Canto XII

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Originally Published November 1809 in The Poetical Magazine pp. 241-249

With two Engravings. (XII and XIII.)
[Continued from Vol. II. P. 202]

Life is a journey:–on we go
Thro’ many a scene of joy and woe.
Time flits along and will not stay,
Nor let us linger on the way:–
Like as a stream, whose varying course
Now rushes with impetuous force;
Now in successive eddies plays,
Or in meanders gently strays;–
Still it moves on, till, spreading wide,
It mingles with the briny tide;
And, when it meets the ocean’s roar,
The limpid waves are seen no more.
Such, such is Life’s uncertain way;–
Now the sun wakes th’ enliv’ning day:–
The scene around enchants the sight;
To cool retreat the shades invite:
The blossoms balmy fragrance shed,
The meads a verdant carpet spread;
While the clear rill reflects below
The flow’rs that on its margin grow;
And the sweet singers of the grove
Attune to harmony and love.
But, lo! the clouds obscure the sky,
And tell the blust’ring tempest night:
The livid flash, the pelting storm,
Now Nature’s ev’ry grace deform
Nor fail their horrors to destroy
The pensive trav’ller’s tranquil joy:
But, tho’ no tempest should invade
The sweet retreat, th’ inspiring shade,
Care will not let him long remain,
But sets him on his way again.
Thus Syntax, whom the ‘Squire had press’d
For a whole month to take his rest,
Sigh’d when he found he could not stay
To loiter thro’ another day:–
“No,” he exclaim’d, “I must away.
“I have a splendid book to make,
“To form a tour, to paint a lake;
“And, by that well-projected tome,
“To carry fame and money home:
“And, should I fail, my loving wife
“Would lead me such a precious life,
“That I had better never more
“Approach my then forbidden door.”
‘Twas thus he ponder’d as he lay,
When the sun told another day:
Nor long the downy couch he press’d,
Where busy Thought disturb’d his rest;
But quick prepar’d, with grateful heart,
From this warm mansion to depart.
The ‘Squire, to his professions true,
Thus spoke at once his kind adieu.

“I’m sorry, Sir, with all my heart,
“That you and I soon must part:
“For, while I look upon your chair,
“I think I see my father there;
“And, tho’ I’ve not the mind to toil
“In Learning’s way, by midnight oil,
“Yet still I feel the rev’rence due
“To Science, and such men as you:
“Nor can I urge your longer stay,
“When Science calls you far away.
“But still I hope you’ll not refuse
“My friendly tribute to the Muse;
“And, when again you this way come,
“You will know where to find a home.
“Besides, I mean to recommend
“Your labours to a noble friend,
“Who well is known to rank as high
“In learning as in quality;
“Who can your merits well review,
“A statesman, and a poet too:
“He will your genius truly scan,
“And, tho’ a Lord, a learned man.
“For, Carlisle is an honour’d name,
“Whose virtue and unsully’d fame
“Will decorate th’ historic page,
“And live thro’ ev’ry future age.
“That noble Lord doth condescend
“To know me for a faithful friend;
“And, when you to his Lordship give
“The letter which you now receive,
“You’ll find, on his right noble part,
“A welcome that will cheer your heart.
“To Castle-Howard then repair,
And Honour will attend you there.
“Nor fear, my friend, that gilded state
“Will frown upon your humble fate,
“For Carlisle’s good as he is great.”

“Your kindness, Sir, doth know no end;–
“You are in truth a real friend:
“Nor can my feeble tongue express
“This unexpected happiness:
“For, if this noble Lord should deign
“My feeble labours to sustain
“With the warm enliv’ning rays
“Of his avow’d protecting praise,
“My fortune will at once be made,
“And I shall bless the author’s trade.”

Thus, as he spoke, the ‘Squire gave
The letter Syntax long’d to have;
And with it a soft silky note,
On which two coal-black words were wrote;
The sight of which his sense confounds,
For these same words were—twenty pounds.
“Check,” said the ‘Squire, “your wond’ring look;
“ ‘Tis my subscription to your bookl
“And, when ‘tis printed, you will send
“A copy to your Yorkshire friend;
“Besides, I’ll try to sell a score
“Among my neighbours here, or more.”

The Doctor’s tongue could not reply,
While his heart heav’d a grateful sigh,
And a tear rose in either eye.
Thus, as he sits, we can’t do better
Than to repeat the ‘Squire letter:–

“This liberty I take,
“For Laughter and for Merit’s sake;
“And, when the bearer shall appear
“In Castle-Howard’s atmosphere,
“His figure will your spirits cheer.
“You need no other topic seek;–
“He’ll furnish laughter for a week:
“But still I say, and tell you true,
“You’ll love him for his merit too.
“You’ll see, my Lord, in this Divine,
“Quixote and Parson Adams shine:
“An hero well combin’d you’ll view
“For Fielding and Cervantes to:
“A scholar too, if I can judge,
“In classic lore long us’d to drudge.
“O do but hear his simple story,
“And let him lay it all before you:
“I’m sure you’ll thank me for my letter,
“And say that you are Hearty’s debtor;
“And, when your sides are tir’d with mirth,
“You’ll smile upon his real worth.
“I know full well how you’ll receive him,
“And to your favour now I leave him.
“So I remain, with zeal most fervent,
“Your Lordship’s true and hearty servant.
“York, Thursday.” “J.H.”

