Unknown.

The library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) online

. (page 18 of 75)
Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 18 of 75)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and consisted of one street, which meandered
away through some low grounds, until its pre-
gress was somewhat abruptly stopped by the
sea.

The houses, which were low, were built with
their gables facing the street, and exhibited
many other infallible symptoms of antiquity,
both without and within; but some venerable
old ruins, like chronicles of departed grandeur,
gave an interest and an air of solemnity to the
Borough.

The streets, which were extremely narrow,
sloped down at each side in such wise as to
render it expedient for the pedestrian to keep
the " croun of the causey." They had no
regular pavements, and lucky it was that they
had not, for the few flags which here and there
lay along the dwellings of the aristocracy sel-
dom failed to resent the insult of being trodden
upon, by squirting up a quantity of black
venomous-looking matter into the face of the
unwary intruder.

This sort of salutation they seemed to have
a particular pleasure in bestowing upon such
ladies and gentlemen as were proceeding in
full decoration to the scenes of "feast and
song ; " and many a poor wight to whom for-
tune, in her capricious dealings, had assigned



2 He gained some reputation as a poet by the puMic-i-
tioii of The Buccaneer, Scene* of War, and other jx>ems
His Tale* of Field and Flnod, with Sk>tclies of Life at
Home from which we quote were received with much
favour.



88



THE BOKOUGH.



only one dress-suit, and that often none of the
best, have they sent back, even from the very
threshold of the ball-room, affording a striking
proof "that man is born to trouble as the
sparks fly upwards."

In walking along the streets the olfactory
nerves were continually regaled with the most
pungent odours, calling up, by the power of
association, images of the most varied kinds.
In illustration of this effect, I need only remind
my poetical readers of the many sweet recol-
lections of gardens and summer glories, lapped
up, as it were, in the perfume of a rose; and,
in like manner, the effluvia arising from the
heads of stale fish (the predominant smell in
the streets of the Borough), presented to the
susceptible imagination a vision of its dinner-
tables and civic feasts, at which, by the way,
fish were never relished until they were in the
above-mentioned state.

It must doubtless have been highly gratify-
ing to the stranger who visited the Borough,
to find himself, perhaps for the first time in
his life, the object of universal interest ; and
while progressing along the streets, to see doors
and windows flying open at his approach, and
heads popping out, some with their hair in
papers, others with no hair at all, some
covered with Welsh wigs, and still more with
Kilmarnock nightcaps.

Such marks of attention, however, were only
preparatory to others of a more substantial na-
ture; for the inhabitants of the Borough were
remarkable for their hospitality to strangers;
respecting whom their conjectures were often
but too favourable, since it frequently hap-
pened that the unknown persons, whom it was
their pleasure to entertain and honour with
all the attentions doe to gentlemen of family
and fortune, turned out after all to be mere
canaille.

Their liability to deceptions of this kind was
the more surprising, as they professed to have
an intimate acquaintance with high life, and
it was a common saying among them, that no
person could reside for any length of time in
the Borough, even though he were a native of
the west end of London, without acquiring a
greater elegance of manner and a more po-
lished address.

Family pride, as it exists in society, seems
to involve an absurdity, inasmuch as the hon-
our of being descended from a great man in-
creases exactly as the degree of consanguinity
to him diminishes: for his immediate descend-
ants are as mere upstarts compared to such of
his remote posterity as can trace their origin
to their great progenitor, back through a period



of five hundred years; so that the honour in-
creases with ilie distance frj'm the fountain
thereof. But the pride of ancestry with which
the inhabitants of the borough were infected
was more than usually absurd, having no
foundation whatever whereon to rest, and, like
the world, "hanging upon nothing;" the fa-
thers being of a lower grade in society than the
sons, and the grandfathers lower still, until an
obscurity, deep as that which involves the ori-
gin of nations, in mercy spread out an impene-
trable pall.

The magistrates (Heaven bless them if still
alive, and rest their souls if dead ! ) bore a strong
family likeness to their brethren in other royal
boroughs; having the same corpulence as a
corporation, the same sleek solemnity, and the
same pomposity arising from " pride of place."

Methinks, even now, I see the venerable
guardians of the city marching in heavy pro-
cession to church, heralded by their guard of
honour the town-officers, arrayed in long
light-blue broad- bottomed coats, faced with
yellow, and having triangular cocked hats
perched upon one side of the head, which gave
additional effect to the martial frown with
which, in all the "insolence of office," they
strutted along the church-aisle, and finally took
post behind the great easy-chairs where the
civic body reposed during divine service, in all
the dozing dignity of lethargy and fat, imme-
diately opposite to the pulpit.

