Canto VII

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Originally Published November 1809 in The Poetical Magazine, pp. 1-11.

[Continued from Vol. 1, p. 280]

Fix’d in cogitation deep,
Adown the hill and up the steep,
Along the moor and thro’ the wood,
Syntax his pensive way pursued:
And now his thoughts began to roam
To the good woman left at home;
How she employ’d the passing day
When her fond mate was far away:
For they possess’d, with all their pother,
A sneaking kindness for each other.
Proud of her husband’s stock of learning,
His classic skill and deep discerning,
No tongue she suffer’d to dethrone
His fond importance—but her own.
Besides, she was a very bee
In bustle and in industry;
And tho’ a pointed sting she bore,
That sometimes made the Doctor sore,
She help’d to make the household thrive,
And brought home honey to the hive.
He too had not forgot her charms,
When first he took her to his arms;
For, if Report relates the truth,
She was a beauty in her youth:–
The charming Dolly was well known
To be the toast of all the town;
And, tho’ full many a year was flown
Since this good dame was twenty-one,
She still retain’d the air and mien
Of the nice girl she once had been.
For these, and other charms beside,
She was indeed the Doctor’s pride;
Nay, he would sometimes on her gaze
With the fond looks of former days;–
And, whatsoe’er she did or said,
He kept his silence, and obey’d.
Besides, he thus his mind consol’d:–
“ ‘Tis classical to be a scold;
“For, as the ancient tomes record,
“Xantippe’s tongue was like a sword:
“She was about my Dolly’s age,
“And was the wife too of a sage.
“Thus Socrates, in days of yore,
“The self-same persecution bore;
“Nor shall I blush to share the fate
“Of one so good,– of one so great.”

‘Twas now five days since they had parted,
And he was ever tender-hearted:
Whene’er he heard the wretched sigh,
He had a year in either eye;
For, tho’ he play’d the demi-god
Among his boys, with rule and rod;
What, tho’ he spoke in pompous phrase,
And kept the vulgar in amaze;
Tho’ self-important he would stride
Along the street with priestly pride;
Tho’ his strange figure would provoke
The passing smile, the passing joke;
Among the high, or with the low,
Syntax had never made a foe;
And, tho’ the jest of all he knew,
Yet while they laugh’d they lov’d him too:
No wonder then, so far from home,
His head would shake, the sigh would come.
Thus he went gently on his way
Till the sun mark’d the declining day;
But Thought as well as Grief is dry,
And, lo! a friendly cot was nigh,
Whose sign, high dangling in the air,
Invites the trav’ller to repair,
Where he in comfort might regale
With cooling pipe and foaming ale.
The Doctor gave the loud command,
And sees the Host beside him stand;
Then quits his steed with usual state,
And passes thro’ the wicket-gate:
The Hostess opes the willing door,
And then recounts the humble store
Which her poor cottage could afford,
To place upon the frugal board.
The homespun napkin soon was laid,
The table all its ware display’d;
The well-broil’d rasher then appear’d,
And with fresh eggs his stomach cheer’d;
The crusty pie, with apples stor’d,
Was plac’d in order on the board;
And liquor, that was brew’d at home,
Among the rest was seen to foam.
The Doctor drank,– the Doctor ate,–
Well-pleas’d to find so fair a treat;
Then to his pipe he kindly took,
And, with a condescending look,
Call’d on the Hostess to relate
What was the village name and state;
And to whose office it was giv’n
To teach them all the way to Heav’n.

The land belongs to ‘Squire Bounty,
One of the best men in the county;
I wish the Rector were the same,
Doctor Squeeze’em is his name;
But we ne’er see him,– more’s the shame!
And while in wealth he cuts and carves,
His worthy Curate prays and starves.

I truly wish that he were here,
To take a pipe and share my beer;
I know what ‘tis, as well as he,
To serve a man I never see.

