STUDY AIDS : IN POPULAR CULTURE
The Age Reviewed, Part II (1828)
Montgomery's satire of the contemporary scene includes a swipe at "The monster Frankenstein, from Shelley's brain," which "Enjoyed, like other trash, a spurious reign."
I mean to show things really as they are,
Not as they ought to be: for I avow,
That, till we see what's what,—we're far
From much improvement with that virtuous plough
Which skims the surface, leaving scarce a scar
Upon the black loam, long manured by Vice,
Or to keep its corn at the old price."
Have mercy Smith!—what novels bend the shelves,
---- thrasu moi tod' eipein
[. . .]
Malaka men phroneon eslois
Traxus de paligkotois ephedros
Pind. Nem. VII.—4.
In fat octavoes and in flimsy twelves!
Those printed gew-gaws to defile the crude,
Where Fashion yearns to cuckold or be woo'd;
And sentimental misses and coquettes,
Like sucking pigs, whine out their soft regrets:—
Here school girls learn the load-stone of their eyes,
The flush of feeling and exchange of sighs;
Each heart-felt twitch romantic love endures,
Till passion tickles,—and elopement cures!
E'en sluttish housemaids crib a farthing light,
To whimper o'er the novel's page by night;
And then, like heroines, scorning to be wed,
Next night make John the hero of their bed!
How sweetly tempting, flounce the florid troop
Of pleasing sinners in the novel group,
While sensual mewlings charm the easy ear,
Till every crime is worshipped with a tear!
A wanton maid, voluptuous, sweet as May,
Shaped like a Venus from the ocean spray,
Is doomed, (frail thing!) to pluck her virgin flower,
For some young rake, within a moonlit bower:—
Severe to judge, such simple nature there!
"Bewail! sobs Léfanú—an injured fair!"
Each week turns out a garbled lump of shame,—
Some pand'ring novel with a far-fetched name,—
Or wind-blow from disorder'd craniums blown,
The filthy brain-work of the small "Unknown:"
High-pric'd the venal grubs their varnish sell,
'Twill warm old maids and titillate the belle;
From them will Jerdan peck, and Colburn puff,
Till all but author cry out,—"quantum suff!"
Thou book-worn hack of Swansea, cease to write,
May each vile volume wither from our sight;
And with thee, Helme, and all the junto end,
That live by lech'ry, and for sluggards vend.
The season buds with boundless book-supply,
New hacks to barter, and new fools to buy;
Lo! on the fly-leaf of each awful page,
What pen-born wonders to astound the age!
Now for a harvest of seven-shilling dowers,—
Now for the puff whose promise overpowers!
Select old bundles of remember'd lies,
A genteel plan for making mutton pies;—
The tales of vagabonds, on land and sea,
And rhyme by furlongs,—treatises on tea:—
But oh! turn liquid all ye mouths of ton!—
What nice new novel prate the times upon?
'Tis buzzed by blues from Bond Street to May Fair,—
The papers hint,—the novel-shops declare—
A flashy hodge-podge, by a certain dame
Of ancient kennel and reputed fame,
From Colburn's winter stock, will straight appear,—
Ye wittals tremble, and ye beldames fear!
'Tis out!—the sland'rous tattle of each room,—
Belinda's ancle, and Theresa's plume,—
The sweet soft mewlings of each luckless bawd,
The eye that melted and the frown that awed;
All the stewed malice of each flirt-famed street,—
Within three tomes of scribble most complete!
The gifted parent of this heavenly lore?—
D'Israeli,—Hook,—or any vain-struck bore.
Dull Vivian Grey, that fluster'd for awhile,
Tremaine, whose vapours made the Deist smile;
Cosnétt's fine trump'ry, furbished for the fop,
Approved Matilda—smelling of the shop:—
The monster Frankenstein, from Shelley's brain,
Enjoyed, like other trash, a spurious reign:
But bungling blasphemy concealed in "Truth,"
Came, culled by Hunt, to taint unheedful youth!
Thou cankered Pagan! never may'st thou win
By impious sneers, one convert to thy sin.
One word to thee, whose cheap-bought brains supply
The lettered garbage for each reading stye:
Will not the hoarded heaps within thy chest
Feed the vile cravings of a selfish breast?
Go, monger,—all thy manufact'ry stop,
And drive the novel-panders from thy shop;
Yet, ere thou leave the fetid mass of lies
The minion of thy Pallas press supplies;
Think on the taintless hearts thy dross defiled,—
Think on the youthful ones thy hacks have wiled!
In thy lewd leaves how many pens have taught,
The filth of fancy, and the lust of thought;
The cackled wailings of lascivious lore,—
The heart to perjure, and the tact to whore.
Since Harriet's terse aristocratic tale,
Improved the ton with memoirs of the frail,
Lo, grey-haired vanity has mimed the dame,
By printing records of forgotten shame.
Now, gouty dramatists, whose brains run o'er,
Concoct for sale an egotistic store;—
Some prime bon mots, or puns of Adam's time,
Some sweet remembrances of youthful crime;—
Thus handsome Reynolds in two prurient tomes,
Reveals his black-eyed strumpet, plots and homes;
Next, Keefe, at fourscore, piles loquacious chaft,
In praise of jorums, green rooms, self, and raff;
While vapid Craven, though a Margravine,
Pourtrays her phiz—not all that she has been!
The last mean vamper of recorded trash,
Comes sleepy Boaden—sniffing for the cash.
Columbian deeds in story scarcely reign,
E'en Cook and Otaheite are on the wane;
So fast learn'd vagabonds defame the earth,
So fast their blund'ring quartos spring to birth!
Pleased with the Pole, brave Parry sticks in ice,
Where Behring Straits and shaggy bears entice,
Awhile, with grog and whiskey, warms the year—
Can John Bull deem a three-pound quarto dear?
Disturbed at Parry's fame, a moon-struck race,
Forsake at once their creditors and place;—
To measure pyramids,—descend a tomb,
And filch a mummy from its catacomb;—
Or traverse deserts on a camel's back,
And prove that China's walls kept Tartars back!—
Dispose the Nile, and hear a sea-pig roar,
Convert a Mussulman, or shoot a boar:
Sail over Dover's Straits, with book to note,
Observe each sign-post,—get each inn by rote,
With Denham's glance, survey the land and sky,
How gluttons gobble, and how French cooks fry,
Ransack the Louvre, yawn at classic plays,
Depict Parisian modes, and Sabbath-days,
Mark priest-blind Charles his ivory cross adore,
Contrive three volumes, and denote them "Tour,"
"A Tour to France!" the crazy public cries,
Reviewers gape—and Prince Puff Colburn buys.
There are who scribble till their brain is sore,
And filter folly from their dregs of yore;
And such art thou, now lagging through the scene,
Mighty in talent, and in moral mean!
Acute in books, yet blund'ring at the heart,
Prating on truth, yet acting falsehood's part:
Misguided, miserably gifted man,
Be wisely free, a patriot if thou can!
What! hath not sad experience raised thy soul
From passion's sink, to purity's control?
Hath not Affliction's adamantine rod
Burst every bolt that barred thee from thy God?
In vain—in vain—like an uneasy door,
Thou creak'st, and harp'st upon the times of yore,
When blood and blasphemy defiled mankind,
And France became an image of thy mind.
Then wipe pollution from thy weary pen,
Refine, and not debase, thy fellow-men;
If not,—then know, though England sullied be,
She's good and wise enough to laugh at thee!
But, who art thou, that with lascivious eye,
Stand'st looking on, with neck and nose awry?
Off!—off!—debased, defiled, and truly dear
To those alone who'd plant Rebellion here:
Out on thee! unsex'd, unbelieving jade,
For blasphemy and revolution made;
And shame upon that highly-gifted mind,
That ought to be a bulwark for mankind;
But now degraded to the dirty task
Of cloaking meanness with a patriot's mask:
And scrawling volumes on Hibernian eyes,
To swell imagination's harlot sighs!
Pierce Egan!—thou, whose polished pen can throw
Round bulls and asses a descriptive glow;
Poetic painter of the proud delight,
When ruby noses rattle at the fight,—
While lords and lubbers emulate their grooms,
Thy name on every hunting bonnet blooms!
When dead, thine image hung on "Pussy's" tail,
Will raise the jehu's sob, and jockey's wail;
To thy clean page of never-hidden sense,
Our Berkley blossoms owe each fine pretence;
There, dung-rear'd minions learn manuring lore,
And giggling Jerries to be Toms no more!
From authors, turn we to the critic tribe,
Well panoplied with serpent eye and gibe;
The canine, noisome, unrepenting herd,
That snarl, like bull-dogs, o'er each luckless word;
Skilled but to jeer, or like poltroons assault,
Commit the blunder, and create the fault;—
Save frown and censure softly sink away
In the full languishment of balmy pay!
Who reads to trust?—who dreams the dies of heaven
Will last unchanged from morning to the even?
Who thinks to split a rainbow with a straw,
Or find a gem in every goose's maw?
Such puling puppets are the critics turned,
By craft and perjury, their bread is earn'd;
Lurked back, like spiders in their dismal holes,
They mangle merit, and belie their souls.
To mark the glow of fancy on the page,
The lucid picture and conception sage,
Those genial graces of vivacious style,
That deck the subject while the truths beguile;
To trace the fearless beauties of each line,
Dissect the parts, and then the whole combine;
Unwarped by hate or parasitic zeal,
Chastise all faults, and yet all merits feel,—
Thus should the critic o'er the book preside,
While taste selects, and wisdom leads the guide.
The Quarter's Oracle,—of Whigs the fear,
Where Tories fumble, and apostates sneer;
What fawning fools compose the scribbling crew,
What brainless bantams strut in John's Review!
Three-fourths o'erspread with ministerial fume,
And only one to knell the author's doom!
Here, cackling noodles tuned to Lockhart's croak,
At sixteen pounds per sheet, the Whigs provoke;
Or vap'ry vengeance on some victim wreak,
And wither genius for a paltry pique;
Minions to Lockhart and to Murray's wink,
For hire, they hack and howl, and forge and think!
