Canto IV

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Originally Published August 1809 in The Poetical Magazine, pp. 169-174.

[Continued from p. 119]
With a plate.

Bless’d be the man, said he of yore,
Who Quixote’s lance and target bore!
Bless’d be the man who taught sleep
Throughout our wearied frames to creep;
And kindly gave to human woes
Th’ oblivious mantle of repose!
Hail, balmy pow’r ! that canst repair
The constant waste of human care;
Canst to the heart afford relief,
And give a respite to its grief;
Canst calm, through night’s composing hours,
The threat’ning storm that daily low’rs;
On the rude flint the wretched cheer,
And to a smile transform the tear!
Thus, rapt in slumbers, Syntax lay,–
Forgot the troubles of the day:
So sound his sleep, so sweet his rest,
By no disturbing dreams opprest;
That, all at ease, he lay entranc’d,
Till the fair morn was so advanc’d,
That the kind hostess thought it wrong
He should be left to sleep so long:
So bid the maid to let him know
That breakfast was prepar’d below.
Betty then op’d the chamber-door,
And, tripping onward ‘cross the floor,
Undrew the curtains, one by one,
And, in a most ear-piercing tone,
Such as would grace the London cries,
She told him it was time to rise.
The noise his peaceful slumbers broke;–
He gave a snort,– and then he woke.

Now, as the Doctor turn’d his head,
Betty was court’sying by the bed:–
“What brought you here, fair maid, I pray?”—
“To tell you, Sir, how wears the day;
“To ask you what I should prepare,
“To serve you for your morning’s fare.
“The kettle boils, and I can boast
“No small renown for making toast.
“There’s coffee, Sir, and tea, and meat,
“And surely you must want to eat;
“For twelve long hours have pass’d away
“Since down upon this bed you lay.”
The Doctor rubb’d his op’ning eyes,
Then stretch’d his arms, and ‘gan to rise:
But Betty still beside him stands,
To wait his Rev’rence’s commands.
“Begone,” he cried, “get something nice,
“And I’ll be with you in a trice.”

Behold him then, renew’d by rest,
His chin well shav’d, his peruke drest,
Conning with solemn air the news,
His welcome breakfast to amuse.
At length the well-fed meal was o’er,
And Grizzle order’d to the door;
When Betty’s told without delay,
To name the sum there was to pay.
Betty, obedient to his will,
Her court’sy makes, and gives the bill.
Down the long page he cast his eye,
Then shook his head, and heav’d a sigh.
” What ! am I doom’d, where’er I go,
” In all I meet to find a foe?
“Where’er I wander to be cheated,
” To be bamboozled and ill-treated?”
Thus, as he read each item o’er,
The hostess op’d the parlour-door;
When Syntax rose in solemn state,
And thus began the fierce debate:-

“Good woman, here, your bill retake,
” And, prithee, some abatement make:
“I could not such demands afford,
” Were I a Bishop or a Lord;
“And though l hold myself as good
“As any of my brotherhood,
“Howe’er, by bounteous Fortune crown’d,
” In wealth and honours they abound,
“I cannot boast that I can pay
” Such bills as these as well as they.
“This paper fills me with affright;­
“I surely do not read it right;
“For, at the bottom here, I see
” Th’ enormous sum of-one pound, three!”

“The charges all are fairly made;
“If you will eat, I must be paid.
“My bills have never found reproaches
“From Lords and Ladies, in their coaches.
“This house, that’s call’d the Royal Crown,
“Is the first inn within the town;
“And the best gentry, ev’ry day,
“Become my guests, and freely pay:
“Besides, I took you in at night,
“Half-dread with hunger and affright,
“Just scap’d from robbers.”——

———————-“That’s most true,
“And now I’m to be robb’d by you.”

“You’re a vile man; and did not I
“Disdain rude words, I’d say—you lie.
“I look you in last night, I say.”—

“’Tis true;–and, if this bill I pay,
“You’ll take me in again, to-day.”

“I gave you all my choicest cheer,
“My best beef-steaks, my strongest beer;
And then you snor’d yourself to rest
“In the best bed,–I say, the best.
“You’ve had such tea as few canboast,
“With a whole loaf turn’d into toast.”

“And for your beef, and beer, and tea,
“You kindly charge me—one pound three!”

“ ‘Tis cheap as dirt,– for well I know
“How things with country Curates go;
“And I profess that I am loth
“To deal unkindly with the cloth:
“Nay, oft and oft, as I’m a sinner,
“I’ve given hungry Clerks a dinner.”

Credit: Martin and Jean Norgate: Portsmouth University, 2009

“And there’s a proverb, as they say,
“That for the Clerks the Parsons pay;
“Which you, I trow, can well fulfill,
“Whene’er you make a Parson’s bill.
“Why, one pound, three, the truth I speak,
“Would keep my household for a week.
“Dear Mrs. Syntax, how she’d vapour
“Were she to read this curious paper!”

“ If that’s your living, on my life
“You starve your household and your wife.”

“I wish my wife were here to meet you,
“In your own fashion she would greet you;
“With looks as fierce, and voice as shrill,
“She’d make you, Mistress, change your bill.”

“Think you, besides, there’s nought to pay
“For all your horse’s corn and hay?
“And ointments too, to cure the ail
“Of his cropp’d ears and mangled tail!”

“I wish the wight would bring the shears
“Which dock’d that tail and cropp’d those ears,
“ And just exert the self-same skill
“To crop and dock your monstrous bill.
“But, I’m in haste to get away,
“Tho’ one pound, three, I will not pay;
“So, if you’ll take one half th’ amount,
“We’ll quickly settle the account.
“There is the money, do you see?
“And let us part in charity.”

“Well, as a charitable deed,
“I’ll e’en consent—so, mount your steed,
“And on your journey straight proceed;
“But well you know, where’er you roam,
“That charity beings at home.”

[To Be Continued.]

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