Canto XVII

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Originally published May 1810 in The Poetical Magazine, pp. 193-200.

[Continued from Vol. III. p. 153.]
With an Engraving. Plate IX.1
Ye courtesies of life, all bail!
Whether along the peaceful vale,
Where the thatch’d cot alone is seen,
The humble mansion of the green,
Or in the city’s crowded way,
Man, mortal man, is doom’d to stray;
You give to joy an added charm,
An wo half its pangs disarm.
How much in ev’ry state he owes
To what kind courtesy bestows––
To that benign engaging art
Which decorates the human heart––
And, free from jealousy and strife,
Gilds all the charities of life:
To ev’ry act it gives a grace;
It adds a smile to ev’ry face;
And Goodness’ self we better see
When dressed be gentle Courtesy.
Thus Syntax, as the house he sought,
Indulg’d the grateful pleasing thought;
And soon he stepp’d the threshold o’er,
Where the good farmer went before.
Plenty appear’d, and many a guest
Attended on the welcome feast.
The Doctor then, with solemn face,
Proceeded to th’ appointed place,
And, in due form, pronounc’d the grace.
That thankful ceremony done,
The fierce attack was soon begun;
While meat and pudding, fowl and fish,
All vanish’d from each ample dish.
The dinner o’er, the bowl appear’d;     194
Th’ enliv’ning draughts the spirits cheer’d’
Nor did the pleasant Doctor fail,
Between the cups of foaming ale,
To gain the laugh by many a tale:
But so it hap’d––among the rest––
The Farmer’s landlord was a guest;
A buckish blade, who kept a horse,
To To try his fortune on the course;
Was famous for his fighting-cocks,
And his staunch pack to chase the fox:
Indeed, could be a booby bite,
He’d play at cards throughout the night;
Nor was he without hopes to get
Syntax to make some silly bet.
“I never bet,” the Doctor said,
While a deep frown his thoughts betray’d;
“Your gold I do not wish to gain,
And mine shall in my purse remain:
No tempting card, no gambling art,
Shall make it from my pocket start.
Gaming, my worthy Sir, I hate;
It neither suits my means nor state;
‘Tis the worst passion, I protest,
That’s known to haunt the human breast;
The most delusive and accurst;
And, if you please, I’ll lay before you
A very melancholy story;
Such as, I think, will wring your heart,
And wound you in the tend’rest part;
That will in striking colours shew
The biting pangs, the bitter wo,
That do, too oft, from gaining flow.”
“Nay,” said the ‘Squire, “I don’t deny
I often like my luck to try;
And no one here, I’m sure, will say,
That when I lose I do not pay;
But, as you think it such a sin,
Pray try to cure me,––and begin.”

How many of the human kind,
Who, to their common honour blind,
Look not in any path to stray
But where fell Passion leads the way;
Who, born with ev’ry real claim
To wear the fairest wreath of Fame,
Reject the good by Nature given,
And  scoff at ev’ry gift of Heaven?
Yes, such there are; and such we find
At ev’ry point that gives the wind:
But, when among the crows we see
One whom, in prodigity,
Fortune and Nature had combin’d
To fill his purse and form his mind;
Whose manly strength is grac’d with ease,
And has the happy pow’r to please;
Whose cooler moments never heard
The frantic vow to Heav’n preferr’d;
And near whose stesps Repentance bears
The vase of purifying tears;––
When such a victim we behold,
Urg’d by the rampant lust of gold,
Yielding his health, his life, his fame,
As off’rings to the god of Game;
The tear grows big in Virtue’s eye,
Pale Reason heaves the poignant sigh;
The guardian spirit turns away,
And hell enjoys a holyday.
Is there on earth a hellish vice?
There is, my friend;––’tis avarice.
Has av’rice a more hellish name?     196
It has my friend,––the lust of game.
All this, perhaps, you’ll thus deny:––
“There’s no one with more grace than I
Let’s shillings drop and guineas fly.
To the dejected hapless friend
My doors I ope, my purse I lend;
To purchase joy my wealth I give,
And like a man of fashion live.”
This may be true,––but still your breast
Is with the love of gold possest.
Why watch whole nights the fatal card,
Or look to dice for your reward?
Why risk your real wealth with those
Whom you know not, and no one knows;
With maggots whom foul Fortune’s ray
Has rais’d from dunghills into day;
Who would in your misfortune riot.
And seek your ruin for their diet?
Pleasure it cannot be, for pains
Will mingle with your very gains––
Will hover round the golden store,
Which, ere the passing moment’s o’er,
May, horrid chance! be yours no more.
As yet you cannot use the plea
Of beggar’d men––necessity.
Plenty as yet adorns your board,
And num’rous vassals own you Lord.
Your woods look fair,––their trunks increase,––
The Hamadryads live in peace:
But cards and dice, more pow’rful far
Than e’en the sharpest axes are,
At one dire stroke have oft been found
To level forests with the gound;
Have seiz’d the mansion’s lofty state,
And drove its master from the gate.
A youth in wealth and fashion bred,                  
But by the love of gambling led,
Soon found that ample wealth decay;
Farm after farm was play’d away,
Till, the sad hist’ry to complete,
His park, his lawns, his ancient seat,
Were all in haste and hurry sold,
To raise the heaps of ready gold.
They, like the rest, soon pass’d away,
The villain’s gain, the sharper’s prey;
While he, alas! resolv’d to shun
The arts by which he was undone,
Wander’d where chance or hunger led,
And humbly ask’d for scanty bread.
One day to his despairing eyes
He saw a stately mansion rise;
Nor long he look’d before he knew
Each wood and copse which round it grew;
For all the scene that seem’d so fair
Once knew in his a master’s care.
Struck with the sight, and sore oppress’d
He sought a bank whereon to rest:
There long he lay, and sigh’d his grief;––
Tears came––but did not bring relief.
At last he took his tott’ring way
Where once he lov’d so well to stray,
And, press’d by hunger, sought the gate
Where suppliant Want was us’d to wait––
Where suppliant Want was ne’er deny’d
The morsel left by glutted Pride.
But, ah! those gen’rous times were o’er,
And suppliant Want reliev’d no more.
The mastiff growl’d,––the livry’d thief
With insolence deny’d relief.
The wretch, dissolving in a groan,
Turn’d from the portal once his own;
But, ere he turn’d, he told his name,    
And curs’d once more the love game:
Then sought the lawn, for Nature fail’d,
And sorrow o’er his strength prevail’d.
Beneath an oak’d wide-spreading shade
His weary limbs he careless laid;
Then call’d on Heav’n;––the bitter pray’
Of Mis’ry finds admittance there!)––
And ere the sun, with parting ray,
Had heighten’d the last blush of day,
Sunk and worn out with want and grief,
He found in death a kind relief.
The oak records the doleful tale,.
Which makes the conscious reader pale;
And tells––”In this man’s fate behold
The love of play,––the lust of gold.”
No moral, Sir, shall I impart;
I trust you’ll find it in your heart.