Ram of the flock, apostate Southey there,
For fifty pounds purveys a double share;—
Sometimes a lump of Gifford's fiendish hate,
Completes a volume, and upholds the state;
Next Milman, cresting up his full-blown self,
Defames for envy, and reviews for pelf;
And grins, like Croker, when his curse o'erthrows
The minds that rival his ten-footed prose:
Coleridge and Barrow, in their equal turn,
For proper dabs the Murray stipend earn.
Let Croker now depicting notice share,
That Aristarchian prig from Russell Square;
So orthodox in apish Brummell's creed,
His virgin eye can scarce another read!
If frothy pertness and presuming taste,
Ironic venom and resentful haste,
Create the critic now—then thou art he;
In these, smug Croker, who can rival thee?
Was Pope ne'er wanton,—peevishly impure,
Desire too raging for his strength to cure?
Did Blount not dawdle with the "thinking rake,"
And Wortley's naked limbs his transport wake;
Or send, when asked, the fair "Circassian" girl?
Did Pope chicane not with contracting Curl?
With jargon framed by folly and by spite,
And all his hatred stealing into light;
This pouncing scribbler, in a fulsome rage,
Raked up perverting lies for Roscoe's page;
And mauled the dregs that Gilchrist left behind,
To squeeze the innate poison from his mind!
Alack, for Roscoe! when so base a pen
Protects that Cruscan bard of "wooden men,"
Who, beat by Bowles, bemoan'd for critic strength,
And sneaked, and cring'd, till Croker whin'd at length!
Delicious task!—to wipe pollution clean,
And mete the moral by the verse obscene;
To pile up slanders on a virtuous head,
And stab the living to support the dead!
While genius flowing from a source refined,
And all the gentler graces of the mind;
While spotless age, more reverend as more grey,
Adorn our isle, and consecrate their day,—
Thy honours, Bowles, shall wear perennial bloom,
And Fame her halo shed around thy tomb:
When all this bribe-fed gang shall sleep forgot,
And dust unhonour'd strew their burial spot,
Relenting Time shall pay its just arrears,
Thy soul in heaven, thy memory in our tears!
That bloated reveller on poor Longman's purse,
Reviewing laird of English prose and verse,
Self-loving Jeffrey,—butchers still content,
Pleased with his hire, and proud of his descent:
Around him crawl the insects of his will,
With blushless zeal to prostitute their quill;
Or torture talent, and profanely hack
The hunted victims of their pen and pack.
Though all the knaves of Edinburgh confess,
Their Scotch Review the censor of the press,
The froth and fury of this reckless league,
Betray the infamies of Whig intrigue:
Whose heath'nish tongue praised Europe's murd'ring foe,
Who wiped the blood-stains of his frequent blow;
And, linked with Jacobins, have vilely sneer'd
At England's glories, and her rites revered?
Whose Jesuistic rant has tried to fan,
And raise up rebels from the vulgar clan?—
The Scotch Review!—th' accursed vamp for all
That surly Brougham, or simpering Sidney scrawl,
For all the inebriate lies of party rage,
And dunghill democrats that soil the age;—
Oh! might discerning Truth her foes surpass,
And fling from England's isle, this vip'rous mass!
Blest is the bard, who far from J--'s frown,
Secures a column for a week's renown;
All, all the epithets to poets dear,
Pour from his quill, and melt the reader's ear:
Ye precious darlings, whose ingenuous stuff
Has winged upon the pinions of a puff,
Be cautious, careful, how and where you write,
Some little truth which should not see the light!
Or else the fury of his vial flames!
Woe to your drivel, and your ding-dong claims!
Hark!—hark!—his Aristarchian thunders roar,
And ye are damned for ever—evermore!
But who is he that with sardonic smile,
And jealous eye, and lip weighed down with guile,
Sneaks by, with pedlar sketches at his back?
The monarch of the small-beer poet pack!
The mighty would-be cock of prose and rhyme,
Like Balaam's donkey, moaning the sublime!—
Alike so hated by his friend and foe,
That they applaud who would not dare the blow:
Then, let the truth be heard, although on me
He dash his thunderbolts of obloquy!
For friend, and printer, artist,—all aver
Thee, Alaric, a true poetic cur:
Delighted, when revengeful envy throws
Thy bilious drivel, on some verse, or prose,—
Entranced, if Jerdan yield a barter'd page,
Where, on young merit thou canst vomit rage,—
In heaven itself, when callous lies can doom,
Emerging talent to thy former gloom!
Did Byron's laurels feel thy blackening slime,
And forged detection of his thought and rhyme?
Did Wisdom thank thee for the fierce lampoon,
Or dub thee, "Pasquin," and a worse poltroon?
How well the grov'ling task adorn'd thy fame,—
To link a Byron to piratic shame!
For this dull deed, may ne'er thy rhyme again
Crawl through a page, or hobble in a strain;
But injured genius blast thy venal muse,
And drive thee, snarler, to thy fostering blues;
Remorseful there, dissect thy feeble line,
And print us all the tinsel, purely thine.
We hail that day, when Romish fetters ceased
To slave the press,—and candid powers released,
Allowed each Briton honest truth to cite,
And strength and weakness, their alternate right;
But now, the press with lawless sway outgoes,
Denouncing private, more than public foes;
The good and great, the noble and the mean,
Alike endure the arrows of its spleen.
Lord of the squib, and primate of the pun,
Fat Theodore, thy wreaths for these are won!
The ton's hired Comus thou,—thy brains each week
Can void in columns, puns thou dar'st not speak;
Who, prompt, like thee, can hatch an unclean joke,
Or give to bawdy wit the master stroke?
So meaningly, who throw the smutty hint,—
Thou punning improvisator in print?
May George enrol thee for his Windsor fool,
A dinner wit, surpassing Villiers' school!
The meanest carle that vends a Sunday sheet,
Whose pen can perjure till the lie's complete,
Lampooning Hunt,—with fiendish growl appeals,
And licks the refuse shook from Cobbett's heels;
Traducive hack! still vent, perversely vile,
Each feeling fester'd with malignant bile;
In slang and bawd'ry vomit forth abuse,
Too virulently vile for London stews,—
Invigorate each Pagan joke that's stale,
And trim the musty filthiness of Bayle;
Re-mould the sceptic dust of dead Voltaire,
And in his vileness trace thy portrait there;
Be all, and more, than Virtue can detest,—
The rabble's patron, and the empire's pest!
Are bards and editorial tools alone,
To malice pliant, and to trick'ry prone?
Let crews that comment on the classic page,
Approve their claim—book-harpies of the age!
Or, breeding man-moths, with eternal notes,—
Whose purging mania ev'ry line devotes:
Heaven help the scholar, whom their frauds allure
To read the author, cleans'd by texts impure!
No Roman poet now,—no useless piece
Of mouldy nonsense filch'd from ancient Greece;
Creeps forth in print,—without a turgid mass
Of notes, from English, or from German ass:
To graduate, the hopeful firstling flies
To Cam, or where Oxonia's turrets rise;—
There quaffs his "Massic," drives a borrowed gig,
Games high, and bows before each powder'd wig;
Reads Ovid's Loves, Petronius, the Unclean,
And rivals Flaccus in his midnight scene;
Then leaves his girl for Plato's ethic sweets,
Or else, in Longus half his fellow greets;—
Till primed with metre's true constructive laws,
And all the lore of "ictus" and of "pause,"—
The sharp-eyed pedant clears the college nooks,
And foists purgations into perfect books!
Ye insect Porsons! whose defrauding plan
Re-binds each blunder of confus'd Hermánn;
Look round, and see your classic tomes perplex'd,
With darkening comments, and corrupted text!
And thou, dear Valpy, whose Delphinic trade,
Through Bloomfield's critic crash, began to fade,—
No more such variorum'd lumber vamp,
But, sated with thy present gains, decamp;
Let Priestley's pickled notes awhile succeed,
And gain, as thine did,—surreptitious meed.
Shall none be praised,—no all-presiding mind
Illum'd by Heaven, to better human kind?—
Let powerful Turner's philosophic page
Still teach his country, and this letter'd age;
And prigs, and dunces, rank from Greece or Rome,
To leave their ancients, and observe at home:
Unequalled Irving, with pathetic art,
Still, chaste describer, melt the British heart;
And Scott, thy fame undying as thy soul,
Blest is the feeling struck by thy control!
Look where we please, there is a sad decline,
From human, to realities divine;
Religion, morals,—all but vice, decay,
And Fashion leads, while Folly blinds the day.
No more the Thespian art's improving power,
Lights up the mind, and lures a vacant hour;
Nor forceful talent sway with Passion's rod,
Where Kemble spoke, and Shakspeare's heroes trod!
Ere patch-work dramas, and their tawdry train,
Prologued the mumm'ries of an impure reign,—
Our stage was evening bliss, where Britons sought
The flash of Genius and the fire of thought,—
Where guilt was imag'd to the musing eye,
And dread example drew the gentle sigh,
Till worth triumphant breath'd its hallowed prayer,
And Virtue smiled to see her semblance there!
While fumbling dramatists employ their pen,
Sublimely careless of the where and when,
Let Britain blush for her degraded stage,—
The scenic fripp'ries of a bloated age:
A flag far-streaming, with coruscant sheen,
The rose-wreath'd trees to dance along the scene,—
A pensive fountain lolling on a rock,
A squirt of lightning, and a copper shock;—
The clash of pewter, and the raw recruit,
Whose gilded scabbard dangles to his foot;
And then, the lean procession's limping throng,
Like white-wash'd puppets, wheeling slow along;—
All these,—with clouds to fatten up the sky,
And mid-day moons to ope the sawney's eye,—
Drawl out the ling'ring life of plays purvey'd,
And hash'd-up melodrams to serve the trade!
But most, the clap-trap's heart-convulsive cant,
Conducive "damns," and well-timed mouthing rant;
With smutty meanings, wrapt in puns and grins,
The hand's wide sweep, the shoulder-work, and shins—
Prelude the music of a gall'ry squall,—
Well-earn'd applause for Beazely, Pool or Ball!
