Charles Lamb.

The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 4 Poems and Plays online

. (page 10 of 31)
Online LibraryCharles LambThe Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 4 Poems and Plays → online text (page 10 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


A hurrying funeral, and a banish'd grave,
High-minded Wife! were all that thou could'st have.
Grieve not, great Ghost, nor count in death thy losses;
Thou in thy life-time had'st thy share of _crosses._




FOR THE "TABLE BOOK"

(1827)

Laura, too partial to her friends' enditing,
Requires from each a pattern of their _writing._
A weightier trifle Laura might command;
For who to Laura would refuse his - _hand?_




THE ROYAL WONDERS

(1830)

Two miracles at once! Compell'd by fate,
His tarnish'd throne the Bourbon doth vacate;
While English William, - a diviner thing, -
Of his free pleasure hath put off _the king._
The forms of distant old respect lets pass,
And melts his crown into the common mass.
Health to fair France, and fine regeneration!
But England's is the nobler abdication.




"BREVIS ESSE LABORO"

"ONE DIP"

(1830)

Much speech obscures the sense; the soul of wit
Is brevity: our tale one proof of it.
Poor Balbulus, a stammering invalid,
Consults the doctors, and by them is bid
To try sea-bathing, with this special heed,
"One Dip was all his malady did need;
More than that one his certain death would be."
Now who so nervous or so shook as he,
For Balbulus had never dipped before?
Two well-known dippers at the Broadstairs' shore,
Stout, sturdy churls, have stript him to the skin,
And naked, cold, and shivering plunge him in.
Soon he emerges, with scarce breath to say,
"I'm to be dip - dip - dipt - ." "We know it," they
Reply; expostulation seemed in vain,
And over ears they souse him in again,
And up again he rises, his words trip,
And falter as before. Still "dip - dip - dip" -
And in again he goes with furious plunge,
Once more to rise; when, with a desperate lunge,
At length he bolts these words out, "Only once!"
The villains crave his pardon. Had the dunce
But aimed at these bare words the rogues had found him,
But striving to be prolix, they half drowned him.




SUUM CUIQUE

(1830)

Adsciscit sibi divitias et opes alienas
Fur, rapiens, spolians quod mihi, quodque tibi
Proprium erat, temnens haec verba, Meumque Tuumque;
Omne Suum est. Tandem cuique suum tribuit.
Dat laqueo collum: vestes, vah! carnifici dat:
Sese Diabolo; sic bene, Cuique Suum.




[ON THE _LITERARY GAZETTE_]

(1830)

In merry England I computed once
The number of the dunces - dunce for dunce;
There were _four hundred_, if I don't forget,
_All readers of the L - - - y G - - -e;_
But if the author to himself keep true,
In some short months they'll be reduced to _two_.




ON THE FAST-DAY

To name a Day for general prayer and fast
Is surely worse than of no sort of use;
For you may see with grief, from first to last
On _fast_-days people of all ranks are _loose_.




NONSENSE VERSES

Lazy-bones, lazy-bones, wake up, and peep!
The cat's in the cupboard, your mother's asleep.
There you sit snoring, forgetting her ills;
Who is to give her her Bolus and Pills?
Twenty fine Angels must come into town,
All for to help you to make your new gown:
Dainty AERIAL Spinsters, and Singers;
Aren't you ashamed to employ such white fingers?
Delicate hands, unaccustom'd to reels,
To set 'em a working a poor body's wheels?
Why they came down is to me all a riddle,
And left HALLELUJAH broke off in the middle:
Jove's Court, and the Presence angelical, cut -
To eke out the work of a lazy young slut.
Angel-duck, Angel-duck, winged, and silly,
Pouring a watering-pot over a lily,
Gardener gratuitous, careless of pelf,
Leave her to water her lily herself,
Or to neglect it to death if she chuse it:
Remember the loss is her own, if she lose it.


ON WAWD

_(Of the East India House)_

What Wawd knows, God knows;
But God knows _what_ Wawd knows.



* * * * *



SIX EPITAPHS ON ENSIGN PEACOCK

(1799)


MARMOR LOQUITUR

He lies a Volunteer so fine,
Who died of a decline,
As you or I, may do one day;
Reader, think of this, I pray;
And I humbly hope you'll drop a tear
For my poor Royal Volunteer.
He was as brave as brave could be,
Nobody was so brave as he;
He would have died in Honor's bed,
Only he died at home instead.
Well may the Royal Regiment swear,
They never had such a Volunteer.
But whatsoever they may say,
Death is a man that will have his way:
Tho' he was but an ensign in this world of pain;
In the next we hope he'll be a captain.
And without meaning to make any reflection on his mentals,
He begg'd to be buried in regimentals.


