Copyright
Charles Lamb.

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

. (page 23 of 29)
Online LibraryCharles LambThe life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) → online text (page 23 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


A contentment to express,
Borders so upon excess,
That they do not rightly wot
Whether it be pain or not.

Or, as men, constrain 'd to pari
With what's nearest to their heart,
While their sorrow's at the height.
Lose discrimination quite,
And their hasty wrath let fall,
To appease their frantic gall.
On the darling thing whatever
Whence they feel it death to sever,
Though it be, as they, perforce.
Guiltless of the sad divorce.

For I must (nor let it grieve thee.
Friendliest of plants, that I must) leave thee.
For thy sake, tobacco, I
Would do any thing but die,



3^0 MISCELLANF.OUS POEMS,

And but seek to extend my days
Long enough to sing thy praise.
But, as she, who once hath been
A king's consort, is a queen
Ever after, nor will bate
Any tittle of her state,
Though a widow, or divorced,
So I, from thy converse forced,
The old name and style retain,
A right Katherine of Spain ;
And a seat, too, 'mongst the joye
Of the blest Tobacco Boys ;
Where, though I, by sour physiciin.
Am debarr'd the full fruition
Of thy favours, I may catch
Some collateral sweets, and snatch
Sidelong odours, that give life
Like glances from a neighbour's wife ;
And still live in the by-places
And the suburbs of thy graces ;
And in thy borders take delight,
An unconquer'd Canaanite.



TO T. L. H-

A CHILD.



Model of thy parent deai,
Serious infant worth a fear
In thy unfaltering visage well
Picturing forth the son of Tell.



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. 381

When on his forehead, firm and good,

Motionless mark, the apple stood,

Guileless traitor, rebel mild,

Convict unconscious, culprit child !

Gates that close with iron roar

Have been to thee thy nursery door ;

Chains that chink in cheerless cells

Have been thy rattles and thy bells ;

Walls contrived for giant sin

Have hemm'd thy faultless weakness in ;

Near thy sinless bed black Guilt

Her discordant house hath built,

And fill'd it with her monstrous brood^

Sights, by thee not understood —

Sights of fear, and of distress,

That pass a harmless infant's guess !

But the clouds, that overcast
Thy young morning, may not last ;
Soon shall arrive the rescuing hour
That yields thee up to Nature's power :
Nature, that so late doth greet thee,
Shall in o'erflowing measure meet thee.
She shall recompense with cost
For every lesson thou hast lost.
Then wandering up thy sire's loved hill,'
Thou shalt take thy airy fill
Of health and pastime. Birds shall slnor
For thy delight each May morning.
Mid new-yean'd lambkins thou shalt play
Hardly less a lamb than they.



Hampstead.



382 MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.

Then thy prison's lengthen'd bound

Shall be the horizon skirting round :

And while thou fillest thy lap with flowers,

To make amends for wintry hours,

The breeze, the sunshine, and the place,

Shall from' thy tender brow efface

Each vestige of untimely care,

That sour restraint had graven there ;

And on thy every look impress

A more excelling childishness.

So shall be thy days beguiled,
Thornton Hunt, my favourite child.



BALLAD.

FROM THE GERMAN.



The clouds are blackening, the storms threatening,
And ever the forest maketh a moan ;

Billows are breaking, the damsel's heart aching,
Thus by herself she singeth alone,
Weeping right plenteously.

" The world is empty, the heart is dead surely,
In this world plainly all seemeth amiss;

To thy breast, holy one, take now thy little one,
I have had earnest of all earth's bliss,
Living right lovinfily."



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. 383



DAVID IN THE CAVE OF ADULLAM.



David and his three captains bold

Kept ambush once within a hold.

It was in Adullam's cave,

Nigh which no water they could have,

Nor spring, nor running brook was near

To quench the thirst that parch'd them there.

Then David, king of Israel,

Straight bethought him of a well,

Which stood beside the city gate,

At Bethlem ; where, before his state

Of kingly dignity, he had

Oft drunk his fill, a shepherd lad ;

But now his fierce Philistine foe

Encamp'd before it he does know.

