Copyright
Charles Lamb.

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

. (page 21 of 29)
Online LibraryCharles LambThe life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) → online text (page 21 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Not to die till Day of Doom.



332 ACROSTICS.

111.

TO A LADY WHO DESIRED ME TO WRITE
HER EPITAPH.



Grace Joanna here doth lie :
Reader, \sonder not that I
Ante-date her hour of rest.
Can I thwart her wish exprest,
Even unseemly though the laugh

Jesting with an Epitaph ?
On her bones the turf lie lightly,
And her rise again be brightly !
No dark stain be found upon her —
No, there will not, on mine honour-
Answer that at least I can.

Would that I, thrice happy man,
In as spotless garb might rise,
Light as she will climb the skies,
Leaving the dull earth behind,
In a car more swift than wind.
All her errors, all her failings,
(Many they were not) and ailings.
Sleep secure from Envy's railings.



IV.

TO HER YOUNGEST DAUGHTER.



Least Daughter, but not least beloved, of Grace !

frown not on a stranger, wno irom place
Unknown and distant these few lines hath penn'd.

1 but report what thy Instructress Friend
So oft hath told us of thy gentle heart.

A pupil most affectionate thou ar^,



ACROSTICS. 333

Careful to learn what elder years impart.
Louisa — Clare — by which name shall I call thee ?
A prettier pair of names sure ne'er was found,
Resembling thy own sweetness in sweet sound.
Ever caln> sleep and innocence befall thee !



V.

TO M. L.



Must I write with pen unwilling,
And describe those graces killing,
Rightly, which I never saw ?
Yes : it is the Album's law.

Let me, then, invention strain.
On your excelling grace to feign :
Cold is fiction. I believe it,
Kindly as I did receive it —
Even as I. F'.'s tongue did weave it.



VI.

TO S. L.



Shall I praise a face unseen,
And extol a fancied mien.
Rave on visionary charm,
And from shadows take alarm !
Hatred hates without a cause.

Love may love without applause.
Or, without a reason given,
Charmed be with unknown heaven.
Keep the secret, though unmock'd,
Ever in your bosom Lock'd.



334 ACR0ST1C5.

VII.

TO MRS. F. ON HER RETURN FROM
GIBRALTAR.



Jane, you are welcome from the barren Rock,
And Calpe's sounding shores. Oh do not mock,
Now you have rais'd, our greetings ; nor again
Ever revisit that dry nook of Spain.

Friends have you here, and friendships to command.
In merry England. Love this hearty land.
Ease, comfort, competence — of these possess'd,
Let prodigal adventurers seek the rest :
Dear England is as you, — a. " Field the Lord hath
blest."



VIII.

TO E. F.



Esther, holy name and sweet,
Smoothly runs on even feet.
To the mild Acrostic bending ;
Hebrew recollections blending.
Ever keep that Queen in view —
Royal namesake — bold and true I

Firm she stood in evil times.
In the face of Haman's crimes.
Ev'n as She, do Thou possess
Loftiest virtue in the dress
(Dear F.) of native loveliness.



COMMENDATORY VERSES.



To J. S. KNOWLES, ESQ.

ON HIS TRAGEDY OF VIRGINIUS.



Twelve years ago I knew thee, Knowles, and

then
Esteemed you a perfect specimen
Of those fine spirits warm-soul'd Ireland sends,
To teach us colder English how a friend's
Quick pulse should beat. I knew you brave, and

plain,
Strong-sensed, rough-witted, above fear or gain ;
But nothing further had the gift to espy.
Sudden you re-appear. With wonder I



336 COMMENDATORY VERSES.

Hear my old friend (turn'd Shakspeare) read a

scene
Only to his inferior in the clean
Passes of pathos : with such fence-like art —
Ere we can see the steel, 'tis in our heart.
Almost without the aid language affords,
Your piece seems wrought. That huffing medium,

words,
(Which in the modern Tamburlaines quite sway
Our shamed souls from their bias) in your play
We scarce attend to. Hastier passion draws
Our tears on credit : and we find the cause
Some two hours after, spelling o'er again
Those strange few words at ease, that wrought the

pain.
Proceed, old friend ; and, as the year returns,
Still snatch some new old story from the urns
Of long-dead virtue. We, that knew before
Your worth, may admire, we cannot love you more.



