Charles Lamb.

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

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[In a leaf of a quarto edition of the " Lives of the Saints, written in
Spanish by the learned and reverend father, Alfonso Villegas, Divine,
of the Order of St. Dominicit, set forth in English by John Heigham»
Anno 1630," bought at a Catholic book-shop in Duke Street, Lincoln's
Inn Fields, I found, carefully inserted, a painted flower, seemingly
coeval with the book itself; and did not, for some time, discover that
it opened in the middle, and was the cover to a very humble draught of
a St. Anne, with the Virgin and Child ; doubtless the performance of
some poor but pious Catholic, whose meditations it assisted.]

O Lift with reverent hand that tarnish'd flower,

That shrines beneath her modest canopy

Memorials dear to Romish piety ;

Dim specks, rude shapes, of Saints 1 in fervent hour

The work perchance of some meek devotee,

Who, poor in worldly treasures to set forth

The sanctities she worshipp'd to their worth,

In this imperfect tracery might see

Hints, that all Heaven did to her sense reveal.

Cheap gifts best fit poor givers. We are told

That in their way approved the offerer's zeal.

True love shows costliest, where the means are scant;

And, in their reckoning, they abowid, who want.



(see the tragedy of that name.)

When her son, her Dcuc:;las, died,
To the steep rock's fearral side
Fast the frantic mother hied —

O'er her blooming warrior dead
Many a tear did Scotland shed.
And shrieks of long and loud lament
From her Grampian hills she sent.

Like one awakening from a trance
She met the shock of Lochlin's^ lance ;
On her rude invader foe
Return'd an hundredfold the blow,
Drove the taunting spoiler home ;

Mournful thence she took her way
To do observance at the tomb

Where the son of Douglas lay

Round about the tomb did go
In solemn state and order slow,
Silent pace, and black attire,
Earl or Knight, or good Esquire :
Whoe'er by deeds of valour done
In battle had high honours won ;
Whoe'er in their pure veins could trace
The blood of Douglas' noble race.



With them the flower of minstrels came,
And to their cunning harps did frame
In doleful numbers piercing rhymes,
Such strains as in the older times
Had soothed the spirit of Fingal,
Echoing thro' his father's hall.

** Scottish maidens, drop a tear
O'er the beauteous Hero's bier !
Brave youth, and comely 'bove compare,
All golden shone his burnish'd hair ;
Valour and smiling courtesy
Play'd in the sunbeams of his eye.
Closed are those eyes that shone so fair.
And stain'd with blood his yellow hair.
Scottish maidens, drop a tear
O'er the beauteous Hero's bier !

" Not a tear, I charge you, shed
For the false Glenalvon dead ;
Unpitied let Glenalvon lie,
Foul stain to arms and chivalry 1

" Behind his back the traitor came,
And Douglas died without his fame.
Young light of Scotland early spent,
Thy country thee shall long lament,
And oft to after-times shall tell,
In Hope's sweet prime my Hero tell."




Alone, obscure, without a friend,

A cheerless, solitary thing,
Why seeks my Lloyd the stranger out ?

What offering can the stranger bring

Of social scenes, home-bred delights,
That him in aught compensate may

For Stowey's pleasant winter nights,
For loves and friendships far away ?

In brief oblivion to forego

Friends such as thine, so justly dear,
And be awhile with me content

To stay, a kindly loiterer, here.

For this a gleam of random joy

Hath flush'd my unaccustomed cheek :

And, with an o'ercharged bursting heart,
I feel the thanks I cannot speak.

O 1 sweet are all the Muses' lays,
And sweet the charm of matin bird —

'Twas long since these estranged ears
The sweeter voice of friend had heard.


The voice hath spoke : the pleasant sounds
In memory's ear in after-time

Shall live, to sometimes rouse a tear,

And sometimes prompt an honest rhyme.

For when the transient charm is fled,
And when the little week is o'er,

To cheerless, friendless solitude
When I return, as heretofore.

Long, long, within my aching heart,
The grateful sense shall cherish'd be ;

I'll think less meanly of myself,
That Lloyd will sometimes think on me.


I HAD a sense in dreams of a beauty rare,

Whom Fate had spell-bound, and rooted there.

Stooping, like some enchanted theme.

Over the marge of that crystal stream,

Where the blooming Greek, to Echo blind,

With Self-love fond, had to waters pined,

Ages had waked, and ages slept.

And that bending posture still she kept :

For her eyes she may not turn away.

Till a fairer object shall pass that way,

Till an image more beauteous this world can show,

Than her own which she sees in the mirror below.

