William Combe.

Doctor Syntax : his three tours : in search of the picturesque, of consolation, of a wife online

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But have I not been as severe On my own folly as on her ?

If I can check these wayward tricks, And her fine understanding fix,

(From Nature's gift improv'd by art)

And give right impulse to her heart ;
If I can damp her lively glory, In chanting forth my silly story,

To make the grave Blue Stockings laugh,

While they their evening beverage quaff,

And that their meeting may be jolly,

By heighten'd pictures of my folly,

This letter, thus well understood, May prove the source of real good."
Now with a sort of doubtful whistle He wafer'd close his warm epistle,

And without pause, he thought it best

To leave the letter thus address'd :

" This packet Susaris bid to take, When Madam chuses to awake"

This done he did no longer wait,

Punch ready stood ; he mounted straight,

And trotted briskly through the gate.


Now SYNTAX was, it might be thought,

To serious contemplation wrought

By all he had so lately seen, Nay what he had so lately been,

That there was matter to supply Twelve miles a good soliloquy.

But he wish'd not his mind to fix On the strange widow and her tricks:
For though, as he employ'd the key, T' unlock the gates of memory,

Some motley whimsies might appear,

Which had found a sly corner there,

And would awake a sense of mirth ;

Yet he must feel that they gave birth
To certain interludes beside, Which serv'd to wound his solemn pride.

For, though so pure might be his aim,

Reflection gave him much to blame ;

And 'stead of furnishing content,

Still conscience whisper'd him Repent.
Thus in the struggle to forget The being caught within the net,

Where nought that he had hop'd was gain'd,

Nor e'en the slightest good obtain'd ;
Of all his usual life bereft, He neither look'd to right nor left,

Nor down to earth, nor towards the spheres,

But onward 'tween his horse's ears

Where to a point his eyes he brought,

Which though wide open, yet saw nought ;
A situation often known To thought, when it is left alone.

At length the pensive Doctor doz'd,

And both his eyes were quickly clos'd ;

For a soft, all-subduing sleep Did on his senses gently creep,

And Pat, a faithful servant he, Did on this sleepy point agree.

This page attempts not to explore, As ^Esop did in days of yore,

How beasts and birds and reptiles thought,

And by what potency were taught


To think and speak and act like men,

Which they don't now, if they did then.

Monkeys, it seems, might grin and vapour,

There cut a joke, here cut a caper ;

The Lion might be calFd to rule, An Elephant might keep a school ;
The Snake, with gratitude at strife, Might strike at his preserver's life ;

While from base, mean and selfish ends,

The Hare might lose her many friends ;
And thus the animals dispense The sterling rules of common-sense

But well-fed Punch was form'd by nature,

A mere instinctive, useful creature ;

Who on the road or in the stable, Would not have answer'd for a fable :
Sure-footed, subject to no whim, And sound alike in wind and limb ;
Who both the whip and spur obey'd, In the proportion they were laid ;
But if he happen'd not to feel An angry hint from thong or steel,

He, by degrees, would seldom fail T' adopt the gallop of a snail.

Just now, then it may be suppos'd That, while his drowsy rider doz'd,
He thought he had a right to go As slow as any horse could do :

But still he'd change his forward way, To ease a passing cart of hay,
Or to the right or left would pass, To snatch a tempting tuft of grass.
The sun grew hot and Punch was dry, A rippling brook was running by:

Towards the clear stream his way he bent,

Snuff'd the cool air, and in he went ;

When after having drank his fill

His feet were cool'd, and he stood still ;

When, feeling neither whip nor spur,

He thought there was no hint to stir.

Pat did the self-same footsteps trace,

And his horse spught the self-same place.

Thus, side by side, the cattle stood,

Knee deep within the crystal flood ;

While fast asleep the riders sat, The Doctor here, and there was Pat .
And how long on the river's lap They might have thus enjoy'd their nap,
It is not worth the while to guess, It would, of course, be more or less;
But a tinker on his ass, Happ'ning that morn, that way to pass,

Could not but think it rather droll To see them sleeping cheek-by-jowl:

Nor could he check his rude, gruff laughter,

To hear them snoring o'er the water :

Then with a piece of solid metal, He struck with force a hollow kettle,
And instant the resounding stroke, The master and his valet woke.
With the sudden noise they started, And from their wat'ry station parted,

The Doctor thought a shot was fired,

And from what quarter he enquired ;

The Tinker said, " You need not fear, No enemy, good Sir, is here :
I travel all the country round, To fill up" holes, where holes abound.

