Canto X

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Originally published November 1809 in The Poetical Magazine p. 145-152.

THE SCHOOLMASTER’S TOUR.
With an Engraving.
[Continued from Vol. II. P. 104]

————–
Poor mortal man, in ev’ry state,
What troubles and what ills await!
His transient joy is chas’d by sorrow,–
To-day he’s blest;–a wretch to-morrow:–
When in this world he first appears,
He hails the light with cries and tears:
A school-boy next, he fears the nod
Of pedant pow’r, and feels the rod:
When to an active stripling grown,
The Passions seize him as their own;
Now lead him here, now drive him there,
Th’ alternate sport of Joy and Care—
Allure him with the glitt’ring treasure,
OR give the brimming cup of pleasure;
While one eludes his eager haste,
The other palls upon the taste:
The pointed darts from Cupid’s quiver
Wound his warm heart, and pierce his liver;
Or, charm’d by fair Belinda’s eyes,
He dines on groans, and sups on sighs.
If from this gay and giddy round
He should escape both safe and sound,
Perhaps, if all things else miscarry,
He takes in his head to marry;
And, in this lottery of life,
If he should draw a scolding wife,
With a few children, eight or ten
(For such things happen now and then),
Poor hapless man! he knows not where
To look around without a care;–
Ambition, in its airy flight,
May tempt him to some giddy height;
But, ere the point he can attain,
He falls, and ne’er to rise again.
Pale Av’rice my his heart possess,
That bane of human happiness,
Which never feels for other’s woe,
Which never can a smile bestow;
A wretched, meagre, griping elf,
A foe to all, and to himself.
Then comes Disease, with baleful train,
And all the family of Pain,
Till Death appears in awful state,
And calls him to the realms of Fate.
How oft is Virtue seen to feel
The woeful turn of Fortune’s wheel,
While she with golden stores awaits
The wicked, in their very gates.
But Virtue still the value knows
Of honest deeds, and can repose
Upon the flint her naked head;
While Vice lies restless on the bed
Of softest down, and courts in vain
The opiate, to relieve his pain.

It was not Vice that ‘er could keep
Poor Syntax from refreshing sleep;
For no foul thought, no wicked art,
In his pure life e’er bore a part:
Sometimes, when Madam would beshrew it,
A curtain-lecture sure might do it:
Another cause his slumbers broke,
And, here the sun arose, he woke.
A chilling tremor o’er him pass’d,
He thought the hour might be his last;–
His limbs were all besieg’d by pain;
He now grew hot, then cold again:
He rung the bell, and call’d for aid,
And groan’d so loud, th’ affrighted maid
Spread the alarm throughout the house;
When straight the landlord and his spouse
Made all dispatch to do their best,
And ease the sufferings of their guest.
“Have you a Doctor?” Syntax said;
“If not, I quickly shall be dead.”
“O yes; a very famous man—
“He’ll cure you, Sir, if physic can.
“I’ll fetch him quick—a man renown’d
“For his great skill the country round.”

The landlord soon the Doctor brought,
Whose words were grace, whose look was thought;
By the bedside he took his stand,
And felt the patient’s burning hand;
Then, with a scientific face,
He told the symptoms of the case:–
“His frame’s assail’d with fev’rish heats;
“His pulse with rapid movement beats:
“And now, I think, ‘twould do him good,
“Were he to lose a little blood.
“Some other useful matters too,
“To ease his pain, I have in view.
“I’ll just step home, and in a trice,
“Will bring the fruits of my advice;
“In the mean time, his thirst assuage
“With tea that’s made of balm, or sage.”
He soon return’d,–his skill applied,–
From the vein flow’d the crimson tide;
And, as the folk behind him stand,
He thus declar’d his stern command:–
“At nine, these powders let him take;
“At ten, this draught,– the phial shake;
“And you’ll remember at eleven,
“Three of these pills must then be given:
“At twelve, the course you will pursue,
“And then you’ll give the bolus too:
“If he should wander, in a crack
“Clap his brad blister on his back
“And, after he has had the blister,
“Within an hour give the clyster:
“I must be gone—at three or four
“I shall return, with something more.”

Now Syntax and his fev’rish state
Became the subject of debate.
The Mistress said she was afraid
No medicine would give him aid;
For she had heard the screech-owl scream,
And had besides a horrid dream.
Last night the candle burn’d so blue;
Forth from the fire a coffin flew;–
And, as she sleepless lay in bed,
She heard a death-watch o’er her head.
The maid and ostler too declar’d
That noises strange they both had heard.
“Ay,” cried the Sexton, “these portend
“To the sick man a speedy end;
“And, when that I have drank my liquor,
“I’ll e’en go straight and fetch the Vicar.”

The Vicar came, a worthy man,
And, like the good Samaritan,
He quickly sought the stranger’s bed,
Where Synyax lay with aching head;
And, without nay fuss or pother,
He offer’d to his rev’rend brother
His purse, his house, and all the care
Which a kind heart could give him there.