The Comic vein has ceased its merry flow,
And Satire aims no more th' instructive blow;
Though faithful guardians of the moral spell,
Forbid a Shakspeare for a Marmontel!—
Look back on proud Eliza's peerless reign,
And will not our dramatic contrast pain?
Then playful Congreve kindled humour's fire,
And Beaumont sparkled in the wit's attire;
While Massinger, with eloquential charm,
And Forde pathetic, forced the sweet alarm;—
But, these are exiled for a sullied verse,
Indecent niceness proves their genius coarse!—
Yes!—"Hallers" mourning for a kindred whore,
Hook their nice noses at the taste of yore!—
When false decorum takes a hoaxing trip,
And flies the heart, to shelter in the lip.
Awake thee, Kemble, from thy sluggish trance,
And drive dramatic flumm'ry to France;
No more, let poachers of exotic trash,
For Farce and trick, monopolize thy cash;
Shall fustian flourish, where thy brother paced,
And Shakspeare's boards, by mummers be disgraced!
Shall piping Roscius represent his king,
And tragic bull dogs bay the crowded ring!
Though emptied buckets mimic Ocean's fall,
And sooty jugglers whirl the brazen ball,—
While ragged scenes, refresh'd with horn and drum,
Secure the shillings of the London scum,—
These mean buffoon'ries blot thy Thespian name,
And barter genius for a worthless fame;
O, yet revive the Drama's purer part,
And scout each mess of pantomimic art;
Let no dull toaders wheedle off thy pay,
While baffled talent shrinks unseen away;—
Not cawing Kenny's everlasting quill,
Or plund'ring Pocock's, more eternal still.
Our manufactur'd plays,—peruse, who list!
The worst abortions audience ever hissed;
From Egan's hundred heaps of dross obscene,
To all the trump'ry plaster'd up by Green.
Peep forth! thou son of genius, prying Pool,
Unrivalled filcher from the witless school;
Though kicked behind, prolific as before,
To gull each season with thy smutty store;
While driv'ling colloquies, and borrowed jokes,
A baseless plot, and vulgar equivoques,—
While hems, and funny squints, and calf-like nods
Delight the doltish, and transport the "gods,"—
Our stage shall hail thee her amusive scribe,
And critic boobies puff thee for a bribe.
Enchanting master of the wry grimace,
How well thy pieces suit an ugly face!
O'er all the kingdom mark thy glories fly,
See, shops and buggies bear immortal "Pry"!—
His nose cocked up with pertinacious pride,
And bagged in breeches, clinging round his side,—
The goggling puppet served for Liston's use,
And limped, like Poole, from Elliston let loose,—
It met no frown—no truth-awakening sneer,
For "Pry" incessant ding'd the nation's ear!
Alas! for Waverly's discover'd bays,
When Pocock minces novels into plays!
With dull contrivance, murd'ring sense and plot,
To stew a melodrame from Walter Scott;
Or, operatic mess of tinsel caps, and coats,
To live on Sapio's, or on Stephens' notes:—
Though Horne, nor clumsy Serle, could save his "Peake,"
An unwept death, to close its gaudy week!
Of equal fame, melodious Plànchè's quill,
Purloins his hum-drum to swell out the bill;
And, hir'd by managers for French bombast,
He cribs each play, more owlish than the last.
Kind friend to Laureate Southey's epic fame,
Prolific Ball,—in nonsense, half as tame,—
Dramatic patron to rejected verse,
Try thou some wonder from "Kehama's Curse;"
Then, borne on "Hunchbacks," bid the stage adieu,
And with thee take thy whole be-devil'd crew.
Sure, all the tribe by Beazely was outdone,
Who made, for novelty, a midnight sun!
The purblind cocknies liked this wond'rous spell,
So plenteous plaudits greeted Avenel:—
O! would that Satire's lash, "at one fell swoop,"
Might level all this play-supplying troop,
Then should the fanes of Thespis cease to groan,
With dross from Farren, or with trash from Soane.
So long have melo-drame, and pilfer'd farce,
Made taste corrupted, and true genius scarce,
That classic models win no patron's eye,
And outlawd tragedies forgotten lie;
To win the president of Drury's fane,
Could any but his bloated hirelings deign?—
Compound some proverbs of obscurest growth,
The mouldy remnants of the dust and moth;
Add quantums due, of powder, flash, and smoke,
The scenic whistle, and the poinard's stroke,—
With all appliances of fort and gun,
Dish up five acts—the tragedy is done!
Six times, shall thund'ring sticks and hired huzzas,
Force the vile stuff, and wake the slow applause.
Ye managerial knaves, whose nod decides,
Whose pocket judges, and whose whim provides;
Before whose glance the manuscript must shake,
And shirtless authors feel a fellow quake,—
While throned on high, by British boobies paid,
Let no mean tricks reveal the trust betrayed,—
Though patronage e'er be a blind-struck dupe,
And sotted thousands to your verdict stoop!—
Renounce all greedy arts, that end in shame,
Refine the Drama, and its force reclaim;
No more, let thick-brained poachers, dull and crude,
Their scribbled bantlings on the stage protrude;
Or ape Mazurier climb the box, from France,—
Or Ducrow's stud on scenic stables prance;
Nor bribe your bawling mouths to aid a cheat,
And fill with riff-raff ev'ry vacant seat;—
Dramatic dignity and wit restore,
Till Genius reign, and Mumm'ry be no more!
Why should the pertly vulgar cry with scorn,
"Thank heaven, I'm not a paltry player born!"
Why should the sleek-mouth'd saint appoint his doom,
And moral prophets damn him round the room?
There may be virtue in an actor's heart,
Beyond the reach of pharasaic art;—
He often does, what "saints dare seldom do,"
Display the bad, and keep the good from view.
Not unremember'd now, shall genius bide,—
Arouse thee, Kean! be still the drama's pride,
From nature fresh, with spirit in each vein,
To thrill with pleasure, or delight with pain;—
Though modest England drove thee from her shore,
While favour'd strumpets footed on thy floor:
Next princely Kemble, Young, with heart-deep voice,
And proud Macready first of classic choice,—
Three mighty masters, still supremely great,
Long grace the boards,—our stage-triumvirate!
'Tis not their art, but its professors, soil,
By low debauch, the triumphs of their toil;
Transplanting parts with all an actor's rage,
To play their whoredoms on a worldly stage!
Here, turned Lotharian pests, in midnight crews,
They strut the bright aristocrats of stews;
Or, more select, some buskined heroes burn
For peeresses, and city wives, by turn:—
One plucks a darling from the lower row,
Whence plumes and billet-doux procure a beau;
And frowsy beldames eye their fav'rite face,
Till boundless bribes hush up a foul disgrace!
No Moorish taste voluptuous, hath divined
More harem bliss than waits the scenes behind,
Where waddling dotards, unresisted, get
Sweet virgin flow'rs to grace their coronet,—
And glimm'ring belles, ere all their bloom is past,
Roll the wild gaze, and yield the ghost at last!
That vouch for all the eye hereafter sees;
These, blazon'd well, with scientific sighs,
Attract the noble, and lead off the prize;—
Though, now and then an Amazonian belle,
Flogs back the victim of her beauty's spell.
Who blames the actor, when rich harlots pay,
Or beastly Colonels bribe the maid away?
Let the rank country fester in its shame,
When prov'd impures partake the highest fame,
And mothers, steeled against parental fears,
Unblushing, feast the prostitutes of peers!
Thus, still ye, Cyprians,—still be splendid whores,
And stalk our stage, amid triumphant roars!—
Now to the Opera turn, where ballets please,
And foppish Fashion fumes away at ease;
There, what fine ear can list the lewd-breath'd sounds,
What decent eye survey the wanton bounds,
The passion-swelling breast, denuded—
And gauzy robe to fix the straining eyes,—
Each warm lascivious twirl of panting lust,
Nor feel the burning fever of disgust?
Bedaub'd with paint, here jewell'd herds compose,
Their pustul'd persons in the steamy rows;
Pile luscious fancies on transparent limbs,
Move with each form, and languish as it swims;
Patrons of vice, from dunghill or from court,
In mercy, cease such Operatic sport!
Caress no Boschas in your costly home,
No whisker'd knave, no eunuch scamp'd from Rome;
O! let the lavish'd millions feed the poor,
The wan-eyed paupers fainting at your door,—
With pity mark, what home-bred mis'ries stare,
Let Britons born, an unask'd bounty share,—
Then sickness, want, and woe, would bless the gift,
And orphan babes, their tear-moist hands uplift.
What line shall Fashion paint?—that creed of fools
Whose flighty doctrine, half the empire rules:—
Queen of the rich,—Minerva of the vain,
Begot by Folly,—cleav'd from Falsehood's brain?
'Tis Fashion dies the beldame's blister'd cheek,
Lives in her errant gaze, and kitten squeak;
'Tis Fashion rolls the lech'ry of the eye,
Breathes in the tone, and wantons in the sigh,—
Deals with the gambler, pilfers with the rogue,
And gives to wealth, a new-made decalogue!
Shall satire dread the judgment of a frown,
When monsters brave, and villains lead the town!—
When foreign strumpets dare the public gaze,
And English mothers think they grace our plays!
The times are come, when arts Parisian please,
And Britons, to be Englishmen must cease:
To Gallic shores our demi-reps resort,—
Return again—and all their filth import;
Then like French apes, these scented mongrels talk,
Feast like the French, and like the Frenchmen walk.
And can it be, that Albion's deemed no more
A fairer, nobler clime, than Gallia's shore?—
Must England stoop to be the mime of France,
Beget her toaders, and adopt her dance?
For novel crimes, need English spendthrifts roam
And kindly teach them to us boors at home?
What morals mark that blood-presuming rank,
Where cultured villains emulate each prank!—
Who best can guzzle down the nineteenth glass,
Denounce a wittal, and select a lass;
Genteely damn, or sprawl a low lampoon.
And pipe the bawdry of a stable tune;
Or, growl in cock-pits, shuffle at the "Hell,"
Supply a harem, and proclaim it well!
E'en women patronize the vice in vogue,
And hail the triumphs of a rakish rogue;
Or pat his cheek, in love-resenting play,
While oglings ask, what lips would blush to say.