Yet ne'er the less, with heat opprest,

Those three bold captains he addrest,

And wish'd that one to him would bring

Some water from his native spring.

His valiant captains instantly

To execute his will did fly.

The mighty Three the ranks broke through

Of armed foes, and water drew

For David, their beloved king,

At his own sweet native spring.

Back through their armed foes they haste,

With the hard-earn'd treasure graced.

But when the good king David found

What they had done, he on the ground



384 MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.

The water pour'd ; " Because," said he.
" That it was at the jeopardy
Of your three lives this thing ye did :
That I should drink it, God forbid !"

M. L.



SALOME.



Once on a charger there was laid,
And brought before a royal maid,
As price of attitude and grace,
A guiltless head, a holy face.

It was on Herod's natal day.
Who o'er Judaea's land held sway.
He married his own brother's wife,
Wicked Herodias. She the life
Of John the Baptist long had sought^
Because he openly had taught
That she a life unlawful led.
Having her husband's brother wed.

This was he, that saintly John,
Who in the wilderness alone
Abiding, did for clothing wear
A garment made of camel's hair;
Honey and locusts were his food.
And he was most, severely good.
He preached penitence and tears,
And waking first the sinner's fears,
Prepared a path, made smooth a wayt
For his diviner Master's dav.



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. 385

Herod kept in princely state
His birth-day. On his throne he sate,
After the feast, beholding her
Who danced with grace peculiar;
Fair Salome, who did excel
All in that land for dancing well.
The feastful monarch's heart was fired.
And whatsoe'er thing she desired,
Though half his kingdom it should be,
He in his pleasure swore that he
Would give the graceful Salome.
The damsel was Herodias' daughter :
She to the queen hastes, and besought her
To teach her what great gift to name.
Instructed by Herodias, came
The damsel back : to Herod said,
" Give me John the Baptist's head ;
And in a charger let it be
Hither straightway brought to me."
Herod her suit would fain deny,
But for his oath's sake must comply.

When painters would by art express
Beauty in unloveliness.
Thee, Herodias' daughter, thee,
They fittest subject take to be.
They give thy form and features grace ;
But ever in thy beauteous face
They show a steadfast cruel gaze,
An eye unpitying ; and amaze
In all beholders deep they mark,
That thou betrayest not one spark
Of feeling for the ruthless deed»
That did thy praiseful dance succeed.

VOL. VI. 2 c



386 MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.

For on the head they make you look,
As if a sullen joy you took,
A cruel triumph, wicked pride.
That for your sport a saint had died.

M.L.



LINES

SUGGESTED BY A PICTURE OF TWO FEMALES BY
LIONARDO DA VINCI.



The lady Blanch, regardless of all her lover's fears,
To the Urs'line convent hastens, and long the Abbess

hears :
" Blanch, my child, repent ye of the courtly life ye

lead."
Blanch look'd on a rose-bud and little seem'd to

heed.
She look'd on the rose-bud, she look'd round, and

thought
On all her heart had whisper'd, and all the Nun had

taught.
" I am worshipp'd by lovers, and brightly shines my

fame,
" All Christendom resoundeth the noble Blanch's

name.
" Noj shall I quickly wither like the rose-bud from

the tree,
" My queen-like graces shining when my beauty's

gone from me.



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. 307

'' But when the sculptured marble is raised o'er my

head,
" And the matchless Blanch lies lifeless among the

noble dead,
" This saintly lady Abbess hath made me justly fear,
" It nothing will avail me that I were worshipp'd

here."

M. L.



LINES

ON THE SAME PICTURE BEING REMOVED TO MAKE
PLACE FOR A PORTRAIT OF A LADY BY TITIAN.



Who art thou, fair one, who usurp'st the place

Of Blanch, the lady of the matchless grace ?

Come, fair and pretty, tell to me,

Who, in thy life-time, thou might'st be.

Thou pretty art and fair,

But with the lady Blanch thou never must compare.

No need for Blanch her history to tell ;

Whoever saw her face, they there did read it well.

