When Newton saw an apple fall, he found
In that slight startle from his contemplation —
’T is said (for I ’ll not answer above ground
For any sage’s creed or calculation)—
A mode of proving that the earth turn’d round
In a most natural whirl, called ‘gravitation;’
And this is the sole mortal who could grapple,
Since Adam, with a fall or with an apple.
Man fell with apples, and with apples rose,
If this be true; for we must deem the mode
In which Sir Isaac Newton could disclose
Through the then unpaved stars the turnpike road,
A thing to counterbalance human woes:
For ever since immortal man hath glow’d
With all kinds of mechanics, and full soon
Steam-engines will conduct him to the moon.
And wherefore this exordium? — Why, just now,
In taking up this paltry sheet of paper,
My bosom underwent a glorious glow,
And my internal spirit cut a caper:
And though so much inferior, as I know,
To those who, by the dint of glass and vapour,
Discover stars and sail in the wind’s eye,
I wish to do as much by poesy.
In the wind’s eye I have sail’d, and sail; but for
The stars, I own my telescope is dim:
But at least I have shunn’d the common shore,
And leaving land far out of sight, would skim
The ocean of eternity: the roar
Of breakers has not daunted my slight, trim,
But still sea-worthy skiff; and she may float
Where ships have founder’d, as doth many a boat.
We left our hero, Juan, in the bloom
Of favouritism, but not yet in the blush;
And far be it from my Muses to presume
(For I have more than one Muse at a push)
To follow him beyond the drawing-room:
It is enough that Fortune found him flush
Of youth, and vigour, beauty, and those things
Which for an instant clip enjoyment’s wings.
But soon they grow again and leave their nest.
‘Oh!’ saith the Psalmist, ‘that I had a dove’s
Pinions to flee away, and be at rest!’
And who that recollects young years and loves —
Though hoary now, and with a withering breast,
And palsied fancy, which no longer roves
Beyond its dimm’d eye’s sphere — but would much rather
Sigh like his son, than cough like his grandfather?
But sighs subside, and tears (even widows’) shrink,
Like Arno in the summer, to a shallow,
So narrow as to shame their wintry brink,
Which threatens inundations deep and yellow!
Such difference doth a few months make. You ‘d think
Grief a rich field which never would lie fallow;
No more it doth, its ploughs but change their boys,
Who furrow some new soil to sow for joys.
But coughs will come when sighs depart — and now
And then before sighs cease; for oft the one
Will bring the other, ere the lake-like brow
Is ruffled by a wrinkle, or the sun
Of life reach’d ten o’clock: and while a glow,
Hectic and brief as summer’s day nigh done,
O’erspreads the cheek which seems too pure for clay,
Thousands blaze, love, hope, die — how happy they!
But Juan was not meant to die so soon.
We left him in the focus of such glory
As may be won by favour of the moon
Or ladies’ fancies — rather transitory
Perhaps; but who would scorn the month of June,
Because December, with his breath so hoary,
Must come? Much rather should he court the ray,
To hoard up warmth against a wintry day.
Besides, he had some qualities which fix
Middle-aged ladies even more than young:
The former know what ‘s what; while new-fledged chicks
Know little more of love than what is sung
In rhymes, or dreamt (for fancy will play tricks)
In visions of those skies from whence Love sprung.
Some reckon women by their suns or years,
I rather think the moon should date the dears.
And why? because she ‘s changeable and chaste.
I know no other reason, whatsoe’er
Suspicious people, who find fault in haste,
May choose to tax me with; which is not fair,
Nor flattering to ‘their temper or their taste,’
As my friend Jeffrey writes with such an air:
However, I forgive him, and I trust
He will forgive himself; — if not, I must.
Old enemies who have become new friends
Should so continue —‘t is a point of honour;
And I know nothing which could make amends
For a return to hatred: I would shun her
Like garlic, howsoever she extends
Her hundred arms and legs, and fain outrun her.
Old flames, new wives, become our bitterest foes —
Converted foes should scorn to join with those.
This were the worst desertion:— renegadoes,
Even shuffling Southey, that incarnate lie,
Would scarcely join again the ‘reformadoes,’
Whom he forsook to fill the laureate’s sty:
And honest men from Iceland to Barbadoes,
Whether in Caledon or Italy,
Should not veer round with every breath, nor seize
To pain, the moment when you cease to please.