TO THE AUTHOR OF POEMS,

PUBLISHED UNDER THE NAME OF BARRY CORNWALL.



Let hate, or grosser heats, their foulness mask
Under the vizor of a borrow'd name ;
Let things eschew the light deserving blame :
No cause hast thou to blush for thy sweet task.



COMMENDATORY VERSES.

" Marcian Colonna " is a dainty book;
And thy " Sicilian Tale " may boldly pass ;
Thy " Dream " 'bove all, in which, as in a glass.
On the great world's antique glories we may look.
No longer then, as *' lowly substitute,
Factor, or Procter, for another's gains,"
Suffer the admiring world to be deceived ;
Lest thou thyself, by self of fame bereaved,
Lament too late the lost prize of thy pains,
And heavenly tunes piped through an alien flute.



337



TO THE EDITOR OF THE " EVERYDAY

BOOK."



I LIKE you, and your book, ingenuous Hone !

In whose capacious all-embracing leaves
The very marrow of tradition's shown ;

And all that history — much that fiction — weaves.

By every sort of taste your work is graced.

Vast stores of modern anecdote we find,
With good old story quaintly interlaced —

The theme as various as the reader's mind.

Rome's lie-fraught legends you so truly paint —
Yet kindly, — that the half-turn'd Catholic

Scarcely forbears to smile at his own saint.
And cannot curse the candid heretic.

VOL. VI. ^



338 COMMENDATORY VERSES.

Rap:s, relics, witches, ghosts, fiends, crowd your page ;

Our fathers' mummeries we well-pleased behold,
And, proudly conscious of a purer age,

Forgive some fopperies in the times of old.

Verse-honouring Phoebus, Father of bright Days,
Must needs bestow on you both good and many,

Who, building trophies of his Children's praise,
Run their rich Zodiac through, not missing any.

Dan Phoebus loves your book — trust me, friend
Hone —

The title only errs, he bids me say :
For while such art, wit, reading, there are shown,

He swears, 'tis not a work of every day.



TO T. STOTHARD, ESQ.

ON HIS ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE POEMS OF MR. ROGERS.



Consummate Artist, whose undying name
With classic Rogers shall go down to fame,
Be this thy crowning work 1 In my young days
How often have I, with a child's fond gaze.
Pored on the pictur'd wonders thou hadst done :
Clarissa mournful, and prim Grandison 1
All Fielding's, Smollett's heroes, rose to view ;
I saw, and I believed the phantoms true.



COMMENDATORY VERSES. o,q

But, above all, that most romantic tale

Did o'er my raw credulity prevail,

Where Glums and Gawries wear mysterious things,

That serve at once for jackets and for wings.

Age, that enfeebles other men's designs,

But heightens thine, and thy free draught refines.

In several ways distinct you make us feel —

Graceful as Raphael, as Watteau genteel.

Your lights and shades, as Titianesque, we praise ;

And warmly wish you Titian's length of days.



TO MY FRIEND THE INDICATOR.



VdUR easy Essays indicate a flow,

Dear friend, of brain which we may elsewhere seek;

And to their pages I and hundreds owe,

That Wednesday is the sweetest of the week.

Such observation, wit, and sense, are shown,

We think the days of Bickerstaff return'd ;

And that a portion of that oil you own.

In his undying midnight lamp which burn'd.

I would not lightly bruise old Priscian's head

Or wrong the rules of grammar understood ;

But, with the leave of Priscian be it said,

The Indicative is your Potential Mood,

Wit, poet, prose-man, pariy-man, translator—

H[unt], your best title yet is Indicator.



Z 2



TRANSLATIONS.



FROM THE LATIN OF VINCENl" BOURNE.



I.

THE BALLAD SINGERS.