But when I look on thee, I only know

There lived a pretty maid some hundred years ago.

M. L.



LINES

ON THE CELEBRATED PICTURE BY LIONARDO DA
VINCI, CALLED THE VIRGIN OF THE ROCKS.



While young John runs to greet
The greater Infant's feet.

2 c 2



388 MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.

The Mother standing by, with trembling passion

Of devout admiration,

Beholds the engaging mystic play, and pretty adora-
tion ;

Nor knows as yet the full event

Of those so low beginnings,

From whence we date our winnings,

But wonders at the intent

Of those new rites, and what that strange child-
worship meant.

But at her side

An angel doth abide,

With such a perfect joy

As no dim doubts alloy,

An intuition,

A glory, an amenity,

Passing the dark condition

Of blind humanity,

As if he surely knew

All the blest wonder should ensue.

Or he had lately left the upper sphere,

And had read all the sovran schemes and divine
riddles there.



ON THE SAME.



Maternal lady with the virgin grace,

Heaven-born thy Jesus seemeth sure,

And thou a virgin pure.

Lady most perfect, when thy sinless face

Men look upon, they wish to be

A Catholic, Madonna fair, to worship thee.

M.



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. 389



PINDARIC ODE TO THE TREAD-MILL.



T.

Inspire my spirit, Spirit of De Foe,

That sang the pillory,

In loftier strains to show

A more sublime Machine

Than that, where thou wert seen.

With neck out-stretcht and shoulders ill awry.

Courting coarse plaudits from vile crowds below-

A most unseemly show !

II.

In such a place

Who could expose thy face.

Historiographer of deathless Crusoe !

That paint'st the strife

And all the naked ills of savage life,

Far above Rousseau ?

Rather myself had stood

In that ignoble wood,

Ban^ to the mob, on holyday or high day.

If nought else could atone

For waggish libel,

I swear on Bible,

I would have spared him for thy sake alone,

Man Friday !

III.
Our ancestors' were sour days,
Great Master of Romance 1
A milder doom had fallen to thy cham e
In our days :



39° MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.

Thy sole assignment
Some solitary confinement,
(Not worth thy care a carrot,)
Where in world-hidden cell
Thou thy own Crusoe might have acted well,
Only without the parrot ;
By sure experience taught to know,
Whether the qualms thou mak'st him feel were truly
such or no.



IV.

But stay ! methinks in statelier measure —

A more companionable pleasure —

I see thy steps the mighty Tread-Mill trace,

(The subject of my song,

Delay'd however long,)

And some of thine own race,

To keep thee company, thou bring'st with thee

along.
There with thee go,
Link'd in like sentence.
With regulated pace and footing slow,
Each old acquaintance.

Rogue — harlot — thief — that live to future ages ;
Through many a labour'd tome,
Rankly embalm'd in thy too natural pages.
Faith, friend De Foe, thou art quite at home !
Not one of thy great offspring thou dost lack,
From pirate Singleton to pilfering Jack.
Here Flandrian Moll her brazen incest brags;
Vice-stript Roxana, penitent in rags,
There points to Amy, treading equal chimes,
The faithful handmaid to her faithless crimes.



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. 391

V.

Incompetent my song to raise

To its just height thy praise,

Great Mill !

That by thy motion proper,

(No thanks to wind, or sail, or working rill,)

Grinding that stubborn corn, the Human will,

Turn'st out men's consciences,

That were begrimed before, as clean and sweet

As flour from purest wheat.

Into thy hopper.

All reformation short of thee but nonsense is.

Or human, or divine.

VI.

Compared with thee.

What are the labours of that Jumping Sect,

Which feeble laws connive at rather than respect I

Thou dost not bump.

Or jump.

But walk men into virtue ; betwixt crime

And slow repentance giving breathing time,

And leisure to be good ;

Instructing with discretion demireps

How to direct their steps.

VII.

Thou best Philosopher made out of wood !

Not that which framed the tub,

Where sate the Cynic cub,

With nothing in his bosom sympathetic ;

But from those groves derived, I deem.