The lawyer and the critic but behold
The baser sides of literature and life,
And nought remains unseen, but much untold,
By those who scour those double vales of strife.
While common men grow ignorantly old,
The lawyer’s brief is like the surgeon’s knife,
Dissecting the whole inside of a question,
And with it all the process of digestion.
A legal broom ‘s a moral chimney-sweeper,
And that ‘s the reason he himself ‘s so dirty;
The endless soot bestows a tint far deeper
Than can be hid by altering his shirt; he
Retains the sable stains of the dark creeper,
At least some twenty-nine do out of thirty,
In all their habits; — not so you, I own;
As Caesar wore his robe you wear your gown.
And all our little feuds, at least all mine,
Dear Jefferson, once my most redoubted foe
(As far as rhyme and criticism combine
To make such puppets of us things below),
Are over: Here ‘s a health to ‘Auld Lang Syne!’
I do not know you, and may never know
Your face — but you have acted on the whole
Most nobly, and I own it from my soul.
And when I use the phrase of ‘Auld Lang Syne!’
’T is not address’d to you — the more ‘s the pity
For me, for I would rather take my wine
With you, than aught (save Scott) in your proud city.
But somehow — it may seem a schoolboy’s whine,
And yet I seek not to be grand nor witty,
But I am half a Scot by birth, and bred
A whole one, and my heart flies to my head —
As ‘Auld Lang Syne’ brings Scotland, one and all,
Scotch plaids, Scotch snoods, the blue hills, and clear streams,
The Dee, the Don, Balgounie’s brig’s black wall,
All my boy feelings, all my gentler dreams
Of what I then dreamt, clothed in their own pall,
Like Banquo’s offspring; — floating past me seems
My childhood in this childishness of mine:
I care not —‘t is a glimpse of ‘Auld Lang Syne.’
And though, as you remember, in a fit
Of wrath and rhyme, when juvenile and curly,
I rail’d at Scots to show my wrath and wit,
Which must be own’d was sensitive and surly,
Yet ‘t is in vain such sallies to permit,
They cannot quench young feelings fresh and early:
I ‘scotch’d not kill’d’ the Scotchman in my blood,
And love the land of ‘mountain and of flood.’
Don Juan, who was real, or ideal —
For both are much the same, since what men think
Exists when the once thinkers are less real
Than what they thought, for mind can never sink,
And ‘gainst the body makes a strong appeal;
And yet ‘t is very puzzling on the brink
Of what is call’d eternity, to stare,
And know no more of what is here, than there; —
Don Juan grew a very polish’d Russian —
How we won’t mention, why we need not say:
Few youthful minds can stand the strong concussion
Of any slight temptation in their way;
But his just now were spread as is a cushion
Smooth’d for a monarch’s seat of honour; gay
Damsels, and dances, revels, ready money,
Made ice seem paradise, and winter sunny.
The favour of the empress was agreeable;
And though the duty wax’d a little hard,
Young people at his time of life should be able
To come off handsomely in that regard.
He was now growing up like a green tree, able
For love, war, or ambition, which reward
Their luckier votaries, till old age’s tedium
Make some prefer the circulating medium.
About this time, as might have been anticipated,
Seduced by youth and dangerous examples,
Don Juan grew, I fear, a little dissipated;
Which is a sad thing, and not only tramples
On our fresh feelings, but — as being participated
With all kinds of incorrigible samples
Of frail humanity — must make us selfish,
And shut our souls up in us like a shell-fish.
This we pass over. We will also pass
The usual progress of intrigues between
Unequal matches, such as are, alas!
A young lieutenant’s with a not old queen,
But one who is not so youthful as she was
In all the royalty of sweet seventeen.
Sovereigns may sway materials, but not matter,
And Death, the sovereign’s sovereign, though the great
Gracchus of all mortality, who levels
With his Agrarian laws the high estate
Of him who feasts, and fights, and roars, and revels,
To one small grass-grown patch (which must await
Corruption for its crop) with the poor devils
Who never had a foot of land till now —
Death ‘s a reformer, all men must allow.