“The Doctor now prepar’d to go,
With heart of joy and look of woe;
He silent squeez’d the ‘Squire hands,
And ask’d of Madam her commands.
The ‘Squire exclaim’d, “why so remiss?
“She bids you take an hearty kiss;
“And, if you think that one won’t do,
“I pray, dear Sir, you’ll give her two.”
This pleasant fancy did beguile
The Parson’s face into a smile.
“Nay then,” says Syntax, “you shall see,”
And straight he gave the Lady three;
Nor did he linger to exclaim
He ne’er had kiss’d so fair a dame.
The Lady blush’d, and thank’d him too;
And, in soft accents, said, Adieu!
The farewell ceremony o’er,
Grizzle was led up to the door,
And on his way his master bore.

Syntax, since first he left his home,
Had no such view of good to come
As now before his fancy rose,
To bid him laugh at future woes.
“Fortune,” he cried, “is kind at last,
“And I forgive her malice,
“Clad in Carlisle’s benignant form,
“Her pow’r no more will wake the storm,
“Nor e’er again her anger shed
“In frequent show’rs around my head.”

Now, after a short morning’s ride,
In eager Hope and Fancy’s pride,
The Doctor views, with conscious smile,
Fair Castle-Howard’s splendid pile.
Nor Versailles makes a finer show,
As, passing o’er the lofty brow,
The stately scene is view’d below.
My Lord receiv’d him with the grace
Which marks the sov’reign of the place;
Nor was poor Syntax made to feel
The pride which fools will oft reveal;
Who think it a fine state decorum,
When humble merit stands before ‘em:
But here was birth from folly free,–
Here was the true nobility,
Where human kindness gilds the crest;–
The first of virtues, and the best.

An hour was in chit-chat past,
When welcome dinner came at last;
And now the hungry Syntax eats
Of high ragouts and dainty meats:
Nor was the Doctor found to shrink
Whenever he was ask’d to drink.

“What think you, Doctor, of the show
“Of pictures that around you glow?

“I’ll by-and-by enjoy the treat:
“But now, my Lord, I’d rather eat.”

Credit: Martin and Jean Norgate: Portsmouth University, 2009

“What think you of this statue?
“Does it not flesh and blood appear?”

“I’m sure, my Lord, ‘tis very fine;
“But I, just now, prefer your wine.”

“I wonder you can keep your eye
“From forms that do with Nature;
“Nay, in my mind, my rev’rend friend,
“Nature’s best works they far transcend.
“Look at that picture of the Graces,
“What lovely forms! what charming faces!”

“Their charms, Sir John, I shall discover,
“I have no doubt, when dinner’s over:
“At present, if to judge I’m able,
“The finest works are on the table.
“I should prefer the cook, just now,
“To Rubens or to Gerard Dow.”

“Tho’, in their way, they’re both bewitching,
“I now prefer your Lordship’s kitchen.”

The dinner done, the punch appears,
And many a glass their spirits cheers.
The festive hours thus pass’d away,
Till Time brought on the closing day:
The Doctor talk’d, nor ceas’d his quaffing,
While all around were sick with laughing.

“Again the subject I renew,
“And wish you would the pictures view.”

“To view them now would be a trouble,
“For faith, my Lord, my eyes see double.”

“To bed then we had best repair,–
“I give you to the Butler’s care;
“A sage grave man, who will obey
“Whate’er your Rev’rence has to say.”
The sage grave man appear’d, and bow’d:–
“I am of this good office proud;
“But ‘tis the custom of the place,
“From the country yeoman to his Grace,
“Whene’er a stranger-guest we see,
“To make him of the cellar free,
“To you the same respect we bear,
“And, therefore, beg to lead you there;
“Where ev’ry noble butt doth claim
“The honour of a titled name.”

The servants now all flock’d around,
With humble airs and looks profound.
“Lead on,” says Syntax, “I’ll not stay,
“But follow where you lead the way.”

The Butler cried,” You’ll understand
“It is our noble Lord’s command
“To give this rev’rend Doctor here
“A sample of our strongest beer;–
“So tap her Grace of Devonshire.”–
At length the potent liquor flows,
That makes poor man forget his woes.
Syntax exclaim’d, “Here’s Honour’s boast;–
“The health of my most noble host;–
“And let fair Devon crown the toast.”

Credit: Martin and Jean Norgate:  Portsmouth University, 2009

The cups were cheer’d with loyal song;
But cups like these ne’er lasted long:
And Syntax stammer’d, “Do you see?
“Now I’m of this fam’d cellar free,
“I wish I might be quickly led
“T’ enjoy my freedom in a bed.”
He wish’d but once, and was obey’d,
And soon within a bed was laid,
Where, all the day’s strange bus’ness o’er,
He now was left to sleep and snore.

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