Where seven fair Streets to one tall Column* draw,
Two Nymphs have ta'en their stand, in hats of

straw ;
Their yellower necks huge beads of amber grace,
And by their trade they're of the Sirens' race :
With cloak loose-pinn'd on each, that has been red,
But, long with dust and dirt discoloured,
Belies its hue ; in mud behind, before.
From heel to middle leg becrusted o'er.
One a small infant at the breast does bear;
And one in her right hand her tuneful ware,
Which she would vend. Their station scarce is

taken,
When youths and maids flock round. His stall for-
saken,



1 Seven Dials.



TRANSLATIONS. 341

Forth comes a Son of Crispin, leathern-capt,

Prepared to buy a ballad, if one apt

To move his fancy offers. Crispin's sons

Have, from uncounted time, with ale and buns,

Cherish'd the gift of Sojig, which sorrow quells ;

And, working single in their low-rooft cells,

Oft cheat the tedium of a Winter's night

With anthems warbled in the Muses' spight. —

Who now hath caught the alarm ? the Servant Maid

Hath heard a buzz at distance ; and, afraid

To miss a note, with elbows red comes out.

Leaving his forge to cool, Pyracmon stout

Thrusts in his unwash'd visage. He stands by,

Who the hard trade of Porterage does ply

With stooping shoulders. What cares he ? he sees

The assembled ring, nor heeds his tottering knees,

But pricks his ears up with the hopes of song.

So, while the Bard of Rhodope his wrong

Bewail'd to Proserpine on Thracian strings,

The tasks of Gloomy Orcus lost their stings,

And stone-vext Sysiphus forgets his load.

Hither and thither from the sevenfold road

Some cart or waggon crosses, which divides

The close- wedged audience ; but as when the tides

To ploughing ships give way, the ship being past,

They re-unite, so these unite as fast.

The older Songstress hitherto hath spent

Her elocution in the argument

Of their great Song in prose ; to wit, the woes

Which Maiden true to faithless Sailor owes —

Ah ! " Wandering He .'" — which now in loftier verse

Pathetic they alternately rehearse.

All gaping wait the event. This Critic opes

His right ear to the strain. The other hopes



342 TRANSLATIONS.

To catch it better with his left. Long trade

It were to tell, how the deluded Maid

A victim fell. And now right greedily

All hands are stretching forth the songs to buy,

That are so tragical ; which She, and She,

Deals out, and sitigs the while ; nor can there be

A breast so obdurate here, that will hold back

His contribution from the gentle rack

Of Music's pleasing torture. Irus' self,

The staff-propt Beggar, his thin gotten pelf

Brings out from pouch, where squalid farthings rest,

And boldly claims his ballad with the best.

An old Dame only lingers. To her purse

The penny sticks. At length, with harmless curse,

" Give me," she cries. " I'll paste it on my wall.

While the wall lasts, to show what ills befall

Fond hearts, seduced from Innocency's way ;

How Maidens fall, and Mariners betray."



II.

TO DAVID COOK,



OF THE PARISH OF ST. MARGARET S, WESTMINSTER,

WATCHMAN.



For much good-natured verse received from thee,
A loving verse take in return from me.
"Good morrow to my masters," is your cry ;
And to our David " twice as good," say 1.



TRANSLATIONS. 343

Not Peter's monitor, shrill Chanticleer,
Crows the approach of dawn in notes more clear,
Or tells the hours more faithfully. While night
Fills half the world with shadows of affright.
You with your lantern, partner of your round,
Traverse the paths of Margaret's hallow'd bound.
The tales of ghosts which old wives' ears drink up,
The drunkard reeling home from tavern cup.
Nor prowling robber, your firm soul appal ;
Arm'd with thy faithful staff, thou slight'st them all.
But if the market gard'ner chance to pass,
Bringing to town his fruit, or early grass.
The gentle salesman you with candour greet,
And with reit'rated " good mornings " meet.
Announcing your approach by formal bell,
Of nightly weather you the changes tell ;
Whether the Moon shines, or her head doth steep
In rain-portending clouds. When mortals sleep
In downy rest, you brave the snows and sleet
Of Winter; and in alley, or in street,
Relieve your midnight progress with a verse.
What though fastidious Phoebus frown averse
On your didactic strain — indulgent Night
With caution hath seal'd up both ears of Spite,
And critics sleep while you in staves do sound
The praise of long-dead Saints, whose Days abound
In wintry months ; but Crispin chief proclaim :
Who stirs not at that Prince of Cobblers' name ?
Profuse in loyalty some couplets shine.
And wish long days to all the Brunswick line !
To youths and virgins they chaste lessons read ;
Teach wives and husbands how their lives to lead ;
Maids to be cleanly, footmen free from vice ;
How Death at last all ranks doth equalize ;