He lived (not Death, but Juan) in a hurry
Of waste, and haste, and glare, and gloss, and glitter,
In this gay clime of bear-skins black and furry —
Which (though I hate to say a thing that ‘s bitter)
Peep out sometimes, when things are in a flurry,
Through all the ‘purple and fine linen,’ fitter
For Babylon’s than Russia’s royal harlot —
And neutralize her outward show of scarlet.
And this same state we won’t describe: we would
Perhaps from hearsay, or from recollection;
But getting nigh grim Dante’s ‘obscure wood,’
That horrid equinox, that hateful section
Of human years, that half-way house, that rude
Hut, whence wise travellers drive with circumspection
Life’s sad post-horses o’er the dreary frontier
Of age, and looking back to youth, give one tear; —
I won’t describe — that is, if I can help
Description; and I won’t reflect — that is,
If I can stave off thought, which — as a whelp
Clings to its teat — sticks to me through the abyss
Of this odd labyrinth; or as the kelp
Holds by the rock; or as a lover’s kiss
Drains its first draught of lips:— but, as I said,
I won’t philosophise, and will be read.
Juan, instead of courting courts, was courted —
A thing which happens rarely: this he owed
Much to his youth, and much to his reported
Valour; much also to the blood he show’d,
Like a race-horse; much to each dress he sported,
Which set the beauty off in which he glow’d,
As purple clouds befringe the sun; but most
He owed to an old woman and his post.
He wrote to Spain:— and all his near relations,
Perceiving fie was in a handsome way
Of getting on himself, and finding stations
For cousins also, answer’d the same day.
Several prepared themselves for emigrations;
And eating ices, were o’erheard to say,
That with the addition of a slight pelisse,
Madrid’s and Moscow’s climes were of a piece.
His mother, Donna Inez, finding, too,
That in the lieu of drawing on his banker,
Where his assets were waxing rather few,
He had brought his spending to a handsome anchor —
Replied, ‘that she was glad to see him through
Those pleasures after which wild youth will hanker;
As the sole sign of man’s being in his senses
Is, learning to reduce his past expenses.
‘She also recommended him to God,
And no less to God’s Son, as well as Mother,
Warn’d him against Greek worship, which looks odd
In Catholic eyes; but told him, too, to smother
Outward dislike, which don’t look well abroad;
Inform’d him that he had a little brother
Born in a second wedlock; and above
All, praised the empress’s maternal love.
‘She could not too much give her approbation
Unto an empress, who preferr’d young men
Whose age, and what was better still, whose nation
And climate, stopp’d all scandal (now and then):—
At home it might have given her some vexation;
But where thermometers sunk down to ten,
Or five, or one, or zero, she could never
Believe that virtue thaw’d before the river.’
O for a forty-parson power to chant
Thy praise, Hypocrisy! Oh for a hymn
Loud as the virtues thou dost loudly vaunt,
Not practise! Oh for trumps of cherubim!
Or the ear-trumpet of my good old aunt,
Who, though her spectacles at last grew dim,
Drew quiet consolation through its hint,
When she no more could read the pious print.
She was no hypocrite at least, poor soul,
But went to heaven in as sincere a way
As any body on the elected roll,
Which portions out upon the judgment day
Heaven’s freeholds, in a sort of doomsday scroll,
Such as the conqueror William did repay
His knights with, lotting others’ properties
Into some sixty thousand new knights’ fees.
I can’t complain, whose ancestors are there,
Erneis, Radulphus — eight-and-forty manors
(If that my memory doth not greatly err)
Were their reward for following Billy’s banners:
And though I can’t help thinking ‘t was scarce fair
To strip the Saxons of their hydes, like tanners;
Yet as they founded churches with the produce,
You ’ll deem, no doubt, they put it to a good use.
The gentle Juan flourish’d, though at times
He felt like other plants called sensitive,
Which shrink from touch, as monarchs do from rhymes,
Save such as Southey can afford to give.
Perhaps he long’d in bitter frosts for climes
In which the Neva’s ice would cease to live
Before May-day: perhaps, despite his duty,
In royalty’s vast arms he sigh d for beauty:
Perhaps — but, sans perhaps, we need not seek
For causes young or old: the canker-worm
Will feed upon the fairest, freshest cheek,
As well as further drain the wither’d form:
Care, like a housekeeper, brings every week
His bills in, and however we may storm,
They must be paid: though six days smoothly run,
The seventh will bring blue devils or a dun.