I am a trav'ling tink'ring stranger,

Who thought, Sir, that you were in danger ;

For had you met an overthrow In the mill-dam that is below,

'Twould have been labour all in vain, To get your Honour out again :

And as I could not reach to shake you,

I made the noise I did to wake you."


" I thank you, friend," the Doctor said,

" Kindness like yours should be repaid ;
It is a debt, I freely own, So, Patrick, give him half-a-crown."

Poor Tink'ring Tom was quite delighted,

Who look'd not to be thus requited,

For all he did, and all he spoke, Was in the way of saucy joke :

But so it was, and off he went Singing his way, with loud content ;

While his brass kettles told the tale,

As they resounded through the vale.

" How long," says Pat, " we might have stay'd

In the quick waters' running shade,

And why my brown horse and your mare

Chose to take a position there,
Now I'm awaken'd, makes me stare :

For howsoe'er we slept or doz'd

An' please you, Sir, our eyes were clos'd."

" Pat," said the Doctor, "you're a fool ;

The morn was hot, the river cool,

The beasts were early out and dry, And drowsy too, like you and I,
For I throughout the night before, Had not slept out a second hour :
But let us on our journey haste, The breakfast-time advances fast,
And I've within a certain power That tells it me besides the hour.
Nor must you, Pat, forget to rig In its first honours, my last wig,

Renew its curls, and thus restore Its form to what it was before ;

Its air Canonic was beset By that vain, whimsical Coquette,

To whom I owe resentment yet ; f

Though, as a Christian, it were better To forgive her and forget her."

Thus as he reason'd to and fro, Not yet determin'd what to do,

He reach'd a pretty town, whose name Does not possess historic fame,

But boasts an inn which Syntax blest

For morning meal and welcome rest.

The wig, with all due skill, repair'd, The chin dismantled of its beard,
His whole exterior made as smart As could be done by PATRICK'S art,
He set off, with design to call, Ere the sun set, at Tulip-Hal),

And on the way his mind supply With gen'ral terms of Botany ;

Call on his mem'ry to review Whate'er he once of FLORA knew ;

Then add sweet, sentimental bloom, A type of offerings yet to come,
And with such fragrant hope prepare A welcome from the flowery Fair.
Thus as he thought a voice behind,

Which seem'd to load the passing wind,

Exclaim'd " What, Doctor, is it you ?

My eyes, I thank them, tell me true :

And pray accept my solemn greeting, At such an unexpected meeting."
Syntax replied, " The same receive, Which I to Doctor JULEP give."

It turn'd out that their journey lay,

For several miles, the self-same way,

When the Physician thus began To tell his visit and its plan.

" CAPIAS, the Lawyer, whom you know

Left business some few years ago :

In short he now has given up thinking

Of nought but eating and of drinking


Nay once a fortnight 'tis at least, That after some redundant feast,
For me he in a hurry sends As one among his oldest friends,

To ease his overloaded paunch Of what remains of ham and haunch,
And to exert my utmost power His weaken'd stomach to restore ;

But soon, alas, too soon I think, His food will be confin'd to drink,
When he must yield to his disease, And I shall lose his gen'rous fees ;
For I am not asham'd to tell The Lawyer pays the Doctor well.

Forgot is his Attorney's trim, His wary tricks are chang'd to whim,
In stucco'd eating-room he dines, But takes his glass with all his wines,
And where to vary his regale, The cask pours forth the foaming ale ;
For to his cellar he descends
And 'neath its vaults he treats his friends ;

There the ever-moving glass Quickens the hours as they pass,

While the tale, the joke, the song, The Bacchanalian feast prolong.
There of his Vintage he's profuse, And e'en if BACCHUS were to chuse,
Wherever he might chance to dine, With CAPIAS he would take his wine,
O, how I wish you would attend, This visit to my jovial friend :

To him, dear Sir, you're not a stranger,
Nor will your virtue be in danger !
He'll kindly put you at your ease,
With him you'll do just what you please :
Nay, 'twill amuse you thus to see And hear, the strange variety."

" You know I'm not so very nice,"
Said Syntax, " to pronounce it vice
When friends in mod'rate glasses join,
And cheer their heart with gen'rous wine ;

Social love appears the best When seated at the friendly feast,

Nor can it wound a D.D.'s pride, When I've an M.D. by my side.
I'll therefore join this pleasant frolic, But, if I chance to get the cholic,
You must, my learned friend, agree, To cure the pain without a fee."

