Canto XXI

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Originally published November 1810 in The Poetical Magazine, pp. 93-104.

[Continued from Vol. IV. p. 49.]
With an Engraving. Plate V. Vol. IV.1
Sleep, to the virtuous ever kind,
Soon hush’d the Doctor’s turbid mind,
And, when the morning shed its dew,
He rose, his journey to pursue.
Of tea and toast he took his fill,
Then told the Host to bring the bill:
But, when it came, it made him stare
To see some curious items there.
“Go, tell your Ostler to appear;
I wish to see the fellow here.”
The Ostler now before him stands,
And bows his head, and rubs his hands.––
“In this same bill, my friend, I see
You’re witty on my mare and me:
For all your corn, and beans, and hay,
’Tis a fair charge which I shall pay;
But here a strange demand appears,––
For cleaning of her tail and ears!
Now know, my lad, if this is done
On me to play your vulgar fun
(For ears and tail my mare has none),
I’ll make this angry horsewhip crack
In all directions on your back.”
The man deny’d all ill intent;
He knew not what his Reverence meant;
So thought it best to say no more,
But bring Grizzle to the door.
Of painted canvass were her ears;
Upon her stump a tail appears:
So chang’d she was, so gay, so smart,
Deck’d out with so much curious art,
That even Syntax hardly dare
To claim his metamorphos’d mare.
He said no more,––he knew the joke
Was not the sport of vulgar folk;
So trotted off,––and kindly lent
His smile to aid the merriment

Now, as his journey he pursu’d,
He thus broke forth in solemn mood:––
“Tho’ time draws on when those at home
Expect that I should cease to roam
(Tho’ I have objects in my view)
Which are of great importance too);
Yet, as this is the day of rest
Appointed both for man and beast,
To the first church I will repair,
And pay my solemn duties there.”
Thus as he spoke, in a village chime
Denoted it was service-time:
And soon a ruddy Curate came,
To whom he gravely told his name,
His rank, and literary fame;
And said, as he’d been us’d to teaching,
He’d give him half an hour’s preaching.
This was accepted with a smile,
When they both strutted up the aisle;
And in due time, and with due grace,
Syntax display’d his preaching face;
When in bold tones, tho’ somewhat hoarse,
He gave the following discourse:––
“The subject I shall now rehearse,
Is Job the fifth,––the seventh verse:––
‘As sparks rise upwards to the sky,
So man is born to misery.’
This is a truth we all can tell;
In ev’ry state we know it well.
The infant in his cradle lies,
And marks his troubles as he cries:
From his young eyes the waters flow,
The emblems of his future wo:
His cheeks the varying signs display
That mark a changeful April day:
Symbols of joy and wo appear,
And now a smile, and then a tear.
The years of puling childhood o’er,
The Nurse’s care he knows no more:
To Learning’s discipline resign’d,
The Tutor forms his early mind.
Now hopes and fears alternate rise
In all their changing varieties.
How oft, disdainful of restraint,
His voice lifts up the loud complaint,
While stern Correction’s pow’rful law
Keeps the fond urchin-mind in awe;
And some dark cloud for ever lowers,
To shade his bright and playful hours.
Nor, when fair Reason’s steady ray
Begins to light Life’s early day;
Tho’ the thick mist it instant clears,
It dries not up the source of tears;
Nay, ’tis its office, as we know,
Sometimes to make those tears to flow:
For now the Passions will impart
Their impulse to th’ unconscious heart;
Will mingle in Youth’s ardent hours,
And plant the thorns amid the flow’rs;
While Fancy, in its various guise,
With plumage of a thousand dies,
Flits round the mind in wanton play,
To bear each serious thought away:
Nor Pleasure seldom tempts in vain
To join her gay deluding train;
Courting the easy heart to stray
From Reason’s path, and Wisdom’s way.
And oh! how oft the senses cloy
With what is call’d the heigh of joy!
While pale Repentance comes at last,
To execrate the pleasure past!
At length, to finish’d manhood grown,
The world receives him as its own.
Life’s active busy scenes engage
Each moment of maturer age.
Here Pleasure courts him to her bow’rs,
Where serpents lurk beneath the flow’rs;
Ambition tempts him to explore
The height where daring spirits soar,––
While Wealth presents the glitt’ring ore,
Which mingles with each mortal plan,
And is the great concern of man.
Thus pleasure, wealth, or love of pow’r,
Employ man’s short or lengthen’d hour.