I don’t know how it was, but he grew sick:
The empress was alarm’d, and her physician
(The same who physick’d Peter) found the tick
Of his fierce pulse betoken a condition
Which augur’d of the dead, however quick
Itself, and show’d a feverish disposition;
At which the whole court was extremely troubled,
The sovereign shock’d, and all his medicines doubled.
Low were the whispers, manifold the rumours:
Some said he had been poison’d by Potemkin;
Others talk’d learnedly of certain tumours,
Exhaustion, or disorders of the same kin;
Some said ‘t was a concoction of the humours,
Which with the blood too readily will claim kin;
Others again were ready to maintain,
’T was only the fatigue of last campaign.’
But here is one prescription out of many:
‘Sodae sulphat. 3vj. 3fs. Mannae optim.
Aq. fervent. f. 3ifs. 3ij. tinct. Sennae
Haustus’ (And here the surgeon came and cupp’d him)
‘Rx Pulv Com gr. iij. Ipecacuanhae’
(With more beside if Juan had not stopp’d ’em).
‘Bolus Potassae Sulphuret. sumendus,
Et haustus ter in die capiendus.’
This is the way physicians mend or end us,
Secundum artem: but although we sneer
In health — when ill, we call them to attend us,
Without the least propensity to jeer:
While that ‘hiatus maxime deflendus’
To be fill’d up by spade or mattock’s near,
Instead of gliding graciously down Lethe,
We tease mild Baillie, or soft Abernethy.
Juan demurr’d at this first notice to
Quit; and though death had threaten’d an ejection,
His youth and constitution bore him through,
And sent the doctors in a new direction.
But still his state was delicate: the hue
Of health but flicker’d with a faint reflection
Along his wasted cheek, and seem’d to gravel
The faculty — who said that he must travel.
The climate was too cold, they said, for him,
Meridian-born, to bloom in. This opinion
Made the chaste Catherine look a little grim,
Who did not like at first to lose her minion:
But when she saw his dazzling eye wax dim,
And drooping like an eagle’s with clipt pinion,
She then resolved to send him on a mission,
But in a style becoming his condition.
There was just then a kind of a discussion,
A sort of treaty or negotiation
Between the British cabinet and Russian,
Maintain’d with all the due prevarication
With which great states such things are apt to push on;
Something about the Baltic’s navigation,
Hides, train-oil, tallow, and the rights of Thetis,
Which Britons deem their ‘uti possidetis.’
So Catherine, who had a handsome way
Of fitting out her favourites, conferr’d
This secret charge on Juan, to display
At once her royal splendour, and reward
His services. He kiss’d hands the next day,
Received instructions how to play his card,
Was laden with all kinds of gifts and honours,
Which show’d what great discernment was the donor’s.
But she was lucky, and luck ‘s all. Your queens
Are generally prosperous in reigning;
Which puzzles us to know what Fortune means.
But to continue: though her years were waning
Her climacteric teased her like her teens;
And though her dignity brook’d no complaining,
So much did Juan’s setting off distress her,
She could not find at first a fit successor.
But time, the comforter, will come at last;
And four-and-twenty hours, and twice that number
Of candidates requesting to be placed,
Made Catherine taste next night a quiet slumber:—
Not that she meant to fix again in haste,
Nor did she find the quantity encumber,
But always choosing with deliberation,
Kept the place open for their emulation.
While this high post of honour ‘s in abeyance,
For one or two days, reader, we request
You ’ll mount with our young hero the conveyance
Which wafted him from Petersburgh: the best
Barouche, which had the glory to display once
The fair czarina’s autocratic crest,
When, a new lphigene, she went to Tauris,
Was given to her favourite, and now bore his.