A mother's love,—resistless speaks that claim,
When first the cherub lisps her gentle name!
And looking up, it moves its little tongue,
In passive dalliance to her bosom clung;—
'Tis sweet to view the sinless baby rest,
To drink its life-spring from her nursing breast;
And mark the smiling mother's mantling eyes,
While hush'd beneath, the helpless infant lies;—
How fondly pure that unobtruding pray'r,
Breathed gently o'er the listless sleeper there!
'Tis nature this!—the forest beast can hug,
And cubs are nestled 'neath its milky dug;
But Fashion petrifies the human heart,
Scar'd at her nod, see ev'ry love depart!
In Rome's majestic days, long fleeted by,
Did not her mighty dames sing lullaby?—
No mean-bred hags then nurs'd the guiltless child,
No kitchen slang its innocence despoiled;
'Twas deem'd a glory, that the babe should rest
In slumb'ring beauty, on the mother's breast;—
But England's mighty dame is too genteel,
To nurse, and guard, and like the mother feel!
Fond bands of love,—how seldom can they bind,
When sordid wishes rankle in the mind!
The fret of av'rice soon distempers all,
Till peevish languor bursts the sullen thrall:
Not so, when Love, the child of Fondness born,
Breathes on, to its own parent faithful sworn;
Weaving for wedded hearts a mystic chain,
That feel the sorrow, and partake the pain;
Each true to each, as echo to the sound,—
One changeless two, through life's precarious round:
Oh, happy pair! thus link'd for smiles and tears,
Whom absence binds, and grief but more endears;
'Tis your's, one common hope and fear to know,
Through the long pilgrimage of joy and woe.
Miss Prostitution, hail! now buck and rake,
From female marts such ready fair may take,
As mothers bred up from a ripe eighteen,
To pant for wooers, and their husbands glean;
Or chant love-lies, and curtsey with a grace,
While lust meanders through each bloodless face;—
Then, like their dams, arrayed in patch and plume,
To blaze the leading strumpets of the room!
Train'd by some venal, match-contriving jade,
In palsied arms what lovely maidens fade!
Like flowers transplanted to a sandy heath,
Where vapours wither, and pollutions breathe:
Great heaven!—and must youth's summer fleet away,
In cheerless union with the bald and grey?
Must blooming forms, and stainless bosoms press,
Where passion mocks, and nature cannot bless!
What eye can such a loathsome scene behold,
Nor curse the rottenness preserv'd in gold?
To marry wealth, what anguish will be borne?
A crooked log by night—a child by morn!
His parchment sealed?—the wife attends each whim,
Starts at his groan, and chafes the flannell'd limb;
Hangs round his knee, and whimpers at his wrath,
Secures his tucker, and spoons out his broth;
A vigil, down to periwig and cap,
She prays for death,—and sees it in his nap!
O Love!—exhaustless theme for print and pen,
Thou dream of women, and thou joke of men,
We will not curse thee for thy cruel crimes,
In distant regions, or in darker times,—
But turn to Britain, blessed with blooming arts,
And hear her tearful tales of stricken hearts;
Of beauty, blemish'd by seduction's stain,
Of with'ring sorrow, and unpitied pain:
Where mailed in rank, seducers boast the deed,
While female lechers smile applausive meed,
And ticklish flirts a pretty pardon grant,
Or fusty dow'gers on the tale descant!
O, I have seen, the young and trusting maid,
By love beguil'd—enraptured—and betrayed,
Fade day by day, in unregarded gloom,
And greet the shelter of an early tomb:
To virtue lost,—her sex's chilling frown,
Forbad the smile, and awed her spirit down;
Abandoned thus, oh, where could hope appear?
None felt her throb—none wiped the mourner's tear!
When blushing Love first breathes its virgin sigh,
And fond devotion glitters in the eye;
How soon it steals an unsuspecting mind,
That melts away, like perfume on the wind!
Not half so fondly does the bud repose,
Its drooping beauty on the parent rose;
Not half so tenderly the dew-lit gem
At morning, hang upon the languid stem,—
As woman's maiden love,—when true and warm,
Rests on the plighted vow, and lover's charm:
How base the bosom then, with treach'ry fraught,
For her who claims the homage of each thought!
England, full rare thy decent matrons now,
Though Time has delved his wrinkles on the brow!
Shame on't!—to see thine unrepenting jades,
The female blacklegs,—filch like "Hell"-taught blades,
When fourscore years have bronz'd their mummied face,
And ev'ry furrow is a theme's disgrace:—
Mark! at their table, how the beldames sigh,
Turn their brown neck, and blink the sunken eye;
Anon, their wither'd carcase heave and puff,—
With pustuled cheeks, and lips befouled with snuff;
Squat round the pack, they gamble and they grin,
Rub their lean hands, and sweat their brows to win!
In wint'ry age, how sadly drear the lot
Of Fashion's hack, by Fashion's host forgot!—
Bowed down by crippled age, impurely grey,
To mental throes, and peevish qualms a prey:
Dimm'd now the youthful gleams of love-lit eyes,
And cold the filmy lid that o'er them lies;
O, where are they that throng'd her matin court,
Plann'd out the day's intrigue, and shared its sport,—
Who praised her plumes, her love-attracting gait,
And ball-room glance, that bade the proudest wait?
Alas! the parasites of youth have fled,
Some mope like her, some fill their wormy bed.
How rank has lost by condescending crimes,
That birth-right influence felt in purer times,
When titled greatness won respectful awe,
And lowly ranks a worthy peerage saw;
While lineal honours bloomed without disgrace,
And every heir begat a better race;—
Now, rank bequeath'd to high-begotten shame,
But hands the mirror to degen'rate fame.
Review thy thickening peerage, Albion, now,
And rare the peer, that lifts an honoured brow!
Where spring such crimes of undecaying growth,
Such innate vileness, and voluptuous sloth?—
The bestial panders of Domitian's reign,
Now mark, thy mindless,—bloated,—titled train!
St. Giles and Billingsgate are horrid holes,
And Newgate shelters some atrocious souls;
But scour out England's most polluted spots,
Convene her bullies, and select her sots,—
And let presiding Truth, unmoved, declare,
Will not our peerage match the vilest there?—
Peers of the realm—the autocrats that shine,
With lineage reckon'd up to Cæsar's line!
But still, though vile,—the peerage read some books,
To smooth their manners and refine their looks;
Soft Little's verse—or any am'rous chime,
To tickle fancy, and toy off the time:
While now and then, to train both fop and peer,
And furnish scandal to enlive the year,
Select confessions of exemplive cast,
From first-rate hacks, whose hour of glory's past;
Come forth, and meet a most abundant sale,—
For what so pleasing as a harlot's tale?
Contrast the hour of Fashion's brief delight,
With that, of fearful Death's unhallow'd night;
When life and time are ebbing to their close,
And martyr'd pleasure dreads the tomb's repose:—
Alone and fever'd, on his sleepless bed,
Yon dying libertine supports his head;
There is an awe—a silence in the gloom,
As if the fiend were cow'ring o'er the room:
A faintly-glimm'ring taper flickers there,
Tinting his livid cheek with hectic glare;
While throbs of guilt are quivering thro' each limb:—
Thus Folly consummates her reign in him!
Days were, when beauty, love, saloon and ball,
Found him the gayest, wildest, rake of all;
Unmanly wreck! all blanch'd and blighted now,
With hollow cheek, and anguish-moisten'd brow,
Oft turns he round, to feel his throbbing brain,
Grind his dark teeth, and root his locks for pain;—
Then tears the garment from his heated breast,
And lifts in vain, his pale-clench'd hands, for rest;
No tears of sad remorse bedew his face,
But penitential woe is in each trace;
Those burning lips that breathe a dismal sigh,
The phrenzies flashing from his fretful eye,
That wild convulsion through each feature spread,—
All speak of pangful guilt, and hopeless dread!
And thou, Religion, heaven-descended maid,
What crews molest thee, and thy shrine invade?
Where all thy pristine grace unsoiled with art,—
The offer'd incense of a glowing heart?
On most, how toilsome steals the Sabbath day,
How few can worship, though their fingers pray!
Sabbatic rites are deemed but prudish ties,
While penitence contents itself with sighs.
A lolling bliss where scented loungers meet,
And lip-wide grins all round the velvet seat;
The fretful mumbling of an unfelt prayer,
Or snoozing godsend in a padded chair,—
These, with the practice of the Sunday moan,
Are Fashion's off'rings at Jehovah's throne!
Fresh Christian locusts, whose unfetter'd cant,
Provides the fuel for deistic rant,—
Arise each day,—besotted, wild, or mad,
To craze the holy, and augment the bad;
Who trace the Godhead in each trick of life,
And hear his thunders rolling for their strife!
First, see the addle-headed Ranters, try
To wake St. Peter, with a hideous cry;
Sublime their doctrines, when unloosen'd jaws
Are baying heaven, like congregate Macaws!—
While, sprightlier still, the jolly Jumper squalls;
For God inspires high-leaping Bacchanals!!—
What more! Yes;—here they creep with psalm and song,
The dipping Baptist, and Moravian throng.
Last, Huntingdon's cold, pharasaic herd,
Self-loving dolers of the grace and word,—
Pourtray the gospel in their sour grimace,
Or prove its pureness by a smutty face;
Election swells their puritanic breast,—
For them, salvation smiles the soul to rest:
Cant in each word, and "Bible" for each boast,
They paint "Old Nick"—as if they loved him most!
With lanky locks upon a sheepish head,
And visage stolen from the mould'ring dead,
While ghostly terrors bend the bile-ting'd brow,—
His black chin lolled in sleepy lump below,—
The methodistic preacher heads his clan,
A precious sample of angelic man:
Perch'd in the pulpit, how he frowns beneath,
What heavenly phrenzies wet his clatt'ring teeth!
His chisell'd features, seem but granite stone,—
And snivel sanctifies each grunted moan;
The saintly curl upon his quiv'ring lip,
Whence awful threats in rich saliva drip,—
That pharasaic rankness in his sneer,
And donkey voice, betrayful of the seer,—
All prove him dropp'd from heaven, the world to save.
To picture Hell, and realise the grave!