Pore on, fair Creature ! for ever pore :

Nor dream to be disenchanted more :

For vain is expectance, and wish in vain,

'Till a new Narcissus can come again.




Louisa, serious grown and mild,
I knew you once a romping child,
Obstreperous much, and very wild.
Then you would clamber up my knees.
And strive with every art to tease.
When every art of yours could please.
Those things would scarce be proper now.
But they are gone, I know not how,
And woman 's written on your brow.
Time draws his finger o'er the scene ;
But I can not forget between
The thing to me you once have been;
Each sportive sally, wild escape, —
The scoff, the banter, and the jape, —
And antics of my gamesome Ape.



Under this cold marble stone

Lie the sad remains of one

Who, when alive, by few or none

Was lov'd, as lov'd she might have been

If she prosp'rous days had seen,

Or had thriving been, I ween.

Only this cold funereal stone.

Tells she was belov'd by one.

Who on the marble carves his moan.




When last you left your "Woodbridge pretty,

To stare at sights, and see the City,

If I your meaning understood,

You wish'd a Picture, cheap, but good ;

The colouring ? decent ; clear, not muddy ;

To suit a Poet's quiet study,

Where Books and Prints for delectation

Hang, rather than vain ostentation.

The subject ? what I pleased, if comely ;

But something scriptural and homely :

A sober Piece, not gay or wanton,

For winter fire-sides to descant on ;

The theme so scrupulously handled,

A Quaker might look on unscandal'd ;

Such as might satisfy Ann Knight,

And classic Mitford just not fright.

Just such a one I've found, and send it

If liked, I give — if not, but lend it

The moral ? nothing can be sounder.

The fable ? 'tis its own expounder —

A Mother talking to her Chit,

Some good book, and explaining it.

He, silly urchin, tired of lesson,

His learning lays no mighty stress on

' From the venerable and ancient Manufactory of Carrington
Bowles ; some of my readers may recognise it.


But seems to hear not what he hears ;
Thrusting his fingers in his ears,
Like Obstinate, that perverse funny one,
In honest parable of Bunyan.
His working Sister, more sedate,
Listens ; but in a kind of state,
The painter meant for steadiness,
But has a tinge of sullenness ;
And, at first sight, she seems to brooK
As ill her needle, as he his book.
This is the picture. For the Frame —
'Tis not ill-suited to the same ;
Oak-carved, not gilt, for fear of falling ;
Old fashion'd ; plain, yet not appalling;
And sober, as the Owner's Calling.


I SAW him in the day of Worcester fight,

Whither he came at twice seven years.

Under the discipline of Lord Falkland,

(His uncle by the mother's side.

Who gave his youthful politics a bent

Quite from the principles of his father's house ;)

There did I see this valiant Lamb of Mars,

This sprig of honour, this unbearded John,

This veteran in green years, this sprout, this Woodvil,

(With dreadless ease guiding a fire-hot steed,

Which seemed to scorn the manage of a boy,)

Prick forth with such a mirth into the field.


To mingle rivalship and acts of war

Even with the sinewy masters of the art, —

You would have thought the work of blood had been

A play-game merely, and the rabid Mars

Had put his harmful hostile nature off,

To instruct raw youths in images of war.

And practice of the unedg'd player's foils.

The rough fanatic and blood-practised soldiery,

Seeing such hope and virtue in the boy,

Disclos'd their ranks to let him pass unhurt,

Checking their swords' uncivil injuries,

As loth to mar that curious workmanship

Of Valour's beauty portrayed in his face


The gods have made me most unmusical,

With feelings that respond not to the call

Of stringed harp, or voice, — obtuse and mute

To hautboy, sackbut, dulcimer, and flute ;

King David's lyre, that made the madness flee

From Saul, had been but a jew's-harp to me:

Theorbos, violins, French horns, guitars.

Leave in my wounded ears inflicted scars.

I hate those trills, and shakes, and sounds that float

Upon the captive air ; I know no note,

Nor ever shall, whatever folks may say.

Of the strange mysteries of Sol and Fa.

I sit at oratorios like a fish.

Incapable of sound, and only wish

The thing was over. Yet do I admiie,

O tuneful daughter of a tuneful sire,


Thy painful labours in a science, which

To your deserts I pray may make you rich

As much as you are loved, and add a grace

To the most musical Novello race.

Women lead men by the nose, some cynics say

You draw them by the ear, — a delicater way.

C. Lamb.


Margaret, — in happy hour
Christen'd from that humble ilower

Which we a daisy call, —
May thy pretty namesake be
In all things a type of thee,

And image thee in all !

