Canto III

Jump to: Previous Canto Next Canto

Originally Published July 1809 in The Poetical Magazine, pp. 113-119

[Continued p. 67]


By the road-side, within the wood,
In this sad state poor Syntax stood;
His bosom heav’d with many a sigh,
And tears flow’d fast from either eye.
What could he do?—he durst not bawl;
The noise the robbers might recall:
The villains might again surround him,
And hang him up where they had bound him.
Sure never was an helpless wight
In more uncomfortable plight.
Nor was this all; his pate was bare,
Unshelter’d by one lock of hair:
For when the sturdy robbers took him,
His hat and peruke both forsook him:
The insect world were on the wing,
Whose talent is to buzz and sting;
And soon his bare-worn head they sought,
By instinct led, by nature taught;
And dug their little forks within
The tender texture of his skin.
He rag’d and roar’d, but all in vain,
No means he found to ease his pain.
The cords, which to the tree had tied him,
All power to his hands denied him;
He shook his head, he writh’d his face
With painful look and sad grimace,
And thus he spoke his hapless case:–

“Ah! Miserable man,” he cried,
“What perils for my course betide!
“In this sad melancholy state,
“Here must I impatient wait
“Till some kind soul shall haply find me,
“And with his friendly hands unbind me;
But I throughout the night may stay,
“ ‘Tis such an unfrequented way:
“Tho’, what with hunger, thirst, and fright,
“I ne’ever shall last throughout the night;
“And could I e’en these ills survive,
“The flies would eat me up alive!
“What mad ambition bade me roam?
“Ah! wherefore did I quit my home?
“For there I liv’d remote from harm;
“My meals were good, my house was warm;
“And, tho’ I was not free from strife,
“With other ills that trouble life,
“Yet I had learn’d full well to bear
“The nightly scold, the daily care;
“And, after many a season past,
“I should have found repose at last;
“Fate would have sign’d my long release,
“And Syntax would have died in peace;
“Nor thus been robb’d, and tied and beaten,
“And all alive by insects eaten.”

But while he thus at Fate was railing,
And Fortune’s angry frowns bewailing,
A dog’s approaching bark he hears,
‘Twas sweet as music to his ears,
And soon a sure relief appears.
For, tho’ it bore that gen’ral form ,
Which sometimes homeward brew’d a storm
It now appear’d an angel’s shape
That promis’d him a quick escape:
Nor did La Mancha’s val’rous knight
Feel greater pleasure at the sight,
When, overwhelm’d with love and awe,
His Dulcinea first he saw;
For on two trotting palfreys came,
And each one bore a comely dame.
They started as his form they view;
The horses, also, started too:
The dog with insult seem’d to treat him,
And look’d as if he long’d to eat him.
With piteous looks he humbly pray’d
They’d turn aside, and give him aid;
When each leap’d quickly from her steed,
To join in charitable deed.
They drew their knives to cut the noose,
And let the mournful pris’ner loose:
With kindest words his fate bewail,
While grateful Syntax tells his tale.
The rustic matrons sooth his grief,
Nor offer, but afford, relief ;
And, turning from the beaten road,
Their well-lin’d panniers they unload;
When soon upon the bank appear’d
A sight his fainting spirits cheer’d.
They spread the fare with cheerful grace,
And gave a banquet to the place:

Most haply too, as they untied him,
He saw his hat and wig beside him:
So, thus bewigg’d and thus behatted,
Down on the grass the Doctor squatted:
He then uplifted either eye,
To give thanksgiving to the sky,
“ ‘Tis thus,” he humbly said, “we read
“In sacred books of heav’nly deed;
“And thus I find, in my distress,
“The manna of the wilderness.
“ ’tis hermits’ fare; but, thanks to heav’n.
“And those kind souls by whom ‘tis giv’n.”
‘Tis true that bread, and curds, and fruit,
Do with the pious hermits suit;
But Syntax surely was mistaken
To think their meals partake of bcon;
Or that those rev’rend men regale,
As our good Doctors do, with ale:
And these kinds dames, in nothing loth,
Took care that he partook of both.

