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Originally published May 1810 in The Poetical Magazine, pp. 97-104.
THE SCHOOLMASTER’S TOUR.
[Continued from Vol. III. p. 57.]
With an Engraving.1
Virtue embraces ev’ry state,
And, while it gilds the rich and great,
It cheers their hearts who’re doomed to stray
Along Life’s calmer, humbler way.
While, from beneath the portals proud,
Wealth oft relieves the suppliant crowd,
The wayworn pilgrim smiles to share,
In lowly homes, the welcome fare.
In splendid halls and painted bow’rs
Plenty may crown the festive hours;
Yet still within the secret dell
The hospitable Virtues dwell;
And in this isle, so brave and fair,
Kind charity is eev’rywhere.
Within the city’s ample bound
Her stately piles are seen around;
Where ev’ry want and ev’ry pain
That in man’s feeble nature reign––
Where the sad heir of tort’ring grief
May, bless’d be Heav’n! obtain relief:
While, on the humble village-gree,
How oft the low-roof’d pile is seen,
Where Poverty forgets its woes,
And wearied Age may find repose.
Thrice-happy Britons! while the car
Of furious unrelenting Way
Leaves the dire tracks of streaming gore
On many a hapless distant shore,––
While a remorseless tyrant’s hand
Deals mis’ry thro’ each foreign land.
And fell Destruction, from the throne
To him who doth the cottage own,––
Peace beams upon your sea-girt isle,
Where the bright Virtues ever smile;
Where hostile shoutings ne’er molest
The happy inmate’s genial rest:
Where’er it is his lot to go,
He will not meet an armed foe;
Nay, wheresoe’er his way may tend,
He sure may chance to find a friend.
Thus, having rose at early day,
As thro’ the fields he took his way,
Syntax did thus his thoughts rehearse,
And, as the Muse inspir’d, in verse;
For, while with skill each form he drew,
The Doctor was a poet too.
But soon a bell’s shrill tinkling sound
Re-echoed all the meads around,
And said, as plain as bell could say,––
“Breakfast is ready,––come away.”
The welcome summons he obey’d.
And found an arbour’s pleasing shade,
Where, while the plenteous meal was spread,
The woodbine flaunted o’er his head.
“Ah! little do the proud and great,
Amid the pomp and toil of state,
Know of those simple real joys,
With which the bosom never cloys!
O! what a heart-reviving treat
I find within this rural seat!
All that can please the quicken’d taste
Is offer’d in this fair repast.
The flowers, on their native bed,
Around delicious odours shed;––
A bloom that with the flow’ret vies,
On those fair cheeks attracts my eyes;
And what sweet music greets my ear, 99
When that voice bids me welcome here!
Indeed, each sense combines to bless
The present hour with happiness.”
Thus Syntax spoke, nor spoke in vain;
The Ladies felt the flatt’ring strain;
Nor could they do enough to please
The Doctor for his courtesies:––
“All that you see, if that’s a charm,
Is, Sir, the produde of our farm:
The rolls are nice, our oven bakes ’em;
Those oat-cakes too, my sister makes ’em.
The cream is rich, pray do not save it;
The brindles cow you drew, Sir, gave it:
And here is some fresh-gather’d fruit,––
I hope it will your palate suit:
‘Tis country fare which you receive,
But ’tis the best we have to give.”
“O!” said the ‘Squire, “the Doctor jokes
With us poor harmless country folks:
I wonder that with all his sense,
And such a tickling eloquence,
He has not turn’d an humble priest
Into a good fat dean, at least.
We know how soon a Lady’s ear
Will list, the honey’d sounds to hear:
At the same time, I’m free to say
I think the men as vain as they.
How happens it, my learned friend,
That you have not attain’d your end;
That all your figures and your tropes
Have not fulfill’d your rightful hopes?
I should suppose your shining parts,
And, above all, your flatt’ring arts,
Would soon have turn’d your grisly mare
Into handsome chaise and pair.
I live amidst my native groves,
And the calm scene my nature loves;
But still I know, and often see,
What gains are made by flattery.”
“That may be true,” the Doctor said;
But flattery is not my trade.
Indeed, dear Sir, you do me wrong,––
No sordid int’rest guides my tongue.
Honour and Virtue I admire,
Or in a Bishop, or a ‘Squire;
But falsehood I most keenly hate,
Tho’ gilt with wealth, or crown’d with state.
In truth I’m like a lion, bold:
But a base lie I never told:
Indeed, I know, too many a sinner
Will lie by dozens for a dinner;
But, from the days of earliest youth,
I’ve worshipp’d and I’ve practis’d truth;
Nay, many a stormy bitter strife
I’ve had with my dear loving wife,
Who often says she might have seen
Her husband a fine pompous dean.
Indeed, she sometimes thinks her spouse
Might have a taitre on his brows,
If, putting scruples out of view,
He’d do as other people do.
