow that countenance cannot lye,
Whose thoughts are legible in the eye.

* * * •

Above all others this is he.
Which erst approved in his song,
That love and honour might agree,
And that pure love will do no wrong.
Sweet saints, it is no sin, or blame
To love a man of virtuous name.
Did never Love so sweetly breathe
In any mortal breast before :
Did never Muse inspire beneath
A Poet's brain with finer store :
He wrote of Love with high conceit.
And Beauty rear'd above her height.
Or let any one read the deeper sor-
rows (grief running into rage) in the
Poem, — the last in the collection ac-
companying the above, — which from
internal testimony I believe to be
Lord Brooke's,— beginning with "Si-
lence augmenteth grief," — and then
seriously ask himself, whether the
subject of such absorbing and con-
founding regrets could have been that
thing which Lord Oxford termed
him. L.

ns oT


The Old Margate Hoy,



I AM fond of passing my vacations
(I believe 1 have said so before) at
one or other of the Universities.
Next to these my choice would fix
me at some woody spot, such as the
neighbourhood of Henley affords in
abundance, upon the banks of ray
beloved Thames. But somehow or
other my cousin contrives to wheedle
me once in three or four seasons to a
watering place. Old attachments
cling to her in spite of experience.
We have been dull at Worthing one
summer, duller at Brighton another,
dullest at Eastbourn a third, and are
at this moment doing dreary penance
at — Hastings ! — and all because we
were happy many years ago for a
brief week at — Margate. That was
our first sea-side experiment, and
many circumstances combined to
make it the most agreeable holyday
of ray life. We had neither of us
seen the se.a> and we had never been
from home so Igog to^etiier in com-

Can I forget thee, thou old Mar-
gate Hoy, with thy weather-beaten,
5un-burnt captain, and his rough ac-
commodations — ill exchanged for the
foppery and fresh-water niceness of
the modern steam packet.'* To the
winds and waves tho.i^ comraittedsjt
ihy .goodly freightage, and didst ask
no aid ©f magic fumes, and spells,
and boiling cauldrons. With the
^ales of heaven tho.u wentest 5wim-
jningly ; or, when it was their plea-
sure, stoode&t still with sailor-like
>patience. Thy course was natural,
jiot forced, as in a hot-bed; nor
jdidst thou go poisoning the breath of
.ocean with sulphureous smoke — a
great sea-cihimsera, chimneying and
furnacing the 4eep ; or liker to that
.sea-god parching up Scamander,

Can I forget thy honest, yet
slender crew, with their coy re-
luctant responses (yet tp the sup-
pression of any thing Jike contempt)
to the raw questions, which we of
the great city would be ever and
anon putting to them, as to the uses
of this or that strange naval imple».
ment. 'Specially can I forget thee,
thou happy medium, thou shade of
refuge between us and them, con-
ciliathig interpreter of their skill to
&\iY simplicity, comfoitcible ambassa^
July, 1823.

dor between sea and land ! — whose
sailor-trowsers did not more con-p
vincingly assure thee to be an adopt-*
ed denizen of the former, than thy
white cap, and whiter apron over
them, with thy neat-fingered prac-
tice in thy culinary vocation, be-
spoke thee to have been of inland
imrture heretofore — 3. master cook of
Eastcheap? How busily didst thou
ply thy multifarious occupation,
cook, mariner, attendant, chamber-.
Jain ; here, there, like another Ariel,
flaming at once about all parts of the
deck, yet with kindlier ministrations
— not to assist the tempest, but, as if
touched with a kindred sense of our
infirmities, to soothe the qualms
which that untried motion might
haply raise in our erude land-fancies.
And when the o'er- washing billows
drove us below deck (for it was far
gone in October, and we had stifiT
and blowing weather) how did thy
officious ministerings, still catering
for our comfort, with cards, and
cordials, and thy more cordial con-
versation, alleviate the closeness and
the confinement of thy else (truth to
say) not very savoury, nor very in-^
yiting, little cabin !

With these additaments to boot,
we had on board a fellow»passenger,
whose discourse in verity raight
have beguiled a longer voyage than
we meditated, and have made mirth
and wonder labound as far as from
Thames to the Azores. He was a
dark, Spanish- complexioned young
man, remarkably handsome, wjth an
officerrrlilte assurance, and an insup-
pressible volubility of assertion.. He
wa&, in fact, the greatest liar J had
met with then, or since. He was
none of your hesitating h^f story-
tellers (a most painful description of
mortals) who go on sounding your
belief, and only giving you as much
as they see vou can swallow at a
time— the nibbling pickpockets of
your patience- — but one who com -
mitted downright, day-light depre**
dations upon his neighbour's faith.
He djd not stand shivering upon the
brink, but was a hearty thorough-
paced liar, and plunged at once into
the depths of your credulity. I
partly believe, he made pretty sun?
of his company. Not many ficJi^