At length ‘twas time to bid adieu,
And each their diff’rent way pursue:
A kind farewell, a kiss as kind,
He gave them both with heart and mind;
Then off he trudg’d, and, as he walk’d,
This to himself the Parson talk’d:–
“ ‘Tis well, I think, it is no worse,
“For I have only lost my purse.
“With all their cruelty and pains,
“The rogues have got but trifling gains;
“For nine and fourpence is the measure
“OF all their mighty pilfer’d treasure;
“For haply there was no divining,
“That I’d a pocket in my lining;

Credit: Martin and Jean Norgate: Portsmouth University, 2009
“And, thanks to spousy, ev’ry note
“Was well sew’d up within my coat.
“But where is Grizzle ?–Never mind her,
“I’ll have her cried, and soon shall find her.
He had not pac’d it half an hour
Before he saw a parish tow ‘r,
And soon, with dire fatigue opprest,
An inn receiv’d him as its guest:
But still his mind, with anxious care,
Ponder’d upon his wand’ring mare;
He therefore sent the bellman round ,
To try if Grizzle might be found.

Grizzle, ungrateful to her master,
And careless of this foul disaster,
Left him tied up, and took her way,
In hopes to meet with corn or hay;
But, as that did not come to pass,
She sought a meadow full of grass:
The farmer in the meadow found her,
And order’d John, his man, to pound her.
Now John was one of those droll folk,
Who oft take mischief for a joke ;
And thought ‘twould make the master stare,
,When he again beheld his mare
(Perhaps the ge’mman might be shockt)
To find her ready cropt and dockt.
At all events, he play’d his fun;
No sooner was it said than done.
But Grizzle was a patient beast,
Add minded nought, if she could feast:
Like many others, prone to think
The best of life was meat and drink;
who feel to-day nor care nor sorrow,
If they are sure to feast to-morrow.
Thus Grizzle, as she pac’d around
The purlieu of the barren pound,
In hungry mood might seem to neigh,­
“If I had water, corn, and hay,
“I should not thus my fate bewail,
“Nor mourn the loss of ears or tail.”

In the mean time, securely hous’d,
The Doctor boos’d it, and carous’d:
The hostess spread her fairest cheer,
Her best beefsteak, her strongest beer;
And sooth’d him with her winning chat,
Of “Pray eat this, and pray take that.
“Your Rev’rence, after all your fright,
“Wants meat and drink to set you right.”
His Rev’rence prais ‘d the golden rule,
Nor did he let his victuals cool:
And, having drank his liquor out,
He took a turn, to look about.
When to the folks about the door
He told hi, dismal story o’er,
The country-people on him gaz’d ,
And heard his peril, all amaz’d :
How the thieves twin’d the cords around him;
How to a tree the villain bound him :
What angel came to his relief,
To loose his bonds, and sooth his grief:
His loss of cash, and, what was worse,
Of saddle, saddle-bags, and horse.
Thus, as their rude attention hung
Upon the wonders of his tongue,
Lo! Grizzle alter’d form appears,
With half its tail, and half its ears!
“Is there no law ?” the Doctor cries :­
” Plenty,” a Lawyer straight replies ;
“Employ me, and those thieves shall swing ”
On gallows-bee, in hempen string :
“And, for the rogue, the law shall flea him,
“Who maim’d your horse, as now you see him.”
“No, quoth the Don, “your pardon pray,
“I’ve had enough of thieves to-day:
“I’ve lost nine shillings and a groat,
“But you would strip me of my coat;“
“And ears and tails won’t fatten you,
“You’ll want the head and carcass too.”
He chuckled as he made the joke,
And all around enjoy’d the joke:
But still it was a sorry sight
To see the beast in such a plight.
Yet what could angry Syntax do?
‘Twas all in vain to fret and stew;
And as his bags, with all their hoard
Of sketching-tools, were safe restor’d;
The saddle too, which had been sought,
For small reward was quickly brought;
He thought it therefore far more sage
To stop his threats, and check his rage:
So to the ostler’s faithful care
He gave his mutilated mare;
And while poor Grizzle, free from danger,
Cropp’d the full rack, and clean’d the manger,
Her master, by fatigue opprest,
Smok’d out his pipe, and went to rest.

[To be continued.]

Jump to: Previous Canto Next Canto