344 TRANSLATIONS.

And, in conclusion, pray good years befall.
With store of wealth, your " worthy masters all."
For this and other tokens of good will.
On boxing-day may store of shillings fill
Your Christmas purse ; no householder give less,
When at each door your blameless suit you press;
And what you wish to us (it is but reason)
Receive in turn — the compliments o' th' season 1



III.

ON A SEPULCHRAL STATUE OF AN LNFANT

SLEEPING.



Beautiful Infant, who dost keep
Thy posture here, and sleep'st a marble sleep,
May the repose unbroken be,
Which the fine Artist's hand hath lent to thee,
While thou enjoy'st along with it
That which no art, or craft, could ever hit,
Or counterfeit to mortal sense.
The heaven-infused sleep of Innocence I



IV.

EPITAPH ON A DOG.



Poor Irus' faithful wolf-dog here I lie.

That wont to tend my old blind masters steps.



TRANSLATIONS. 345

His guide and guard ; nor, while my service lasted,

Had he occasion for that staff, with which

He now goes picking out his path in fear

Over the highways and crossings, but would plant

Safe in the conduct of my friendly string,

A firm foot forward still, till he had reach'd

His poor seat on some stone, nigh where the tide

Of passers-by in thickest confluence flow'd :

To whom with loud and passionate laments

From morn to eve his dark estate he wail'd.

Nor wail'd to all in vain : some here and there,

The well-disposed and good, their pennies gave.

I meantime at his feet obsequious slept;

Not all-asleep in sleep, but heart and ear

Prick'd up at his least motion, to receive

At his kind hand my customary crumbs,

And common portion in his feast of scraps ;

Or when night warn'd us homeward, tired and

spent
With our long day and tedious beggary.
These were my manners, this my way of life,
Till age and slow disease me overtook,
And sever'd from my sightless master's side.
But lest the grace of so good deeds should die,
Through tract of years in mute oblivion lost,
This slender tomb of turf hath Irus rear'd,
Cheap monument of no ungrudging hand.
And with short verse inscribed it, to attest,
In long and lasting union to attest.
The virtues of the Beggar and his Dog.



345



TRANSLATIONS.



V.

THE RIVAL BELLS.



A Tuneful challenge rings from either side

Of Thames' fair banks. Thy twice six Bells, St,

Bride,
Peal swift and shrill ; to which more slow reply
The deep-toned eight of Mary Overy,
Such harmony from the contention flows.
That the divided ear no preference knows ;
Betwixt them both disparting Music's State,
While one exceeds in number, one in weight,



VI.

NEWTON'S PRINCIPIA.



Great Newton's self, to whom the world's in debt,
Owed to School Mistress sage his Alphabet;
But quickly wiser than his Teacher grown,
Discover'd properties to her unknown ;
Of A plus B, or minus, learn'd the use.
Known Quantities from unknown to educe ;
And made — no doubt to that old dame's surprise —
The Christ-Cross-Row his Ladder to the skies.
Yet, whatsoe'er Geometricians say.
Her Lessons were his true Principia!



TRANSLATIONS. 347



VTI.

THE HOUSEKEEPER.



The frugal snail, with fore-cast of repose,

Carries his house with him, where'er he goes ;

Peeps out — and if there comes a shower oi rain,

Retreats to his small domicile amain.

Touch but a tip of him, a horn — 'tis well —

He curls up in his sanctuary shell.

He's his own landlord, his own tenant; stay

Long as he will, he dreads no Quarter Day.

Himself he boards and lodges ; both invites,

And feasts, himself; sleeps with himself o' nights.

He spares the upholsterer trouble to procure

Chattels; himself is his own furniture.

And his sole riches. Wheresoe'er he roam —

Knock when you will — he's sure to be at home.



VIII.

ON A DEAF AND DUMB ARTIST.^



And hath thy blameless life become
A prey to the devouring tomb ?
A more mute silence hast thou known,
A deafness deeper than thine own,

^ Benjamin Ferrers — Died a.d. 1732.



