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

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Whipt up the knaves, and with a splice,

He kept on purpose — which before

Had served for giants many a score —


To end of Club tied each rogue's head fast ;
Strapping feet too, to keep them steadfast .
And pickaback them carries townwards,
Behind his brawny back head-downwards ;
(So foolish calf — for rhyme I bless X —
Comes nolens volens out of Essex ;)
Thinking to brain them with his dextra,
Or string them up upon the next tree.
That Club — so equal fates condemn —
They thought to catch, has now catch'd them.

Now Hercules, we may suppose,

Was no great dandy in his clothes;

Was seldom, save on Sundays, seen

In calimanco, or nankeen ;

On anniversaries would try on

A jerkin spick-span new from lion ;

Went bare for the most part, to be cool,

And save the time of his Groom of the Stole;

Besides, the smoke he had been in

In Stygian gulf, had dyed his skin

To a natural sable — a right hell-fit —

That seem'd to careless eyes black velvet.

The brethren from their station scurvy,
Where they hung dangling topsy turvy,
With horror view the black costume,
And each presumes his hour is come !
Then softly to themselves 'gan mutter
The warning words their dame did utter;
Yet not so softly, but with ease
Were overheard by Hercules.
Quoth Cacus, "This is he she spoke of,
Which we so often made a joke of."

2 A 2


" I see," said th' other ; " thank our sin for 't»

'Tis Black Back sure enough : we're in for 't."

His godship, who, for all his brag

Of roughness, was at heart a wag,

At his new name was tickled finely,

And fell a laughing most divinely.

Quoth he, " I'll tell this jest in heaven ;

The musty rogues shall be forgiven ;"

So in a twinkling did uncase them,

On mother earth once more to place them.

The varlets, glad to be unhamper'd.

Made each a leg, then fairly aouaiper'd.

C. L

( 357 )



When maidens such as Hester die,
Their place ye may not well supply,
Though ye among a thousand try,
With vain endeavour.

A month or more hath she been dead,
Yet cannot I by force be led
To think upon the wormy bed,
And her together.

A springy motion in her gait,
A rising step, did indicate
Of pride and joy no common rate,
That flush'd her spirit.

I know not by what name beside
I shall call it : — if 'twas not pride,
It was a joy to that allied,
She did inherit.

Her parents held the Quaker rule,
Which doth the human feeling cool,
But she was train'd in Nature's school,
Nature had blest her.

A waking eye, a prying mind,
A heart that stirs, is hard to bind,
A hawk's keen sight ye cannot blind,
Ye could not Hester.


My sprightly neighbour ! gone befort
To that unknown and silent shore,
Shall we not meet, as heretofore,
Some Summer morning,

When from thy cheerful eyes a ray
Hath struck a bliss upon the day,
A bliss that would not go away,
A sweet fore-warning ?


Three young maids in friendship met ;

Mary, Martha, Margaret.

Margaret was tall and fair,

Martha shorter by a hair ;

If the first excell'd in feature,

Th' other's grace and ease were greaier;

Mary, though to rival loth.

In their best gifts equall'd both.

They a due proportion kept :

Martha mourn'd if Margaret wept ;

Margaret joy'd when any good

She of Martha understood ;

And in sympathy for either

Mary was outdone by neither.

Thus far, for a happy space.

All three ran an equal race,

A most constant friendship proving.

Equally beloved and loving ;


All their wishes, joys, the same ;
Sisters only not in name.

Fortune upon each one smiled,
As upon a fav'rite child ;
Well to do and well to see
Were the parents of all three ;
Till on Martha's father crosses
Brought a flood of worldly losses,
And his fortunes rich and great
Changed at once to low estate ;
Under which o'erwhelming blow
Martha's mother was laid low ;
She a hapless orphan left,
Of maternal care bereft,
Trouble following trouble fast,
Lay in a sick bed at last.

In the depth of her affliction
Martha now receiv'd conviction,
That a true and faithful friend
Can the surest comfort lend.
Night and day, with friendship tried.j
Ever constant by her side
Was her gentle Mary found.
With a love that knew no bound;
And the solace she imparted
Saved her dying broken-hearted.

In this scene of earthly things
Not one good unmixed springs.
That which had to Martha proved
A sweet consolation, moved
Different feelings of regret
In the mind of Margaret.


She, whose love was not less dear,

Nor affection less sincere

To her friend, was, by occasion

Of more distant habitation.

Fewer visits forced to pay her ;

When no other cause did stay her ;

And her Mary living nearer,

Margaret began to fear her.