The pulpit was a fine specimen of the antique,
illustrative of the taste of the times in which
it was made. Carved on its wooden canopy,
over the head of the preacher, like so many
cupids with outspread wings, hovered a whole
flock of angels, to whose infantine and chubby
faces a chastening solemnity was imparted by
the overshadowing dignity of large full-bot-
tomed wigs, such as decorate the Lords of Ses-
sion while on the bench.

The clergyman was a judicious and benevo-
lent person ; but, not dealing in that terrific
sort of eloquence and violent gesticulation
which, with certain classes, have ever been
considered the tests of orthodoxy, was rather
undervalued by some of his flock, one of whom,
a member of the kirk-session, gave him the
definition of a good preacher, in the following
panegyric on his predecessor:

"Ah, sir!" exclaimed the elder, in the tone
of pathetic recollection, "our late minister was
the man! He was the poorfu' preacher, for i'
the short time he delivered the Word amang
us, he knocked three pulpits to pieces, and
dang the guts out o' five Bibles!"

The magistrates, however, were well enough



THE BOROUGH.



89



gatisfied with their pastor, the quiet tenor of
whose discourses did not disturb their Sabbath
slumbers. They were, indeed, a wise and
philosophic body of men, who showed by their
practice, if they did not avow it in words,
their belief that eating, drinking, and sleep-
ing comprehended the whole duty of man,
and the great business of life, of which they
were at once the means and the end, an
opinion, the blessed effects of which were
visible in the florid cheek, and the full, fixed,
and satisfied eye, which have ever distinguished
the philosophers of this persuasion.

The only public amusements of the Borough
were its assemblies, where youth indulged in
the folly of dancing, and old age in that of
cards; and where the great men of the place
would occasionally honour the company, and
create a delightful surprise, by popping in
about the eleventh hour in top-boots and
scarlet vests, and lead to the head of the coun-
try-dance the blushing modesty of seventeen,
almost overpowered by the honour conferred.

But it most frequently happened that the
dance was opened by some lady of ton, who
had lately returned from Edinburgh, and
whose very soul sickened at the old hackneyed
figures, and delighted and luxuriated in those
of whose complicated evolutions she had ac-
quired a knowledge in the metropolis.

But, alas! we are not all equally gifted
"great heights are hazardous for the weak
head " errors generally ensued among the
uninitiated in the newly-imported mystery,
one blunder produced another, till the per-
formers, reeling about, and jostling against
each other, were making what billiard-players
denominate "the cannon," and it seemed as
" Chaos had come again."

Hitherto the good people of the Borough
had never been molested by a foreign foe,
their only wars being civil ones; but at length
their latent euergies were called into action by
a most alarming and unexpected event.

During a severe snow-storm a French frigate,
having on board a considerable number of
troops, was wrecked upon the coast at no great
distance from the Borough; and there being
no military force of any description in the
county, the citizens made a general turn-out;
and a stirring sight it was to see them muster-
ing upon the "Broad Street," in order to be
drilled by an old gentleman, who, in his hot
youth, had served his country at home, in a
corps of Foncibles, which had marched in
triumph from one end of the kingdom to the
other, most gallantly scaling the hills, de-
ploying into the valleys, taking possession of



the best quarters in the towns, and carrying
female hearts by storm.

Upon this alarming occasion patriotism
seemed to have inspired every heart, and all
distinctions of rank and wealth were for the
time forgotten:

" Groom stood by noble, squire by knight ;"

the highest with the humblest. The young
hopeful, the heir-apparent of heather and sea-
weed, forsook the sport of the hill and the
shore, and left the grouse and the wild duck
for nobler game; the doctor threw his "physic
to the dogs," and resigned the lancet for the
lance; the lawyer gave up the cause of his
clients for that of his country ; for that, too,
the shoemaker resigned his awl; and even the
tailor, fancying himself a man, instead of a
mere fraction thereof, left his goose and cab-
bage, and joined the glorious band who had
assembled for the defence of their country.

Yet, notwithstanding all this promptitude
of purpose, and chivalrous feeling, the appear-
ance of the recruits would, I fear, have been
far more appalling to a drill-sergeant than to
an enemy. Drew up in line

" A horrid front they form."