A bull-dog, and a bullfinch, and an ermine,
All private favourites of Don Juan; — for
(Let deeper sages the true cause determine)
He had a kind of inclination, or
Weakness, for what most people deem mere vermin,
Live animals: an old maid of threescore
For cats and birds more penchant ne’er display’d,
Although he was not old, nor even a maid; —
The animals aforesaid occupied
Their station: there were valets, secretaries,
In other vehicles; but at his side
Sat little Leila, who survived the parries
He made ‘gainst Cossacque sabres, in the wide
Slaughter of Ismail. Though my wild Muse varies
Her note, she don’t forget the infant girl
Whom he preserved, a pure and living pearl
Poor little thing! She was as fair as docile,
And with that gentle, serious character,
As rare in living beings as a fossile
Man, ‘midst thy mouldy mammoths, ‘grand Cuvier!’
Ill fitted was her ignorance to jostle
With this o’erwhelming world, where all must err:
But she was yet but ten years old, and therefore
Was tranquil, though she knew not why or wherefore.
Don Juan loved her, and she loved him, as
Nor brother, father, sister, daughter love.
I cannot tell exactly what it was;
He was not yet quite old enough to prove
Parental feelings, and the other class,
Call’d brotherly affection, could not move
His bosom — for he never had a sister:
Ah! if he had, how much he would have miss’d her!
And still less was it sensual; for besides
That he was not an ancient debauchee
(Who like sour fruit, to stir their veins’ salt tides,
As acids rouse a dormant alkali),
Although (‘t will happen as our planet guides)
His youth was not the chastest that might be,
There was the purest Platonism at bottom
Of all his feelings — only he forgot ’em.
Just now there was no peril of temptation;
He loved the infant orphan he had saved,
As patriots (now and then) may love a nation;
His pride, too, felt that she was not enslaved
Owing to him; — as also her salvation
Through his means and the church’s might be paved.
But one thing ‘s odd, which here must be inserted,
The little Turk refused to be converted.
’T was strange enough she should retain the impression
Through such a scene of change, and dread, and slaughter;
But though three bishops told her the transgression,
She show’d a great dislike to holy water:
She also had no passion for confession;
Perhaps she had nothing to confess:— no matter,
Whate’er the cause, the church made little of it —
She still held out that Mahomet was a prophet.
In fact, the only Christian she could bear
Was Juan; whom she seem’d to have selected
In place of what her home and friends once were.
He naturally loved what he protected:
And thus they form’d a rather curious pair,
A guardian green in years, a ward connected
In neither clime, time, blood, with her defender;
And yet this want of ties made theirs more tender.
They journey’d on through Poland and through Warsaw,
Famous for mines of salt and yokes of iron:
Through Courland also, which that famous farce saw
Which gave her dukes the graceless name of ‘Biron.’
’T is the same landscape which the modern Mars saw,
Who march’d to Moscow, led by Fame, the siren!
To lose by one month’s frost some twenty years
Of conquest, and his guard of grenadiers.
Let this not seem an anti-climax:—‘Oh!
My guard! my old guard exclaim’d!’ exclaim’d that god of day.
Think of the Thunderer’s falling down below
Alas, that glory should be chill’d by snow!
But should we wish to warm us on our way
Through Poland, there is Kosciusko’s name
Might scatter fire through ice, like Hecla’s flame.
From Poland they came on through Prussia Proper,
And Konigsberg the capital, whose vaunt,
Besides some veins of iron, lead, or copper,
Has lately been the great Professor Kant.
Juan, who cared not a tobacco-stopper
About philosophy, pursued his jaunt
To Germany, whose somewhat tardy millions
Have princes who spur more than their postilions.
And thence through Berlin, Dresden, and the like,
Until he reach’d the castellated Rhine:—
Ye glorious Gothic scenes! how much ye strike
All phantasies, not even excepting mine;
A grey wall, a green ruin, rusty pike,
Make my soul pass the equinoctial line
Between the present and past worlds, and hover
Upon their airy confine, half-seas-over.
But Juan posted on through Manheim, Bonn,
Which Drachenfels frowns over like a spectre
Of the good feudal times forever gone,
On which I have not time just now to lecture.
From thence he was drawn onwards to Cologne,
A city which presents to the inspector
Eleven thousand maidenheads of bone,
The greatest number flesh hath ever known.
From thence to Holland’s Hague and Helvoetsluys,
That water-land of Dutchmen and of ditches,
Where juniper expresses its best juice,
The poor man’s sparkling substitute for riches.