How loathes the eye! to see the babbler preach,
And shoot his neck, to frighten and to teach;
To mark him spread about his clammy palms,
And sputter forth in cant, celestial qualms,
Now, wild-struck, turning to the chapel's roof,—
Now down to Hades for sublimer proof:
Great God!—and should Religion's awful aim,
Be thus unravell'd by the fool's acclaim,—
Or, hoaxing zealots, pluck'd from shop or cell,
Rant forth, like mountebanks, on "heaven and hell!"
Since venalism rules both head and heart,
The Church hath dwindled to Ambition's mart,
And av'rice soils that fane, supposed to be
The earthly temple of the Deity:
Some stick the righteous "Rev'rend" to their name,
To prop its meanness, and obtrude its fame:
While others, drawl an unpresuming strain,
While lawn and mitres dance about their brain:—
Who knows, when powder'd well, and stol'd in white,
If God, or livings form their best delight?
Next, see the Rectors, whose ancestral worth,
Secures a "good fat" living, at their birth;
From college ripe, they chaunt the hunter's song,
Drink, chase, and shoot the wood's wild "feather'd throng"
Let the lean Curate, in his white-wash'd room,
Gulp the small beer, and preach the sinner's doom,—
With foggy throat three sermons growl a day,
And, thankful, feast on sixty pounds for pay!
What now is Irving,—he who heav'd his tongue,
As if a world upon its ravings hung?
He gave a trinket to redeem the Jews,—
(Sure, such a Scotchman, Heav'n will not refuse!)
And nobly vow'd, his pious craft should make,
His best orations for the bauble's sake:
Wo! to Isaiah,—and his rostrum too,
Deserted now, but by the cockney few!—
There, let the vaunter pant, and puff, and sneer,
And rattle doctrines through the splitting ear.
More honest, and less stern, wags merry Hill,
A grey-locked joker, in the pulpit still,
Whose John Bull sermons wake the chapel's grin,
When smiling Conscience owns her tickled sin:
How tender he, to Adam's recreant race,
When "putrid sores" depict our need for grace,—
While softly wiling off each hungry grief,
He carves the gospel into rounds of "beef!"
O Rowland, Rowland!—cease thy wink and nod,
Nor be a pulpit punch, to joke for God.
Not preaching Bedlamites alone arise,
To force the gospel, and astound with cries,—
But rank revilers, headed by Carlile,
Blaspheming, pour their poison through the isle;
While foul-mouth'd Ign'rance spits her impious gibes,
And London swarms with Atheistic tribes!
Now for the apex of polluted souls,
No shame subdues, no reverence controuls,
Puff'd into pertness, pand'ring to the time,
Two pinnacles of blasphemy and crime;—
Come, godless, blushless—England's vilest pair,
Blots on her land, and pestful to the air,—
C--- and T---!—may each kindred name,
Be linked to one eternity of shame!
First, thou, the cap'ring coxcomb of the two,
With head upshooting from thy coat of blue,—
Say, what has "Reverend" to do with thee,
Though big and bloated with effrontery?
Wert Reverend, when round thee lolled a gang,
To drink the poison of thine impious slang;
And on Heav'n's book, thy cursed feet then trod,
To foam thy foulness at the throne of God?—
Wert Reverend, when from the pot-house turn'd,
And drunken fevers through thy bosom burn'd,—
Mean to the larc'ny of a paltry pot,
At once a rogue, an Atheist, and a sot!
Or, Reverend,—when to each Christian fane,
Thou lead'st the barking bull-dogs of thy train,
In mean and native brutishness of mind,
To growl thy dogmas, and pervert the blind?—
Go, caitiff!—put a mask upon that face,
The staring mirror of thy soul's disgrace,
Go, seek some dunghill to harangue thy breed,
And there enjoy the dark satannic creed:—
Though stiff in port, and stately with thy glass,
May good men frown, whene'er they see thee pass,
Till even infant tongues shall lisp thee, "vile,"
And Britons hoot thee from their tainted isle!
The base we've had, of ev'ry kind and hue,
The bloody, lech'rous, and unnat'ral too—
But never, yet, the wretch that equall'd thee,
Thou synonyme of all depravity;
Thy mind as canker'd as thy columns vile,—
Thou pois'nous, poor polluted thing,—C—!
For thee, must heaven's empyreal portals close,
And Hope be buried in her dead repose!—
For thee must glorious aspirations cease,
Nor Faith, still vision, out her heav'n of peace,
And minds no longer dare to feel divine,
But turn distorted, fester'd, lewd as thine!—
If yet within thee dwell one thought of shame,
If the least true feeling for thy country's claim,
And common nature but preserve her right,—
Then tear thy hellish pictures from our sight;
If vile thou must be,—hie thee to some den,
To feast the fancies of thy fellow-men;
But stand not forth to Britain's public eye,
The monger-fiend of painted blasphemy;
Now go!—and quickly end thy course perverse,
Hung on the gibbet of a nation's curse!
Ascendant God, still let unslumb'ring love,
Gaze down from thine all-glorious throne above;
Expel illusion from each erring mind,
Thine be the judgment, ours the will resigned;
O, long from Britain keep that fearful hour,
When unrelenting crime shall curse thy power;—
When hearts shall cease to plead to be forgiv'n,
And banished Faith unveil no future heav'n!
Thou flower of cities, Earth's imperial mart,
Unequal'd London!—Britain's mighty heart;
That, like our blood-spring with reversive tide,
Receiving, pour'st to empires far and wide,—
To thee, the nations look, like Magi bowed
Before their fire-god, in his burning shroud:
There is a living spell around thee spread,
That wakes the shadows of thy peerless dead;—
Within thy walls, we tread enchanted ground,
By sages, poets, martyrs,—made renowned!
What heroes here, what kings have sprung to birth,
What martyr'd minds of unexhausted worth,—
What gifted ones of heaven's congenial sphere,
Have liv'd and struggl'd—starv'd and triumph'd here!
O, never can I press one stone of thine,
Nor think of feet that trod, where now tread mine,—
Of unforgotten greatness that hath been,
Of genius weeping, perhaps, where I am seen.
While bagatelles in ev'ry distant clime,
Receive the sacrifice of prose and rhyme,
And gaping pilgrims leave their English home,
With wonder-searching eye for Greece and Rome;—
Must London share no patriot's glowing theme?—
Can none sing ancient Thamis' freighted stream;
Meand'ring far through sun-bright meads, and rifts;
'Neath beetling hills, and Henley's chalky clifts,
With grass-green banks, where cluster'd villas peep,
In sylvan beauty, from their laurel'd steep?—
Her piles of glory, and her pillar'd halls,
Her tow'ring mansions and historic walls?
While speeds the crowd, how oft I pause to view,
The fairy scene from thy Bridge, Waterloo!—
And rest my arms upon the massy stone,
Till spell-blind fancy dreams I stand alone;
Soft whisp'ring flows thy spread of infant waves,
While far along the dizzy sunshine laves,—
Dancing as light and mellow on the stream,
As Hope's first glimmer on a youthful dream!—
Fleet down the river skip the careless boats,
While o'er its bosom tremble flute-breath'd notes;
Or, light barks cluster near its heaving side,
Whose tangled oars are imaged in the tide;—
Upraise the glance,—majestic to the eyes,
Above the amber'd stream, the bridges rise;
While slumb'ring near, with unpartaking smile,
Behold the massive, many-windowed pile.
For thoughts sublime, aloft the Abbey rears
Its towers, in all the majesty of years;
Unawed, no British patriots here can tread,
The dim cold fane where sleep the mighty dead;—
But, while each dome and ancient fane conspire,
To rouse the poet, and attune his lyre;
Compel'd, we mark, where London scenes entice,
This queen of cities in the sink of vice!
To London—now so Babylonian grown,
That half is scarce to genuine cocknies known;—
What errant mongrels of exotic breed,
What motly knaves from Ganges to the Tweed,—
Advent'rous tramp, with mother, brat, and spouse,
Quite scripless all, as to some pauper house?
From Ludgate Hill,—see myriads throng in view,—
Turk, Swiss, and Gaul, John Bull and howling Jew;
The world assembled from each far-off clime,
All passing swiftly to the goal of time;
Here, as the buzzing crowds collected meet,
Behold the living drama of the street!—
The greasy trader paddling with his arms,
The rustic monarch furious for his farms,
The hawk-eyed bailiff, clerk, and jobber grey,
With currish boobies, fumbling for their way,—
The flying porters, and the ballad throng,
That pick the pocket with a venal song,
With all the melody of whips and wheels,
Of bellmen, pawing hoofs, and mud-splash'd heels;—
No melodrames, though hash'd by Pool or Peake,
Such mingled droll'ry, and true pathos speak!
Parade the streets!—what countless wonders rise,
Eternal changing to the changing eyes!
Fresh sights unrival'd by Niag'ra's Fall,—
Miverva pigs, and tigers from Bengal,
Brobdignag heroes,—Lilliputian dwarfs,
And breeches languishing near ladies' scarfs!
The lame in dog-cars—giants on their stilts,
And matrons fing'ring out the ruffled quilts!—
Here, Hunt turns shoe-black to his dear-lov'd land,
And poisonous Eady dirts the lazy hand;
Here, round some pander's lust-purveying shop,
The peering urchins strain their necks, and stop,—
While coal-hole sermons, when the walls are bare,
With smug enticement catch the lounger's stare.
From vulgar scenes, sometimes a gilded change,
When paunchy shrieves enjoy their wat'ry range;
Now bells are cracked! and fat the turtle flames,—
For proudly sails the charlatan of Thames!
The sinking river sweats beneath its weight,
And bubbles anger at the capon'd freight;
While wond'ring ideots stare along the shore,
Sigh for the soup, or watch the dipping oar.
When decent nonsense lures the listless throng,
Small Waithman's speech, or blund'ring Beazeley's song
Repugnant Sense, disdainful of the town,
Collects her censure in a passing frown;
When tumbling Gilchrist tortures men and girls,
To twist their bodies for gymnastic twirls,
All laugh, to think that morning streets are left,
And wives, through humbug, of their mates bereft,—
But shall we smile, when filthy imports bless
A nation's eye with bony nakedness?—
How flocked the ton, and curious virgin clan,
To view the skinless mirror of a man,
Shipped off from Gaul—where skeletons abound—
To show its beastly zone on British ground!