Just as he spoke, the Curate came:–
This is the man! exclaim’d the dame.
Syntaxhis brother Parson greeted,
And begg’d him to be quickly seated.
“Come take a pipe, and taste the liquor,
“ ‘Tis good enough for any Vicar.”

Alas! Sir, I’m no Vicar;– I,
Bound to an humble Curacy,
With all my care can scarce contrive
To keep my family alive,
While the fat Rector can afford
To eat and drink like any Lord:
But know, Sir, I’m a man of letters,
And ne’er speak evil of my betters.

That’s good;– but, when we suffer pain,
‘Tis Nature’s office to complain;
And when the strong oppress the weak,
Justice, tho’ blind, will always speak.
Pray have you explain’d your case
With due humility and grace?
The great and wealthy must be flatter’d,
They love with praised to be bespatter’d:
Indeed, I cannot see the harm,
If thus you can their favour charm;
If by fine phrases you can bend
The pride of Pow’r to be your friend.

I wrote, I’m sure, in humblest style,
And prais’d his goodness all the while:
I begg’d, as things were grown so dear,
He’d raise my pay ten pounds a year;
I urg’d that I had children five,
The finest little bairns alive;
While their poor, fond, and faithful mother,
Would soon present with another;
And, as the living brought him, clear,
At least a thousand pounds a year,
He’d grant the favour I implore,
Nor let me starve upon threescore.

Now I should like, without delay,
To hear what this rich man could say;
For I can well perceive, my friend,
That you did not obtain your end.

The postman soon a letter brought,
Which cost me sixpence, and a groat;
Nor can your friendly heart suggest
The rudeness which the page express’d.
“Such suits as your’s may well miscarry,
“For beggars ne’er should dare to marry;
“At least, for I will not deceive you,
“I never, never will relieve you;
“And, if you trouble me, be sure
“You shall be ousted from the Cure.”
But I shall now, good Sir, refrain,
Because I know ‘twould give you pain,
From telling all that, in his spite,
The arch old scoundrel chose to write;
But know, Sir, I’m am a man of letters,
And never will abuse my betters.

Zounds!— ‘tis enough to make one swear,
Nor can I such a monster bear;
But know, my friend, there is a day
Of strict account, when he must pay
For all his cruelty and lies—
When he shall sink, and you will rise.

The terms, I own, are not quite civil,
But he’s the offspring of the devil;
And, when the day of life is past,
He’ll with his father dwell at last;
But know, Sir, I’m am a man of letters,
And never will abuse my betters.

‘Twas thus they talk’d, and drank their ale,
Till the dun shades of eve prevail;
When Syntax settled each demand,
And, while he held the Curate’s hand,
Bid him be stout, and not despair—
“The poor are God’s peculiar care:
“You’re not the only one, my friend,
“Who have with evil to contend;
“Resign yourself to what is given,
“Be good, and leave the rest to Heaven.”
Sytnax, we’ve said, was tender-hearted;
He dropp’d a tear, and then departed.

The ev’ning low’r’d; a drizzling rain
Had spread a mist o’er all the plain;
Besides, the home-brew’d beer began
To prey upon the inward man;
And Syntax, muddled, did not know
OR where he was, or where to go:
An active horseman by him trotted,
And Syntax was not so besotted
But he could hiccup out “My friend,
“Do tell me if this way will tend
“To bring me to some place of rest?”
“Yes,” ‘twas replied,– “The very best
“Of all our inns, within a mile,
“Will soon your weariness beguile.”
Who should this be but ‘Squire Bounty,
So much belov’d throughout the county?
And he resolv’d, by way of jest,
To have the Parson for his guest:
So on he gallop’d, to prepare
His people for the friendly snare.
The Doctor came in tipsy state,
The ‘Squire met him at the gate,
And to a parlour led him straight;
Then plac’d him in an easy chair,
And ask’d to know his pleasure there.

Landlord, I’m sadly splash’d with mire,
And chill’d with rain; so light a fire,
And tell the Ostler to take care
Of that good beast, my Grizzle mare;
And what your pantry can afford,
Pray place it quickly on the board.