Senates and sages have condemn’d its use —
But to deny the mob a cordial, which is
Too often all the clothing, meat, or fuel,
Good government has left them, seems but cruel.
Here he embark’d, and with a flowing sail
Went bounding for the island of the free,
Towards which the impatient wind blew half a gale;
High dash’d the spray, the bows dipp’d in the sea,
And sea-sick passengers turn’d somewhat pale;
But Juan, season’d, as he well might be,
By former voyages, stood to watch the skiffs
Which pass’d, or catch the first glimpse of the cliffs.
At length they rose, like a white wall along
The blue sea’s border; and I Don Juan felt —
What even young strangers feel a little strong
At the first sight of Albion’s chalky belt —
A kind of pride that he should be among
Those haughty shopkeepers, who sternly dealt
Their goods and edicts out from pole to pole,
And made the very billows pay them toll.
I ’ve no great cause to love that spot of earth,
Which holds what might have been the noblest nation;
But though I owe it little but my birth,
I feel a mix’d regret and veneration
For its decaying fame and former worth.
Seven years (the usual term of transportation)
Of absence lay one’s old resentments level,
When a man’s country ‘s going to the devil.
Alas! could she but fully, truly, know
How her great name is now throughout abhorr’d:
How eager all the earth is for the blow
Which shall lay bare her bosom to the sword;
How all the nations deem her their worst foe,
That worse than worst of foes, the once adored
False friend, who held out freedom to mankind,
And now would chain them, to the very mind:—
Would she be proud, or boast herself the free,
Who is but first of slaves? The nations are
In prison — but the gaoler, what is he?
No less a victim to the bolt and bar.
Is the poor privilege to turn the key
Upon the captive, freedom? He ‘s as far
From the enjoyment of the earth and air
Who watches o’er the chain, as they who wear.
Don Juan now saw Albion’s earliest beauties,
Thy cliffs, dear Dover! harbour, and hotel;
Thy custom-house, with all its delicate duties;
Thy waiters running mucks at every bell;
Thy packets, all whose passengers are booties
To those who upon land or water dwell;
And last, not least, to strangers uninstructed,
Thy long, long bills, whence nothing is deducted.
Juan, though careless, young, and magnifique,
And rich in rubles, diamonds, cash, and credit,
Who did not limit much his bills per week,
Yet stared at this a little, though he paid it
(His Maggior Duomo, a smart, subtle Greek,
Before him summ’d the awful scroll and read it);
But doubtless as the air, though seldom sunny,
Is free, the respiration’s worth the money.
On with the horses! Off to Canterbury!
Tramp, tramp o’er pebble, and splash, splash through puddle;
Hurrah! how swiftly speeds the post so merry!
Not like slow Germany, wherein they muddle
Along the road, as if they went to bury
Their fare; and also pause besides, to fuddle
With ‘schnapps’— sad dogs! whom ‘Hundsfot,’ or ‘Verflucter,’
Affect no more than lightning a conductor.
Now there is nothing gives a man such spirits,
Leavening his blood as cayenne doth a curry,
As going at full speed — no matter where its
Direction be, so ‘t is but in a hurry,
And merely for the sake of its own merits;
For the less cause there is for all this flurry,
The greater is the pleasure in arriving
At the great end of travel — which is driving.
They saw at Canterbury the cathedral;
Black Edward’s helm, and Becket’s bloody stone,
Were pointed out as usual by the bedral,
In the same quaint, uninterested tone:—
There ‘s glory again for you, gentle reader! All
Ends in a rusty casque and dubious bone,
Half-solved into these sodas or magnesias;
Which form that bitter draught, the human species.
The effect on Juan was of course sublime:
He breathed a thousand Cressys, as he saw
That casque, which never stoop’d except to Time.
Even the bold Churchman’s tomb excited awe,
Who died in the then great attempt to climb
O’er kings, who now at least must talk of law
Before they butcher. Little Leila gazed,
And ask’d why such a structure had been raised:
And being told it was ‘God’s house,’ she said
He was well lodged, but only wonder’d how
He suffer’d Infidels in his homestead,
The cruel Nazarenes, who had laid low
His holy temples in the lands which bred
The True Believers:— and her infant brow
Was bent with grief that Mahomet should resign
A mosque so noble, flung like pearls to swine.
