I can't complain, whose ancestors are there,
Erneis, Radulphus — eight-and-forty manors
(If that my memory doth not greatly err)
Were their reward for following Billy's banners:
And though I can't help thinking 't was scarce fair
To strip the Saxons of their hydes, like tanners;
Yet as they founded churches with the produce,
You 'll deem, no doubt, they put it to a good use.
The gentle Juan flourish'd, though at times
He felt like other plants called sensitive,
Which shrink from touch, as monarchs do from rhymes,
Save such as Southey can afford to give.
Perhaps he long'd in bitter frosts for climes
In which the Neva's ice would cease to live
Before May-day: perhaps, despite his duty,
In royalty's vast arms he sigh d for beauty:
Perhaps — but, sans perhaps, we need not seek
For causes young or old: the canker-worm
Will feed upon the fairest, freshest cheek,
As well as further drain the wither'd form:
Care, like a housekeeper, brings every week
His bills in, and however we may storm,
They must be paid: though six days smoothly run,
The seventh will bring blue devils or a dun.
I don't know how it was, but he grew sick:
The empress was alarm'd, and her physician
(The same who physick'd Peter) found the tick
Of his fierce pulse betoken a condition
Which augur'd of the dead, however quick
Itself, and show'd a feverish disposition;
At which the whole court was extremely troubled,
The sovereign shock'd, and all his medicines doubled.
Low were the whispers, manifold the rumours:
Some said he had been poison'd by Potemkin;
Others talk'd learnedly of certain tumours,
Exhaustion, or disorders of the same kin;
Some said 't was a concoction of the humours,
Which with the blood too readily will claim kin;
Others again were ready to maintain,
''T was only the fatigue of last campaign.'
But here is one prescription out of many:
'Sodae sulphat. 3vj. 3fs. Mannae optim.
Aq. fervent. f. 3ifs. 3ij. tinct. Sennae
Haustus' (And here the surgeon came and cupp'd him)
'Rx Pulv Com gr. iij. Ipecacuanhae'
(With more beside if Juan had not stopp'd 'em).
'Bolus Potassae Sulphuret. sumendus,
Et haustus ter in die capiendus.'
This is the way physicians mend or end us,
Secundum artem: but although we sneer
In health — when ill, we call them to attend us,
Without the least propensity to jeer:
While that 'hiatus maxime deflendus'
To be fill'd up by spade or mattock's near,
Instead of gliding graciously down Lethe,
We tease mild Baillie, or soft Abernethy.
Juan demurr'd at this first notice to
Quit; and though death had threaten'd an ejection,
His youth and constitution bore him through,
And sent the doctors in a new direction.
But still his state was delicate: the hue
Of health but flicker'd with a faint reflection
Along his wasted cheek, and seem'd to gravel
The faculty — who said that he must travel.
The climate was too cold, they said, for him,
Meridian-born, to bloom in. This opinion
Made the chaste Catherine look a little grim,
Who did not like at first to lose her minion:
But when she saw his dazzling eye wax dim,
And drooping like an eagle's with clipt pinion,
She then resolved to send him on a mission,
But in a style becoming his condition.
There was just then a kind of a discussion,
A sort of treaty or negotiation
Between the British cabinet and Russian,
Maintain'd with all the due prevarication
With which great states such things are apt to push on;
Something about the Baltic's navigation,
Hides, train-oil, tallow, and the rights of Thetis,
Which Britons deem their 'uti possidetis.'
So Catherine, who had a handsome way
Of fitting out her favourites, conferr'd
This secret charge on Juan, to display
At once her royal splendour, and reward
His services. He kiss'd hands the next day,
Received instructions how to play his card,
Was laden with all kinds of gifts and honours,
Which show'd what great discernment was the donor's.
But she was lucky, and luck 's all. Your queens
Are generally prosperous in reigning;
Which puzzles us to know what Fortune means.
But to continue: though her years were waning
Her climacteric teased her like her teens;
And though her dignity brook'd no complaining,
So much did Juan's setting off distress her,
She could not find at first a fit successor.