Charles Lamb.

The life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) online

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286 POEMS.

She look'd at him as one that meant to blast him,

And with a frightful noise,

('Twas partly like a woman's voice,

And partly like the hissing of a snake,)

She nothing said but this

(Sir Francis told the words) : —

A mischief, mischief, mischief,
And a nine-times killing curse.
By day and by niglit, to the caitiff wigliL,

Who shakes the poor like snakes from his door,
And shuts up the womb of his purse.

And Still she cried —

A mischief.
And a nine-fold withering curse :
For that shall come to thee that will undo tlire.
Both all that thou fearest and worse.

So saying, she departed.
Leaving Sir Francis like a man, beneath
Whose feet a scaffolding was suddenly falling ;
So he described it.

Stranger. A terrible curse ! What follow'd ?

Servant. Nothing immediate, but some two monthi
Young Philip Fairford suddenly fell sick,
And none could tell what ail'd him; for he lay,
And pined, and pined, till all his hair fell off.
And he, that was full-flesh'd, became as thin
As a two-months' babe that has been starved in tha

And sure I think

He bore his death-wound like a little child ;
With such rare sweetness of dumb melancholy
He strove to clothe his agony in smiles,
Which he would force up in his poor pale cheeks.


Like ill-time guests that had no proper dwelling

there ;
And when they ask'd him his complaint, he laid
His hand upon his heart to show the place,
Where Susan came to him a-nights, he said,
And prick'd him with a pin. —
And thereupon Sir Francis call'd to mind
The beggar-witch that stood by the gateway
And begg'd an alms.

Stranger. But, did the witch confess ?

Servant. All this and more at her death.

Stranger. I do not love to credit tales of magic.
Heaven's music, which is Order, seems unstrung,
And this brave world
(The mystery of God) unbeautified,
Disorder'd, raarr'rL where such strange things are





You are not, Kelly, of the common strain.

That stoop their pride and female honour down

To please that many-headed beast, the Town,

And vend their lavish smiles and tricks for gain.

By fortune thrown amid the actors' train.

You keep your native dignity of thought ;

The plaudits that attend you come unsought.

As tributes due unto your natural vein.

Your tears have passion in them, and a grace

Of genuine freshness, which our hearts avow ;

Your smiles are winds whose ways we cannot

That vanish and return we know not how —
And please the better from a pensive face,
A thoughtful eye, and a reflecting brow.





Queen-bird that sittest on thy shining nest,
And thy young cygnets without sorrow hatchest,
And thou, thou other royal bird, that watchest
Lest the white mother wandering feet molest :
Shrined are your offspring in a crystal cradle,
Brighter than Helen's ere she yet had burst
Her shelly prison. They shall be born at first
Strong, active, graceful, perfect, swan-like, able
To tread the land or waters with security.
Unlike poor human births, conceived in sin,
In grief brought forth, both outwardly and in
Confessing weakness, error, and impurity.
Did heavenly creatures own succession's line.
The births of heaven, like to yours, would shine.


Was It some sweet device of Faery

That mock'd my steps with many a lonely glade,

And fancied wanderings with a fair-hair'd maid ?

Have these things been ? or what rare witchery,

Impregning with delights the charmed air,

Enlighted up the semblance of a smile

In those fine eyes ? methought they spake the while

Soft soothing things, which might enforce despair

To drop the murdering knife, and let go by

VOL. VI. u



His foul resolve. And does the lonely glade
Still court the footsteps of the fair-hair'd maid ?
Still in her locks the gales of Summer sigh ?
While I forlorn do wander, reckless where,
And 'mid my wanderings meet no Anna there.

Methinks how dainty sweet it were, reclined
Beneath the vast outstretching branches high
Of some old wood, in careless sort to lie,
Nor of the busier scenes we left behind
Aught envying. And, O Anna ! mild-eyed maid '
Beloved 1 I were well content to play
With thy free tresses all a Summer's day.
Losing the time beneath the greenwood shade.
Or we might sit and tell some tender tale
Of faithful vows repaid by cruel scorn,
A tale of true love, or of friend forgot ;
And I would teach thee, lady, how to rail
In gentle sort, on those who practise not
Or love or pity, though of woman born.


When last I roved these winding wood-walks green,
Green winding walks, and shady pathways sweet,
Oft-times would Anna seek the silent scene,
Shrouding her beauties in the lone retreat.



No more 1 hear her footsteps in the shade .

