Canto VI

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Originally Published October 1809 in The Poetical Magazine, pp. 274-280.

With Two Engravings.
[Continued from p. 223]

What evils man await,
In this sad sublunary state!
No sooner is he cheer’d by joy,
Than sorrow comes, and pain annoy;
And scarce his lips are op’d to bless
The transient gleam of happiness
Than dire Misfortune shews its pow’r,
And the black tempest ‘gins to low’r.

Thus, while the Doctor smiling stole
From the clear glass each witty scroll,
He felt, to interrupt the treat,
The scalding torment in his feet;
And, thus awaken’d from his trance,
Began to skip, and jump, and dance.
“Take off my shoes,” he raving cried,
“And let my gaiters be untied:”
When Dolly, with her nimble hand,
Instant obey’d the loud command;

And, as he loll’d upon the chair,
His feet and ankles soon were bare.
Away th’impatient damsel run,
To cure the mischief she had done;
And soon return’d with liquid store,
To rub his feet and ankles o’er:
Nor was her tender office vain,
She soon assuage’d the raging pain.
A tear was seen in Dolly’s eye,
And her kind bosom heav’d a sigh.
“Be not, my girl, with care opprest;
“I’m now,” says Syntax, “quite at rest;
“My anger’s vanish’d with the pain,
“No more my dear, shall I complain,
“Since, to get rid of my disaster,
“So fair a maid presents the plaster.”
Thus did he Dolly’s care beguil’d,
And turn’d her tears into a smile:
But, while she cool’d the raging part,
She somehow warm’d the Doctor’s heart;
And, as she rubb’d the ointment in,
He pinch’d her cheeks, and chuck’d her chin;
And, when she had redress’d his shanks,
He with a kiss bestowe’d his thanks:
While gentle Dolly, nothing loath,
Consenting smil’d, and took them both.
“I think,” said she, “you’d better stay,
“Nor travel further on, to-day.”
And tho’ she said it with a smile,
His steady purpose to beguile,
The Doctor clos’d the kind debate,
By ord’ring Grizzle to the gate.

Now, undisturb’d, he took his way,
And travell’d till the close of day;
When, to delight his wearied eyes,
Before him Oxford’s tow’rs arise.
“Oh, Alma Mater!” Syntax cried,
“My present boast, my early pride;
“To whose protecting care I owe
“All I’ve forgot, and all I know;
“Deign from your nurseling to receive
“The homage that his heart can give.
“Hail! Sacred, ever-honour’d, shades,
“Where oft I woo’d the’ immortal maids;
“Where strolling oft, at break of day,
“My feet have brush’d the dews away!
“By Isis and by Cherwell’s stream,
“Or sought the cloisters dim, to meet
“Pale Science in her lone retreat!
“The sight of you again inspires
“My bosom with its former fires;
I feel again the genial glow
“That makes me half forget
“How oft I wove the classic cream, the woe,
“And all my aching heart could tell,
“Since last I bid these scenes farewell.”

Thus Syntax mov’d, in sober pace,
Beset with academic grace;
While Grizzle bore him up the town,
And at the Mitre set him down.
The night was pass’d in soft repose,
The clock struck nine ere he arose,
The barber now applies his art,
To sahve him clean, and make him smart:
From him he learn’d that Dicky Bend,
His early academic friend,
As a reward for all his knowledge,
Was now the Provost of his college;
And Fame declar’d that he had clear,
At least, twelve hundred pounds a year.
“O ho!” says Syntax, “if that’s true,
“I’m sure I cannot better do
“Than further progress to delay,
“And be with friend Dicky pass a day.”
Away he hied, and soon he found him,
With all his many comofrts round him.
The Provost hail’d the happy meeting,
And, after kind and mutual greeting,
To make inquiries he began,
Ad thus the conversation ran: —

“Good Doctor Syntax, I rejoice
“Once more to hear your well-known voice;
“To dine with us, I hope you’ll stay,–
“There is a college-feast to day.
“Full many a year is gone and past
“Since we beheld each other last;
“Fortune has kindly dealt with me,
“As you, my friend, may clearly see;
“And pray how has she dealt with thee?”

“Alas! Alas! I’ve play’d the fool;
“I took a wife, and keep a school;
“And, while on dainties you are fed,
“I scarce get butter to my bread.”

“I grieve to hear your plans miscarried;
“For my part, I have never married:
“I hope then that your visit here
“Is with some view to mend your cheer.
“My services you may command,
“I offer them with heart and hand;
“And while you think it right to stay,
“You’ll make this house your home, I pray.”

“I’m going further, on a scheme,
“Which you may think an idle dream;
“At the fam’d Lakes to take a look,
“And of my Journey make a Book.”