Like it you show a modest face,
An unpretending native grace.

The tulip, and the pink.
The china and the damask rose,
And every flaunting flower that blows,

In the comparing shrink.

Of lowly fields you think no scorn,
Yet gayest gardens would adorn,

And grace wherever set.
Home-seated in your lonely bower,
Or wedded — a transplanted flower —

I bless you, Margaret 1

Charles Lamb,

Edmonton, Oct. 8, 1834,

414 miscellaneous poems.

In tabulam eximii pictoris R. B. Havdoni in qua


Quid vult iste equitatus ? et quid velit iste virorum
Palmifora ingens turba et vox tremebunda Hosanna ?
Hosanna Christo semper, semperque canamus.
Palma fuit senior Pictor celeberrimus olim ;
Sed palmam cedat, modo si foret ille superstes
Palma Haydone tibi : tu palmas omnibus aufers.
Palma negata macrum, donataque reddit opimum
Si simul incipiat cum fama increscere corpus
Tu cito pinguesces, fies et amicule, obesus.
Affectant lauros pictores atque poetae,
Sin laurum invideant (sed quis tibi) laurigerentes
Pro lauro palma viridanti tempora ligas.



What rider's that ? and who those myriads bringing
Him on his way, with palms, Hosanna singing?
Hosanna to Christ ! Heaven, Earth shall still be


In days of old Old Palma won renown :

But Palma's self must yield the painter's crown,

Haydon, to thee : Thy palms put every other down.

If Flaccus' sentence with the truth agree,
That palms awarded make men plump to be.
Friend Horace, Haydon soon shall match in bulk
with thee.


Painters with poets for the laurel vie ;
But should the laureate band thy claims deny,
Wear thou thine own green palm, Haydon, trium-




Friendliest of men, Aders, I never come
Within the precincts of this sacred room,
But I am struck with a religious fear,
Which says, " Let no profane eye enter here."
With imagery from Heaven the walls are clothed.
Making the things of time seem vile and loathed.
Spare saints, whose bodies seem sustained by love,
With martyrs old in meek procession move.

Here kneels a weeping Magdalen, less bright
To human sense for her blurr'd cheeks ; in sight
Of eyes new-touch'd by Heaven, more winning fair
Than when her beauty was her only care.
A hermit here strange mysteries doth unlock
In desert sole, his knees worn by the rock.
There angel harps are sounding, while below
Palm-bearing virgins in white order go.


Madonnas, varied with so chaste design,
While all are different, each seems genuine,
And hers the only Jesus : hard outline
And rigid form, by Durer's hand subdued
To matchless grace and sacro-sanctitude, —
Durer, who makes thy slighted Germany
Vie with the praise of paint-proud Italy.

Whoever enterest here, no more presume
To name a parlour or a drawing-room :
But, bending lowly to each holy story,
Make this thy chapel and thine oratory.



'* Ladies, ye've seen how Guzman's consort died,
Poor victim of a Spanish brother's pride,
When Spanish honour through the world was blown,
And Spanish beauty for the best was known.'
In that romantic, unenlightened time,
A breach of promise^ was a sort of crime —
Which of you handsome English ladies here.
But deem the penance bloody and severe ?
A whimsical old Saragossa' fashion,
That a dead father's dying inclination
Should live to thwart a living daughter's passion*
Unjustly on the sex we^ men exclaim,
Rail 2i\.your^ vices, and commit the same; —
Man is a promise-breaker from the womb.
And goes a promise-breaker to the tomb —
What need we instance here the lover's vow,
The sick Man's purpose, or the great man's bow?''
The truth by few examples best is shown —
Instead of many which are better known,
Take poor Jack Incident, that's dead and gone.

1 "Four easy lines.'' * " For which the heroine dledy

8 In Spain ! ! * Two neat lines. * Or you.

6 Or our, as they have altered it. T Antithesis ! ! —C. L.

VOL. VI. ^ ^


Jack, of dramatic genius justly vain,

Purchased a renter's share at Drury Lane ;

A prudent man in every other matter,

Known at his club-room for an honest hatter ;

Humane and courteous, led a civil life.

And has been seldom known to beat his wife ;

But Jack is now grown quite another man,

Frequents the green-room, knows the plot and plan

Of each new piece,
And has been seen to talk with Sheridan !
In at the play-house just at six he pops,
And never quits it till the curtain drops,
Is never absent on the author's night,

Knows actresses and actors too by sight ;

So humble, that with Suett he'll confer,

Or take a pipe with plain Jack Bannister ;

Nay, with an author has been known so free.