In youth or manhood’s early day,
Pleasure first meets him on the way.
The Syren sings;––his eager ear
Drinks in the sounds so sweet to hear.
To the delicious song a slave,
He leaves his vessel to the wave:
The helm forsaken, on it goes;
The lightnings flash, the whirlwind blows;
When, by the furious tempest toss’d,
The gay, the gilded, bark is lost!
But should he, ‘mid the ocean’s roar,
Be cast upon some welcome shore;
Then, wand’ring on the lonely coast,
He’ll sigh to think what he has lost;
Health, ease, and every joy that Heaven
Had to his early wishes given.
Life still is his,––but life alone
Cannot for follies past atone,
When pain assails, and hope is flown.
He feels no more the sunny ways
Of smiling hours and prosp’rous days;
The world turns from him, nor will know
The man of sorrow and of wo;
But bids him come to some cell repair,
In hope to find contrition there.

Nor is Ambition more secure,
Nor less the ills which they endure
Within whose bosom there doth dwell
The vice by which the Angels fell.
The love of rule, the thirst of pow’r,
Ne’er gives a peaceful, tranquil, hour;
’Tis the fierce fever of the soul
That maddens for supreme control;
Whose burning thirst continual glows,
Whose pride no lasting pleasure knows;
While Hatred, Envy, jealous Fear,
Wait on the proud and bold career.
Contention ev’ry act attends;
Now friends are foes,––now foes are friends:
Enjoyment quickens new desire,
And Hope for ever fans the fire.
Whene’er the nearer height is gain’d,
A loftier still must be attain’d;
And then the eye looks keenly round
In hope another’s to be found;
One,––such is the aspiring soul,––
Whose tow’ring height shall crown the whole.
But oft, as the aspirant gains
The object of his toil and pains,
The giddy view of each sense appals,––
In vain for some kind aid he calls;––
The faithless friend, th’ insulting foe,
Rejoice as to the gulf below
He headlong falls,––the prey to lie
Of grinning Scorn and Infamy.

Now riches next demand our thought;
E’en gold may be too dearly bought:
Tho’ in each clime, and ev’ry soil,
It wakes the universal toil.
For this, defying health and ease,
The Sailor ploughs the distant seas:
This shares the Soldier’s daring aim,
Who fights for wealth as well as fame;
And, tho’ all wish its pow’r to share,
Yet ’tis the source of many a care.
Of all the vices that infest
The purlieus of the human breast,
The love of mammon is the worst,
The most detested and accurs’d.
Pleasure’s gay moments may impart
Some gladness to the generous heart;
Ambition, too, we often find
The inmate of a noble mind;
But love of riches ever bears
The tokens of the lowest cares:
We see one base unvarying vice
In the pale form of Avarice;
It only lifts its pray’r to Heaven
T’ increase the store already given;
Nor does it e’er the gift repay,
By shedding one kind cheering ray
Upon the weather-beaten shed,
Where Want scarce finds the scanty bread;––
By wiping from the widow’s eye
The flowing tear of misery;
Or giving to the naked form
The vestment that will keep it warm.
For gold it courts the sleepless night,
And toils thro’ day’s returning light.
Nor these alone;––the cool deceit,––
The treach’rous art,––the hidden cheat,––
The ready lie,––the hard demand,––
And Law’s oppressive griping hand;––
These demons never fail to wait
At Mammon’s dark and dreary gate.
What does he love?––Can that be told?––
Yes, I can tell:––He loves his gold.
In that one term he comprehends
His kindred, neighbourhood, and friends.
But e’en should Fortune daily pour
Her treasures to increase his store,
Say, is he happy?––Does he feel
A pleasure which he dare reveal?––
Ah, no!––His throbbing anxious breast
Continued doubts and fears molest.
But how he trembles with affright,
When Justice claims the widow’s right,
And bids him at the bar appear,
To answer to the orphan’s tear,––
By restoration to atone
For many a wrong that he has done.
Nay, a still far severer doom
May aggravate the time to come:
The scourge without––the scourge within––
May lash the unavailing sin;
And, after all his toil and care,
’Tis well if he escape despair.

But, e’en when Pleasure is not cross’d
With ruin’d health and fortune lost,
Yet still it leaves a void behind––
No vigour to impel the mind.
The season of enjoyment o’er,
The phantom then can please no more:
Brief is its time, it soon is past,––
A vernal bloom not made to last.
Say, what presents its longest doom?
A flow’r, a fever, and a tomb!

What tho’ Ambition holds its pow’r
To life’s extreme, but certain, hour,––
Is not its most exalted joy
Encumber’d with some base alloy?
And, on its proudest, loftiest, height,
Say, does it always find delight?
Say, could it ever guard its heart
From Fear’s assaults, and Envy’s dart?
Nor can it shut th’ averted eye
From passing life’s mortality.
E’en from its elevated brow,
It must behold a grave below.