ON TIMOTHY WAGSTAFF

Here lies the body of Timothy Wagstaff,
Who was once as tall and as straight as a flagstaff;
But now that he's gone to another world,
His staff is broken and his flag is furled.


ON CAPTAIN STURMS

Here lieth the body of Captain Sturms,
Once "food for powder," now for worms,
At the battle of Meida he lost his legs,
And stumped about on wooden pegs.
Naught cares he now for such worthless things,
He was borne to Heaven on angels' wings.


ON MARGARET DIX

_(Born on February 29)_

_Ci git_ the remains of Margaret Dix,
Who was young in old age I ween,
Though Envy with Malice cried "seventy-six,"
The Graces declared her "nineteen."


ON ONESIMUS DRAKE

To the memory of Dr. Onesimus Drake,
Who forced good people his drugs to take -
No wonder his patients were oft on the rack
For this "duck of a man" was a terrible quack.


ON MATTHEW DAY

Beneath this slab lies Matthew Day,
If his body had not been snatched away
To be by Science dissected;
Should it have gone, one thing is clear:
His soul the last trump is sure to hear,
And thus be resurrected.



* * * * *



TIME AND ETERNITY

Where the soul drinks of misery's power,
Each moment seems a lengthened hour;
But when bright joy illumes the mind,
Time passes as the fleetest wind. -
How to a wicked soul must be
Whole ages of eternity?




FROM THE LATIN

As swallows shrink before the wintry blast,
And gladly seek a more congenial soil,
So flatterers halt when fortune's lure is past,
And basely court some richer lordling's smile.




SATAN IN SEARCH OF A WIFE

_With the Whole Process of his Courtship
and Marriage, and who Danced at the Wedding

By an Eye Witness_

(1831)

DEDICATION

To delicate bosoms, that have sighed over the _Loves of the Angels_,
this Poem is with tenderest regard consecrated. It can be no offence
to you, dear Ladies, that the author has endeavoured to extend the
dominion of your darling passion; to shew Love triumphant in places,
to which his advent has been never yet suspected. If one Cecilia
drew an Angel down, another may have leave to attract a Spirit
upwards; which, I am sure, was the most desperate adventure of the
two. Wonder not at the inferior condition of the agent; for, if King
Cophetua wooed a Beggar Maid, a greater king need not scorn to
confess the attractions of a fair Tailor's daughter. The more
disproportionate the rank, the more signal is the glory of your sex.
Like that of Hecate, a triple empire is now confessed your own. Nor
Heaven, nor Earth, nor deepest tracts of Erebus, as Milton hath it,
have power to resist your sway. I congratulate your last victory.
You have fairly made an Honest Man of the Old One; and, if your
conquest is late, the success must be salutary. The new Benedict has
employment enough on his hands to desist from dabbling with the
affairs of poor mortals; he may fairly leave human nature to
herself; and we may sleep for one while at least secure from the
attacks of this hitherto restless Old Bachelor. It remains to be
seen, whether the world will be much benefited by the change in his
condition.




PART THE FIRST

I

The Devil was sick and queasy of late,
And his sleep and his appetite fail'd him;
His ears they hung down, and his tail it was clapp'd
Between his poor hoofs, like a dog that's been rapp'd -
None knew what the devil ail'd him.


II

He tumbled and toss'd on his mattress o' nights,
That was fit for a fiend's disportal;
For 'twas made of the finest of thistles and thorn,
Which Alecto herself had gather'd in scorn
Of the best down beds that are mortal.


III

His giantly chest in earthquakes heaved,
With groanings corresponding;
And mincing and few were the words he spoke,
While a sigh, like some delicate whirlwind, broke
From a heart that seem'd desponding.


IV

Now the Devil an Old Wife had for his Dam,
I think none e'er was older:
Her years - old Parr's were nothing to them;
And a chicken to her was Methusalem,
You'd say, could you behold her.


V

She remember'd Chaos a little child,
Strumming upon hand organs;
At the birth of Old Night a gossip she sat,
The ancientest there, and was godmother at
The christening of the Gorgons.


VI

Her bones peep'd through a rhinoceros' skin,
Like a mummy's through its cerement;
But she had a mother's heart, and guess'd
What pinch'd her son; whom she thus address'd
In terms that bespoke endearment.


VII

"What ails my Nicky, my darling Imp,
My Lucifer bright, my Beelze?
My Pig, my Pug-with-a-curly-tail,
You are not well. Can a mother fail
To see _that_ which all Hell see?"


VIII

"O Mother dear, I am dying, I fear;
Prepare the yew, and the willow,
And the cypress black: for I get no ease
By day or by night for the cursed fleas,
That skip about my pillow."