This, by the Doctors twain, agreed,
Well-pleas'd they on their way proceed.
Capias, with smiles his guest receives,
And a loud, hearty welcome gives ;
Nor did he cease repeated greeting
Till dinner came and then to eating.
Not a word pass'd but when he boasted
The ven'son to a turn was roasted ;

And of the dishes, as they came, He told their excellence and name.
The dinner o'er with thanks to Heaven
For all the various bounties given,

The Bacchanalian suite attend And to the cellar they descend,

In the vaulted cave benighted, Till by suspended lanterns lighted,
The colour'd blaze dispers'd the gloom Of the subterranean room.
Syntax on all around him gaz'd, The more he saw, the more amaz'd ;
Bottles on bottles seem'd to rise In ev'ry form, of ev'ry size,

And casks, of large and lesser shape,
Rich with the juice of ev'ry grape,

Were there in order due maintain'd By thirst luxurious to be drain'd.
Syntax now felt himself inclin'd
T' indulge the impulse of his mind ;



But this was not a time for thinking

'Mid such a fearful threat of drinking.
He now took the appointed seat, Suspicious of the liquid treat,

Resolv'd to keep his reason clear

And watch what might be doing there.

Capias exclaim'd, "This is the toast,

Which in this place must rule the roast,
And my good friends, I'm sure, will see Its claim to fair priority :

I give the LAW, to that are owing

The means to set these currents flowing :"

He loudly then pronounced the word,

And straight the ruby bumper pour'd.

The Doctors both the reason saw Of his just preference to Law.

Capias again filPd up his glass. " The second toast that I shall pass
Julep with pleasure will receive, 'Tis one that he himself would give :

Here's PHYSIC call'd the eye of science,

Life's firmest friend and best reliance :
Without it boldly I declare I should not now be sitting here,

Thanks to the learned Doctor there.

You both, I think, forebode the next, Or as a toast, or as a text ;

Though last, the highest in degree, So now I give DIVINITY."

The flowing wine here found a pause ;

Capias talk'd loudly on the laws ;

When Julep, without vain pretence, But with a ready eloquence,

Display'd his scientific knowledge, As a learn'd member of the College;
While Syntax thought it best would suit His priestly office to be mute.

Nor did the Lawyer now appear

To wish the Doctor's thoughts to hear,

For then he happen'd to be thinking

'Twas time to take again to drinking,

" To what we've drunk, we all agree,

And now," he said, " I'll give all three,


All toasting hence, my friends, will cease,

And each may do as he shall please."

Syntax who sat serenely by, Kept on his glass a wary eye,

While the physician and his host Grew rivals as to drinking most ;
When the good-humour of the day Seem'd to be melting fast away.
" Let me," said Julep, " recommend,

Good Capias, as your real friend,
From this wild drinking to refrain, Nor let me counsel you in vain.

From that vast paunch what ills betide you,

As big as any cask beside you !
For, if you thus go drinking on, I e'en must tap that Human Ton"

" Tap me ? I then shall ne'er recover :

No," Capias said, " 'twill soon be over :

Life's stream will quickly run to waste,

For what's tapp'd here can never last :
From long experience I must own, Belly or cask, 'twill soon be gone.

But hark, you ignoramus elf,

Feel your own paunch and tap yourself !


And now I'll ask the grave Divine
Which is the biggest, yours or mine !"
" You, like your brethren of the h w,"
Cried Julep, " always find a flaw,

And, as you strive to patch it o'er, Contrive to make as many more
This history I have the power To lengthen out at least an hour

But 'twould be painful to rehearse, So I will sing it in a verse.

" When the terrible law, Lays its horrible paw

On a poor man he's sure to be undone ;
Nay, 'twill cause his undoing And e'en prove his ruin,

Though as rich as the Lord Mayor of London."
" Your tricks," said Capias, " never cease
To humbug health into disease :
And thus you find the wealthy ninnies,
Who take your pills^and give you guineas.

ou know, old Galen, this is true, And I can sing as well as you.

" -You Doctors ne'er fail Whatever we ail,

To talk us all o'er as you please ;
For whether you cure us, Or in church-yard immure us,

'Tis the same you all pocket our fees !"

Thus they drank and thus disputed, Thus they argued and confuted;
Thus they sang or strove to sing, It was much the self-same thing,

With some little stammering ;

Then they slept and woke again, 'Till the stable-clock struck ten.