He once suggested a catastrophe —

In short, John dabbled till his head was turn'd :

His wife remonstrated, his neighbours mourned,

His customers were dropping off apace.

And Jack's affairs began to wear a piteous face.

One night his wife began a curtain lecture :
* My dearest Johnny, husband, spouse, protector.
Take pity on your helpless babes and me.
Save us from ruin, you from bankruptcy —
Look to your business, leave these cursed plays,
And try again your old industrious ways.'

Jack, who was always scar'd at the Gazette,
And had some bits of skull uninjured yet,
Promis'd amendment, vow'd his wife spake reason,
'He would not see another play that season.'

Three stubborn fortnights Jack his promise kept,
Was late and early in his shop, eat, slept.


And walk'd and talk'd, like ordinary men ;

No wit, but John the hatter once again —

Visits his club : when lo ! one fatal night

His wife with horror view'd the well-known sight —

John's hat, wig, snuff-box — well sheknewhis tricks —

And Jack decamping at the hour of six.

Just at the counter's edge a playbill lay,

Announcing that ' Pizarro ' was the play —

* O Johnny, Johnny, this is your old doing.'

Quoth Jack, *Why what the devil storm's a-brewing?

About a harmless play why all this fright ?

I'll go and see it, ifit's but for spite —

Zounds, woman ! Nelson's^ to be there to night.'


There are, I am told, who sharply criticize
Our modern theatres' unwieldy size.
We players shall scarce plead guilty to that charge.
Who think a house can never be too large :
Grieved when a rant, that's worth a nation's ear,
Shakes some prescribed Lyceum's petty sphere ;
And pleased to mark the grin from space to space
Spread epidemic o'er a town's broad face.

' "A good clap-trap. Nelson has exhibited two or three times at
both theatres — and advertised himself." — C. L.

2 E 2


O might old Betterton or Booth return

To view our structures from their silent urn,

Could Quin come stalking from Elysian glades,

Or Garrick get a day-rule from the shades,

Where now, perhaps, in mirth which spirits approve,

He imitates the ways of men above.

And apes the actions of our upper coast.

As in his days of flesh he play'd the ghost :

How might they bless our ampler scope to please,

And hate their own old shrunk-up audiences.

Their houses yet were palaces to those

Which Ben and Fletcher for their triumphs chose.

Shakspeare, who wish'd a kingdom for a stage,

Like giant pent in disproportion'd cage,

Mourn'd his contracted strengths and crippled rage.

He who could tame his vast ambition down

To please some scatter'd gleanings of a town,

And if some hundred auditors supplied

Their meagre meed of claps, was satisfied.

How had he felt, when that dread curse of Lear's

Had burst tremendous on a thousand ears,

While deep-struck wonder from applauding bands

Returned the tribute of as many hands 1

Rude were his guests ; he never made his bow

To such an audience as salutes us now.

He lack'd the balm of labour, female praise.

Few ladies in his time frequented plays,

Or came to see a youth with awkward art

And shrill sharp pipe burlesque the woman's part.

The very use, since so essential grown,

Of painted scenes, was to his stage unknown.

The air-blest castle, round whose wholesome crest,

The martlet, guest of summer, chose her nest —

The forest walks of Arden's fair domain,


Where Jaques fed his soHtary vein, —

No pencil's aid as yet had dared supply,

Seen only by the intellectual eye.

Those scenic helps, denied to Shakspeare's page,

Our Author owes to a more liberal age.

Nor pomp nor circumstance are wanting here;

'Tis for himself alone that he must fear.

Yet shall remembrance cherish the just pride,

That (be the laurel granted or denied)

He first essay'd in this distinguish'd fane

Severer muses and a tragic strain.


Written by Charles Lamb. Spoken by
Miss Ellen Tree.

When first our Bard his simple will express'd.

That I should in his Heroine's robes be dress'd,

My fears were with my vanity at strife,

How I could act that untried part — a " Wife."

But Fancy to the Grison hills me drew.

Where Mariana like a wild flower grew.

Nursing her garden kindred ; so far I

Liked her condition, willing to comply

With that sweet single life ; when, with a cranch,

Down came that thundering, crashing, avalanche,

Startling my mountain project 1 " Take this spade,"

Said Fancy then ; " dig low, adventurous Maid,


For hidden wealth." I did ; and, Ladies, lo !'
Was e'er romantic female's fortune so,
To dig a life-warm Lover from the — snow ?

