One sultry Sunday, when no cooling breeze
Was borne on zephyr’s wing, to fan the trees;
One sultry Sunday, when the torrid ray
O’er nature beam’d intolerable day;
When raging Sirius warn’d us not to roam,
And Galen’s sons prescrib’d cool draughts at home;
One sultry Sunday, near those fields of fame
Where weavers dwell, and Spital is their name,
A sober wight, of reputation high
For tints that emulate the Tyrian dye,
Wishing to take his afternoon’s repose,
In easy chair had just began to doze,
When, in a voice that sleep’s soft slumbers broke,
His oily helpmate thus her wishes spoke:
“Why, spouse, for shame! my stars, what’s this about?
You’s ever sleeping; come, we’ll all go out;
At that there garden, pr’ythee, do not stare!
We’ll take a mouthful of the country air;
In the yew bower an hour or two we’ll kill;
There you may smoke, and drink what punch you will.
Sophy and Billy each shall walk with me,
And you must carry little Emily.
Veny is sick, and pants, and loathes her food;
The grass will do the pretty creature good.
Hot rolls are ready as the clock strikes five —
And now ’tis after four, as I’m alive!”
The mandate issued, see the tour begun,
And all the flock set out for Islington.
Now the broad sun, refulgent lamp of day,
To rest with Thetis, slopes his western way;
O’er every tree embrowning dust is spread,
And tipt with gold is Hampstead’s lofty head.
The passive husband, in his nature mild,
To wife consigns his hat, and takes the child;
But she a day like this hath never felt,
“Oh! that this too, too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew.”
Such monstrous heat! dear me! she never knew.
Adown her innocent and beauteous face,
The big, round, pearly drops each other chase;
Thence trickling to those hills, erst white as snow,
That now like Ætna’s mighty mountains glow,
They hang like dewdrops on the full blown rose,
And to the ambient air their sweets disclose.
Fever’d with pleasure, thus she drags along;
Nor dares her antler’d husband say ’tis wrong.
The blooming offspring of this blissful pair,
In all their parents’ attic pleasures share.
Sophy the soft, the mother’s earliest joy,
Demands her froward brother’s tinsell’d toy;
But he, enrag’d, denies the glittering prize,
And rends the air with loud and piteous cries.
Thus far we see the party on their way —
What dire disasters mark’d the close of day,
’Twere tedious, tiresome, endless to obtrude;
Imagination must the scene conclude.
It is not easy to imagine fatigue better delineated than in the appearance of this amiable pair. In a few of the earliest impressions, Mr. Hogarth printed the hands of the man in blue, to show that he was a dyer, and the face and neck of the woman in red, to intimate her extreme heat. The lady’s aspect lets us at once into her character; we are certain that she was born to command. As to her husband, God made him, and he must pass for a man: what his wife has made him, is indicated by the cow’s horns; which are so placed as to become his own. The hopes of the family, with a cockade in his hat, and riding upon papa’s cane, seems much dissatisfied with female sway. A face with more of the shrew in embryo than that of the girl, it is scarcely possible to conceive. Upon such a character the most casual observer pronounces with the decision of a Lavater.
Nothing can be better imagined than the group in the alehouse. They have taken a refreshing walk into the country, and, being determined to have a cooling pipe, seat themselves in a chair-lumbered closet, with a low ceiling; where every man, pulling off his wig, and throwing a pocket-handkerchief over his head, inhales the fumes of hot punch, the smoke of half a dozen pipes, and the dust from the road. If this is not rural felicity, what is? The old gentleman in a black bag-wig, and the two women near him, sensibly enough, take their seats in the open air.
From a woman milking a cow, we conjecture the hour to be about five in the afternoon: and, from the same circumstance, I am inclined to think this agreeable party is going to their pastoral bower, rather than returning from it.
The cow and dog appear as much inconvenienced by heat as any of the party: the former is whisking off the flies; and the latter creeps unwillingly along, and casts a longing look at the crystal river, in which he sees his own shadow. A remarkably hot summer is intimated by the luxuriant state of a vine, creeping over an alehouse window. On the side of the New River, where the scene is laid, lies one of the wooden pipes employed in the water-works. Opposite Sadler’s Wells there still remains the sign of Sir Hugh Middleton’s head, which is here represented; but how changed the scene from what is here represented!
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:09