No, I will never lie now fawn,
Nor flatter, to be rob’d in lawn.
I too can boast a certain rule
Within the precincts of my school.
Whatever faults I may pass by,
I never do forgive a lie.
I hate to use the birchen rod;
But, when a boy forswears his God,
When he in purpos’d falsehood deals,
My heavy strokes the culprit feels.
Vice I detest, whoever shews it,
And, where I see it, I’ll expose it:
But to kind hearts my homage due
I willing pay, and pay to you;
Nor will you, Sir, deny the share
That’s due to these two Ladies fair.”
The ‘Squire reply’d, “I e’en must yield,
And leave you master of the field:
These Ladies will, I’m sure, agree
That you have fairly conquer’d me;
But, be assur’d, all jokes apart,
I feel your doctrine from my heart.
Your free-born conduct I commend,
And shall rejoice to call you friend,
O! how it would my spirits cheer
If you were but the Vicar here.
Our Parson, I’m concern’d to say,
Had rather drink and game than pray.
He makes no bones to curse and swear,
In any rout to take a share,
And, what’s still worse, he’ll springe a hare.
I wish his neck he would but break,
Or tumble drunk into the lake!
For, know the living’s mine to give,
And you should soon the Cure receive:
The benefice, I’m sure, is clear,
At least, two hundred pounds a year.”
“I thank you, Sir, with all my heart,”
Said Syntax; “but we now must part.”
The fair-ones cry’d, “We beg you’ll stay,
And pass with us another day.”
“Ladies, I would ’twere in my pow’r,
But I can’t stay another hour:
I feel your kindness to my soul,
And wish I could my fate control.
Within ten days the time will come
When I shall be expected home;
Nor is this all, ––for, strange to say,
I must take London in my way.”
Thus converse kind the moments cheer’d
Till Grizzle at the gate appear’d.
“Well,” said the ‘Squire, “since you must go,
Our hearty wishes we bestow:
And, if your genius bids you take
Another journey to the Lake,
Remember Worthy-Hall, we pray,
And come, and make a longer stay;
Write too, and tell your distant friends
With what success your journey ends.
We do not mean it as a bribe,
But to your work we must subscribe.”
The Ladies too begg’d he’d repeat
His visit to their northern seat.
Poor Syntax knew not how to tell
The gratitude he felt so well;
And, when at length he said, “Good bye,”
A tear was bright in either eye.
The Doctor pac’d along the way
Till it drew night the close of day,
When the fair town appear’d in sight,
Where he propos’d to pass the night:
But, when he reach’d the destin’d inn,
The landlord, with officious grin,
At once declar’d he had no bed
Where Syntax could repose his head;
At least where such a rev’rend guest
Would think it fit to take his rest.
There was a main of cocks that day,
And all the gentry chose to stay.
“Observe, my friend, I mind not cost,”
Says Syntax to his cringing host;
But still, at least, I may be able
To sleep with Grizzle in the stable;
And many a Doctor, after all,
Is proud to slumber in a stall:
In short, I only want to sleep
Where neither rogue nor knave can creep:
I travel not with change of coats,
But in these bags are all my notes;
Which, should I lose, would prove my ruin,
And be for ever my undoing.”
Thus as he spoke, a lovely blade,
With dangling queue and smart cockade,
Reply’d at once, “I ahve a room;
The friend I looked for is not come.
Here are two beds where we may rest,
And you, good Sir, shall have the best;
There you may sleep without alarm,––
No living wight shall do you harm;
You may depend upon my word,––
I serve the King, and wear a sword.”
“Your offer, Sir, I kindly greet,”
Says Syntax; “but you’ll let me treat
With what is best to drink and eat;
And I request you will prepare
To your own taste the bill of fare.”
The Doctor and the Captain sat,
Till, tired of each other’s chat,
They both agreed it would be best
To seek the balmy sweets of rest.
Syntax soon clos’d each weary eye,
Nor thought of any danger nigh;
While his companion lay awake,
Like the ever-watchful snake,
Impatient to assail its prey;
When, soon as it was dawn of day,
He gently seiz’d the fancy’d store;
But, as he pass’d the creaking door,
Syntax awoke and saw the thief,
When, loudly bawling for relief,
He forward rush’d in naked state,
And caight the culprit at the gate:
Against that gate his head he beat,
Then kicke’d him headlong to the street.
The hostler, who had just arose,
Beheld the scene, and heard the blows.
Says Syntax, “I’ll not make a riot;
I’ve sav’d my notes, and I’ll be quiet.
The rascal, if I’m not mistaken,
Will ask his legs to save his bacon:
But, what a figure I appear!
I must not stand and shiver here.”
The hostler then the Doctor led
Back to the comforts of his bed.
Into that bed he quickly crept,
Beneath his head and bags he kept,
And on that pillow safely slept.
[To be continued.]
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1. Heading omitted in 1812a and 1812b.