A wife and Princess see me next, beset
With subtle toils, in an Italian net ;
While knavish Courtiers, stung with rage or fear,
Distill'd lip-poison in a husband's ear.
I ponder'd on the boiling Southern vein ;
Racks, cords, stilettos, rush'd upon my brain !
By poor, good, weak Antonio, too disowned —
I dream'd each night, I should be Desdemona'd :
And, being in Mantua, thought upon the shop,
Whence fair Verona's youth his breath did stop :
And what if Leonardo, in full scorn.
Some lean Apothecary should suborn
To take my hated life ? A "tortoise " hung
Before my eyes, and in my ears scaled " Alligators "

But my Othello, to his vows more zealous —
Twenty lagos could not make him jealous I

New raised to reputation, and to life.
At your commands behold me, without strife,
Well-pleased, and ready to repeat — the " Wife."






Though thou'rt like Judas, an apostate black,
In the resemblance one thing thou dost lack •
When he had gotten his ill-purchased pek',
He went away, and wisely hanged himself.
This thou may'st do at last ; yet much I doubt,
If thou hast any bowels to gush out !


If ever I marry a wife,

I'd marry a landlord's daughter ;
For then I may sit in the bar

And drink cold brandy and water.



Adsciscit sibi divitias et opes alienas

Fur, rapiens, spolians, quod mihi, quodque tibi,

Proprium erat, temnens hasc verba, meumque,
tuumque ;
Omne suum est: tandem cuique suum tribuit,

Dat vesti coUum ; restes, vah I carnifici dat ;
Se se Diabolo, sic bene ; Cuique suum.


lo ! Paean ! lo ! sing,
To the finny people's king.
Not a mightier whale than this
In the vast Atlantic is,
Not a fatter fish than he
Flounders round the Polar sea.
See his blubber! — at his gills
What a world of drink he swills I
From his trunk, as from a spout,
Which next moment he pours out.

Such his person. — Next declare,
Muse, who his companions are : —


Every fish of generous kind

Scuds aside, or slinks behind :

But about his presence keep

All the monsters of the deep ;

Mermaids, with their tails, and singing,

His delighted fancy stinging ;

Crooked dolphins, they surround him ;

Dog-like seals, they fawn around him ;

Following hard, the progress mark

Of the intolerant salt-sea shark.

For his solace and relief,

Flat-fish are his courtiers chief;

Last, and lowest in his train,

Ink-nsh (libellers of the main)

Their black liquor shed in spite :

(Such on earth tlie things that write.)

In his stomach, some do say,

No good thing can ever stay :

Had it been the fortune of it

To have swallow'd that old prophet.

Three days there he'd not have dwell'd.

But in one have been expell'd.

Hapless mariners are they.

Who beguiled (as seamen say)

Deeming him some rock or island,

Footing sure, safe spot, and dry land,

Anchor in his scaly rind —

Soon the difference they find ;

Sudden plumb, he sinks beneath them, —

Does to ruthless seas bequeathe them 1

Name or title what has he ?
Is he Regent of the Sea ?
From this difficulty free us,
Buffon, Banks, or sage Linnaeus.


With his wondrous attributes

Say what appellation suits ?

By his bulk, and by his size,

By his oily qualities,

This (or else my eyesight fails),

This should be the Prince of "Whales.

R, ET R.


My dear friend,
Before I end,
Have you any
More orders for Don Giovanni-
To give
Him that doth live
Your faithful Zany ?

Without raillery,
I mean Gallery
Ones :
For I am a person that shuna
All ostentation
And being at the top of the fashion ;
And seldom go to operas
But in forma pauperis !

I go to the play
In a very economical sort of a way;
Rather to see
Than be seen ;


Though I'm no ill sight
By candle-light
And in some kinds of weather.
You might pit me

For height
Against Kean ;
But in a grand tragic scene
I'm nothing :
It would create a kind of loathing
To see me act Hamlet ;
There'd be many a damn let

At my presumption,
If I should try,
Being a fellow of no gumption.

By the way, tell me candidly how you relish
This, which they call
The lapidary style ?
Opinions vary.
The late Mr. Mellish
Could never abide it ;
He thought it vile,
And coxcombical.
My friend the poet laureat,
Who is a great lawyer at

Any thing comical,
Was the first who tried it ;
But Mellish could never abide it ;
But it signifies very little what Mellish said.
Because he is dead.

For who can confute

Online LibraryCharles LambThe life, letters, and writings of Charles Lamb (Volume 6) → online text (page 24 of 29)