Lest her visits day by day

Martha's heart should steal away.

That whole heart she ill could spare her,

Where till now she'd been a sharer.

From this cause with grief she pined,

Till at length her health declined.

All her cheerful spirits flew,

Fast as Martha's gather'd new ;

And her sickness waxed sore,

Just when Martha felt no more.

Mary, who had quick suspicion
Of her alter'd friend's condition,
Seeing Martha's convalescence
Less demanded now her presence.
With a goodness, built on reason.
Changed her measures with the season
Turn'd her steps from Martha's door.
Went where she was wanted more ;
All her care and thoughts were set
Now to tend on Margaret.
Mary living 'twixt the two.
From her home could oft'ner go,
Either of her friends to see.
Than they could together be.



Truth explain'd is to suspicion
Evermore the best physician.
Soon her visits had the effect ;
All that Margaret did suspect,
From her fancy vanish'd clean :
She was soon what she had been,
And the colour she did lack
To her faded cheek came back.
Wounds which love had made hei ("eel,
Love alone had power to heal.

Martha, who the frequent visit
Now had lost, and sore did miss it,
With impatience waxed cross.
Counted Margaret's gain her los^ •
All that Mary did confer
On her friend, thought due to her.
In her girlish bosom rise
Little foolish jealousies.
Which into such rancour wrought,
She one day for Margaret sought ;
Finding her by chance alone.
She began, with reasons shown,
To insinuate a fear
Whether Mary was sincere ;
Wish'd that Margaret would take heed
Whence her actions did proceed.
For herself, she'd long been minded
Not with outsides to be blinded ;
All that pity and compassion,
She believed was affectation ;
In her heart she doubted whether
Mary cared a pin for either.


She could keep whole weeks at distance,
And not know of their existence,
While all things remain'd the same :
But when some misfortune came,
Then she made a great parade
Of her sympathy and aid, —
Not that she did really grieve,
It was only make-believe,
And she cared for nothing, so
She might her fine feelings show.
And get credit, on her part,
For a soft and tender heart.

Wi\h such speeches, smoothly m.-. 'v^.
She found methods to persuade
Margaret (who being sore
From the doubts she'd felt before,
Was prepared for mistrust)
To believe her reasons just ;
Quite destroy'd that comfort glad,
Which in Mary late she had ;
Made her, in experience' spite.
Think her friend a hypocrite.
And resolve, with cruel scoff.
To renounce and cast her off.

See how good turns are rewarded !
She of both is now discarded,
Who to both had been so late
Their support in low estate.
All their comfort, and their stay —
Now of both is cast away.
But the league her presence cherish d.
Losing its best prop, soon perish'd ;


She, that was a Hnk to either,
To keep them and it together,
Being gone, the two (no wonder)
That were left, soon fell asunder :—
Some civilities were kept.
But the heart of friendship slept ;
Love with hollow forms was fed,
But the life of love lay dead : —
A cold intercourse they held,
After Mary was expell'd.

Two long years did intervene
Since they'd either of them seen.
Or, by letter, any word
Of their old companion heard, —
When, upon a day once walking,
Of indifferent matters talking,
They a female figure met ;
Martha said to Margaret,
" That young maid in face does carry
A resemblance strong of Mary."
Margaret, at nearer sight,
Own'd her observation right ;
But they did not far proceed
Ere they knew "twas she indeed.
She — but, ah 1 how changed they view h?r
From that person which they knew her !
Her fine face disease had scarr'd,
And its matchless beauty marr'd : —
But enough was left to trace
Mary's sweetness — Mary's grace.
When her eye did first behold them,
How they blush'd ! — but when she told them


How on a sick bed she lay

Months, while they had kept away,

And had no inquiries made

If she were alive or dead ; —

How, for want of a true friend.

She was brought near to her end.

And was like so to have died,

With no friend at her bed-side ; —

How the constant irritation,

Caused by fruitless expectation

Of their coming, had extended

The illness, when she might have mended,

Then, O then, how did reflection

Come on them with recollection 1

All that she had done for them,

How it did their fault condemn !

But sweet Mary, still the same,
Kindly eased them of their shame ;
Spoke to them with accents bland,
Took them friendly by the hand ;
Bound them both with promise fas:.
Not to speak of troubles past-:
Made them on the spot declare
A new league of friendship there ;
Which, without a word of strife,
Lasted thenceforth long as life.
Martha now and Margaret
Strove who most should pay the debt
Which they owed her, nor did vary
Ever after from their Marv.