Ttie Old Margate Hoy.


not many wise, or learned^ composed
at that time the common stowage of
a Margate packet. We were, 1 am
afraid, a set of as unfledged Lon-
doners (let our enemies give it a
worse name) as Thames or Tooley-
street at that time of day could have
supplied. There might be ati ex-
ception or two among us, but I
Scorn to make any invidious distinc-
.tions among such a jolly, companion-
able ship's company, as those were
whom 1 sailed with. Something too
must be conceded to the Genius Loci.
Had the confident fellow told us half
the legends on land, which he fa-
voured us with on the other element,
.1 flatter myself, the good sense of
most of us would have revolted.
But we were in a new world, with
every thing unfamiliar about us, and
the time and place disposed us to the
reception of any prodigious marvel
whatsoever. Time has obliterated
from my memory much of his wild
fablings ; and the rest would appear
but dull, as written, and to be read
on shore. He had been Aid-de-
camp (among other rare accidents
and fortunes) to a Persian prince,
and at one blow had stricken off the
head of the King of Carimania on
liorseback. He, of course, married
the Prince's daughter. I forget what
unlucky turn in the politics of that
court, combining with the loss of
his consort, was the reason of
his quitting Persia ; but with the
rapidity of a magician he trans-
ported himself, along with his hear-
ers, back to England, where we still
found him in the confidence of great
ladies. There was some story of a
'Princess — Elizabeth, if I remember,
■ — having entrusted to his care an ex-
traordinary casket of jewels, upon
some extraordinary occasion — but as
,5 am not certain of the name or cir-
;'6Umstance at this distance of time, I
must leave it to the Royal daugh-
ters of England to settle the ho-
nour among themselves in private.
I cannot call to mind half his plea-
sant wonders; but I perfectly re-
member, that in the course of. his
travels he had seen a phoenix ; and
lie obligingly undeceived us of the
vulgar error, that there is but one of
•jhat species at a time, assuring us
that they were not uncommon in
^ome parts of Upper Egypt. Hither-
to he had found the most implicit

listeners. His dreaming fancies had
transported us beyond the '^ ignorant
present." But when (still hardying
more and more in his triumphs over
our simplicity), 'he went on to affirm
that he had actually sailed through
the legs of the Colossus at Rhodes,
it really became necessary to make a
stand. And here I must do justice
to the good sense and intrepidity of
one of our party, a youth, that had
hitherto been one of his most defe-^
rential auditors, who, from his re-
cent reading, made bold to assure
the gentleman, that there must be
some mistake, as " the Colossus in
question had been destroyed long-
since : " to whose opinion, delivered
with all modesty, our hero was
obliging enough to concede thus
much, that **^the figure was indeed
a little damaged." This was the
only opposition he met with, and it
did not at all seem to stagger him,
for he proceeded with his fables, which
the same youth appeared to swallow
with still more complacency than
ever, — confirmed, as it were, by the
extreme candour of that concession.
With these prodigies he wheedled
us on till we came in sight of the
Reculvers, which one of our own
company (having been the voyage
before) immediately recognising, and
pointing out to us, was considered
by us as no ordinary seaman.

All this time sate upon the edge
of the deck quite a different cha-
racter. ^ It was a lad, apparently
very poor, very infinn, and very
patient. His eye was ever on
the sea, with a smile; and, if he
caught now and then some snatches
of these wild legends, it was by ac-
cident, and they seemed not to con-
cern him. The waves to him whis-
pered more pleasant stories. He
was as one, being with us, but not
of us. He heard the bell of dinner
ring withovit stirring; and when
some of us pulled out our private
stores — our cold meat and our salads
— ^he produced none, and seemed to
want none. Only a solitary bis-
cuit he had laid in; provision for
the one or two days and nights, to
which these vessels then were often-
times obliged to prolong their voyage.
Upon a nearer acquaintance with
him, which he seemed neither to
court nor decline, we learned that
he was gohig to Margate, with the


The Old Margate Boy '


hope of being admitted into the In-
firmary there for sea bathing. His
disease was a scrofula, which ap-
peared to have eaten all over him.
He expressed great hopes of a cure ;
and when we asked him, whether he
had any friends where he was going,
he replied, " he had no friends."

These pleasant, and some mourn-
ful passages, with the first sight of
the sea, co-operating with youth, and
a sense of holydays, and out-of-door
adventure, to me that had been pent
up in populous cities for many
months before, — have left upon my
mind the fragrance as of summer days
gone by, bequeathing nothing but
their remembrance for cold and whi-
tery hours to chew upon.