“I know full well that you have store
“Of ancient and of classic lore;
“And, surely, with your weight of learning,
“And all your critical discerning,
“You might produce a work of name,
“To fill your purse, and give you fame.
“How oft have we together sought
“Whate’ever the ancient sages taught?”

“I now perceive that all your knowledge
“Is pent my friend, within your college ;
“Learning’s become a very bore,–
“That fashion long since has been o’er.
“A Bookseller may keep his carriage,
“And ask ten thousand pounds in marriage;
“May have is mansion in a square,
“And build a house for country air;
“And yet ‘tis odds the fellow knows
“If Horace wrote in verse or prose.
“Could Doctor G— in chariot Ride,
“And take each day his wine beside,
“If he did not contrive to cook,
“Each year, his Tour into a book;
“A flippant, flashy, flow’ry style,
“A lazy morning to beguile
“With ev’ry other leaf, a print,
“Of some fine view in aqua tint?
“Such is the book I mean to make,
“And I’ve no doubt the work will take:
“For though your wisdom may decry it,
“The simple folk will surely buy it.
“I will allow it but trash,
“But then it furnishes the cash.”

“Why things are not the same, I fear,
“As when we both were scholars here;
“I therefore wish you all success,
“And all good luck and happiness;
“Myself, and all my college tribe,
“Depend upon it, will subscribe.”

Behold the dishes due appear—
Fish in the van, beef in the rear;
But he who the procession led,
By some false step or awkward tread,
Or curs’d by some malignant pow’r,
Fell headlong on the marble floor!
Ah, heedless wight! Ah, hapless dish!
Ah! all the luxury of fish
Thus in a moment spoil’d and wasted,
Ah! never, never to be tasted!
But one false step begets another,
So they all tumbled one o’er t’other:
And now the pavement was bestrew’d
With roast and boil’d, and friend and stew’d.
The waiters squall’d, their backs bespatter’d
With scalding sauce; the dishes clatter’d
In various discord; while the brawl
Re-echoed thro’ th’ astonish’d hall.

Credit: Martin and Jean Norgate: Portsmouth University, 2009
“Well,” said a Don, “As I’m a sinner,
“We must go elsewhere for a dinner.”
“’Tis no such thing,” the Head replied,
“You all shall soon be satisfied:
“We are but ten; I’m sure there’s plenty;
“I order’d full enough for twenty.
“I see, my friends, the haunch unspoil’d,
“With chickens roast, and turkey boil’d;
“The ven’son pasty is secure,
“The marrow pudding’s safe and sure;
“With ham, and many good things more,
“And tarts, and custards, full a score.
“Sure, here’s enough to cut and carve;–
“To-day, I think, we shall not starve:
“But still I’ll make the boobies pay
“For the good things they’ve thrown away.”
Thus soon each eager eye was cheer’d
With all the plenty that appear’d;
They ate, they drank, they smok’d, they talk’d,
And round the college-garden walk’d;
But the time came (for time will fly)
When Syntax was to say—good-bye.
His tongue could scarce his feelings tell,
Could scarce pronounce the word, farewell!
The provost too, whose gen’rous heart
In those same feelings bore a part,
Told him, when he should want a friend,
To write, or come, to Dicky Bend.

Next morning, at an early hour,
Syntax proceeded on his tour;
And, as he pac’d along the way,
The scene of many a youthful day,
He thought ‘twould give his book an air,
If Oxford were well painted there;
And, as he curious look’d around,
He saw a rising piece of ground,
From whence the spires of the city
Would make a picture very pretty;
Where Radcliffe’s dome would intervene,
And Magd‘len-tower crown the scene.
So Grizzle to an hedge he tied,
And to the spot impatient hied;
But, as he sought to choose a part
Where he might best display his art,
A wicked bull no sooner view’d him,
Than loud he roar’d, and straight pursu’d him.
The doctor, finding danger near,
Flew swiftly on the wings of Fear,
And nimbly clamber’d up a tree,
That gave him full security;
But as he ran to save his bacon,
By hat and wig he was forsake;
His sketch-book too he left behind,
A prey to the unlucky wind;
While Grizzle, startled by the rout,
Broke from the hedge, and pranc’d about.
Syntax, still trembling with affright,
Clung to the tree with all his might;
Then call’d for help,–and help was near,
For dogs, and men, and boys appear;
So that his foe was forc’d to yield,
And leave him master of the field.
No more of roaring bulls afraid,
He left the tree’s protecting shade;
And, as he pac’d the meadow round,
His hat, his wig, his book he found.
“Come, Grizzle, come,” the Doctor said;
The faithful steed his call obey’d:
So Grizzle once more he bestrode,
Nor look’d behind,–but off he rode.

[To Be Continued.]

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