Syntax to escape was thinking From this beastly scene of drinking,
When he would almost have preferr'd
A hog-trough with the grunting herd :

Nay, as he rather had a feeling That sleep was o'er his senses stealing,
He thought it better to remove To some sweet place of rest above ;
When, as he turn'd his heavy head He saw behind a supper spread,
Attended by a household dame, Whom we shall now Rebecca name.
Thither he dragg'd his wooden chair, And took a fix'd position there :
To Becky's hand he gave a squeeze,
And thus address'd her " If you please,
I'll taste your tempting toasted cheese,"
" No, Sir," she said, " here's better picking
Broil'd ham and a nice mushroom'd chicken,

So season'd I should not be willing To swallow it for twenty shilling ;
Though as a relish, I can boast The making an anchovy toast :

And something's here with name uncivil,
For our cook christens it a Devil."
"A Devil, in any shape, sweet maid
A Parson fears not," Syntax said ;
" I'll make him minc'd-meat, 'tis my trade.
But while your sav'ry bits I'm eating
Tell me what means this vaulted meeting ?
Whence comes the whim and what's the cause
That moves this agent of the laws
To play a part that seems high treason
Against the sovereign law of reason r"

20 2


" Through summer months, it is his rule,"

Rebecca said, " because 'tis cool.
For the first hour of their descent 'Tis all kind words and compliment,

But sure as my stool is a barrel,

They first dispute, and then they quarrel,

Then sleep and wake and snort and snore

'Till they, dear souls, can drink no more.
It is my office to appear With this superfluous supper here ;

For, when before them I have plac'd it,

Heav'n bless the topers, they ne'er taste it :

And while they sleep, I leave the cats

To guard the dainties from the rats.

But that self-same fat doctor there

Plays a sly game, as I could swear :

For though he drinks and talks and sleeps,

Yet he a careful measure keeps ;

For he contrives to save his head, And walks off steadily to bed ;
While Mr. Capias, to his cost, Drinks 'till his ev'ry sense is lost,

When all the household, while they bless him,

Bear him up-stairs and there undress him.

He wakes at morn with aching head,
And rumbling stomach over-fed, When Julep seats him by the bed.

The pill, the purge, the powders follow :

Which he, alas, is doom'd to swallow :

Then for a grumbling week, forsooth,

He does not use a grinding tooth :

For nought is on his table seen, But sago, broths and medicine.

Indeed, whene'er his room I tread, To ope the curtains of his bed.

I almost fear to find him dead.
The Doctor having done his deed, Is by the grunting patient fee'd,

Takes leave and darts off, like a rocket,

With five fresh guineas in his pocket."
Said Syntax, " 'Tis a wretched sight,

So let your fair hand take a light,

And shew me where to rest to-night ;
For, without any formal warning, I will be off to-morrow morning ;

And leave, sweet maid, my pious prayer,

A tribute to your gracious care.
As soon as cocks begin to crow, I hope to be prepared to go."

But though those birds their matins sung

Before his wak'ning bell had rung,

It had not struck the seventh hour When he was jogging on his Tour.
Some miles they pass'd, but not a word

The Doctor or his man preferrM.

At length his Rev'rence wish'd that Pat

Should let loose his amusing chat
Of what he did and all he saw, While they were with the man of law.

" Whate'er," he said, " I look'd to see,

Was just, Sir, what it ought to be.

So kindly Mrs. Becky chatter'd,

And Oh, how Pat from Cork was flatter'd !


Of the good things I had the best ;

And, faith Sir, I'm not now in jest :

For Mrs. Becky was so kind, That she, perhaps, might have a mind
In my warm heart to make the stir If I had been a widower ;

For when I told her I was married, O quite another face she carried.

And, please you, Sir, could it be shown

That my sweet person were my own,

I could work up a bargain well As, if you please, I hope to tell.

I think 'tis true or I mistake, That Becky butters well her cake;

She does whatever she may please, And she not only keeps the keys,

But faith nor does she think it worse,

She handles the old lawyer's purse.

Besides whene'er he turns to clay, And that she looks for ev'ry day,
Twas whispered in my ear that she Expects a good round legacy.

Thus, when his guzzling season's o'er, She will ne'er go to service more,
But be a comely, wealthy wife, And bless some honest man for life ;
Nay, had I been from marriage free, I might have been the happy he."
He paus'd. The Doctor ever kind,

Who felt what pass'd in Patrick's mind,
With smiling glance, gave this reply : " I do not wish just yet to die,

But when, please Heaven, my course is run,

And life's appointed work is done,

Patrick may find that Syntax knew

His worth, and could reward it too."

The honest fellow touch'd his hat :

"My heart now thanks you, Sir, for Pat."

He softly spoke, and breath'd a sigh,

Then drew his hand athwart his eye :

And if 'twere ask'd what he felt there ; It might be said, a grateful tear:

They journeyed on nor fast nor slow, But much as other people do :

And, at an anti-dinner hour, Syntax was seated in a bower,

For bower it was, though we must call

The blooming mansion, TULIP-HALL.