Will it be thought a digression (it
may spare^ some unwelcome com-
parisons), if I endeavour to account
for the dissatlsjaction which I have
heard so many persons confess to have
felt (as I did myself feel in part on
this occasion), ai the sif^hl of the sea
for the first time ? I think the rea-
son usually given — referring to the
incapacity of actual objects for sa-
tisfying our preconceptions of them
— scarcely goes deep enough into the
question. Let the same person see a
lion, an elephant, a mountain, for
the first time in his life, and he shall
perhaps feel himself a little morti-
fied. The things do not fill up that
space, which the idea of them seem-
ed to take up in his mind. But they
have still a correspondency to his
first notion, and in time grow up to
it, so as to produce a very similar
impression ; enlarging themselves (if
1 may say so) upon familiarity. But
the sea remains a disappointment. —
Is it not, that in the latter we had
expected to behold (absurdly, I
grant, but, I am afraid, by the law
of imagination unavoidably) not a
definite object^ as those wild beasts,
or that mountain compassable by the
eye, but all the sea at ofice, the com-

EARTH I — I do not say we tell our-
selves so much, but the craving of
the mind is to be satisfied with no-
thing less. I will suppose the case
of a young person of fifteen (as I then
was) knowing nothing of the sea, but
from description. He comes to it for
the first time— all that he has been
reading of it all his life, and that the
jMost enthusiastic part of life,— all he

has gathered from narratives of wan-
dering seaman ; what he has gained
from true voyages, and what he che-
rishes as credulously from romance
and poetry ; crowding their images,
and exacting strange tributes from
expectation. — He thinks of the great
deep, and of those who go down unto
it ; of its thousand isles, and the vast
continents it washes ; of its receiving
the mighty Plata, or Orellana, into
its bosom, without disturbance, or
sense of augmentation ; of Biscay
swells, and the mariner
For many a day, arxi many a dreadful night.
Incessant labouring round die stormy Cape ;
of fatal rocks, and the " still-vexed
Bermoothes ; " of great whirlpools,
and the water-spout ; of sunken
ships, and sumless treasures swal-
lowed up in the unrestoring depths ;
of fishes, and quaint monsters, to
which all that is terrible on earth —
Be but as buggs to frighten babes withal.
Compared with die creatures in the sea's
entral ;

of naked savages, and Juan Fer-
nandez ; of pearls, and shells ; of
coral beds, and of enchanted isles;
of mermaids' grots. —

I do not assert that in sober ear-
nest he expects to be shown all these
wonders at once, but he is under the
tyranny of a mighty faculty, which
haunts him with confused hints and
shaflows of all these ; and when the
actual object opens first upon him,
seen (in tame weather too most likely)
from our unromantic coasts — a speck,
a slip of sea-water, as it shews to
him — what can it prove but a very
unsatisfying and even diminutive en-
tertainment ? Or if he has come to
it from the mouth of a river, was it
much more than the river widening ?
and, even out of sight of land, what
had he but a flat watery horizon
about him, nothing comparable to
the vast o'er-curtaining sky, his fa-
miliar object, seen daily without
dread or amazement ? — Who, in si-
milar circumstances, has not been
tempted to exclaim with Charoba, in
the poem of Gebir,
Is this the mighty ocean ? — is this all ?

1 love town, or country; but this
detestable Cin([ue Port is neither. I
hate these scrubbed shoots, thrusting
out their starved foliage from be-
tween the horrid fissures of dusty m-
nutritious rocks ; which the amateur

The Old Margate Hoy,


calls " verdiire to the edge of the
sea." I require woods, and they
show me stunted coppices. I cry out
for the water-brooks, and pant for
fresh streams, and inland murmurs.
I cannot stand all day on the naked
beech watching the capricious hues
of the sea, shitting like the colours of
a dying mullet. I am tired of look-
ing out at the windows of this island-
prison. I would fain retire into the
interior of my cage. While I gaze
upon the sea, I want to be on it,
over it, across it. It binds me in
with chains, as of iron. My thoughts
are abroad. I should not so feel in
Staffordshire. There is no home for
me here. There is no sense of home
at Hastings. It is a place of fugitive
resort, an heterogeneous assemblage
of sea-mews and stock-brokers, Am-
phitrites of the town, and misses
that coquet with the Ocean. If it were
what it was in its primitive shape,
and what it ought to have remained,
a fair honest fishing-town, and no
mor^, it were something — with a few
straggling fishermen's huts scattered
about, artless as its cliffs, and with
their materials filched from them, it
were something. I could abide to
dwell with Mescheck ; to assort with
fisher-swains, and smugglers. There
are, or I dream there are, many of
this latter occupation here. Their
faces become the place. I like a
smuggler. He is the only honest
thief. He robs nothing but the reve-
nue, — an abstraction I never greatly
cared about. 1 could go out with
them in their mackarel boats, or
about their less ostensible business,
with some satisfaction. I can even
tolerate those poor victims to mo-

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 → online text (page 22 of 33)