34^ TRANSLATIONS.

While Time was? and no friendly Muse,

That mark'd thy life, and knows thy dues,

Repair with quickening verse the breach,

And write thee into light and speech ?

The Power, that made the Tongue, restrainM

Thy lips from lies, and speeches feign'd ;

Who made the Hearing, without wrong

Did rescue thine from Siren's song.

He let thee see the ways of men,

Which thou with pencil, not with pen,

Careful Beholder, down didst note,

And all their motley actions quote,

Thyself unstain'd the while. Frorn look

Or gesture reading, more than hook,

In letter'd pride thou took'st no part,

Contented with the Silent Art,

Thyself as silent. Might I be

As speechless, deaf, and good, as He i



IX.

THE FEMALE ORATORS.



Nigh London's famous Bridge, a Gate more famed
Stands, or once stood, from old Belinus named,
So judged Antiquity; and therein wrongs
A name, allusive strictly to two Tongues.
Her School hard by the Goddess Rhetoric opes,
And gratis deals to Oyster-wives her Tropes.
With Nereid green, green Nereid disputes,
Replies, rejoins, confutes, and still confutes.



TRANSLATIONS. 349

One her coarse sense by metaphors expounds,

And one in HteraHties abounds ;

In mood and figure these keep up the din :

Words multiply, and every word tells in.

Her hundred throats here bawling Slander strains ;

And unclothed Venus to her tongue gives reins

In terms, which Demosthenic force outgo,

And baldest jests of foul-mouth'd Cicero.

Right in the midst great Ate keeps her stand,

And from her sovereign station taints the land.

Hence Pulpits rail ; grave Senates learn to jar ;

Quacks scold ; and Billingsgate infects the Bar.



EXISTENCE, CONSIDERED IN ITSELF NO

BLESSING.^



FROM THE LATIN OF PALINGENIUS.

The poet, after a seeming approval of suicide from a consideration
of the cares and crimes of life, finally rejecting it, discusses the negative
importance of existence, contemplated in itself, without reference to
good or evil.

Of these sad truths consideration had,
Thou shalt not fear to quit this world so mad,
So wicked : but the tenet rather hold
Of wise Calanus and his followers old,



1 From the Athena.iim, 1832.



35*^ TRANSLATIONS.

Who with their own wills their own freedom

wrought,
And by self-slaughter their dismissal sought
From this dark den of crime, this horrid lair
Of men, that savager than monsters are ;
And scorning longer in this tangled mesh
Of ills, to wait on perishable flesh.
Did with their desperate hands anticipate
The too, too slow relief of lingering fate.
And if religion did not stay thine hand,
And God, and Plato's wise behests withstand,
I would in like case counsel thee to throw
This senseless burden off, of cares below.
Not wine, as wine, men choose, but as it came
From such or such a vintage : 'tis the same
With life, which simply must be understood
A blank negation, if it be not good.
But if 'tis wretched all, — as men decline
And loathe the sour lees of corrupted wine, —
'Tis so to be contemned. Merely to be
Is not a boon to seek, or ill to flee ;
Seeing that every vilest little thing
Has it in common, — from a gnat's small wing,
A creeping worm, down to the moveless stone,
And crumbling bark from trees. Unless to be.
And TO BE BLEST, be one, I do not see
In bare existence, as existence, aught
That's worthy to be loved or to be sought.



TRANSLATIONS. 35^



THE PARTING SPEECH OF THE CELES-
TIAL MESSENGER TO THE POET.



FROM THE LATIN OF PALINGENIUS, IN THE ZODIACUS

VIT^.