Fresh, balmy sweets were found to breathe

From blushing vase or pendant wreath,
While springing flowers of ev'ry dye Enchanted the admiring eye.

Nor was this all, the landscape's pride

With the gay garden's beauty vied :

Wide spreading groves with lawns between,

In summer foliage, grac'd the scene,

And the glittering streamlets pla/d

In eddies through the sunny glade,

While flocks were scatter'd o'er the dale

Where tall pines whisper in the gale,

And midway, in th' ethereal blue, The spire divides the distant view.
As Syntax did the landscape trace The widow'd mistress of the place
Appeared with welcome in her face,

Which she confirm'd with cheering voice.

" To s^e you, Sir, I do rejoice,

Pleas'd too that yuu did not delay Your coming here beyond I
We want just such a man as you To please and to instruct us too :


For I expect three charming neighbours

Who aid me in my floral labours :

But I this counsel must impart ;

Cast a broad buckler o'er your heart :

For 'tis my duty, though a stranger, To warn you of a certain danger
Thus you will, now, your mind prepare Our lively, social joys to share ;
While I to-morrow shall decree To Flowers and to Philosophy.

But as the toilette now attends To deck me out to meet my friends,
I leave you, Sir, till I am drest, To do whate'er may suit you best."

Then from her breast-knot gay she took

A nosegay, and, with gracious look,
" This gift," she said, " I pray receive, It is the sweetest I can give."

" Nay," he replied, " the gift I view,

Is sweeter, since it came from you "

And thus the young acquaintance grew.

The Doctor up the village walk'd

And with the gazing peasants talk'd,

When as a church rose in his view,

He thought there was a parson too ;
So to the vicarage he hied Where at the window he espied

A damsel full of joke and laughter,

Who prov'd to be the parson's daughter.
He with respectful look and mien, Ask'd if her father could be seen,

When, with quick speech and sprightly eye,

The fair one hasten'd to reply,

" I'm sorry you to-day are come, As my dear father is from home,
For he is gone to take his station At the Archdeacon's visitation."

" Will you then say, my pretty dear !

That Doctor Syntax has been here,

And if it is my lot to stay At TULIP-HALL another day,

If I to-morrow should remain, I hope, sweet maid, to call again :

In the mean time, I pray, receive, 'Tis all, I fear, I have to give,

These flowers, in whose form is shown, A native beauty like your own ;
And may it, many a coming year, In all its present glow appear !"
He did his fragrant gift present, She revell'd in the charming scent,

And smil'd a grateful compliment.

A matron who was on the watch, From upper window in the thatch,
Thought it but proper to descend, And give the warnings of a friend.
" I'm sister, Sir, to our Divine, Nay that Miss is a niece of mine.

And much I wish to hint to you What my good brother's self would do:

That you must your keen thoughts prepare

To guard against some hidden snare,

By which you may become the tool Of Lady Tulip's ridicule :

For she delights, at the expence Of men of gravity and sense,

To make some saucy trick prevail, And furnish out a merry tale,

In which her well-fed guests combine,

And scandal-mongers love to join ;

As by example will appear From the recital you shall hear.

" Last week, she had the ait to move

A neighb'ring 'Squire to offer love ;
And while upon his knees he swore He lov'd as none e'er lov'd before,


She scream'd aloud, while 'tis as certain,

Three Misses, hid behind the curtain,

Did with their added clamours rouse

The various guardians of the house,

Who in the carpet did enfold him,

And all along the flooring roll'd him ;

Then squatted on him, but no further,

As they might run the risque of murther.

Embrown'd with dust, all hot and panting,

Cursing the hour of his gallanting,

How he recovered, no one knows

But round the neighbourhood there goes,
Or true or false, a curious story, Which I decline to lay before you :

But wheresoe'er the 'Squire can move,

He hears the tale of making love ;
And all repeat the carpet brawl That shook the floors of TULIP-HALL.

Now, should this strange, capricious dame
Attempt on you some idle game,
Let not, I beg, your patience leave you,
Be calm, come here, and we'll receive you."

The Doctor thus was well prepaid To keep himself upon his guard,
And when he reach'd the hall, he found
Th' assembled Misses ranged around,

In the full ton, and rather pretty, With apt pretensions to be witty.
The dinner came with taste prepaid,
And Syntax its rare bounties shar'd :
In the dessert fresh garlands bloom,
Whose odours fill'd the ambient room ;
And much he thought the coming hours
Would blossom with the world of flowers,

Their classes, orders, native dies, Their species and varieties,

Online LibraryWilliam CombeDoctor Syntax : his three tours : in search of the picturesque, of consolation, of a wife → online text (page 32 of 41)