Tho’ wealth should, haply, be obtain’d
By fair pursuits, with honor gain’d,
Yet, in its train, how oft we see
The pallid forms of misery.
Intemp’rance yields its foul delight,
And feeds th’ obnoxious appetite;
While Lux’ry, in a thousand ways,
To sensual carelessness betrays,
And lights up in the mortal frame
Disease’s slow-corroding flame.
Fortune, in fickle mood, may frown;
The firmest base may tumble down:
While it appears in strength secure,
It falls, and leaves its owner poor.
The largest heaps of treasur’d wealth
Cannot restore declining health;
They cannot bribe the Sun to stay,
And mitigate his burning ray;
Nor will the North’s imperious cold
Dissolve to genial warmth for gold.
Time will not one short moment stray,
Tho’ millions lay athwart his way;
Nor all the wealth that Croesus bore
Can add to life one moment more.
The regal palace and the cot
Are subject to one common lot:
The rich and poor, the small and great,
Alike must feel the stroke of Fate:
Virtue along, we ought to know,
Is real happiness below;
And yet how oft her kindness proves,
By toil and pain, the child she loves.
Honour, of noble minds the flow’r,
Too oft’s betray’d by Treachery’s pow’r;
And Charity we often see
The dupe of base Hypocrisy.

Who then will venture to declare
That man’s mistitled Sorrow’s Heir?
But, Brethren, let us not complain
That Heav’n’s unjust when we sustain
Th’ allotted term of care and pain.
Our life in such a mould is cast,
’Tis plain it is not made to last;
’Tis but a state of trial here,
To fit us for a purer sphere;
A scene of contest for a prize
That in another region lies,
In better worlds and brighter skies:
Here doom’d a painful lot to bear,
Our happiness is treasur’d there.
To struggle with the woes of life,
To wage with Evil constant strife;
T’ oppose the Passions as they rise,
And check our wild propensities;
T’ improve our nature, and to hear
With patience the allotted share
Of human woes,––and thus fulfill
The wise and the Eternal will;––
That forms the grand mysterious plan
For mortal and immortal man.

Man is, indeed, by Heav’n’s decree,
As happy as he ought to be;
As suited to his state and nature,
A restless, frail, and finite creature.
His work well done,––his labour o’er,––
Evil and sorrow are no more;
And, having pass’d the vale of death,
He claims the never-fading wreath;
Glory’s eternal crown to share,
Which cherubs sing, and angels wear.
Then is complete th’ amazing plan,
And mortal is immortal man.”

Here Syntax thought it fit to close;––
Th’ admiring congregation rose;
And, after certain hems and ha’s,
The Squire nodded his applause:
Nay, such attention he had given
To the sage Minister of Heaven,
That neither did he sleep nor snore,––
A wonder never known before.
Then, quickly issuing from the pew,
He came to thank the Doctor too:––
“Sir, your discourse, so good and fine,
Proves you to be a great Divine;
While I, alas! am but a sinner,
So you’ll go home with me to dinner;
And, shortly after evening pray’r,
The Curate too will meet you there.”
The Doctor found the house well stor’d;
A chatt’ring wife, a plenteous board.
The dinner was a pleasant sight,
For preaching gets an appetite;
And Syntax could perform at both
As well as any of his cloth.
At length, the eatables remov’d,
The Squire began the talk he lov’d.

“Have you much game, Sir, where you live?”

“An answer, Sir, I scarce can give:
I never hunt, nor bear a gun;
I have no time, nor like the fun:
Learning’s the game which I pursue;
I have no other sport in view:
But I have heard the country round
With hares and partridge does abound:
Tho’ on my table it is rare
To see or one or t’other there.
Oft when I rise at early morn,
And hear the cheerful echoing horn,
I’m forc’d, from the the inspiring noise,
To hunt a pack of idle boys;
And, when they babble in their din,
I am a special whipper-in;
And, if they should be found at fault,
I crack my whip, Sir, as I ought,”

Syntax now told his story o’er,––
A story told so oft before;
When soon the Squire began to feel
A slumber o’er his senses steal.
The Curate, too, bemus’d in beer,
Was more dispos’d to sleep than hear.
Said Syntax, “See th’ effect of drink!
“Heav’n spare the souls that cannot think!
But I will not their sleep molest,
For Sunday is a day of rest.”
In short, his words ceas’d to prevail;
There now were none to hear his tale:
He strove another pipe to smoke;
But there were none to hear his joke:
So on his elbow he reclin’d,
And thus the sleeping party join’d.
The clock struck ten ere they awoke,
When a shrill voice their slumbers broke:
In such a tone it seem’d to come,
That Syntax thought he was at home.
So having yawn’d, and shook their heads,
They wish’d good night, and sought their beds.
[To be continued.]

Pl 24 Preaching

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1. Heading omitted in 1812a and 1812b.