Where Plato nursed his dream



392 MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.

Of immortality ;

Seeing that clearly

Thy system all is merely

Peripatetic.

Thou to thy pupils dost such lessons give

Of how to live

With temperance, sobriety, morality,

(A new art,)

That from thy school, by force of virtuous deeds

Each Tyro now proceeds

A "Walking Stewart I"



GOING OR GONE.



Fine merry tranions,
Wanton companions,
My days are ev'n banyans

With thinking upon ye !
How Death, that last stinger,
Finis-writer, end-bringer,
Has laid his chill-finger,

Or is laying on ye.

ir.

There's rich Kitty Wheatley,
With footing it featly
That took me completely.

She sleeps in the Kirk Housie' ;



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.

And poor Polly Perkin,
Whose Dad was still firking
The jolly ale firkin,

She's gone to the Work-house ;

III.

Fine Gard'ner, Ben Carter
(In ten counties no smarter)
Has ta'en his departure

For Proserpine's orchards :
And Lily, postilion.
With cheeks of vermilion,
Is one of a million

That fill up the church-yards ;

IV.

And, lusty as Dido,
Fat Clemitson's widow
Flits now a small shadow

By Stygian hid ford ;
And good Master Clapton
Has thirty years napt on,
The ground he last hapt on,

Intomb'd by fair Widford ;



And gallant Tom Dockwrc,
Of Nature's finest crockery.
Now but thin air and mockery

Lurks by Avernus,
Whose honest grasp of hand
Still, while his life did stand,
At friend's or foe's command,

Almost did burn us.



393



394 MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.



Roger de Coverley

Not more good man than he ;

Yet has he equally

Push'd for Cocytus,
With drivelling Worral,
And wicked old Dorrell,
'Gainst whom I've a quarrel,

Whose end might affright us 1-

VII.

Kindly hearts have I known ;
Kindly hearts, they are flown ;
Here and there if but one

Linger yet uneffaced,
Imbecile tottering elves,
Soon to be wreck'd on shelves,
These scarce are half themselves,

With age and care crazed.

VIII.

But this day Fanny Hutton
Her last dress has put on ;
'ier fine lessons forgotten.

She died, as the dunce died ;
And prim Betsy Chambers,
Decay'd in her members.
No longer remembers

Things, as she once did :

IX.

And prudent Miss Wither
Not in jest now doth wither,
And soon must go — whithei
Nor I well, nor you know;



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. 395

And flaunting Miss Waller,
That soon must befall her,
Whence none can recall her,

Though proud once as Juno 1



ANGEL HELP.



This rare tablet doth include

Poverty with Sanctitude.

Past midnight this poor maid hath spun,

And yet the work is not half-done.

Which must supply from earnings scant

A feeble bed-rid parent's want.

Her sleep-charged eyes exemption ask,

And Holy hands take up the task ;

Unseen the rock and spindle ply,

And do her earthly drudgery.

Sleep, saintly poor one 1 sleep, sleep on ;

And, waking, find thy labours done.

Perchance she knows it by her dreams ;

Her eye hath caught the golden gleams,

Angelic presence testifying,

That round her everywhere are flying ;



1 Suggested by a drawing in the possession of Charles Aders, Esq.,
in which is represented the legend of a poor female Saint; who, having
spun past midnight, to maintain a bed-rid mother, has fallen asleep
from fatigue, and Angels are finishing her work. In another part of
the chamber an angel is tending a lily, the emblem of purity.



3g6 MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.

Ostents from which she may presume,

That much of heaven is in the room.

Skirting her own bright hair they run,

And to the sunny add more sun :

Now on that aged face they fix,

Streaming from the Crucifix ;

The flesh-clogg'd spirit disabusing,

Death-disarming sleeps infusing,

Prelibations, foretastes high,

And equal thoughts to live or die.

Gardener bright from Eden's bower,

Tend with care that lily flower ;

To its leaves and root infuse

Heaven's sunshine, Heaven's dews.

'Tis a type, and 'tis a pledge.

Of a crowning privilege.