Smiling river, smiling river,
On thy bosom sun-beams play ;

Though they're fleeting, and retreating,
Thou hast more deceit than they:

In thy channel, in thy channel,

Chok'd with ooze and grav'lly stones,

Deep immersed, and unhearsed,

Lies young Edward's corse; his bones-

Ever whitening, ever whitening,
As thy waves against them dash ;

What thy torrent, in the current,
Swallow'd, now it helps to wash.

As if senseless, as if senseless
Things had feeling in this case ;

What so blindly, and unkindly,
It destroy'd, it now does grace.


I HAVE had playmates, I have had companions,

In my days of childhood, in my joyful school-days^

All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.



I have been laughing, I have been carousing,
Drinking late, sitting late, with my bosom cronies,
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I loved a love once,^ fairest among w^omen ;
Closed are her doors on me, I must not see her —
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.

I have a friend, a kinder friend has no man ;
Like an ingrate, I left my friend abruptly ;
Left him, to muse on the old familiar faces.

Ghost-like I paced round the haunts of my child-
Earth seem'd a desert I was bound to tcaverse,
Seeking to find the old familiar faces.

Friend of my bosom, thou more than a brother,
Why wert not thou born in my father's dwell-
ing ?
So might we talk of the old familiar faces-
How some they have died, and some they have left

And some are taken from me ; all are departed ;
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.



I SAW a famous fountain, in my dream
Where shady path-ways to a valley led :

A weeping willow lay upon that stream,

And all around the fountain brink were spread

Wide-branching trees, with dark green leaf rich clad,
Forming a doubtful twilight — desolate and sad.

The place was such, that whoso enter'd in.
Disrobed was of every earthly thought

And straight became as one that knew not sin,
Or to the world's first innocence was brought ;

Enseem'd it now, he stood on holy ground.

In sweet and tender melancholy wrapt around.

A most strange calm stole o'er my soothed sprite ;

Long time I stood, and longer had I staid.
When lo I I saw, saw by the sweet moon-light,

Which came in silence o'er that silent shade,
Where, near the fountain, something like despair
Made, of that weeping willow, garlands for her hair.

And eke with painful fingers she inwove
Many an uncouth stem of savage thorn—

" The willow garland, that was for her love.
And these her bleeding temples would adorn."

With sighs her heart nigh burst, salt tears fast fell,

As mournfully she bended o'er that sacred well.


To whom when I addrest myself to speak,
She lifted up her eyes, and nothing said ;

The delicate red came mantling o'er her cheek,
And, gath'ring up her loose attire, she fled

To the dark covert of that woody shade,

And in her goings seem'd a timid gentle maid.

Revolving in my mind what this should mean.

And why that lovely lady plained so ;
Perplexed in thought at that mysterious scene,

And doubting if 'twere best to stay or go,
I cast mine eyes in wistful gaze around,
When from the shades came slow a small and plaitt-
tive sound.

" Psyche am I, who love to dwell
In these brown shades, this woody dell,
Where never busy mortal came,
Till now, to pry upon my shame.

At thy feet what thou dost see
The waters of repentance be,
Which, night and day, I must augment
With tears, like a true penitent.

If haply so my day of grace
Be not yet past; and this lone place,
O'er shadowy, dark, excludeth hence
All thoughts but grief and penitence."

" Why dost thou weep, thou gentle maid !
And wherefore in this barren shade
Thy hidden thoughts with sorrow feed ?
Can thing so fair repentance need ? "


"01 have done a deed of shame,
And tainted is my virgin fame,
And stain'd the beauteous maiden white
In which my bridal robes were dight."

" And who the promised spouse ? declare :
And what those bridal garments were."

" Severe and saintly righteousness
Composed the clear white bridal dress ;
Jesus, the Son of Heaven's high King,
Bought with his blood the marriage ring.

A wretched sinful creature, I
Deem'd lightly of that sacred tie,
Gave to a treacherous world my heart,
And play'd the foolish wanton's part.
Soon to these murky shades I came,
To hide from the sun's light my shame.
And still I haunt this woody dell.
And bathe me in that healing well.
Whose waters clear have influence
From sin's foul stains the soul to cleanse ;
And, night and day, I them augment,
With tears, like a true penitent,
Until, due expiation made,
And fit atonement fully paid,
The Lord and Bridegroom me present,
Where in sweet strains of high consent
God's throne before, the Seraphim
Shall chant the ecstatic marriage hymn."