Lascivious Gaul! in mercy send no more
Disgustful sweepings, from thy baleful shore;
Keep all such filth, to please thine own foul race,
Mean without shame, and lewd without disgrace!
But while the rich, the vicious, and the vain,
Pursue their pleasure till it turn to pain,—
While Rank rolls on, and Pride upturns her eye,
What hapless, houseless, wretches wander by,—
From babes, whose tongue cannot repeat their woe,
To Age, that totters on with locks of snow!
Where'er we move, some wailings strike the ear,
And melt humanity into a tear!—
My countrymen,—though famished, friendless, poor,
Or trembling tatter'd, at the spurner's door,—
Like Stoics, bear an uncomplaining grief,
Till Government shall bring its slow relief!
Will Pity aid?—oh, here are pangless hearts,
Where sympathy no tender pain imparts;
Eyes, that can mark, like dead ones, fixed as glass,
The tearful Britons, fainting as they pass!—
Unnoticed here, the pauper lorn and pale,
With bleeding feet, may shiver to his tale,—
Unfed, the sailor with his quiv'ring lip
Recal the ocean, by a painted ship,—
Unwept, a suckling Niobé may plead,
While clinging infants lisp their early need!
And sadly faint, the shredless and unknown,
May chalk their fortunes on their bed of stone.
To this huge capital,—the dream of youth,
That paradise till Fancy melt in truth,—
The young advent'rer, kindling for a name,
Repairs to offer at the shrine of Fame:
Parental lips have sealed their parting kiss,
And fond farewells have omen'd future bliss,—
Then proudly pure, his panting bosom glows,
While Hope around him all her magic throws;
Thus comes he to the crowded capital,
Where toil-worn genius fades, and talents fall;
And hate and rivalship alike conspire,
To crush the spirit, and exhale its fire.
Deluding weakness! here did Goldsmith roam,
And Chatterton could share no shelt'ring home;
Here, martyred Otway hunger'd to his grave,
And toiling Johnson drudg'd a printer's slave!
The lurking satire of each stranger's eye,
The bribe-fed sycophants that swagger by,—
The knaves that cozen, and the fools that goad,
With all the thorns on life's precarious road,—
Commingled, these oft balk the firstling thrown
On life, to steer his little bark alone:
How many a flower of dear domestic pride,
In wasted fragrance here, has drooped and died!
Yet better far, to languish on and die,
Than live to pen the page of infamy,
Like those dull tools that browse on mean-got pay,
And furbish libels to supply the day,—
Too vain to labour where their fathers did,
Turned letter'd dolts in gloomy garrets hid;
Where, unbeheld, their fev'rish lungs can drink,
The smoky airs that whistle through each chink:
A bed, whose bronzing blankets sweep the ground,
Amid dismember'd chattels mourning round;
One fusty board, where rare the grub is placed,
A desk, and shelf with mildew'd volumes graced—
And lamp and filth—complete the stenching room,
Where Cockney paper-minions mope and fume.
Fine rapes and murders—acted in the brain,—
And sudden fires quenched out by sudden rain;
A magic quill, for pand'ring party lies,
To heap on virtuous heads foul calumnies;
The art to wrench a pun, or slimy bit
Of cobbled nonsense clench'd up into wit,
Or, pinch a puff—indite a paragraph,
Or Tookish squib to make the Tookites laugh,—
Insures a living where detraction's fed,
A "free admission," and a lousy bed.
The skinny lip, moist eye, and thread-worn dress,
And lean long visage, soap can seldom bless,—
Announcing mark, like Cain's base-branded brow,
These plodding elves, from Grub-street to the Row.
Sure, England's climate more diseaseful grows,
And every gust a fresh distemper blows!
Since Æsculapians now, like mushrooms rise,
And physic sickens on the sated eyes.
No art is quackless now;—from College skill,
To Lambert's Balm, and Abernethy's pill:
What lives are ravag'd by the baleful craft,
Of canker'd powders, and blood-pois'ning draught!
Who knows what hapless victims yearly fall,
By lancing lubbers, and cathartic ball;—
Hack'd, swill'd, and purg'd, till physic stifle breath,—
Though such mistakes ne'er hap till after death!
Our flesh seems priceless after parted life,
And feeling shudders at the murd'rous knife;
That worms should feast upon primeval earth,—
This doctrine Nature speaks, to mark our birth;
But human thieves, to mawl th' uncoffin'd clay,
And tear men up before the judgment day!—
Such putrid horrors for the Christian dead,
Become a cannibal's,—or Cooper's head;
Though Abernethy sniff his awful nose,
And College puppies plant their bloody blows!
"An honest man's the noblest work of God;"
So lectur'd Pope, who swayed the critic's rod;—
He's prais'd by matron, moralist and don,
Though seen more rarely than the coal-black swan!
True Honesty!—where is it in these days,
When rogues repeat, and villains beg their praise?—
Not in the full-blown unassuming face,
Where honesty is but a smiling grace;
Nor in the glossy candour of their tones,
Who pule and gabble what the heart disowns;—
Nor in prim proverbs daub'd with moral paint,
Where unfelt goodness whimpers from the saint,
Or mumbling drones, that foster secret vice,
But blazon Virtue, and define her nice:
In truth, the honest man scarce lives at all,
The last I saw, was on a church-yard wall!—
If ev'ry knave must have his reprimand,
Then take a rope, and gibbet half the land.
A tribe there is,—the tribe of every street,
That steal unhang'd, yet help to hang the cheat;
A plague so direful, Egypt never saw,—
The money-gulping vermin of the law:
The perjur'd banes to aught sincere and good,
Who prowl for jobs, and filch for daily food:
No doubt, if Satan roams his kindred earth,
He finds a lawyer's cranium for his birth!
Down that long lane, whose time-encrusted porch
Leads care-worn clients to a dubious lurch,
In woeful wigs, and wavy robes resort,
Our budding Eldons, to beseige the court;
With fretful step, and circumambient glance,
And wrinkled brow, and bag, all slow advance;
Grim, lean, and hunger'd,—pond'ring on their cause,
And prompt to spy the loop-holes of the laws.
But see! what dapper caitiffs bustling come,
Whose teeth-grip'd lips compress the mutter'd hum?
A savage grin plays on the sallow cheek,
While knitting eye-brows, augur'd pillage speak;
Beneath their hugging arms, tied briefs repose,
And free behind, the ruby tape-string flows:
These are the scurvy minions of a breed,
Whose sateless mouths on thwarted justice feed,—
A cringing, tricky, over-bearing host,
Whose law is quibble, and whose cheat's a boast;
Who twist fair reason to a crooked shape
Teach fraud to flourish, and the rogue to'scape,
Conceal a contract deed, from orphans wrench,
And help the thief, both in and out the bench;
A baser tribe, three kingdoms cannot nurse,
To well-stocked clients, bowing, sneaking, terse;
To lowlier ones, presumptive braggarts they,—
Tap-room Moguls, and despots of the day:
E'en round the cup they'll pant to twine the laws,
And plot a quarrel, to create a cause!
Now leave the law, for that which must allure,—
For modesty—so docile and so pure!
Marked in the gait, and seated on the front,
And just now gallicised to, mauvaise honte,—
Of ev'ry home and ev'ry clime a part,
But rarely templed in the taintless heart:
The French (a southern clime is apt to warm,)
Perceive its presence in each filthy charm:—
Their wanton beauties daunt the bravest eye,
Nor blush, when petticoats ascend too high,
No further,—'tis but artlessness revealed,—
Their honour's guarded by the stoic shield:
In Britain, (were she, faithful to her name,
Un-French in manner, as un-French in fame!)
True modesty and love are threadbare themes,
For moral mouths, and sanctimonious dreams;—
Yes! here behold it in a wax-doll maid,
With minc'd palaver, and a step delayed,—
In squeaks of sentiment, and lips that sigh
A dismal death-dirge o'er a bleeding fly,—
Or eyes that dribble buckets full of tears,
And heads that droop down like dead donkies' ears!
How modest too, those plaintive mouths that share
No bliss colloquial, save 'tis simpering there?—
How modest Coutts! that with an awkward shame,
Does good by stealth, and frowns to find it fame.
Now titles seldom shine without a spot,
Start not, to find distinctive rank forgot;
That pert Intrusion levels all the town,
And ev'ry rascal wears a kingly frown:
Securely panoplied in birth-right brass,
Our spurious "gentles" undiscover'd pass;
And swagger on with autocratic sneer,
The first to babble, and the last to hear.—
"What titled Nabob he, that quizzes there,
With braided bosom, and Macassar'd hair?
The creamy glove, and supercilious shoe,
That glossy garment of imperial blue,—
Those taper'd fingers, and unwholesome skin,
Betray patrician spirit shrined within?"—
O, that's a tailor, kneaded to a fop,
Obliged Sir T. with loans,—and left his shop!
"And who is he, with punchy cheek, and nose,
Whose vermeil tip with pompous grandeur glows?"—
A bouncing huckster,—in the Commons now,
Who piles his honour on a brazen brow.
Revealing day has fled;—and foggy Night,
With mist, and lamp-light, claims alternate right:
Now, perch'd in coaches, whirl to see the play,
The stiff-neck'd traders, weary of their day;
Clad in the motley hues of dressy skill,
How sweet to lose the meanness of a till!
Alack! each grumble, posture, gabbling flow,
Announce the shop,—though in the lower row;
The frowsy Hottentots that puff and stare,
The snip that paws his chin, and ruffs his hair,
The sleek apprentice, balancing his side,
And fumbling hucksters, big with watch-chain pride,
Poor mimics!—show amid their "bran new" dress,
The direful struggles of vain littleness.