Her image only in these pleasant ways

Meets me self-wandering, where in happier days

I held free converse with the fair-hair'd maid.

I pass'd the little cottage which she loved,

The cottage which did once my all contain ;

It spake of days which ne'er must come again.

Spake to my heart, and much my heart was m-jved.

" Now fair befall thee, gentle maid ! " said I,

And from the cottage turn'd me with a sigh.



What reason first imposed thee, gentle name,
Name that my father bore, and his sire's sire,
Without reproach ? we trace our stream no higher;
And I, a childless man, may end the same.
Perchance some shepherd on Lincolnian plains.
In manners guileless as his own sweet flocks,
Received thee first amid the merry mocks
And arch allusions of his fellow swains.
Perchance from Salem's holier fields return' d,
With glory gotten on the heads abhorr'd
Of faithless Saracens, some martial lord
Took His meek title, in whose zeal he burn'd.
Whate'er the fount whence thy beginnings came.
No deed of mine shall shame thee, gentle name.




If from my lips some angry accents fell,

Peevish complaint, or harsh reproof unkind,

'Twas but the error of a sickly mind

And troubled thoughts, clouding the purer v.ell.

And waters clear, of Reason ; and for me

Let this my verse the poor atonement be —

My verse, which thou to praise wert ever inclined

Too highly, and with a partial eye to see

No blemish. Thou to me didst ever show

Kindest affection ; and would oft-times lend

An ear to the desponding love-sick lay,

Weeping my sorrows with me, who repay

But ill the mighty debt of love I owe,

Mary, to thee, my sister and my friend.


A TIMID grace sits trembling in her eye,

As loth to meet the rudeness of men's siglit-

Yet shedding a delicious lunar light.

That steeps in kind oblivious ecstacy

The care-crazed mind, like some still melody:

Speaking most plain the thoughts which do possess

Her gentle sprite ; peace, and meek quietness.

And innocent loves, and maiden purity:

A look whereof might heal the cruel smart

Of changed friends, or Fortune's wrongs unkind :

Might to sweet deeds of mercy move the heart

Of him who hates his brethren of mankind.

Turn'd are those lights from me, who fondly 3 et

Past joys, vain loves, and buried hopes regret.



2 93


John, you were figuring in the gay career

Of blooming manhood with a young man's joy,

When I was yet a little peevish boy —

Though time has made the difference disappear

Betwixt our ages, which then seem'd so great —

And still by rightful custom you retain

Much of the old authoritative strain.

And keep the elder brother up in state.

you do well in this 1 'Tis man's worst deed

To let the " things that have been " run to waste.

And in the unmeaning present sink the past:

In whose dim glass even now I faintly read

Old buried forms, and faces long ago,

Which you, and I, and one more, only know.


O I could laugh to hear the midnight wind.
That, rushing on its way with careless sweep,
Scatters the ocean waves ! And I could weep
Like to a child. For now to my raised mind
On wings of winds comes wild-eyed Phantasy.
And her rude visions give severe delight.
O winged bark ! how swift along the night
Pass'd thy proud keel ! nor shall I let go by
Lightly of that drear hour the memory,


When wet and chilly on thy deck I stood,
Unbonneted, and gazed upon the flood,
Even till it seem'd a pleasant thing to die.—
To be resolv'd into th' elemental wave.
Or take my portion with the winds that rave.


We were two pretty babes, the youngest she,

The youngest, and the loveliest far, I ween,

And Innocence her name. The time has been,

We two did love each other's company;

Time was, we two have wept to have been apart.

But when by show of seeming good beguiled,

I left the garb and manners of a child,

And my first love for man's society,

Defiling with the world my virgin heart —

My loved companion dropp'd a tear, and fled,

And hid in deepest shades her awful head.

Beloved, who shall tell me where thou art —

In what delicious Eden to be found —

That I may seek thee the wide world around !



By Enfield lanes, and Winchmore's verdant hill,
Two lovely damsels cheer my lonely walk :
The fair Maria, as a vestal, still ;
And Emma brown, exuberant in talk.


With soft and Lady speech the first apph'es
The mild correctives that to grace belong
To her redundant friend, who her defies
With jest, and mad discourse, and bursts of sonj;.
O differing Pair, yet sweetly thus agreeing,
What music from your happy discord rises.
While your companion hearing each, and seeinj^.
Nor this, nor that, but both together, prizes ;
This lesson teaching, which our souls may strike,
That harmonies may be in things unlike !