Careful as that lily flower,

This Maid must keep her precious dower;

Live a sainted Maid, or die

Martyr to virginity.



ON AN INFANT DYING AS SOON AS BORN.



I SAW where in the shroud did lurk
A curious frame of Nature's work.
A flow'ret crushed in the bud,
A nameless piece of Babyhood,
Was in her cradle-coffin lying ;
Extinct, with scarce the sense of dying



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. 357

So soon to exchange the imprisoning womb

For darker closets of the tomb !

She did but ope an eye, and put

A clear beam forth, then straight up shut

For the long dark : ne'er more to see

Through glasses of mortality.

Riddle of destiny, who can show

What thy short visit meant, or know

What thy errand here below ?

Shall we say, that Nature blind

Check'd her hand, and changed her mind,

Just when she had exactly wrought

A finish'd pattern without fault ?

Could she flag, or could she tire,

Or lack'd she the Promethean fire

(With her nine moons' long workings sicken'd)

That should thy little limbs have quicken'd ?

Limbs so firm, they seem'd to assure

Life of health and days mature :

Woman's self in miniature !

Limbs so fair, they might supply

(Themselves now but cold imagery)

The sculptor to make Beauty by.

Or did the stern-eyed Fate descry.

That babe, or mother, one must die ;

So in mercy left the stock,

And cut the branch ; to save the shock

Of young years widow'd ; and the pain

When Single State comes back again

To the lone man, who, 'reft of wife,

Thenceforward drags a maimed life ?

The economy of Heaven is dark ;

And wisest clerks have miss'd the mark.



39^ MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.

Why Human Buds, like this, should fall.

More brici'" than fly ephemeral,

That has his day ; while shriveird crones

Stiffen with age to stocks and stones ;

And crabbed use the conscience sears

In sinners of an hundred years.

Mother's prattle, mother's kiss,

Baby fond, thou ne'er wilt miss.

Rites, which custom does impose,

Silver bells and baby clothes ;

Coral redder than those lips,

Which pale death did late eclipse ;

Music framed for infants' glee,

Whistle never tuned for thee ;

Though thou want'st not, thou shalt have them.

Loving hearts were they which gave them.

Let not one be missing; nurse

See them laid upon the hearse

Of infant slain by doom perverse.

Why should kings and nobles have

Pictured trophies to their grave.

And we, churls, to thee deny

Thy pretty toys with thee to lie,

A more harmless vanity !



THE CHRISTENING.



Array'd — a half-angelic sight —
In vests of pure Baptismal white,
The Mother to the Font doth bring
The little helpless, nameless thing.



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.



399



With hushes soft and mild caressing,

At once to get — a name and blessing.

Close by the babe the Priest doth stand,

The Cleansing Water at his hand,

Which must assoil the soul within

From every stain of Adam's sin.

The Infant eyes the mystic scenes,

Nor knows what all this wonder means ;

And now he smiles, as if to say

" I am a Christian made this day;"

Now frighted clings to Nurse's hold.

Shrinking from the water cold.

Whose virtues, rightly understood,

Are, as Bethesda's waters, good.

Strange words — The World, The Flesh, The

Devil-
Poor Babe, what can it know of Evil ?
But we must silently adore
Mysterious truths, and not explore.
Enough for him, in after-times,
When he shall read these artless rhymes,
If, looking back upon this day
With quiet conscience, he can say —
" I have in part redeem'd the pledge
Of my Baptismal privilege ;
And more and more will strive to flee
All which my Sponsors kind did then renounce for

me."



400 MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.



THE YOUNG CATECHIST.*



While this tawny Ethiop prayeth,
Painter, who is she that stayeth
By, with skin of whitest lustre.
Sunny locks, a shining cluster,
Saint-like seeming to direct him
To the Power that must protect him ?
Is she of the Heaven-born Three,
Meek Hope, strong Faith, sweet Charity?
Or some Cherub ? —

They you mention
Far transcend my weak invention.
'Tis a simple Christian child,
Missionary young and mild,
From her stock of Scriptural knowledge,
Bible-taught without a college.
Which by reading she could gather
Teaches him to say Our Father
To the common Parent, who
Colour not respects, nor hue.
White and black in Him have part.
Who looks not to the skin, but heart.