"Shoulder arms!" exclaimed the captain,
in a voice intended to resemble thunder; but
the execution of the order was anything but
simultaneous, and one man, it was observed,
was still "standing at ease." Upon being
challenged by the captain, and asked why he
had not "shouldered" along with the rest,
"What the deil's a' the haste," quoth he,
"canna ye wait till a body tak' a snuff?"

This single circumstance will enable the
reader to form a tolerably correct estimate of tho
attainment of the citizens in the art of war.

Fortunately for themselves and their coun-
try their services were not required, in conse-
quence of the arrival of a detachment of Volun-
teers from a neighbouring county, which had
been sent for on the first alarm, to whom the
poor Frenchmen, already half-dead with cold
and hunger, surrendered themselves prisoners
at discretion; and thus the cloud passed away,
and the borough was restored to its usual state
of tranquillity.

At the time of which I speak there existed,
and, for aught I know to the contrary, there
may still exist, a more than usual proportion
of elderly unmarried ladies. The cause of this
melancholy fact I cannot pretend to explain,
for many of them I have heard were great
beauties in their youth. Taken as a body
they were as free from the peculiarities incident
to single blessedness as any other class of society ;



THE BOROUGH.



yet true it is, that a few of the sisterhood took
such a warm interest in the characters and
concerns of their fellow-citizens as had on
several occasions well nigh set the town on
fire ; and such was their unquenchable hatred
of scandal, that they would not for one moment
allow it to sleep, or even to die in peace.

At the head of this Suppression-of-vice So-
ciety was Miss Tabitha Primrose, a lady of a
certain age, which, according to Byron, is of
all ages the most uncertain. She had long
made a dead halt at that of thirty, beyond
which stage in the journey of life nothing could
induce her to budge a single step.

One of the slowest movements in nature is
the approximation of the nose and chin, these
neighbours requiring the greater part of a cen-
tury to effect a meeting, by travelling over the
short space which divides them in youth ; and
in Tabby's case they had gone over fully half
the distance, pointing like the index of a clock
to a pretty late hour but all in vain. Suns
and seasons might roll away moons wax and
wane sands might run and shadows sail, till
dials grew green and tresses gray but amidst
this moving scene Tabby remained immov-
able, in protracted youth, with a bloom of that
blessed kind which never fades, and a wig that
bade defiance to the " snows of time."

Tabitha had been a great beauty in her
youth, the evidence of which (as few people
could speak of that period from their own
recollection) rested on the best of all authority
her own, but having, it seems, had a ten-
dency to corpulency, she had indulged rather
too freely in the use of vinegar, to which
ought probably to be ascribed a certain expres-
sion of sourness about the corners of her mouth,
which she still retained. In common with all
other fair ladies, she had been "beseeched and
besieged" by a host of admirers; but, being
remarkably fastidious, and perhaps not find-
ing among her swains a perfect Sir Charles
Grandison, and, moreover, the age of chivalry
being past and gone, when men sighed seven
years for a lady's smile, it somehow or other
happened that Tabitha was left to

" Waste her sweetness on the desert air."

We have all heard of those wise ancients who
wept when a child was born; but Tabby went
a step beyond them, and, with a more pro-
phetic philosophy cf feeling, actually shed
tears whenever she heard of a marriage: and,
in the midst of her sorrow and pity for the
unhappy bride, thanked Heaven for having
preserved herself from such a fate.
She was such a determined enemy to every



kind of youthful levity, that the very frisking
of lambs seemed to displease her. Pure as
new-fallen snow severe as justice and un-
erring as mathematical sequences she stood
alone a woman without a weakness, and a
very personification of prim propriety.

"But who can stand envy?" or when did
ever such superhuman excellence escape the
breath of calumny? against that even Tabitha's
virtue was no protection ; and there were not
wanting ill-disposed persons who called her
severe reprobation of derelictions from virtue
downright scandal, and by whom the tears
which she shed for young brides were shrewdly
suspected to flow from the regret she felt at
not being one herself. But to return.

The evening entertainments were of that
kind denominated "Tea and Turn-out," a
mode of treating one's friends, having the
show of hospitality, but denying the power
thereof. Tea and Turn-out! gentle readers.
only think of such a hoax -my blood yet runs
cold at the thought Tea and Turn-out!