I WAS not train'd in Academic bowers.

And to those learned streams I nothing owe

Which copious from those twin fair founts do flow ;

Mine have been any thing but studious hours.

Yet can I fancy, wandering 'mid thy towers,

Myself a nursling, Granta, of thy lap ;

My brow seems tightening with the Doctor's cap,

And I gowned ; feel unusual powers.

Strange forms of logic clothe my admiring speech,

Old Ramus' ghost is busy at my brain ;

And my skull teems with notions infinite.

Be still, ye reeds of Camus, while I teach

Truths, which transcend the searching Schoolmen's

And half had stagger'd that stout Stagiiite I




Rare artist ! who with half thy tools, or none,
Canst execute with ease thy curious art,
And press thy powerful'st meanings on the heart,
Unaided by the eye, expression's throne !
While each blind sense, intelligential grown
Beyond its sphere, performs the effect of sight :
Those orbs alone, wanting their proper might,
All motionless and silent seem to moan
The unseemly negligence of Nature's hand,
That left them so forlorn. What praise is thine,
O mistress of the passions, artist fine.
Who dost our souls against our sense command,
Plucking the horror from a sightless face,
Lending to blank deformity a grace !



Who first invented work, and bound the free
And hoiyday-rejoicing spirit down
To the ever-haunting importunity
Of business in the green fields, and the town —
To plough, loom, anvil, spade — and (oh most sad !)
To that dry drudgery at the desk's dead wood ?
Who but the Being unblest, alien from good,
Sabbathless Satan 1 he who his unglad


Task ever plies 'mid rotatory burnings,

That round and round incalculably reel —

For wrath divine hath made him like a wheel —

In that red realm from which are no returnings :

Where toiling and turmoiling ever and aye

He, and his thoughts, keep pensive working-day.



They talk of Time, and of Time's galling yoke,
That like a mill-stone on man's mind doth press,
Which only works and business can redress :
Of divine Leisure such foul lies are spoke,
Wounding her fair gifts with calumnious stroke.
But might I, fed with silent meditation,
Assoiled live from that fiend Occupation,
Improbus Labor, which my spirit hath broke,
I'd drink of Time's rich cup, and never surfeit ; —
Fling in more days than went to make the gem
That crown'd the white top of Methusalem ;
Yea on my weak neck take, and never forfeit.
Like Atlas bearing up the dainty sky,
The heav'n-sweet burthen of eternity.





Rogers, of all the men that I have known
But slightly, who have died, your Brother's loss
Touch'd me most sensibly. There came across
My mind an image of the cordial tone
Of your fraternal meetings, where a guest
I more than once have sat; and grieve to think,
That of that threefold cord one precious link
By Death's rude hand is sever'd from the rest.
Of our old gentry he appear'd a stem —
A Magistrate who, while the evil-doer
He kept in terror, could respect the Poor,
And not for every trifle harass them,
As some, divine and laic, too oft do.
This man's a private loss, and public too.



" Suck, baby, suck ! mother's love grows by giving ;
Drain the sweet founts that only thrive by wasting;
Black manhood comes, when riotous guilty living
•Hands thee the cup that shall be death in tasting.

Kiss, baby, kiss ! mother's lips shine by kisses ;
Choke the warm breath that else would fall in

blessings ;
Black manhood comes, when turbulent guilty blisses
Tend thee the kiss that poisons 'mid caressings.


Hang, baby, hang ! mother's love loves such forces.
Strain the fond neck that bends still to thy clinging ;
Black manhood comes, when violent lawless courses
Leave thee a spectacle in rude air swinging."

So sang a wither'd Beldam energetical,

And bann'd the ungiving door with lips prophetical.



Forgive me, Burney, if to thee these late

And hasty products of a critic pen,

Thyself no common judge of books and men,

In feeling of thy worth I dedicate.

My verse was offer'd to an older friend :

The humbler prose has fallen to thy share :

Nor could I miss the occasion to declare,

What spoken in thy presence must offend.

That, set aside some few caprices wild.

Those humorous clouds, that flit o'er brightest days,

In all my threadings of this worldly maze,

(And I have watch'd thee almost from a child,)

Free from self-seeking, envy, low design,

I have not found a whiter soul than thine.