' A picture by Henry Meyer, Esq



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. 4^^



TO A YOUNG FRIEND,

ON HER TWENTY-FIRST BIRTHDAY.



Crown me a cheerful goblet, while I pray

A blessing on thy years, young Isola ;

Young, but no more a child. How swift have flown

To me thy girlish times, a woman grown

Beneath my heedless eyes ! in vain I rack

My fancy to believe the almanack,

That speaks thee Twenty-One. Thou should 5t have

still
Remain'd a child, and at thy sovereign will
Gambol'd about our house, as in times past.
Ungrateful Emma, to grow up so fast.
Hastening to leave thy friends ! — for which intent
Fond Runagate, be this thy punishment :
After some thirty years, spent in such bliss
As this earth can afford, where still we miss
Something of joy entire, may'st thou grow old
As we whom thou hast left ! That wish was cold.
O far more aged and wrinkled, till folks sajs
Looking upon tnee reverend in decay,
" This Dame, for length of days, and virtues rare,
With her respected Grandsire may compare."
Grandchild of that respected Isola,
Thou shouldst have had about thee on this day
Kind looks of Parents, to congratulate
Their Pride grown up to woman's grave estate.

VOL. VI. 2 D



402 MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.

But they have died, and left thee, to advance
Thy fortunes how thou may'st, and owe to chance
The friends which Nature grudged, and thou wilt

find.
Or make such, Emma, if I am not blind
To thee and thy deservings. That last strain
Had too much sorrow in it. Fill again
Another cheerful goblet, while I say
" Health, and twice health, to our lost Isola '"



TO THE SAME.

External gifts of fortune or of face

Maiden, in truth, thou hast not much to show ;

Much fairer damsels have I known, and know,

And richer may be found in every place.

In thy mind seek thy beauty and thy wealth.

Sincereness lodgeth there, the soul's best health.

O guard that treasure above gold or pearl.

Laid up secure from moths and worldly stealth^

And take my benison, plain-hearted girl.



SHE IS GOING.



For their eldest Sister's hair
Martha does a wreath prepare
Of bridal rose, ornate and gay
To-morrow is the wedding day.

She is going.



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. 403

Mary, younf;est of the three,
Laughing idler, full of glee,
Arm in arm does fondly chain her,
Thinking (poor trifler I) to detain her ;

But she's going.

Vex not, maidens, nor regret
Thus to part with Margaret,
Charms like yours can never stay
Long within doors ; and one day

You'll be going.



TO A FRIEND ON HIS MARRIAGE.
[1833-]



What makes a happy wedlock ? What has fate

Not given to thee in thy well-chosen mate ?

Good sense — good humour ; — these are trivial things,

Dear M that each trite encomiast sings.

But she hath these, and more : a mind exempt,
From every low-bred passion, where contempt,
Nor envy, nor detraction, ever found
A harbour yet ; an understanding sound ;
Just views of right and wrong ; perception full
Of the deform'd, and of the beautiful,
In life and manners ; wit above her sex,
Which, as a gem, her sprightly converse decks ;
Exuberant fancies, prodigal of mirth,
To gladden woodland walk, or winter hearth ;
A noble nature, conqueror in the strife
Of conflict with a hard discouraging life,
Strengthening the veins of virtue, past the power
Of those whose days have been one silken hour,

2 D 2



404 MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.

Spoil'd fortune's pamper'd offspring; a keen sense
Alike of benefit, and of offence,
With reconcilement quick, that instant springs
From the charged heart with nimble angel wings ;
While grateful feelings, like a signet sign'd
By a strong hand, seem burn'd into her mind.
If these, dear friend, a dowry can confer
Richer than land, thou hast them all in her ;
And beauty, which some hold the chiefest boon,
Is in thy bargain for a make-weight thrown.



Online LibraryCharles LambThe life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) → online text (page 23 of 29)