But now time warns (my mission at an end)
That to Jove's starry court I re-ascend ;
From whose high battlements I take delight
To scan your earth, diminished to the sight,
Pendant and round, and, as an apple, small,
Self-propt, self-balanced, and secure from fall
By her own weight ; and how with liquid robe
Blue Ocean girdles round her tiny globe,
While lesser Nereus, gliding like a snake,
Betwixt her lands his flexile course doth take,
Shrunk to a rivulet ; and how the Po,
The mighty Ganges, Tanais, Ister, show
No bigger than a ditch which rains have swell'd.
Old Nilus' seven proud mouths I late beheld.
And mock'd the watery puddles. Hosts steel-clad
Ofttimes I thence beheld ; and how the sad
Peoples are punish'd by the fault of kings.
Which from the purple fiend Ambition springs.
Forgetful of mortality, they live
In hot strife for possessions fugitive,
At which the angels grieve. Sometimes I trace
Of fountains, rivers, seas, the change of place ;
By ever-shifting, course, and Time's unrest.
The vale exalted, and the mount deprest



352 TRANSLATIONS.

To an inglorious valley; ploughshares going
Where tall trees reared their tops, and fresh trees

growing
In antique postures ; cities lose their site ;
Old things wax new. Oh what a rare delight
To him, who, from this vantage, can survey
At once stern Afric and soft Asia,
With Europe's cultured plains, and, in their turns,
Their scattered tribes ! — those whom the hot Crab

burns,
The tawny Ethiops ; Orient Indians ;
Getulians ; ever-wandering Scythians ;
Swift Tartan hordes ; Cilicians rapacious,
And Parthians with black-bended bow pugnacious ;
Sabeans incense bring ; men of Thrace ;
Italian, Spaniard, Gaul ; and that rough race
Of Britons, rigid as their native colds ;
With all the rest the circling sun beholds.
But clouds and elemental mists deny
These visions blest to any fleshly eye.



HERCULES PACIFICATUS.

A TALE FROM SUIDAS.



In days of yore, ere early Greece
Had dream'd of patrols or police,
A crew of rake-hells in terrorem
Spread wide, and carried all before 'em.



TRANSLATIONS. 353

Rifled the poultry, and the women,

And held that all things were in common :

Till Jove's great Son the nuisance saw,

And did abate it by Club Law.

Yet not so clean he made his work,

But here and there a rogue would lurk

In caves and rocky fastnesses,

And shunn'd the strength of Hercules.



Of these, more desperate than others,

A pair of ragamuffin brothers

In secret ambuscade join'd forces,

To carry on unlawful courses.

These Robbers' names, enough to shake ■:?,

Were, Strymon one, the other Cacus.

And, more the neighbourhood to bothei,

A wicked dam they had for mother,

Who knew their craft, but not forbid it,

And whatsoe'er they nymm'd, she hid it ;

Received them with delight and wonder,

When they brought home some 'special plunder;

Call'd them her darlings, and her white boys,

Her ducks, her dildings — all was right boys —

" Only," she said, *' my lads, have care

Ye fall not into Black Back's snare;

For, if he catch, he'll maul your corpus.

And clapper-claw you to some purpose.'"

She was in truth a kind of witch,

Had grown by fortune-telling rich ;

To spells and conjurings did tackle her.

And read folks' dooms by light oracular :

In which she saw as clear as daylight,

What mischief on her bairns would a light;

VOL. VI. 2 A



354 TRANSLATIONS.

Therefore she had a special loathing
For all that own'd that sable clothing.



Who can 'scape fate, when we're decreed to 't ?

The graceless brethren paid small heed to t.

A brace they were of sturdy fellows,

As we may say, that fear'd no colours.

And sneer'd with modern infidelity

At the old gipsy's fond credulity.

It proved all true tho', as she mumbled —

For on a day the varlets stumbled

On a green spot — sit lingticE fides —

'Tis Suidas tells it — where Alcides

Secure, as fearing no ill neighbour,

Lay fast asleep after a " Labour."

His trusty oaken plane was near —

The prowling rogues look round, and leer.

And each his wicked wits 'gan rub,

How to bear off the famous Club ;

Thinking that they, sans price or hire, wou'd

Carry 't strait home, and chop for fire wood.

'Twould serve their old dame half a Winter —

You stare ! but 'faith it was no splinter;

I would not for much money 'spy

Such beam in any neighbour's eye,

The villains these exploits not dull in,

Incontinently fell a pulling.

They found it heavy — no slight matter —

But tugg'd, and tugg'd, till the clatter

'Woke Hercules, who in a trice



Online LibraryCharles LambThe life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) → online text (page 21 of 29)