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- The Home Book of Verse, Volume 4 - 3/53 -


And twenty curious scraps of knowledge; - If he departed as he came, With no new light on love or liquor, - Good sooth, the traveller was to blame, And not the Vicarage, nor the Vicar.

His talk was like a stream which runs With rapid change from rocks to roses; It slipped from politics to puns; It passed from Mahomet to Moses; Beginning with the laws which keep The planets in their radiant courses, And ending with some precept deep For dressing eels or shoeing horses.

He was a shrewd and sound divine, Of loud Dissent the mortal terror; And when, by dint of page and line, He 'stablished Truth, or startled Error, The Baptist found him far too deep, The Deist sighed with saving sorrow, And the lean Levite went to sleep And dreamed of tasting pork to-morrow.

His sermon never said or showed That Earth is foul, that Heaven is gracious, Without refreshment on the road From Jerome, or from Athanasius; And sure a righteous zeal inspired The hand and head that penned and planned them, For all who understood, admired, And some who did not understand them.

He wrote, too, in a quiet way, Small treatises, and smaller verses, And sage remarks on chalk and clay, And hints to noble lords and nurses; True histories of last year's ghost; Lines to a ringlet or a turban; And trifles to the Morning Post, And nothings for Sylvanus Urban.

He did not think all mischief fair, Although he had a knack of joking; He did not make himself a bear, Although he had a taste for smoking; And when religious sects ran mad, He held, in spite of all his learning, That if a man's belief is bad, It will not be improved by burning.

And he was kind, and loved to sit In the low hut or garnished cottage, And praise the farmer's homely wit, And share the widow's homelier pottage. At his approach complaint grew mild, And when his hand unbarred the shutter, The clammy lips of Fever smiled The welcome which they could not utter.

He always had a tale for me Of Julius Caesar or of Venus; From him I learned the rule of three, Cat's-cradle, leap-frog, and Quae genus. I used to singe his powdered wig, To steal the staff he put such trust in, And make the puppy dance a jig When he began to quote Augustine.

Alack, the change! In vain I look For haunts in which my boyhood trifled; The level lawn, the trickling brook, The trees I climbed, the beds I rifled. The church is larger than before, You reach it by a carriage entry: It holds three hundred people more, And pews are fitted up for gentry.

Sit in the Vicar's seat; you'll hear The doctrine of a gentle Johnian, Whose hand is white, whose voice is clear, Whose phrase is very Ciceronian. Where is the old man laid? Look down, And construe on the slab before you: "Hic jacet Gulielmus Brown, Vir nulla non donandus lauru."

Winthrop Mackworth Praed [1802-1839]

THE BELLE OF THE BALL-ROOM

Years, years ago, ere yet my dreams Had been of being wise or witty; Ere I had done with writing themes, Or yawned o'er this infernal Chitty; - Years, years ago, while all my joy Were in my fowling-piece and filly; In short, while I was yet a boy, I fell in love with Laura Lilly.

I saw her at the County Ball; There, when the sounds of flute and fiddle Gave signal sweet in that old hall Of hands across and down the middle, Hers was the subtlest spell by far Of all that sets young hearts romancing: She was our queen, our rose, our star; And then she danced, - oh, heaven, her dancing!

Dark was her hair, her hand was white; Her voice was exquisitely tender; Her eyes were full of liquid light; I never saw a waist so slender; Her every look, her every smile, Shot right and left a score of arrows; I thought 'twas Venus from her isle, And wondered where she'd left her sparrows.

She talked of politics or prayers, - Of Southey's prose, or Wordsworth's sonnets, Of danglers or of dancing bears, Of battles, or the last new bonnets; By candle-light, at twelve o'clock, To me it mattered not a tittle, If those bright lips had quoted Locke, I might have thought they murmured Little.

Through sunny May, through sultry June, I loved her with a love eternal; I spoke her praises to the moon, I wrote them to the Sunday Journal. My mother laughed; I soon found out That ancient ladies have no feeling: My father frowned; but how should gout See any happiness in kneeling?

She was the daughter of a dean, Rich, fat, and rather apoplectic; She had one brother just thirteen, Whose color was extremely hectic; Her grandmother, for many a year, Had fed the parish with her bounty; Her second cousin was a peer, And lord-lieutenant of the county.

But titles and the three-per-cents, And mortgages, and great relations, And India bonds, and tithes and rents, Oh, what are they to love's sensations? Black eyes, fair forehead, clustering locks, - Such wealth, such honors, Cupid chooses; He cares as little for the stocks, As Baron Rothschild for the Muses.

She sketched; the vale, the wood, the beach, Grew lovelier from her pencil's shading; She botanized; I envied each Young blossom in her boudoir fading: She warbled Handel; it was grand, - She made the Catilina jealous; She touched the organ; I could stand For hours and hours to blow the bellows.

She kept an album, too, at home, Well filled with all an album's glories; Paintings of butterflies and Rome, Patterns for trimmings, Persian stories, Soft songs to Julia's cockatoo, Fierce odes to famine and to slaughter, And autographs of Prince Leboo, And recipes for elder-water.

And she was flattered, worshipped, bored; Her steps were watched, her dress was noted; Her poodle-dog was quite adored; Her sayings were extremely quoted. She laughed, and every heart was glad, As if the taxes were abolished; She frowned, and every took was sad, As if the opera were demolished.

She smiled on many just for fun, - I knew that there was nothing in it; I was the first, the only one Her heart had thought of for a minute. I knew it, for she told me so, In phrase which was divinely moulded; She wrote a charming hand, and oh, How sweetly all her notes were folded!

Our love was like most other loves, - A little glow, a little shiver, A rosebud and a pair of gloves, And "Fly Not Yet," upon the river; Some jealousy of some one's heir, Some hopes of dying broken-hearted; A miniature, a lock of hair, The usual vows, - and then we parted.


The Home Book of Verse, Volume 4 - 3/53

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