Here sweetly spread a landscape of Lorraine;
There Rembrandt made his darkness equal light,
Or gloomy Caravaggio's gloomier stain
Bronzed o'er some lean and stoic anchorite: —
But, lo! a Teniers woos, and not in vain,
Your eyes to revel in a livelier sight:
His bell-mouth'd goblet makes me feel quite Danish
Or Dutch with thirst — What, ho! a flask of Rhenish.
O reader! if that thou canst read, — and know,
'T is not enough to spell, or even to read,
To constitute a reader; there must go
Virtues of which both you and I have need; —
Firstly, begin with the beginning (though
That clause is hard); and secondly, proceed;
Thirdly, commence not with the end — or, sinning
In this sort, end at least with the beginning.
But, reader, thou hast patient been of late,
While I, without remorse of rhyme, or fear,
Have built and laid out ground at such a rate,
Dan Phoebus takes me for an auctioneer.
That poets were so from their earliest date,
By Homer's 'Catalogue of ships' is clear;
But a mere modern must be moderate —
I spare you then the furniture and plate.
The mellow autumn came, and with it came
The promised party, to enjoy its sweets.
The corn is cut, the manor full of game;
The pointer ranges, and the sportsman beats
In russet jacket: — lynx-like is his aim;
Full grows his bag, and wonderful his feats.
Ah, nut-brown partridges! Ah, brilliant pheasants!
And ah, ye poachers! — 'T is no sport for peasants.
An English autumn, though it hath no vines,
Blushing with Bacchant coronals along
The paths, o'er which the far festoon entwines
The red grape in the sunny lands of song,
Hath yet a purchased choice of choicest wines;
The claret light, and the Madeira strong.
If Britain mourn her bleakness, we can tell her,
The very best of vineyards is the cellar.
Then, if she hath not that serene decline
Which makes the southern autumn's day appear
As if 't would to a second spring resign
The season, rather than to winter drear,
Of in-door comforts still she hath a mine, —
The sea-coal fires the 'earliest of the year;'
Without doors, too, she may compete in mellow,
As what is lost in green is gain'd in yellow.
And for the effeminate villeggiatura —
Rife with more horns than hounds — she hath the chase,
So animated that it might allure
Saint from his beads to join the jocund race;
Even Nimrod's self might leave the plains of Dura,
And wear the Melton jacket for a space:
If she hath no wild boars, she hath a tame
Preserve of bores, who ought to be made game.
The noble guests, assembled at the Abbey,
Consisted of — we give the sex the pas —
The Duchess of Fitz-Fulke; the Countess Crabby;
The Ladies Scilly, Busey; — Miss Eclat,
Miss Bombazeen, Miss Mackstay, Miss O'Tabby,
And Mrs. Rabbi, the rich banker's squaw;
Also the honourable Mrs. Sleep,
Who look'd a white lamb, yet was a black sheep:
With other Countesses of Blank — but rank;
At once the 'lie' and the 'elite' of crowds;
Who pass like water filter'd in a tank,
All purged and pious from their native clouds;
Or paper turn'd to money by the Bank:
No matter how or why, the passport shrouds
The 'passee' and the past; for good society
Is no less famed for tolerance than piety, —
That is, up to a certain point; which point
Forms the most difficult in punctuation.
Appearances appear to form the joint
On which it hinges in a higher station;
And so that no explosion cry 'Aroint
Thee, witch!' or each Medea has her Jason;
Or (to the point with Horace and with Pulci)
'Omne tulit punctum, quae miscuit utile dulci.'
I can't exactly trace their rule of right,
Which hath a little leaning to a lottery.
I 've seen a virtuous woman put down quite
By the mere combination of a coterie;
Also a so-so matron boldly fight
Her way back to the world by dint of plottery,
And shine the very Siria of the spheres,
Escaping with a few slight, scarless sneers.
I have seen more than I 'll say: — but we will see
How our villeggiatura will get on.
The party might consist of thirty-three
Of highest caste — the Brahmins of the ton.
I have named a few, not foremost in degree,
But ta'en at hazard as the rhyme may run.
By way of sprinkling, scatter'd amongst these,
There also were some Irish absentees.