As when a child on some long Winter's night
Affrighted, clinging to its grandame's knees,
With eager wondering and perturb'd delight
Listens strange tales of fearful dark decrees
Mutter'd to wretch by necromantic spell :
Or of those hags, who, at the witching time
Of murky midnight, ride the air sublime.
And mingle foul embrace with fiends of hell,
Cold horror drinks its blood ! anon the tear
More gentle starts, to hear the beldame tell
Of pretty babes that lov'd each other dear,
Murder'd by cruel Uncle's mandate fell :
Ev'n such the shiv'ring joys thy tones impart,
Ev'n so thou Siddons meltest my sad heart.


Friend of my earliest years and childish days,
My joys, my sorrows, thou with me hast shared,
Companion dear; and we alike have fared

(Poor pilgrims we) through life's unequal ways.

It were unwisely done, should we refuse
To cheer our path, as featly as we may.

Our lonely path to cheer, as travellers use.
With merry song, quaint tale, or roundelay ;

And we will sometimes talk past troubles o'er,
Of mercies shown, and all our sickness healed,
And in his judgments God remembering love.

And we will learn to praise God evermore.

For those " glad tidings of great joy " revealed
By that sooth Messenger sent from above.

ii <T(V.-r_^ t-. f'f.i-^'A i>

13 L A N K VERS E .


In my poor mind it is most sweet to muse

Upon the days gone by ; to act in thought

Past seasons o'er, and be again a child ;

To sit in fancy on the turf-clad slope,

Down which the child would roll ; to pfiuck gay

Make posies in the sun, which the child's hand
(Childhood offended soon, soon reconciled,)
Would throw away, and straight take up again.
Then fling them to the winds, and o'er the lawn
Bound with so playful and so light a foot.
That the press'd daisy scarce declined her head.


On the green hill top
Hard by the house of prayer, a modest roof.
And not distinguish'd from its neighbour-barn,
Save by a slender-tapering length of spire.
The Grandame sleeps. A plain stone barely tells


The name and date to the chance passeng^".

For lowly born was she, and long had eat,

Well-earn'd, the bread of service : hers was else

A mountain spirit, one that entertain'd

Scorn of base action, deed dishonourable.

Or aught unseemly. I remember well

Her reverend image ; I remember, too.

With what a zeal she served her master's house ;

And how the prattling tongue of garrulous agi:

Delighted to recount the oft-told tale

Or anecdote domestic. Wise she was.

And wondrous skill'd in genealogies.

And could in apt and voluble terms discourse'

Of births, of titles, and alliances ;

Of marriages, and intermarriages ;

Relationship remote, or near of kin ;

Of friends offended, family disgraced —

Maiden high-born, but wayward, disobeying

Parental strict injunction, and regardless

Of unmix'd blood, and ancestry remote,

Stooping to wed with one of low degree.

But these are not thy praises ; and I wrong

Thy honour'd memory, recording chiefly

Things light or trivial. Better 'twere to tell

How with a nobler zeal, and warmer love,

She served her heavenly Master. I have seen

That reverend form bent down with age and pain,

And rankling malady. Yet not for this

Ceased she to praise her Maker, or withdraw

Her trust in him, her faith, an humble hope —

So meekly had she learn'd to bear her cross -

For she had studied patience in the school

Of Christ ; much comfort she had thence derived,

And was a follower of the Nazarene.



The cheerful Sabbath bells, wherever heard,

Strike pleasant on the sense, most like the voice

Of one, who from the far-off hills proclaims

Tidings of good to Zion : chiefly when

Their piercing tones fall sudden on the ear

Of the contemplant, solitary man.

Whom thoughts abstruse or high have chanced to

Forth from the walks of men, revolving oft,
And oft again, hard matter, which eludes
And baffles his pursuit : thought-sick and tired
Of controversy, where no end appears.
No clue to his research, the lonely man
Half wishes for society again.
Him, thus engaged, the Sabbath bells salute
Sudden i his heart awakes, his ears drink in
The cheering music ; his relenting soul
Yearns after all the joys of social life.
And softens with the love of human kind.


The truant Fancy was a wanderer ever,

A lone enthusiast maid. She loves to walk

In the bright visions of empyreal light,

By the green pastures, and the fragrant meads,

Where the perpetual flowers of Eden blow ;


By crystal streams, and by the living waters,
Along whose margin grows the wondrous trc^
Whose leaves shall heal the nations ; underneath
Whose holy shade a refuge shall be found
From pain and want, and all the ills that wait
On mortal life, from sin and death for ever.