How time must lag, where Fashion sits the queen,
Nor heart, nor soul, commingles with the scene;
Where each succeeding hour is but the last,
And Folly stagnates, by herself surpass'd:—
To scribble, leave the card's diurnal lie,
Watch Christie's grin, or pinch a noon-tide pie,
Create importance in a matin call,
Unpack a tradesman's shop—nor buy at all,—
Crawl forth each morn, and so yawn out the day,
Growl, smile, and guzzle,—sorrowing, to be gay;
Thus, Fashion dupes her addle-headed slaves,
Until, like dogs, they shrivel to their graves!
How sweet those hours! where beldames, fine and fat,
Enjoy the curtsey, and the thumb-worn hat;
Now, fools assembled for a tongue-born strife,
In nimble nonsense talk away their life;
What Miss elop'd?—Whose paroquet has died?—
The mighty trash a solemn hint implied;
How gross Duke D—! how famine thins the land!
What future "Boleyn" groans 'neath Milman's hand?
Of C—m's amours, Fitzherbert's right,—
What new-made whore shall kick the stage to-night?
Here, tender Wellesley and enamour'd Bligh,
With kid-napp'd Turner, rouse each Wakefield's sigh;
Here pug-like Brummells wince, and Berkleys walk,
While eager Pagets linger as they talk;
And holy Clóghers preach of skies above,
Or wink a lecture on illegal love:
Old maids are prim'd—the coxcombs cough perfume,
And belles and albums please the fool-cramm'd room,
While naked Cupids, frisking on a screen,
Make staring widows pant for what has been!
When chilling mists, within a yellow cloud,
Creep on the Strand, and dense the street enshroud,
And floating filth, from each Mac Adam's road,
Lights on the cheek, as swift the drivers goad,—
Then London, like a chrysalis, unrolls,
And dark December greets her winter souls:
Fleet rush the chariots,—flash the whisker'd host,
Poole loads the wall, and Hafiz daubs the "Post"—
Returning gadders soon the tour-race run,
And Margate follies thrive at Kensington.
While tawdry Fashion struts her idle way,
Let's pause, and sketch some models of the day:
First stalks the coxcomb, flimsy,—frothy—vain,
In step a Brummell, and in look a Hayne;
"From head to toe," perfum'd like Rowland shops,
He's every inch the paragon of fops!
A porkish whiteness pales his plastic skin,
And muslin halters hold the pimpl'd chin;
A gleaming spy-glass dangles from his neck,
And ev'ry honor hangs upon his beck!
A goatish thing—he lives on ogling eyes,
On scented handkerchiefs, and woman's sighs!
Its door-acquirements, and revolving limb,
Its luscious prate, and bawdy hints so trim,—
Secure each beldame's patronizing smile,
And feast the Bacchanals of lewd Argyle!
The foppish soldier, pining for a ball,
Comes clinking next, the cynosure of all:
Though boastless he of W--'s war-nose,
Like him, in uniform, his valour glows;
For him, will titled Harriets melt and frown,
And rank him darling puppy of the town:
Big lips, and clanking chains, and polished spurs,
And sword—that rarely from its scabbard stirs,
The war-like foot fall, and the hairy glue,
All fit him for another Waterloo!—
Although from blood and smoke his hands are clean,
And all his actions fought on Brighton Steyne.
While these bedizen'd fools in daylight pass,
And even Wisdom peeps in Fashion's glass,
Pray not, ye Brummells, for King Charles' times,
We have far sleeker knaves, and courtly crimes;
Our tom-fool Haynes, our Theodores for wits,
The court-bred bevy, and the whore-famed cits,—
His gilded puppies, when the wars are o'er,
His heroes whimp'ring at a strumpet's door!
As blinded Fortune's artful wheel went round,
And crafty Bish made prize or blank abound,
So Fashion's umpires plot their doubtful sway,
Now puppies rule—now grooms command the day;
Still, let them take due rank and place,
Now modest Berkely lends them all his grace!
And spitting Harb'rough cracks the heated stone,
While ling'ring Stanhope sighs to share his throne;—
O! mark the red nosed Jehu, awe the street,
With file-thinn'd teeth, and "benjamin" complete;
His balanc'd hat, and far equestrian gaze,
The val'rous spume that round his muzzle plays;
That cock-pit air, and fine Herculean fist,
Where Belcher science turns the flexile wrist;
The look from Tatterstall's,—the snorted "hail,"—
All shew him tallied for the horse's tail:
Had heaven, in pity, doomed the vulgar fool
In fitter rank the whip and wheel to rule,
How would his stable mien adorn the place,
And add new dignity to coachee's grace!
Be proud, be greatly proud of Jehu's fame,
Great Albion, worthy now of Argos' name:
Each high-born ass—each "bit of blood" can breed,
Or whip with critic lash, the glossy steed;
Far round the world thy titled greatness blooms,
Thy barons whips, thy peerage raised to grooms!
There are some brutal dolts of Huntish schools,
Who deem all women born for sensual tools;
As if no chasteness hallowed female breasts,
And love and constancy but liv'd in jests!—
Some colder tastes approve the priggish Blues,
Who shift their sex, and snarl like quack reviews,
Blight every gentle grace that Nature gave,
And stifle loveliness in learning's grave;—
But, where's the heart, that has not said farewell
To each pure feeling—that approves the "belle"?
That living lie, to wanton and decoy,
The puppy's play-thing, and the ball-room toy;
The one whom flippant thousands dream their own,
The love of all, and yet a friend in none!
Such now the Frenchy belles of Britain's isle,
Begot to dress, to dazzle, and beguile,—
Or slabber royal palms, and gaily flaunt,
At steamy Bath,—that Bedlamitish haunt;
There, taught by swaddled demireps, she blooms,
The twirling, would-be bawd of Nash's Rooms;
Each year, the tourist of sea-water'd towns,
Till virgin simpers change to spousal frowns:—
When we survey these flimsy dolls deck'd out,
By trick maternal, for the evening rout,
Their inane flutter, and illusive gaze,
Or hear the gabblings of their selfish praise;
Vain seems the form, without its gem, the soul,—
That priceless charm which beautifies the whole!
Now to the Sabbath turn—by Heav'n design'd
To solace labour, and becalm the mind;
It dawns on London, but for dress and art,
When pride, for six days kept, relieves the heart.
What! though the time-hoar'd steeples point sublime,
And, from the belfry rolls the far-swell'd chime,
Though mingled peals, by ling'ring breezes driv'n,
Still sound like deep mementos knell'd from heav'n;
How rare the homage, kindled by the day,
Within the fane, or on the wheel-worn way!
The lifted hands, and felt responsive tone,
The knee's low bend before the viewless throne,—
That heart-born worship pictur'd in the gaze,
And deep seclusion of the soul that prays—
Few fanes ere hallow now—though Fashion there,
Opes her vile lip, and deems the mock'ry, pray'r.
To flaunt a boddice, or a fine peruke,
Survey a rival, and a dropsied duke,—
Review their skins, and realize the noon,
Turn the light head, and lisp a pew lampoon,
Or mete the mincing parson's plastic neck,
And close each "hear us!" with a nod or beck,—
For this, the ton, in George's genteel fane
From parks, and Thames' stream, an hour refrain!
Some too, are holy round their Sunday fire,
Where, baffled doctrines like its smoke expire;
Discuss polemics o'er their tea and toast,
Doubt fast—and smile away the Holy Ghost.
While thus Religion, and each rev'rend truth,
Are scoff'd by dotards, and contemn'd by youth,
Presiding Vice, with all her hell-born train,
Pervades the city, and pollutes the plain:
What styes of lewdness,—cells for covert crime,
What holes to suit all age, all rank, and time,
Are London's modern haunts—where bevies swarm,
And vice is bliss, and infamy, a charm!—
Her pits, where meet the beggar'd and the great,
St. Giles' scroff, with helmsmen of the state,—
Her dark retreats for link-boys, cheats, and sots,
Who celebrate their orgies round their pots,—
Her masquerades, where dress'd debauchers wile,
And bevied harlots straddle through Argyle.
Argyle!—fir'd at the sound, my muse shall light
In honest vengeance on humbugging W—
That vinous Colburn, whose accursed rhymes,
Delude the country, and disgrace the times:
Poetic rogue!—will not the day-light gain
Enough poor victims for thy false champagne?
That drug-compounded mess of gooseberry juice,
Corked into froth, and coloured for our use;—
Must the pale drunkards of the midnight hour,
Buy off the stale, the rotten, and the sour,
Each lot too rancid for the day's broad sale,
With all the mess of porter and of ale?
O what a heaven is thine own Masquerade!
Now for the velvet cap, and rich brocade,
The clown to tumble, with his plaster'd face,
Eunuchs with belts,—and harlots in their lace!
The knave as polished as his heart is black,—
The whole foul orgies of an Argyle pack!
What then?—the minstrel slyly creeps his round,
The pastry lessens, and the corks abound!—
Though each trick'd virgin should return a w—e,
No matter,—— has sunk his cellar'd store!
Oh, Fie! Mayor Brown—to suffer such a troop,
Forsake awhile the turtle and the soup;
Go, send your red-fringed bullies to Argyle,—
No "hell" so monstrous, and no den so vile!
Break up this glittering bedlam of the night,
Protect the sawney, and empale C—!
To London, too, what rustic maids decoy'd
From those sweet homes, their infant years enjoy'd,
By courteous villains are beset and wil'd,
Till, left undone,—defenceless,—and defil'd!
If One there be, that sees sublime o'er all,
"A hero perish, or a sparrow fall"—
His judgment-curse repay the trait'rous arts,
That wither up the innocence of hearts,—
In secret stews, that slaughter trusting love,
And blast the spirits that should reign above!
To blazon London vice, need Satire's muse
Descend to cock-pits, "Finish," and the stews,—
Root out the Drury styes and oyster-shops,
Their hoggish keepers, and maintaining fops?
To fill the house, e'en Managers purvey
Saloon and bawd, that cater for the play!
Here, 'tween each act the Cyprian dames retreat,
And swagg'ring coxcombs fellow souls may meet;
Here, lordlings flourish forth colloquial ire,
Till the long mirrors steam with lust-breath'd fire;
While oft around the glaring punks entice,
And flutt'ring freshmen hand the creamy ice:
Warm thanks to managers, let fathers raise,
Ye tender mothers, join their glowing praise,
For where can wanton youth such wisdom learn,
And kindled lewdness through the bosom burn—
As in saloons,—where mix'd enchantments fill
At once young folly's cup, and play-house till?