Early in the forenoon a maid-servant, all
smiles and roses, would enter and present a
gilt paper card, whereon the eye caught the
words, " Compliments company at tea spend
the evening," &c. the last words seeming to
insinuate a delicate hint of supper: but thus
it is that our feelings are cruelly sported with,
and hopes are excited which are never intended
to be realized. In consequence of such pro-
missory notes, how often have I risen from a
comfortable fireside at home, have adjourned to
a cold room above stairs, and dressed for supper,
when, alas! supper was not dressed for me!

The festivities of the evening commenced
about six or seven o'clock, according to the
rank of our entertainers ; and as it seldom
happened that any waiters were in attendance
to hand about the tea, an excellent opportunity
was afforded to our Lotharios of showing their
attention to the ladies in that way ; but in
doing the thing with an air the consequence
frequently was, that the fair ones received into
their laps instead of their hands the elegant
china vases, together with their scalding con-
tents. Next were presented various kinds of
rich sweet-bread, pleasant indeed to the eye,
but, upon a nearer acquaintance, betraying an
air of antiquity not altogether agreeable.

As soon as the refreshments of the evening
were over, the conversation became general,
and occasionally particular: our absent friends
were not forgotten, nor were their most private
and delicate concerns overlooked.

About nine o'clock a general rising took
place, which, not being resisted on the part



ADVENTURES OF PARSOX SCHMOLKE.



91



HE THAT LOVES A EOSY CHEEK.

He that loves a rosy cheek,

Or a coral lip admires,
Or from star-like eyes doth seek

Fuel to maintain its fires ;
As old Time makes these decay,
So his flames must waste away.

But a smooth and steadfast mind,
Gentle thoughts and calm desires,

Hearts with eqnal love combin'd,
Kindle never-dying fires ;

Where these are not, I despise
Lovely cheeks, or lips, or eyes.

THOMAS CARKW (1635).



of our entertainers, we read our fate in each
other's eyes, and made a simultaneous move-
ment towards the door; whence, with ill-
suppressed chagrin, we descended into the
street and made the best of our way home.

Such was the nature of our evening pastime
in the Borough at the time I first resided
there ; but returning after an absence of long
years,

" I looked and saw the face o f things quite changed ;"
many old friends and old fashions had died, j
and among the rest " Tea and Turn-out " had j
given up the ghost, and better things, of which
it was only the type and shadow, reigned in
its place. Instead of that meagre mockery,
the supper table, plethoric even to apoplexy,
exhibited in beatific vision such varieties as
the following: A large round of boiled beef
smothered among cabbage, through whose
silvery canopy of mist appeared a smoked
goose, a large mutton ham, a roast of pork, a
dish of dogfish, and of welsh-rabbits melted in
their own fat. The light meal was diluted by
copious draughts of strong home-brewed ale,
and the whole etherealized by several large
bowls of rum-punch ; after which the happy
guests retired to rest, to enjoy those pleasant
dreams which are the never-failing reward of
such good living.

In this way they managed matters at the
time of my last visit to the Borough; but,
alas ! there is nothing permanent on earth
except change, for I have lately been informed
that "Supper and Turn-in" hath gone the
way of " Tea and Turn-out." A great and
goodly conversion hath taken place at their
evening parties, where controversial divinity
is the standing dish. Mutton hams, smoked
geese, and welsh-rabbits, are superseded by
knotty points of faith, still harder of digestion, !
and punch has given place to prayers.



THE
ADVENTURES OF PARSON SCHMOLKK

AND THE

SCHOOLMASTER BAKEL.

FROM THE GERMAN OF AUGUSTUS F. LANGBEIX.

"Where are we now? See nought appears

But cattle on the hill ;
I told you oft to shun the left,

But you would have your will.
You've brought us here; now save us both

From rock, and pit, and rill."

" 'Hie hceret aqua,' honoured sir,

Trust now no more to me ;
But mark ! I tremble not although

We thieves and wolves may see.
Says Horace, ' Purus xceleris

Non eyet Mauri jaculis.'"

" Oh that you and your Latin were

In Styx, and I in bed.
Is this a time to laugh and jest

With my distress and dread?
But see ! low in the valley gleams

A light ; O let us seek its beams !"

"'Cur non, mi Domine,' for there

A mortal must abide ;
In such a place the cloven feet

And tail would ne'er reside.
On, quickly on ! for now I think

How sweet their potent ale will drink."

Then, reeling, for the light they steer,

These heroes of my strain ;
But whence they came, I, with your leave,

In one word may explain
They staggered from a bridal feast

With all they could contain.