IX

"Your pillow is clean, and your pillow-beer,
For I wash'd 'em in Styx last night, son,
And your blankets both, and dried them upon
The brimstony banks of Acheron -
It is not the _fleas_ that bite, son."


X

"O I perish of cold these bitter sharp nights,
The damp like an ague ferrets;
The ice and the frost hath shot into the bone;
And I care not greatly to sleep alone
O! nights - for the fear of Spirits."


XI

"The weather is warm, my own sweet boy,
And the nights are close and stifling;
And for fearing of Spirits, you cowardly Elf -
Have you quite forgot you're a Spirit yourself?
Come, come, I see you are trifling.


XII

"I wish my Nicky is not in love" -
"O mother, you have nick't it" -
And he turn'd his head aside with a blush -
Not red hot pokers, or crimson plush,
Could half so deep have prick'd it.


XIII

"These twenty thousand good years or more,"
Quoth he, "on this burning shingle
I have led a lonesome Bachelor's life,
Nor known the comfort of babe or wife -
'Tis a long - time to live single."


XIV

Quoth she, "If a wife is all you want,
I shall quickly dance at your wedding.
I am dry nurse, you know, to the Female Ghosts " -
And she call'd up her charge, and they came in hosts
To do the old Beldam's bidding:


XV

All who in their lives had been servants of sin -
Adulteress, Wench, Virago -
And Murd'resses old that had pointed the knife
Against a husband's or father's life,
Each one a She Iago.


XVI

First Jezebel came - no need of paint,
Or dressing, to make her charming;
For the blood of the old prophetical race
Had heighten'd the natural flush of her face
To a pitch 'bove rouge or carmine.


XVII

Semiramis there low tendered herself,
With all Babel for a dowry:
With Helen, the flower and the bane of Greece -
And bloody Medea next offer'd her fleece,
That was of Hell the Houri.


XVIII

Clytemnestra, with Joan of Naples, put in;
Cleopatra, by Anthony quicken'd;
Jocasta, that married where she should not,
Came hand in hand with the Daughters of Lot;
Till the Devil was fairly sicken'd.


XIX

For the Devil himself, a dev'l as he is,
Disapproves unequal matches.
"O Mother," he cried, "dispatch them hence!
No Spirit - I speak it without offence -
Shall have me in her hatches."


XX

With a wave of her wand they all were gone!
And now came out the slaughter:
"'Tis none of these that can serve my turn;
For a wife of flesh and blood I burn -
I'm in love with a Taylor's Daughter.


XXI

"'Tis she must heal the wounds that she made,
'Tis she must be my physician.
O parent mild, stand not my foe" -
For his mother had whisper'd something low
About "matching beneath his condition." -


XXII

"And then we must get paternal consent,
Or an unblest match may vex ye" -
"Her father is dead; I fetched him away.
In the midst of his goose, last Michaelmas day -
He died of an apoplexy.


XXIII

"His daughter is fair, and an only heir -
With her I long to tether -
He has left her his _hell_, and all that he had;
The estates are contiguous, and I shall be mad,
'Till we lay our two Hells together."


XXIV

"But how do you know the fair maid's mind?" -
Quoth he, "Her loss was but recent;
And I could not speak _my_ mind you know,
Just when I was fetching her father below -
It would have been hardly decent.


XXV

"But a leer from her eye, where Cupids lie,
Of love gave proof apparent;
And, from something she dropp'd, I shrewdly ween'd,
In her heart she judged, that a _living Fiend_
Was better than a _dead Parent_.


XXVI

"But the time is short; and suitors may come,
While I stand here reporting;
Then make your son a bit of a Beau,
And give me your blessing, before I go
To the other world a courting."


XXVII

"But what will you do with your horns, my son?
And that tail - fair maids will mock it - "
"My tail I will dock - and as for the horn,
Like husbands above I think no scorn
To carry it in my pocket."


XXVIII

"But what will you do with your feet, my son?"
"Here are stockings fairly woven:
My hoofs I will hide in silken hose;
And cinnamon-sweet are my pettitoes -
Because, you know, they are _cloven_."


XXIX

"Then take a blessing, my darling Son,"
Quoth she, and kiss'd him civil -
Then his neckcloth she tied; and when he was drest
From top to toe in his Sunday's best,
He appear'd a comely devil.


XXX

So his leave he took: - but how he fared
In his courtship - barring failures -
In a Second Part you shall read it soon,
In a bran new song, to be sung to the tune
Of the "Devil among the Tailors."



* * * * *



THE SECOND PART

_Containing the Courtship, and the Wedding_


I

Who is She that by night from her balcony looks
On a garden, where cabbage is springing?
'Tis the Tailor's fair Lass, that we told of above;
She muses by moonlight on her True Love;
So sharp is Cupid's stinging.