•* Now Christ restore thee soon " — I said,
And thenceforth all my dream was fled.

vol. vl 2 B






High-born Helen, round your dwelling
These twenty years I've passed in vain ;

Haughty beauty, thy lover's duty
Hath been to glory in his pain.

High-born Helen, proudly telling

Stories of thy cold disdain :
I starve, I die, now you comply,

And I no longer can complain.

These twenty years I've lived on tears,
Dwelling for ever on a frown ;

On sighs I've fed, your scorn my bread ;
I perish now you kind have grown.

Can I who loved my beloved

But for the scorn " was in her eye,"

Could I be moved for my beloved.

When she " returns me sigh for sigh?

In stately pride, by my bed-side
High-born Helen's portrait's hung;

Deaf to my praise, my mournful lays
Are nightly to the portrait sung.

To that I weep, nor ever sleep.

Complaining all night long to her —

Helen, grown old, no longer cold.
Said, '* You to all men I prefer."

1 This piece, with the others signed " M. L." was specially in-
cluded by Lamb among his collected pieces. Her name is not actuall)
attached to them in the body of the work, but in the table of contents
attention is drawn to them : " Those in italics are by the author's
sister." As he wished that her work should be considered as part ol
his, the pieces have been retained here. — F.





*' O LADY, lay your costly robes aside,
No longer may you glory in your pride."


Wherefore to-day art singing in mine ear
Sad songs were made so long ago, my dear ?
This day I am to be a bride, you know.
Why sing sad songs, were made so long ago ?


mother, lay your costly robes aside,
For you may never be another's bride.
That line I learn'd not in the old sad song.


1 pray thee, pretty one, now hold thy tongue,
Play with the bride-maids ; and be glad, my boy,
For thou shalt be a second father's joy.


One father fondled me upon his knee.
One father is enough, alone, for me.



On a bank with roses shaded.
Whose sweet scent the violets aided,
Violets whose breath alone
Yields but feeble smell or none,

2 B


(Sweeter bed Jove ne'er reposed on
When his eyes Olympus closed on,)
While o'er head six slaves did hold
Canopy of cloth o' gold,
And two more did music keep,
Which might Juno lull to sleep,
Oriana, who was queen
To the mighty Tamerlane,
That was lord of all the land
Between Thrace and Samarchand,
While the noon-tide fervour beam'd,
Mused herself to sleep, and dream'd.

Thus far in magnific strain,
A young poet soothed his vein,
But he had nor prose nor numbers
To express a princess' slumbers. —
Youthful Richard had strange fancies.
Was deep versed in old romances,
And could talk whole hours upon
The Great Cham and Prester John, —
Tell the field in which the Sophi
From the Tartar won a trophy —
What he read with such delight of,
Thought he could as eas'ly write of—
But his over-young invention
Kept not pace with brave intention.
Twenty suns did rise and set,
And he could no further get ;
But unable to proceed.
Made a virtue out of need.
And, his labours wiselier deem'd of,
Did omit what the aneen dream'd of.




To the tune of the " Old and Young Courtier."

In a costly palace Youth goes clad in gold ;
In a wretched workhouse Age's limbs are cold :
There they sit, the old men by a shivering fire,
Still close and closer cowering, warmth is their

In a costly palace, when the brave gallants dine,
They have store of good venison, with old canary

With singing and music to heighten the cheer ;
Coarse bits, with grudging, are the pauper's best


In a costly palace Youth is still carest

By a train of attendants which laugh at my young

Lord's jest ;
In a wretched workhouse the contrary prevails :
Does Age begin to prattle ? — no man heark'neth to

his tales.

In a costly palace if the child with a pin

Do but chance to prick a finger, straight the doctor

is call'd in ;
In a wretched workhouse men are left to perish
For want of proper cordials, which their old age

might cherish.


In a costly palace Youth enjoys his lust ;

In a wretched workhouse Age, in corners thrust,

Thinks upon the former days, when he was well

to do,
Had children to stand by him, both friends and

kinsmen too.

In a costly palace Youth his temples hides
With a new-devised peruke that reaches to his sides ;
In a wretched workhouse Age's crown is bare.
With a few thin locks just to fence out the cold air.

In peace, as in war, 'tis our young gallants pride.
To walk, each one 'i the streets, with a rapier by his

That none to do them injury may have pretence.
Wretched Age, in poverty, must brook offence.