Says Syntax, in a languid voice,
“You make my very soul rejoice;
“For, if within this house I stay,
“My flesh will soon be turn’d to clay:
“For the good Doctor means to pop
“Into my stomach all his shop.
“ think, dear Sir, that could eat,
“And physic’s but a nauseous treat:–
“If all that stuff’s to be endur’d,
“I shall be kill’d in being cur’d.”
“Oh,” said the Vicar, “near fear;
“We’ll leave this apparatus here.
“Come, quit your bed—I pray you, come,–
“My arm shall bear you to my home,
“Where I and my dear mate will find
“Med’cine more suited to you mind.”

Syntax now rose, but feeble stood,
From want of food and loss of blood;
But still he ventur’d to repair
To the good Vicar’s house and care;
And found at dinner pretty picking,
In pudding boil’d, and roasted chicken.
Again ‘twas honest Grizzle’s fate
TO take her way thro’ church-yard gate;
And, undisturb’d, again to riot
In the green feast of church-yard diet.
The Vicar was at Oxford bred,
And had much learning in his head;
But, which was far the better part,
He had much goodness in his heart.
The Vicar also had a wife,
The pride and pleasure of his life;
A loving, kind, and friendly creature,
As blest in virtue as in feature,
Who, without blisters, drugs, or pills,
Her patient cur’d of all his ills.
Three days he stay’d, a welcome guest,
And ate and drank of what was best:
At length, in health and strength renew’d,
Syntax his journey now pursued.
In two days more, before his eyes
The stately tow’rs of York arise.
“But what,” he said, “can all this mean?
“What is you crowded busy scene?
“Ten thousand souls, I do maintain,
“Are scatter’d over yonder plain.”
“Ay, more than that,” a man replied,
Who trotted briskly by his side,
“And, if you choose, I’ll be your guide:
“For sure you will not pass this way,
“And miss the pleasures of the day.
“These are the races, to whose sport
“Nobles and gentry all resort.”
Thought Syntax, I’ll just take a look;
‘Twill give a subject to my book.
So on they went;–the highway friend
His services did oft commend.
“I will attend you to the course,
“And tell the name of ev’ry horse;
“But first we’ll go and take a whet,
“And then I’ll teach you how to bet:
“I’ll name the horse that’s doom’d to win—
“The knowing ones we’ll soon take in.”
Just as he spoke, the sport began;
The jockeys whipp’d, the horses ran,–
And, when the coursers reach’d the post,
The man exclaim’d. “Your horse has lost;
“I’ve had the luck,– I’ve won the day,
“And you hve twenty pounds to pay.”
Syntax look’d wild—the man said “Zounds!
“You know you better twenty pounds;
“So pay them down, or you’ll fare worse,
“For I will flog you off the course.”
The Doctor rav’d, and disavow’d
The bold assertion to the crowd.

Credit: Marin and Jean Norgate: University of Porsmouth, 2009
What would have been his hapless fate,
In this most unexpected state,
May well be guess’d, But, lo! a friend
Fortune was kind enough to send:
An honest ‘Squire, who smok’d the trick,
Appear’d, well arm’d with oaken stick,
And, placing many a sturdy blow
Upon the shoulders of the foe,
“It is with all my soul I beat
“This vile, this most notorious, cheat,”
The ‘Squire exclaim’d; “and you, good folk,
“Who sometimes love a pleasant joke,
“As I am partly tir’d with thumping,
“Should treat the scoundrel with a pumping.”
The crowd, with their commission pleas’d,
Rudely the trembling black-leg seiz’d,
Who, to their justice forc’d to yield,
Soon ran off dripping from the field.

Syntax his simple story told,–
The ‘Squire, as kind as he was bold,
His full protection now affords,
And cheer’d him both with wine and words:–
“I love the clergy from my heart,
“And always take a Parson’s part.
“My father, Doctor, wore the gown—
“A better man was never known:
“But an old uncle, a poor elf,
“Who to save riches starv’d himself,
“By his last will bequeath’d me clear
“Full fifteen hundred pounds a year,
“And sav’d me all the pains, at college,
“To pore o’er books, and aim at knowledge:
“Thus, free from care, I live at ease—
“Go where I will, do what I please—
“Pursue my sports, enjoy my pleasure,
“Nor envy Lords their mighty treasure;
“I have an house at York beside,
“Where you shall go and straight reside:
“And ev’ry kindness shall be shewn,
“Both for my dad’s sake, and your own;
“For know, good sir, I’m never loth
“To mark my friendship for the cloth:
Hearty’s my name, and you shall find
“A hearty welcome too, and kind:
“I have a wife, so free and gay,
“She ne’er says yes when I say nay.”
Syntax observ’d, that was a blessing
A man might boast of in possessing.

At length arriv’d, a Lady fair
Receiv’d them with a winning air.
“Ay,” said the ‘Squire, “I always come,
“My dearest girl, with pleasure home;
“You see a rev’rend Doctor here,
“So give him of your choicest cheer:”
Yes,” she replied, “o yes, my dear:”
“Nor fail all kindness to bestow:”—
“O no, my dear,” she said, “O no.”
Thus happy Syntax join’d the party
Of Madam and of ‘Squire Hearty.
[To be continued.]

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