Canto IX

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Originally Published November 1809 in The Poetical Magazine, pp. 97-104

With an Engraving
[Continued from Vol. II p. 59]

Along the varying road of Life,
In calm content, in toil or strife,–
At morn or noon, by night or day,
As Time conducts him on the way,–
How oft doth man, by care oppress’d,
Find in an inn a place of rest?
Whether, intent on worldly views,
He, in deep thought, his way pursues;
Whether, by airy Pleasure led,
Or by Hope’s fond delusions fed,
He bids adieu to home, and strays
In unknown paths and distant ways;
Where’er his fancy bids him roam,
In ev’ry inn he finds a home.
Should Fortune change her fav’ring wind,
Tho’ former friends should prove unkind,
Will not an inn his cares beguile,
Where on each face he sees a smile?
When colds winds blow, and tempests lour,
And the rain pours in angry show’r,
The dripping trav’ller looks around,
To see what shelter may be found;
Then on he drives, thro’ thick and thin,
To the warm shelter of an inn.
Whoe’er would turn their wand’ring feet,
Assur’d the kindest smiles to meet;
Whoe’er would go and not depart
But with kind wishes from the heart;
O let them quit the world’s loud din,
And see the comforts of an inn:
And, as the Doric Shenstone sung,
With plaintive music on his tongue—
“Whoe’er has travell’d Life’s dull round,
“Where’er his changeful tour has been,
“Will sigh to think how of the found
“His warmest welcome at an inn.”

“Twas in an inn, in calm repose,
Heedless of human joys or woes,
That Syntax pass’d the quiet night
In pleasing dreams, and slumbers light:
But in the morn the thunder roar’d,
THe clouds their streaming torrents pour’d;
The angry winds impetuous blew,
The rattling casement open flew.
Scar’d at the noise, he rais’d his head;
Then, starting quickly from the bed,
“Is it,” he cried, “the day of doom?”
As he bestrode the trembling room.
The houses’ tops with water stream’d,
The village-street a river seem’d;
While, at the tempest all amaz’d,
The rustics from their windows gaz’d.
“I’m not,” he said, “dispos’d to fear,
“But faith I will not loiter here;
“I’ll change the scene, I’ll soon retire
“From flaming flash to kitchen-fire;
“And, while rude Nature’s threats prevail,
“I’ll lose the storm in toast and ale.”
“Half-dress’d, he made a quick retreat,
And in the kitchen took his seat,
Where an old woman told the Host
What by the lightning she had lost;
How a blue flash her sow had struck,
Had kill’d a cock, and lam’d a duck.
With open mouths another came,
To tell a rick was in a flame;
And then declar’d that on the spire,
He saw the weathercock on fire:
Nay, that so loud the winds were singing,
They’d set the peal of bells a-ring.
A dripping tailor enter’d next,
And preach’d upon the self-same text.
He swore, that sitting on his board,
While the winds blew and thunder roar’d,
A kind of fiery flame came pop,
And bounc’d, and ran about his shop;
Now here, now there, so quick and nimble,
It sing’d his finger thro’ his thimble;
That all about his needles ran
If there was any truth in man;
While buttons, at least half a score,
Were driven thro’ the kitchen-door.
The Sexton, with important mien,
Gave his opinion on the scene;
And, to the Doctor drawing near,
Thus gently whisper’d in his ear:–
“The devil himself his cell has burst,
“To fly away with Lawyer Thrust.”

Now, having with due patience heard
The story which each wight preferr’d,
Syntax was to the parlour shown,
Where he might breakfast all alone.
“I see,” said he, “I here must stay,
“And at the Dragon pass the day:
“And this same Dragon, on my life,
“Just hints that I have got a wife;
“Nor can I pass the morning better
“Than to indite my spouse a letter.”
“He paus’d—and sigh’d e’er he began;
When thus the fond epistle ran:–

“My dearest Wife,– Full many a day
“From you and home I’ve been away;
“But, tho’ we thus are doom’d to part,
“You’re ever present in my heart:
“Whene’er my pray’rs to Heav’n arise,
“At morn or ev’ning sacrifice,–
“Whene’er for Heaven’s care they sue,
I ask it for my Dolly too.
“My journey, like Life’s common road,
“Has had its evil, and its good.
“But I’ve no reason to complain,
“When pleasure has outweigh’d the pain.
“With flatt’ring Fortune in my view,
“Glad I the toilsome way pursue;
“For I’ve no fear to make a book,
“In which the world will like to look:
“Nor do I doubt ‘twill prove a mine
“For my own comfort, and for thine;
“But, should all fail, I’ve found a friend
“In my old school-mate, Dicky Bend;
“Who, kind and wealthy, will repay,
“if Hope should cheat me on my way,
“my ev’ry loss I may sustain,
“And case ill-fortune of its pain;
“And has engag’d to glad our home,
“With promise of much good to come.
“Particulars of what I’ve seen,
“What I have done—where I have been,
“I shall reserve for my return,
“When, as the crackling faggots burn,
“I will, in a all domestic glory,
“Smoke my fond pipe, and tell my story;
“But, be assur’d, I’m free from danger;–
“To the world’s tricks I’m not a stranger:
“Whatever risks I’m forc’d to run,
“I shall take care of number one;
“While you, at home, will keep in view
“The self-same care of number two.
“To my kind neighbours I commend
“The wishes of their distant friend:
“Within ten days, perhaps a week,
“I shall York’s famous city seek,
“Where at the post I hope to find
“A line from Dolly, ever kind:
“And, if you will the pleasure crown,
“Tell me the prattle of our town;
“Of all that’s passing, and has past,
“Since your dear Hub beheld it last:
“And know the truth which I impart,
“The offspring of my honest heart,
“That, wheresoe’er I’m doom’d to roam,
“I still shall find that home is home;
“That, true to Love and nuptial vows,
“I shall remain your faithful spouse;
“Such are the tender truths I tell:–
Conjux carissima—farewell!”