By myself walking
To myself talking,
When as I ruminate
On my untoward fate,
Scarcely seem I
Alone sufficiently,
Black thoughts continually
Crowding my privacy :
They come unbidden.
Like foes at a wedding,


Thrusting their faces

In better guests' places,

Peevish and malecontemt,

Clownish, impertinent,

Dashing the merriment ;

So in like fashions

Dim cogitations

Follow and haunt me,

Striving to daunt me.

In my heart festering.

In my ears whispering,

" Thy friends are treacherous,

Thy foes are dangerous.

Thy dreams ominous,"

B'ierce Anthropophagi,
Spectra, Diaboli,
What scared St. Anthony,
Hobgoblins, Lemures,
Dreams of Antipodes,
Night-riding Incubi
Troubling the fantasy,
All dire illusions
Causing confusions ;
Figments heretical.
Scruples fantastical.
Doubts diabolical ;
Abaddon vexeth me,
Mahu perplexeth me,
Lucifer teareth me

jfesu I Maria ! liberate nos ah his diris tentationibus



May the Babylonish curse

Straight confound my stammering verse,

If I can a passage see

In this word-perplexity,

Or a fit expression find,

Or a language to my mind,

(Still the phrase is wide or scant)

To take leave of thee, great plant 1

Or in any terms relate

Half my love, or half my hate :

For I hate yet love thee so,

That, whichever thing I show,

The plain truth will seem to be

A constrain'd hyperbole.

And the passion to proceed

More from a mistress than a weed.

Sooty retainer to the vine,
Bacchus' black servant, negro fine;
Sorcerer, that mak'st us dote upon
Thy begrimed complexion,
And, for thy pernicious sake,
More and greater oaths to break
Than reclaimed lovers take
'Gainst women : thou thy siege dost lay
Much too in the female way.
While thou suck'st the lab'ring breath
Faster than kisses or than death.

Thou in such a cloud dost bind us,
That our worst foes cannot find us,



And ill fortune, that would thwart us,

Shoots at rovers, shooting at us ;

While each man, through thy height'ning steam,

Does like a smoking Etna seem,

And all about us does express

(Fancy and wit in richest dress)

A Sicilian fruitfulness.

Thou through such a mist dost show us,
That our best friends do not know us,
And, for those allowed features.
Due to reasonable creatures,
Liken'st us to fell Chimeras
Monsters that, who see us, fear us ;
Worse than Cerberus or Geryon,
Or, who first loved a cloud, Ixion.

Bacchus we know, and we allow
His tipsy rites. But what art thou,
That but by reflex canst show
What his deity can do.
As the false Egyptian spell
Aped the true Hebrew miracle ?
Some few vapours thou may'st raisco
The weak brain may serve to amaze,
But to the reins and nobler heart
Canst nor life nor heat impart.

Brother of Bacchus, later born,
The old world was sure forlorn
Wanting thee, that aidest more
The god's victories than before
All his panthers, and the brawls
Of his piping Bacchanals.


These, as stale, we disallow,
Or judge of thee meant: only thou
His true Indian conquest art ;
And, for ivy round his dart,
The reformed god now weaves
A finer thyrsus of thy leaves.

Scent to match thy rich perfume
Chemic art did ne'er presume
Through her quaint alembic strain,
None so sov'reign to the brain.
Nature, that did in thee excel,
Framed again no second smell.
Roses, violets, but toys
For the smaller sort of boys.
Or for greener damsels meant ;
Thou art the only manly scent.

Stinking'st of the stinking kind,
Filth of the mouth and fog of the mind,
Africa, that brags her foison,
Breeds no such prodigious poison,
Henbane, nightshade, both together.
Hemlock, aconite

Nay, rather,
Plant divine, of rarest virtue ;
Blisters on the tongue would hurt you.
'Twas but in a sort I blamed thee ;
None e'er prosper'd who defamed thee;
Irony all, and feign'd abuse.
Such as perplex'd lovers use,
At a need, when, in despair
To paint forth their fairest fair,


Or in part but to express
That exceeding comeliness
Which their fancies doth so strike,
They borrow language of dislike ;
And, instead of Dearest Miss,
Jewel, Honey, Sweetheart, Bliss,
And those forms of old admiring,
Call her Cockatrice and Siren,
Basilisk, and all that's evil,
Witch, Hyena, Mermaid, Devil,
Ethiop, Wench, and Blackamoor,
Monkey, Ape, and twenty more ;
Friendly Trait'ress, loving Foe, —
Not that she is truly so,
But no other way they know

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