The hut is reach'd; a man appears

All clad in sullied brown,
Who eyes our two benighted friends

With dark suspicious frown.
They begg'd for beds, till rising day

Should dawn to light them on their way,

"Indeed, to tell your honours true

Of beds I've none to spare,
But solace such as straw may yield

You're welcome here to share.
If that can please you, soon you'll find

A truss and chamber to your mind."

Most piteously upon his paunch

The parson cast his eye ;
"How now, thou fat rotundity,

On straw couch wilt thou lie?"
"'Sub sole nil perfectum est,'"

Said Bakel "here I'll take my rest.*



92



ADVENTURES OF PARSON SCHMOLKE.



He said, and soon was fast asleep.

The parson look'd around
For peg to hang his wig upon,

But uo one could be found :
Himself upon the straw he cast,

His wig upon the ground.

Between the guests and host alone

A thin partition stood ;
They heard him sin ' an evening hymn,

Then pray for faith and food ;
And now the godly service done,

Unto his spouse he thus began

"My dear, as soon as morning dawns,

The black ones I shall slay,
They will be, when I think again,

Much fatter than I say.
Oh how that bullet-round one will

He makes my very chops distil '."

"Ah, Bakel ! do you sleep? or hear

These cannibals declare,
That, when the morning sun ascends,

On us they mean to fare?
Oh from this horrid murderous den

Were I but out alive again ! "

" Proh dolor,' sir; but still there's hope,
We're not in Charon's barge ;

Still may some good Convtiia
Your little paunch enlarge.

Nay ope your eyes, look here and see
A window; from it leap with me."

"Yes! such a goose-quill thing as you

May leap, and dread no harm ;
But, were I such a leap to take,

I'd die with pure alarm ;
This ponderous body would but drop
Into Death's open arm."

Now Bakel used his eloquence

To urge his friend to fly ;
He painted dangers great and dread

If they should longer lie ;
Till he took courage from despair,

The unknown dreadful leap to dare.

But still there was a point to fix,
Which first the leap should try;

Each urged the other, and again
Replied, "Oh no, not I."

At last our friend the pedagogue
Down like a bird did fly.

He lighted, salva venia,

Upon a hill of dung,
And bounding from the dirt unhurt

Like dunghill cock he sprung :
But like a cliff from mountain cast,

Fell the fat parson, and stuck fast !



He sunk up to the waist, nor could

Move ou a single hair ;
While Bakel cursed and scampered round,

In impotent despair :
Meantime the roof poured torrents down

On the poor parson's naked crown.

Now Bakel found all efforts vain

To ope the dunghill's side ;
And though his friend there still had lain,

No help could he provide.
At last a powerful lever's found;

With it he heaves him from the ground.

But ah, how adverse still their fate !

For now they found a court,
Whose towering walls and barred gate

Cut further egress short.
Thus fruitless all these dangers run

The dreadful cannibals to shun !

Now they prepare their hearts to sing

A "valet" ere they die,
And only seek a sheltering roof,

Till then to keep them dry.
Experience tells we best may claim

Success, if humble be our aim.

So found the candidates for death

A shelter in their need ;
It was a hovel near a shade

Where cattle used to feed.
It chanced that in that hole, his swine

Our host, while feeding, did coaf.'ie.

But they had burst their little door,

And so had stole away,
And in the garden with their snouts

Did hold their merry play ;
While in their place our pious friends

Most fervently did pray.

"Oh think, dear Bakel, that the g-ave

Is but the gate of life ;
There beggars equal mighty kings;

There ends all mortal strife ;
The injured slave feels not the thong,
Nor drags his weary chain along."

" Ah yes, how truly says the bard,

Si flora mortis ruit
Is fit Iriis subilo

Qui modo Crossus fuit.' 1
Thus spent they all the hours of night

Till dawn the little court did light.

Now hideously the door did creak,
From which came out the man,

Whose eye beam'd murder ; and lie straight
To whet his knife began ;

And mutter'd as he rubb'd away,

"Ye black ones, ye shall die to-day !"



S.W. AND BY W. | W.



93



The host a Flesher was by trade,

And spoke still of his swine.
While all these dreadful thoughts beset

The teacher and divine ;
Wh fell into the odd mistake,

That he their lives desigu'd to take.

So forth he stretch'd his hand to draw
The swine from out their hole :



Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 18 of 75)