O! oh! through meadows managed like a garden,
A paradise of hops and high production;
For after years of travel by a bard in
Countries of greater heat, but lesser suction,
A green field is a sight which makes him pardon
The absence of that more sublime construction,
Which mixes up vines, olives, precipices,
Glaciers, volcanos, oranges, and ices.
And when I think upon a pot of beer —
But I won’t weep! — and so drive on, postilions!
As the smart boys spurr’d fast in their career,
Juan admired these highways of free millions;
A country in all senses the most dear
To foreigner or native, save some silly ones,
Who ‘kick against the pricks’ just at this juncture,
And for their pains get only a fresh puncture.
What a delightful thing ‘s a turnpike road!
So smooth, so level, such a mode of shaving
The earth, as scarce the eagle in the broad
Air can accomplish, with his wide wings waving.
Had such been cut in Phaeton’s time, the god
Had told his son to satisfy his craving
With the York mail; — but onward as we roll,
‘Surgit amari aliquid’— the toll
Alas, how deeply painful is all payment!
Take lives, take wives, take aught except men’s purses:
As Machiavel shows those in purple raiment,
Such is the shortest way to general curses.
They hate a murderer much less than a claimant
On that sweet ore which every body nurses; —
Kill a man’s family, and he may brook it,
But keep your hands out of his breeches’ pocket.
So said the Florentine: ye monarchs, hearken
To your instructor. Juan now was borne,
Just as the day began to wane and darken,
O’er the high hill, which looks with pride or scorn
Toward the great city. — Ye who have a spark in
Your veins of Cockney spirit, smile or mourn
According as you take things well or ill; —
Bold Britons, we are now on Shooter’s Hill!
The sun went down, the smoke rose up, as from
A half-unquench’d volcano, o’er a space
Which well beseem’d the ‘Devil’s drawing-room,’
As some have qualified that wondrous place:
But Juan felt, though not approaching home,
As one who, though he were not of the race,
Revered the soil, of those true sons the mother,
Who butcher’d half the earth, and bullied t’ other.
A mighty mass of brick, and smoke, and shipping,
Dirty and dusky, but as wide as eye
Could reach, with here and there a sail just skipping
In sight, then lost amidst the forestry
Of masts; a wilderness of steeples peeping
On tiptoe through their sea-coal canopy;
A huge, dun cupola, like a foolscap crown
On a fool’s head — and there is London Town!
But Juan saw not this: each wreath of smoke
Appear’d to him but as the magic vapour
Of some alchymic furnace, from whence broke
The wealth of worlds (a wealth of tax and paper):
The gloomy clouds, which o’er it as a yoke
Are bow’d, and put the sun out like a taper,
Were nothing but the natural atmosphere,
Extremely wholesome, though but rarely clear.
He paused — and so will I; as doth a crew
Before they give their broadside. By and by,
My gentle countrymen, we will renew
Our old acquaintance; and at least I ’ll try
To tell you truths you will not take as true,
Because they are so; — a male Mrs. Fry,
With a soft besom will I sweep your halls,
And brush a web or two from off the walls.
O Mrs. Fry! Why go to Newgate? Why
Preach to poor rogues? And wherefore not begin
With Carlton, or with other houses? Try
Your head at harden’d and imperial sin.
To mend the people ‘s an absurdity,
A jargon, a mere philanthropic din,
Unless you make their betters better:— Fy!
I thought you had more religion, Mrs. Fry.
Teach them the decencies of good threescore;
Cure them of tours, hussar and highland dresses;
Tell them that youth once gone returns no more,
That hired huzzas redeem no land’s distresses;
Tell them Sir William Curtis is a bore,
Too dull even for the dullest of excesses,
The witless Falstaff of a hoary Hal,
A fool whose bells have ceased to ring at all.
Tell them, though it may be perhaps too late,
On life’s worn confine, jaded, bloated, sated,
To set up vain pretence of being great,
’T is not so to be good; and be it stated,
The worthiest kings have ever loved least state;
And tell them — But you won’t, and I have prated
Just now enough; but by and by I ’ll prattle
Like Roland’s horn in Roncesvalles’ battle.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05