Thus he his kindest thoughts reveal’d:–
But scarce had he his letters seal’d,
When straight appear’d the trembling Host,
Looking as pale as any ghost:–
“A man’s just come into the town,
“Who says the castle’s tumbled down;
“And that, with one tremendous blow,
“The lightning’s force has laid it low.”
“What castle, friend?” the Doctor cry’d,
“The castle by the river-side:
“A famous place, where, as folks say,
“Some great King liv’d in former day.
“But this fine building long has been
“A sad and ruinated scene,
“Where owls, and bats, and starlings dwell,–
“And where, alas! as people tell,
“At the dark hour when midnight reigns,
“Ghosts walk, all arm’d, and rattle chains.”
“Peace, peace,” says Syntax, “peace, my friend,
“Nor to such tales attention lend.
“A castle, and a ruin too,–
“I must go there and take a view.”

The storm was past, and many a ray
Of Phoebus now reviv’d the day,
When Grizzle to the door was brought,
And this fam’d spot the Doctor sought.
Upon a rock the castle stood,
Three sides environ’d by a flood,
Where confluent streams uniting lave
The craggy rift with foamy wave.
Around the moss-clad walls he walk’d,
Then thro’ the inner chambers stalk’d;
And thus observ’d, with look profound,
The Echos giving back the sound.
“Let me expatiate here awhile:
“I think this antiquated pile
“Is, doubtless, in the Saxon style.
“This was a noble spacious hall,
“But why the chapel made so small?
“I fear our sires took more care
“OF festive hall than house of pray’r:
“I find these Barons fierce and bold,
“Who proudly liv’d in days of old,
“To pray’r preferr’d a sumptuous treat,
“Nor went to pray when they could eat.
“here all aloft the banners hung,
“And there the welcome minstrels sung;
“The walls, with glitt’ring arms bedight,
“Display’d an animating sight.
“Beneath that arch-way, once a gate,
“With helmed crest, in warlike state,
“The bands march’d forth, nor fear’d the toil
“Of bloody war, that gave the spoil.

Credit: Martin and Jean Norgate: Portsmouth University, 2009

“But now, alas! no more remains
“Than will reward the painter’s pains:
“The palace of the feudal victor
“Now serves for nought but for a picture.
“Plenty of water here I see,
“But what’s a view without a tree?
“There’s something grand in yonder tow’r,
“But not a shrub to make a bow’r;
“Howe’er, I’ll try to take the view,
“AS well as my best art can do.”

An heap of stones the Doctor found,
Which loosely lay upon the ground,
To form a seat, where he might trace
The antique beauty of the place:
But, while his eye observ’d the line
That was to bound the mark’d design,
The stones gave way, and, sad to tell,
Down from the bank he headlong fell.
The slush collected for an age
Receiv’d the venerable sage;
For, at the time, the ebbing flood
Scarce cover’d o’er the miry mud:
So, after floundering about,

Syntax contriv’d to waddle out,
Half-stunn’d, amaz’d, and cover’d o’er
As seldom wight had been before;–
O’erwhelm’d with mud, and stink, and grief,
He saw no house to give relief;
So thus, amid the village din,
He ran the gauntlet to the inn.
An angler threw his hook so pat,
He caught at once the Doctor’s hat;
A bathing boy, who naked stood,
Dash’d boldly in the eddying flood,
And, swimming onward like a grig,
Soon overtook the Doctor’s wig.
Grizzle had trac’d the barren spot,
Where not a blade of grass was got,
And, finding nought to tempt her stay,
She to the Dragon took her way
The ostler cried, “here’s some disaster,–
“The mare’s return’d without her master!”
But soon he came, amid the noise
Of men and women, girls and boys,
Glad in the inn to find retreat
From the rude insults of the street.

Undress’d, well-wash’d, and put to bed,
With mind disturb’d, and aching head,
In vain poor Syntax sought repose,
But lay and counted al his woes.
The friendly Host, with anxious care,
Now hastes the posset to prepare:–
The healing draught he kindly gives;
Syntax the cordial boon receives:–
Then seeks, in sleep, a pause from sorrow,
In hope of better fate to-morrow.

[To be continued.]

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