CANTO THE FIFTEENTH.
Ah! — What should follow slips from my reflection;
Whatever follows ne'ertheless may be
As _a propos_ of hope or retrospection,
As though the lurking thought had follow'd free.
All present life is but an interjection,
An 'Oh!' or 'Ah!' of joy or misery,
Or a 'Ha! ha!' or 'Bah!' — a yawn, or 'Pooh!'
Of which perhaps the latter is most true.
But, more or less, the whole 's a syncope
Or a singultus — emblems of emotion,
The grand antithesis to great ennui,
Wherewith we break our bubbles on the ocean, —
That watery outline of eternity,
Or miniature at least, as is my notion,
Which ministers unto the soul's delight,
In seeing matters which are out of sight.
But all are better than the sigh supprest,
Corroding in the cavern of the heart,
Making the countenance a masque of rest,
And turning human nature to an art.
Few men dare show their thoughts of worst or best;
Dissimulation always sets apart
A corner for herself; and therefore fiction
Is that which passes with least contradiction.
Ah! who can tell? Or rather, who can not
Remember, without telling, passion's errors?
The drainer of oblivion, even the sot,
Hath got blue devils for his morning mirrors:
What though on Lethe's stream he seem to float,
He cannot sink his tremors or his terrors;
The ruby glass that shakes within his hand
Leaves a sad sediment of Time's worst sand.
And as for love — O love! — We will proceed.
The Lady Adeline Amundeville,
A pretty name as one would wish to read,
Must perch harmonious on my tuneful quill.
There 's music in the sighing of a reed;
There 's music in the gushing of a rill;
There 's music in all things, if men had ears:
Their earth is but an echo of the spheres.
The Lady Adeline, right honourable;
And honour'd, ran a risk of growing less so;
For few of the soft sex are very stable
In their resolves — alas! that I should say so!
They differ as wine differs from its label,
When once decanted; — I presume to guess so,
But will not swear: yet both upon occasion,
Till old, may undergo adulteration.
But Adeline was of the purest vintage,
The unmingled essence of the grape; and yet
Bright as a new Napoleon from its mintage,
Or glorious as a diamond richly set;
A page where Time should hesitate to print age,
And for which Nature might forego her debt —
Sole creditor whose process doth involve in 't
The luck of finding every body solvent.
O Death! thou dunnest of all duns! thou daily
Knockest at doors, at first with modest tap,
Like a meek tradesman when, approaching palely,
Some splendid debtor he would take by sap:
But oft denied, as patience 'gins to fail, he
Advances with exasperated rap,
And (if let in) insists, in terms unhandsome,
On ready money, or 'a draft on Ransom.'
Whate'er thou takest, spare a while poor Beauty!
She is so rare, and thou hast so much prey.
What though she now and then may slip from duty,
The more 's the reason why you ought to stay.
Gaunt Gourmand! with whole nations for your booty,
You should be civil in a modest way:
Suppress, then, some slight feminine diseases,
And take as many heroes as Heaven pleases.
Fair Adeline, the more ingenuous
Where she was interested (as was said),
Because she was not apt, like some of us,
To like too readily, or too high bred
To show it (points we need not now discuss) —
Would give up artlessly both heart and head
Unto such feelings as seem'd innocent,
For objects worthy of the sentiment.
Some parts of Juan's history, which Rumour,
That live gazette, had scatter'd to disfigure,
She had heard; but women hear with more good humour
Such aberrations than we men of rigour:
Besides, his conduct, since in England, grew more
Strict, and his mind assumed a manlier vigour;
Because he had, like Alcibiades,
The art of living in all climes with ease.
His manner was perhaps the more seductive,
Because he ne'er seem'd anxious to seduce;
Nothing affected, studied, or constructive
Of coxcombry or conquest: no abuse
Of his attractions marr'd the fair perspective,
To indicate a Cupidon broke loose,
And seem to say, 'Resist us if you can'-
Which makes a dandy while it spoils a man.