We’ve butcher’s meat, of ev’ry kind;
But, if that is not to your mind,
We’ve poultry, Sir, and, if you please,
Our cook excels in fricassees.

Tell me, my good friend, I pray,
What kind of fowl or fish are they?
Besides my very civil Host,
I wish to know what they will cost;
For a poor Parson can’t afford
To live on dainties like a Lord.

The clergy, Sir, when here they stay,
I never suffer them to pay;
I love the church, and, for its sake,
I ne’er make bills, or reck’nings take;
Proud if its ministers receive
The little that I have to give.

Why then, my friend, you’re never dull;
Your inn, I trow, is always full:–
‘Tis a good rule, must be confest,
But, tho’ I blink, I see a jest.

No, sir,; you see the cloth is laid,
And not a farthing to be paid.

I find my head’s not very clear
My eyes see double too, I fear;

Credit: Martin and Jean Norgate: Portsmouth University, 2009
For all these things can never be
Prepar’d for such a guest as me:
A banquet it must be allow’d,
Of which Olympus might be proud.
Thus Syntax ate and drank his fill,
Regardless of the morrow’s bill;
He rang the bell, and call’d the waiters
To take his shoes off, and his gaiters.
“Go tell the maid to shew the bed,
“Where I may lay my aching head:
“Here take my wig, and bring a cap,
“My eyelids languish for a nap:
“No court’sying pray; I want no fawning,
“For I shall my break my jaws with yawning.”
Now Kitty, to adorn his crown,
Brought him a night-cap of her own;
And, having put it on, she bound it,
With a pink ribbon round and round it.
In this fine guise was Syntax led
Up the best stairs, and put to bed.
Tho’ mirth prevail’d the house throughout,
Tho’ it was all one revel rout,
He heard it not, nor did he know
The merriment he caus’d below;
For, with fatigue and wine opppress’d,
He grunted, groan’d, and went to rest;
But when he woke, and look’d around,
The sight his sense did confound.
He saw that he had laid his head
Within a fine-wrought silken bed;
A flower’d carpet grac’d the floor,
And gilded mouldings deck’d the door;
Nor did the mirror fail to shew
His own sweet form from top to toe.
“If I,” said he “remember right,
“I was most lordly drunk last night:
“And, as the Tinker in the play,
“Was taken, as dead-drunk he lay,
“And made a Lord for half a day;
“I think that some one has made free
“To play the self-same trick with me;
“But I’ll know all,– I’ll ring the bell;–
“The chambermaid the truth may tell.”
“She soon appear’d, and court’sy’d low,
Then his commands she wish’d to know.—
“When and how did I come here?
“You’ll be so good to say, my dear.”
“You came last night, not very late,
“About the time the clock struck eight;
“And I have heard the servants say,
“That you, good Sir, had lost your way:”
“Inform me, also, how you call
“This noble inn?”—“ ‘Tis Welcome Hall.”
“Pray, who have you in the house?”
“We’ve ‘Squire Bounty and his spouse;
“With Lady and Sir William Hearty,
“And, if you choose to join the party,
“I am commanded to request
“That you will be their morning guest.”

To question more he did not stay,
But bid the damsel shew the way.
O! ‘twas a very pleasant meeting;
The ‘Squire gave an hearty greeting,
And plac’d the Doctor in a chair,
Between two ladies, young and fair.
Syntax, well-pleas’d, began to prate,
And all his history relate;
While mirth and laughter loud prevail,
As he let forth the curious tale.
At length the ‘Squire explain’d the joke,
When thus the Doctor quaintly spoke:–

“I beg, Sir, no excuse you’ll make,
“Your merriment I kindly take,
“And only wish the gods would give
“Such jesting ev’ry day I live.”

The ladies press’d his longer stay,
But Syntax said—he must away;
So grizzle soon her master bore,
Some new adventure to explore.

[To be continued.]

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