Proud spreads the feast, and richly flows the wine,
In yon tall club-house, where the knaves combine;
Congenial villains—firmly all unite
To dazzle, glut, and gamble out the night:
'Tis sweet, through Fashion's round to darken all,
Out-deck the peer, and startle at the ball;
'Tis sweet, to strut the nabobs of the day,
Tho' cheats conspired, and gambling grip'd their pay!
True to their trade, these clubbing swindlers swear
To pluck the fortunes of each silly heir;
Then crawl away, like spiders fat with blood,—
Fools for their game, and ruin for their food!
How oft is beggar'd affluence forced to roam
Far from its peace, and once respected home,
While all its honours droop forgot away,
And palaces become a blackleg's prey?
No tie the gambler from his conclave tears,
Himself, nor dearer self, his passion spares;
When wretched Av'rice weaves her deadly plot,
See kindred, heaven, and hell itself forgot!
Great God! how hearts must welter in their vice,
When blighted happiness supports the dice,
And gamblers with convivial smiles can meet,
Sit face to face, and triumph in the cheat!
Within St. James' Hells, what bilks resort,—
Both young and hoary, to pursue their sport!
'Tis Mis'ry revels here!—the haggard mien
And lips that quiver with the curse obscene,
The hollow cheeks that faintly fall and rise,
While silent madness flashes from the eyes,
Those fever'd hands, the darkly-knitting brow,
Where mingling passions delve their traces now—
Denote the ruined,—whose bewilder'd air,
Is one wild vengeful throbbing of despair!
Deserted homes, and mothers' broken hearts,
Forsaken offspring,—crime's unfathomed arts,
The suicide,—and ev'ry sad farewell,—
These are the triumphs of a London Hell!
Can titles dignify a cunning cheat?—
Not though C--- swear the debt complete,
When he, O'N--- , and P--- conjoin,
Bamboozle A---o, and divide the coin:
For such a bandit, famed Chalk Farm uprears
Its battle-field,—where base or brutish peers,
And touchy boobies, fire away their dread,
And thick-skulls blunt, the disappointed lead:
Lo! there the heroes stand,—the pistols roar!—
Heaven sweep from Britain's isle one villain more!
Here L--- and G--- their prowess try,
Till gentle smoke-clouds fumigate their eye;
And tender Dick, whose philanthropic pride
Can drop a tear on ev'ry donkey's side,—
His duellistic fools can here surpass,
And shoot the blackleg, though he guard the ass:
The last fine haunt for Fashion's bloated dames,
To pamper pride, and furbish up their names,—
Is proud "Almacks," where rival quarterings rear,
And harridans select their fav'rite peer;
Fair S---'s luring smile, and S---d's frown,
Soft H---'s smirk, and B---y's book renown,—
All serve the myst'ries of this dread conclave
While Willis toils, their sneakup and their slave:
O peerless senate!—ye who here decree,
And trace beyond the flood, a pedigree,
Illumined rulers of a wax-lit stye,
Where passion twirls the leg, and rolls the eye,—
Let your mean pride ascend to decent aim,
Outlaw the bosom's lust-creating shame,
Loose the tight breech, [. . .]
[. . .]
Though H--- arm her cold-condemning gaze,
And lip-flush'd L--- pine for other days—
Untempted Virtue might o'ersway the ball,
And lech'ry burn within a safer thrall!
The ball commences—rich the music flows,
Melts on the heart, and vivifies the toes;
Wide o'er the room, behold the chalky round,
Where light the foot-beat floor begins to bound;
Awak'ning pleasure each red face illumes,
And flirting misses toss their crested plumes;—
Warm streams the blood within each thrilling vein,
Tints the bright cheek, and rushes on the brain.
Now anxious ideots in their pomps appear,
From city banker up to lean jaw'd peer;
Here a huge beldame swells within her stays,
Smirks at each beau—and flaps him for his praise;
Here Bond Street puppies, rank with eau Cologne,
Limp round the room, and whimper to the ton;
While peevish beldames by their daughters watch,
Glance in their eyes, and pray—"God send a match!"
Connubial Waltz! 'tis thine our sight to charm,
Wake the sweet thrill, and kindle all the form—
'Tis thine to shed soft dreams as on we trip,
Unbind the bosom,—
In longing eyes to pour a lech'rous flame,
And hide indecent motions in thy name!
The doleful thunder of the deep-mouth'd bell,
Hath roll'd to heav'n the dying day's farewell;
And, like a death-groan from a tomb in air,
The echo bounds with dismal mutter there;—
'Tis midnight hour:—through England's city Queen
Her countless lamps throw out their glitt'ring sheen;
And oft, some pensive pilgrims trace awhile,
The far faint lustre of their twinkling file,—
Then turning, look, where more serenely bright,
Smile the sweet spirit stars of list'ning Night.
The city slumbers, like a dreary heart,
Whose chaining sorrows tremblingly depart;
And now, what victims are within her walls,
Whom changeful Fortune martyrs, guides and thralls!
The pale-cheek'd mourner in the dungeon's tomb,
The glad ones tripping o'er the wax-lit room,—
The proud and mean—the wealthy and the poor,
The free to spend—the miser at his ore,
All now, from ev'ry shade of woe and joy,
In changeful moods their midnight hour employ:
How many pillows bear some fev'rish head,
Damp with the weepings on their downy spread;
How many eyes, in sealing slumber hid,
With tear-drops quivering on their wan-cold lid!
A day of thought, and mingled labour past,
Unwatch'd,—unknown,—with dreamy front o'ercast,
Won by the starry time, I've lov'd to walk
The silent city, and with feeling talk;
While on the languor of a fever'd frame,
The vesper calm of cooling midnight came:
The glistening choir around their Dian Queen,
The heaven of azure, mellow'd and serene;
With all the blended musings of the heart,—
Then told me, Night, how eloquent thou art!
Here, while I paced along the shrub-crown'd square,
Between whose laurels flit the lamp's faint glare,
And watchlights from illumined windows played,
Athwart the quiet street their flick'ring braid,—
Re-calling Mem'ry bade her spells disclose,
And rev'rend visions on my fancy rose:
Each matchless vet'ran of true English days,
With all the story of their tears and praise,—
The peerless spirits of our glorious clime,
Seemed hov'ring near to consecrate the time!
Now from the Op'ra's widened portals stream
A shiv'ring concourse,—wide the torches gleam,—
And fling cadav'rous hues upon each face,
Where palled Delight has left her pale-worn trace;
Perturbed mark, the blinking chap'rons guard,
Wrapt in her gather'd silks—their dainty ward;
While flutt'ring near, gallants obtrusive try
To read the twinkling promise of her eye:
Within the crush-room fretful throngs parade,
And lisping puppies quizz each well-laced maid;
Some round the fire-place chafe their chilly hands,
Smooth their wild locks, and fold their silken bands:
Here, too, the rival flirt with whispers loud,
Hung on a suitor's arm, attracts the crowd;
While borne with crutches to the creaking door,
The snarling cuckolds for their cars implore:
Without,—a Pandemonium seems to sound,
Where busy foot-falls beat along the ground;
The bouncing coachman's sky-ascending bawl,
And loud-mouthed lacquies elbowing through all,—
The cracking stones beneath each fire-eyed steed,
All eager pawing till the course is freed,
Commingled—greet the concourse hastening home,
To dream of neat-legg'd eunuchs fresh from Rome!
With tott'ring step and motion of a beast,
Next come the rev'llers, sotted from their feast;
Quick of affront, they growl some cockney strain,
Or stutter oaths to ease the swimming brain;
While bustling by, shop-puppies whiff cigars,
Clink their nail'd heels, and swagger at the stars!—
But who art thou, whose passion-wither'd face
Sheds mournful beauty through the netted lace?
Those radiant orbs, that so obtrusive shine
Like stars, beneath thine eyebrow's arching line,
That lip's vermillion,—brow of lucid snow,
Can these betray thee, child of sin and woe?
Alas, that ever woman's gentle soul
Should sink to glutted passion's base controul!
But still, around thine air there lurks a grief
That longs, yet will not ask a pure relief;
Perchance, ere villains taught thee thence to roam,
A mother clasped thee in her cottage home,
Some grey-locked sire sat round his evening hearth,
Hung on thy neck, and blessed thy happy birth!
But list! huge wheels roll o'er the jarring stones,
I hear the clatt'ring hoofs, and rabble's tones!
Before yon dome the creaking engines wait,
Where shield-mark'd firemen empt their liquid freight,
While, grandly awful to the startled sight,
Rear the red columns of resistless light!
The windows deepen into dreadful glow,
Till the hot glass bursts shatt'ring down below;
While darting fires around their wood-work blaze,
And lick the water, hissing as it plays;
Above the crackling roof fierce flames arise,
And whirl their sparks, careering to the skies;
Triumphantly the ravenous blazes mount,
As if they started from a fiery fount,
Now, cloud-like, piling up in billowy fire,
Now quiv'ring sunk, to re-collect their ire:—
But see! again whirl up the blood-red flames,
In vain the rushing flood their fury tames;
Like burning mountain-peaks, aloft they raise,
Their jagged columns of unequal blaze,
Till the loose beams, and flaking rafters fall,
And like a thund'ring earthquake, bury all!
And now, farewell!—and if a forceful line
Hath injured virtue,—let the blame be mine:
But if one vice hath borne its proper name,
Conceit its brand, and fopp'ry its shame;—
If reckless follies, and unblushing crimes,
And all the polished vileness of the times,
Are stamped with iron hate, severely true,—
Unmasked, unspared, and lash'd beneath the view—
Then, not desertless will the patriot deem
The censor's page, and widely-travelled theme.
And thou, lorn Wisdom's child, where'er thou art—
That mark'st each May-morn dream of hope depart,
The knave and parasite on Fortune's throne,
Whilst thou hast only thought to call thine own;
Still nobly live the solitary sage,
And soar in mind above this venal age;
Rich in thyself, partake the best content,—
A heart well governed, and a life well spent!