II

She has caught a glimpse of the Prince of the Air
In his Luciferian splendour,
And away with her coyness and maiden reserve! -
For none but the Devil her turn will serve,
Her sorrows else will end her.


III

She saw when he fetch'd her father away,
And the sight no whit did shake her;
For the Devil may sure with his own make free -
And "it saves besides," quoth merrily she,
"The expence of an Undertaker. -


IV

"Then come, my Satan, my darling Sin,
Return to my arms, my Hell Beau;
My Prince of Darkness, my crow-black Dove" -
And she scarce had spoke, when her own True Love
Was kneeling at her elbow!


V

But she wist not at first that this was He,
That had raised such a boiling passion;
For his old costume he had laid aside,
And was come to court a mortal bride
In a coat-and-waistcoat fashion.


VI

She miss'd his large horns, and she miss'd his fair tail,
That had hung so retrospective;
And his raven plumes, and some other marks
Regarding his feet, that had left their sparks
In a mind but too susceptive:


VII

And she held in scorn that a mortal born
Should the Prince of Spirits rival,
To clamber at midnight her garden fence -
For she knew not else by what pretence
To account for his arrival.


VIII

"What thief art thou," quoth she, "in the dark
That stumblest here presumptuous?
Some Irish Adventurer I take you to be -
A Foreigner, from your garb I see,
Which besides is not over sumptuous."


IX

Then Satan, awhile dissembling his rank,
A piece of amorous fun tries:
Quoth he, "I'm a Netherlander born;
Fair Virgin, receive not my suit with scorn;
I'm a Prince in the Low Countries -


X

"Though I travel _incog_. From the Land of Fog
And Mist I am come to proffer
My crown and my sceptre to lay at your feet;
It is not every day in the week you may meet,
Fair Maid, with a Prince's offer."


XI

"Your crown and your sceptre I like full well,
They tempt a poor maiden's pride, Sir;
But your lands and possessions - excuse if I'm rude -
Are too far in a Northerly latitude
For me to become your Bride, Sir.


XII

"In that aguish clime I should catch my death,
Being but a raw new comer" -
Quoth he, "We have plenty of fuel stout;
And the fires, which I kindle, never go out
By winter, nor yet by summer.


XIII

"I am Prince of Hell, and Lord Paramount
Over Monarchs there abiding.
My Groom of the Stables is Nimrod old;
And Nebuchadnazor my stirrups must hold,
When I go out a riding.


XIV

"To spare your blushes, and maiden fears,
I resorted to these inventions -
But, Imposture, begone; and avaunt, Disguise!"
And the Devil began to swell and rise
To his own diabolic dimensions.


XV

Twin horns from his forehead shot up to the moon,
Like a branching stag in Arden;
Dusk wings through his shoulders with eagle's strength
Push'd out; and his train lay floundering in length
An acre beyond the garden. -


XVI

To tender hearts I have framed my lay -
Judge ye, all love-sick Maidens,
When the virgin saw in the soft moonlight,
In his proper proportions, her own true knight,
If she needed long persuadings.


XVII

Yet a maidenly modesty kept her back,
As her sex's art had taught her:
For "the biggest Fortunes," quoth she, "in the land -
Are not worthy" - then blush'd - "of your Highness's hand -
Much less a poor Taylor's daughter.


XVIII

"There's the two Miss Crockfords are single still,
For whom great suitors hunger;
And their Father's hell is much larger than mine" -
Quoth the Devil, "I've no such ambitious design,
For their Dad is an old Fishmonger;


XIX

"And I cannot endure the smell of fish -
I have taken an anti-bias
To their livers, especially since the day
That the Angel smoked my cousin away
From the chaste spouse of Tobias.


XX

"Had my amorous kinsman much longer staid,
The perfume would have seal'd his obit;
For he had a nicer nose than the wench,
Who cared not a pin for the smother and stench,
In the arms of the Son of Tobit."


XXI

"I have read it," quoth she, "in Apocryphal Writ" -
And the Devil stoop'd down, and kiss'd her;
Not Jove himself, when he courted in flame,
On Semele's lips, the love-scorch'd Dame,
Impress'd such a burning blister.


XXII

The fire through her bones and her vitals shot -
"O, I yield, my winsome marrow -
I am thine for life" - and black thunders roll'd -
And she sank in his arms through the garden mould,
With the speed of a red-hot arrow.


XXIII

Merrily, merrily, ring the bells
From each Pandemonian steeple;
For the Devil hath gotten his beautiful Bride,
And a Wedding Dinner he will provide,
To feast all kinds of people.


XXIV



Online LibraryCharles LambThe Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 4 Poems and Plays → online text (page 10 of 31)