The Ingoldsby Legends, by Thomas Ingoldsby

Lay of the Naiads.

‘Away! away! to the mountain’s brow,

Where the castle is darkly frowning;

And the vassals, all in goodly row,

Weep for their lord a-drowning!

Away! away! to the steward’s room,

Where law with its wig and robe is;

Throw us out John Doe and Richard Roe,

And sweetly we’ll tickle their tobies!’

The unearthly voices scarce had ceased their yelling,

When Rupert reach’d his old baronial dwelling.

What rejoicing was there!

How the vassals did stare!

The old housekeeper put a clean shirt down to air,

For she saw by her lamp

That her master’s was damp,

And she fear’d he’d catch cold, and lumbago and cramp;

But, scorning what she did,

The Knight never heeded

Wet jacket or trousers, nor thought of repining,

Since their pockets had got such a delicate lining,

But oh! what dismay,

Fill’d the tribe of Ca Sa,

When they found he’d the cash, and intended to pay!

Away went ‘cognovits,’ ‘bills,’ ‘bonds,’ and ‘escheats,’ —

Rupert clear’d off all scores, and took proper receipts.

Now no more he sends out

For pots of brown stout,

Or schnaps, but resolves to do henceforth without,

Abjure from this hour all excess and ebriety,

Enrol himself one of a Temp’rance Society,

All riot eschew,

Begin life anew,

And new-cushion and hassock the family pew!

Nay, to strengthen him more in his new mode of life,

He boldly determines to take him a wife.

Now, many would think that the Knight, from a nice sense

Of honour, should put Lurline’s name in the licence,

And that, for a man of his breeding and quality,

To break faith and troth,

Confirm’d by an oath,

Is not quite consistent with rigid morality;

But whether the nymph was forgot, or he thought her

From her essence scarce wife, but at best wife-and-water,

And declined as unsuited,

A bride so diluted —

Be this as it may,

He, I’m sorry to say,

(For, all things consider’d, I own ’twas a rum thing,)

Made proposals in form to Miss Una Von — something,

(Her name has escaped me,) sole heiress, and niece

To a highly respectable Justice of Peace.

‘Thrice happy’s the wooing

That’s not long a-doing!’

So much time is saved in the billing and cooing —

The ring is now bought, the white favours, and gloves,

And all the et cetera which crown people’s loves;

A magnificent bride-cake comes home from the baker,

And lastly appears, from the German Long Acre,

That shaft which the sharpest in all Cupid’s quiver is,

A plum-colour’d coach, and rich Pompadour liveries.

’Twas a comely sight

To behold the Knight,

With his beautiful bride, dress’d all in white,

And the bridesmaids fair with their long lace veils,

As they all walk’d up to the altar rails,

While nice little boys, the incense dispensers,

March’d in front with white surplices, bands, and gilt censers.

With a gracious air, and a smiling look,

Mess John had opened his awful book,

And had read so far as to ask if to wed he meant?

And if ‘he knew any just cause of impediment?’

When from base to turret the castle shook!!!

Then came a sound of a mighty rain

Dashing against each storied pane,

The wind blew loud,

And a coal-black cloud

O’ershadow’d the church, and the party, and crowd;

How it could happen they could not divine,

The morning had been so remarkably fine!

Still the darkness increased, till it reach’d such a pass

That the sextoness hasten’d to turn on the gas;

But harder it pour’d,

And the thunder roar’d,

As if heaven and earth were coming together:

None ever had witness’d such terrible weather.

Now louder ‘it crash’d,

And the lightning flash’d,

Exciting the fears

Of the sweet little dears

In the veils, as it danced on the brass chandeliers;

The parson ran off, though a stout-hearted Saxon,

When he found that a flash had set fire to his caxon.

Though all the rest trembled, as might be expected,

Sir Rupert was perfectly cool and collected,

And endeavour’d to cheer

His bride, in her ear

Whisp’ring tenderly, ‘Pray don’t be frighten’d, my dear;

Should it even set fire to the castle, and burn it, you’re

Amply insured both for buildings and furniture.’

But now, from without,

A trustworthy scout

Rush’d hurriedly in,

Wet through to the skin,

Informing his master ‘the river was rising,

And flooding the grounds in a way quite surprising.’

He’d no time to say more,

For already the roar

Of the waters was heard as they reach’d the church-door,

While, high on the first wave that roll’d in, was seen,

Riding proudly, the form of the angry Lurline;

And all might observe, by her glance fierce and stormy,

She was stung by the spretæ injuria formæ.

What she said to the Knight, what she said to the bride,

What she said to the ladies who stood by her side,

What she said to the nice little boys in white clothes,

Oh, nobody mentions, — for nobody knows;

For the roof tumbled in, and the walls tumbled out,

And the folks tumbled down, all confusion and rout,

The rain kept on pouring,

The flood kept on roaring,

The billows and water-nymphs roll’d more and more in;

Ere the close of the day

All was clean wash’d away —

One only survived who could hand down the news,

A little old woman that open’d the pews;

She was borne off, but stuck,

By the greatest good luck,

In an oak-tree and there she hung, crying and screaming,

And saw all the rest swallow’d up the wild stream in;

In vain, all the week,

Did the fishermen seek

For the bodies, and poke in each cranny and creek;

In vain was their search,

After aught in the church,

They caught nothing but weeds, and perhaps a few perch;

The Humane Society Tried a variety

Of methods, and brought down, to drag for the wreck, tackles

But they only fish’d up the clerk’s tortoise-shell spectacles.

Moral.

This tale has a moral, Ye youths, oh, beware

Of liquor, and how you run after the fair!

Shun playing at shorts — avoid quarrels and jars —

And don’t take to smoking those nasty cigars!

— Let no run of bad luck, or despair for some Jewess-eyed

Damsel, induce you to contemplate suicide;

Don’t sit up much later than ten or eleven! —

Be up in the morning by half after seven!

Keep from flirting — nor risk, warn’d by Rupert’s miscarriage,

An action for breach of a promise of marriage; —

Don’t fancy odd fishes!

Don’t prig silver dishes!

And to sum the whole, in the shortest phrase I know,

BEWARE OF THE RHINE, AND TAKE CARE OF THE RHINO!

And now for ‘sunny Italy,’ — the ‘Land of the unforgotten brave,’ — the land of blue skies and black-eyed Signoras. — I cannot discover from any recorded memoranda that ‘Uncle Perry’ was ever in Venice, even in Carnival time — that he ever saw Garrick in Shylock I do not believe, and am satisfied that he knew nothing of Shakepear, a circumstance that would by no means disqualify him from publishing an edition of that Poet’s works. I can only conclude that, in the course of his Continental wanderings, Sir Peregrine had either read or heard of the following history, especially as he furnishes us with some particulars of the eventual destination of his dramtis personae which the Bard of Avon has omitted. If this solution be not accepted, I can only say, with Mr. Pug, that probably ‘two men hit upon the same idea, and Shakepear made use of it first.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:47