Dully past o'er the dinner of the day;
And Juan took his place, he knew not where,
Confused, in the confusion, and distrait,
And sitting as if nail'd upon his chair:
Though knives and forks clank'd round as in a fray,
He seem'd unconscious of all passing there,
Till some one, with a groan, exprest a wish
(Unheeded twice) to have a fin of fish.
On which, at the third asking of the bans,
He started; and perceiving smiles around
Broadening to grins, he colour'd more than once,
And hastily — as nothing can confound
A wise man more than laughter from a dunce —
Inflicted on the dish a deadly wound,
And with such hurry, that ere he could curb it
He had paid his neighbour's prayer with half a turbot.
This was no bad mistake, as it occurr'd,
The supplicator being an amateur;
But others, who were left with scarce a third,
Were angry — as they well might, to be sure.
They wonder'd how a young man so absurd
Lord Henry at his table should endure;
And this, and his not knowing how much oats
Had fallen last market, cost his host three votes.
They little knew, or might have sympathised,
That he the night before had seen a ghost,
A prologue which but slightly harmonised
With the substantial company engross'd
By matter, and so much materialised,
That one scarce knew at what to marvel most
Of two things — how (the question rather odd is)
Such bodies could have souls, or souls such bodies.
But what confused him more than smile or stare
From all the 'squires and 'squiresses around,
Who wonder'd at the abstraction of his air,
Especially as he had been renown'd
For some vivacity among the fair,
Even in the country circle's narrow bound
(For little things upon my lord's estate
Were good small talk for others still less great) —
Was, that he caught Aurora's eye on his,
And something like a smile upon her cheek.
Now this he really rather took amiss:
In those who rarely smile, their smiles bespeak
A strong external motive; and in this
Smile of Aurora's there was nought to pique
Or hope, or love, with any of the wiles
Which some pretend to trace in ladies' smiles.
'T was a mere quiet smile of contemplation,
Indicative of some surprise and pity;
And Juan grew carnation with vexation,
Which was not very wise, and still less witty,
Since he had gain'd at least her observation,
A most important outwork of the city —
As Juan should have known, had not his senses
By last night's ghost been driven from their defences.
But what was bad, she did not blush in turn,
Nor seem embarrass'd — quite the contrary;
Her aspect was as usual, still — not stern —
And she withdrew, but cast not down, her eye,
Yet grew a little pale — with what? concern?
I know not; but her colour ne'er was high —
Though sometimes faintly flush'd — and always clear,
As deep seas in a sunny atmosphere.
But Adeline was occupied by fame
This day; and watching, witching, condescending
To the consumers of fish, fowl, and game,
And dignity with courtesy so blending,
As all must blend whose part it is to aim
(Especially as the sixth year is ending)
At their lord's, son's, or similar connection's
Safe conduct through the rocks of re-elections.
Though this was most expedient on the whole,
And usual — Juan, when he cast a glance
On Adeline while playing her grand role,
Which she went through as though it were a dance,
Betraying only now and then her soul
By a look scarce perceptibly askance
(Of weariness or scorn), began to feel
Some doubt how much of Adeline was real;
So well she acted all and every part
By turns — with that vivacious versatility,
Which many people take for want of heart.
They err — 't is merely what is call'd mobility,
A thing of temperament and not of art,
Though seeming so, from its supposed facility;
And false — though true; for surely they 're sincerest
Who are strongly acted on by what is nearest.
This makes your actors, artists, and romancers,
Heroes sometimes, though seldom — sages never;
But speakers, bards, diplomatists, and dancers,
Little that 's great, but much of what is clever;
Most orators, but very few financiers,
Though all Exchequer chancellors endeavour,
Of late years, to dispense with Cocker's rigours,
And grow quite figurative with their figures.