You’re young, you’ll say, and must engage
In the amusements of the age.
Go then, and let your mountain bare
The forest’s verdant liv’ry wear;
Let Parian marble grace your hall,
And Titian glow upon your wall;
Its narrow channels boldly break,
And swell your riv’let to a lake;
To richer harvests bend your soil,
While Labour fattens in the toil;
Encourage Nature, and impart
The half-transparent veil of Art;
Let Music charm thy melting breast,
And soothe each passion into restl
Let Genius from thy hand receive
The bounty that can make it live;
And call the Muses from on high,
To give you immortality.
To these the hardy pleasures join, 
Where exercise and health combine:
At the first op’ning of the morn,
O’er hill and dale, with hound and horn,
Boldly pursue the subtle prey,
And share the triumphs of the day;
Nor let the ev’ning hours roll
Unaided by the social bowl;
Nor should fair Friendship be away,
But crown with smiles the festive day.

This is to live, and to enjoy
Those pleasures which have no alloy:
This is to live, and to receive
The praises which the good will give:
This is to make that use of wealth
Which heightens e’en the flush of health;
Improves the heart, and gives a claim
To the most fragrant wreath of Fame.
“I thank you, Sir,” the farmer said;––
‘Tis a sad tale you have display’d.
How I the poor man’s lot deplore~
The more I think, I feel the more;
And much I wish my landlord too
Would keep his wretch fate in view;
But, while my poor good woman weeps,
Behold how very sound he sleeps;
I beg that we may change the scene,
And join the dancers on the green.”
Sal now exclaim’d, “The people say
Ralph is so drunk he cannot play:”
“Then I’ll be fidler,” Syntax cry’d;
By me his place shall be supply’d;
Ne’er fear, my lasses you shall soon
Be ambling to some pretty tune,
And in a measur’d time shall beat
The green sod with your nimble feet.
While Virtue o’er your pleasure reigns,
You’re welcome to my humble strains;
Wile Virtue smiles upon your joy,
I’ll gladly my best skills employ;
For, sure, ’twill give me great delight
To be your fiddler thro’ the night:
I know full well I do not err
From any point of character:
To Heaven I ne’er can give offence
While I enliven Innocence:
For thus to virtuous man ’tis given
To dance, and sing, and go to Heaven;
Your merry minstrelsy prolong,
And to your dances add the song;E’en while you caper, loudly sing,
In honour of our noble King.”

Strike, strike the lyre! awake the sounding shell!
How happy we who in these valleys dwell!
Hoe blest we live beneath his gentle sway,
Whom mighty realms and distant seas obey!
Make him, propitious Heav’n! your choices care!
O make him happy as his people are!
‘Twas thus they fiddled, danc’d and sung;
With harmless glee the village rung:
At length dull Midnigh bid them close
A day of joy with calm repose.

[To be continued]

Pl 20 Rural Sports

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1. Heading omitted in 1812a and 1812b.