From broken visions of perturbed rest

I wake, and start, and fear to sleep again.

How total a privation of all sounds,

Sights, and familiar objects, man, bird, beast.

Herb, tree, or flower, and prodigal light of heaven *■

'Twere some relief to catch the drowsy cry

Of the mechanic watchman, or the noise

Of revel reeling home from midnight cups.

Those are the moanings of the dying man,

Who lies in the upper chamber; restless moans,

And interrupted only by a cough

Consumptive, torturing the wasted lungs.

So in the bitterness of death he lies.

And waits in anguish for the morning's light.

What can that do for him, or what restore ?

Short taste, faint sense, affecting notices.

And little images of pleasures past,

Of health, and active life — health not yet slain>

Nor the other grace of life, a good name, sold

For sin's black wages. On his tedious bed


He writhes, and turns him from the accusing light,
And finds no comfort in the sun, but says
"When night comes I shall get a little rest."
Some few groans more, death comes, and there an

'Tis darkness and conjecture all beyond ;
Weak Nature fears, though Charity must hope,
And Fancy, most licentious on such themes
Where decent reverence well had kept her mute,
Hath o'er-stock'd hell with devils, and brought down
By her enormous fablings and mad lies.
Discredit on the Gospel's serious truths
And salutary fears. The man of parts,
Poet, or prose declaimer, on his couch
Lolling, like one indifferent, fabricates
A heaven of gold, where he, and such as he.
Their heads encompassed with crowns, their heels
With fine wings garlanded, shall tread the stars
Beneath their feet, heaven's pavement, far removed
From damned spirits, and the torturing cries
Of men, his brethren, fashion'd of the earth.
As he was, nourish'd with the self-same bread.
Belike his kindred or companions once —
Through everlasting ages now divorced.
In chains and savage torments to repent
Short years of folly on earth. Their groans unheard
In heav'n, the saint nor pity feels, nor care,
For those thus sentenced — pity might disturb
The delicate sense and most divine repose
Of spirits angelical. Blessed be God,
The measure of his judgments is not fix'd
By man's erroneous standard. He discerns
No such inordinate difference and vast
Betwixt the sinner and the saint, to doom



Such disproportion'd fates. Compared with him,
No man on earth is holy call'd : they best
Stand in his sight approved, who at his feet
Their Httle crowns of virtue cast, and yield
To him of his own works the praise, his due.


Thou should'st have longer lived, and to the grave
Have peacefully gone down in full old age :
Thy children would have tended thy grey hairs.
We might have sat, as we have often done,
By our fireside and talked whole nights away,
Old times, old friends, and old events recalling,
With many a circumstance of trivial note.
To memory dear, and of importance grown.
How shall we tell them in a stranger's ear 1

A wayward son, ofttimes I was to thee ;

And yet in all our little bickerings.

Domestic jars, there was I know not what,

Of tender feeling, that were ill exchanged

For this world's chilling friendships, and their smiles

Familiar whom the heart calls stranger still.

A heavy lot hath he, most wretched man,

Who lives the last of all his family ;


He looks around him, and his eye discerns
The face of the stranger ; and his heart is sick.
Man of the world, what canst thou do for him ?
Wealth is a burden which he could not bear,
Mirth a strange crime, the which he dares not act,
And generous wines no cordial to his soul.
For wounds like his, Christ is the only cure.
Go, preach thou to him of a world to come,
Where friends shall meet and know each other's face ;
Say less than this, and say it to the winds.



Thou too art dead, ! very kind

Hast thou been to me in my childish days,

Thou best good creature. I have not forgot

How thou didst love thy Charles, when he was yet

A prating school-boy : I have not forgot

The busy joy on that important day.

When, child-like, the poor wanderer was content

To leave the bosom of parental love,

His childhood's play-place, and his early home.

For the rude festerings of a stranger's hand.

Hard uncouth tasks, and school-boy's scanty fare.

How did thine eye peruse him round and round,

And hardly knew him in his yellow coats,

Red leathern belt, and gown of russet blue !

Farewell, good aunt 1

Go thou, and occupy the same grave-bed

Where the dead mother lies.

X 2


Oh my dear mother, oh thou dear dead saint !
Where's now that placid face, where oft hath sat
A mother's smile, to think her son should thrive

Online LibraryCharles LambThe life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) → online text (page 19 of 29)