To Late – Richard Harris Barham

Too late! though flowerets round me blow,

 And clearing skies shine bright and fair; 

Their genial warmth avails not now — 

Thou art not here the beam to share. 
Through many a dark and dreary day, 

We journeyed on ‘midst grief and gloom; 

And now at length the cheering ray 

Breaks forth, it only gilds thy tomb. 
Our days of hope and youth are past, 

Our short-lived joys for ever flown; 

And now when Fortune smiles at last, 

She finds me cheerless, chilled — alone! 
Ah! no; too late the boon is given, 

Alike the frowns and smiles of Fate; 

The broken heart by sorrow riv’n, 

But murmurs now, ‘Too late! Too late!’ 

Poem – The Merchant Of Venice,: A Legend Of Italy – Richard Harris Barham

Richard Harris Barham  1788 - 1845 , England

Richard Harris Barham
1788 – 1845 , England


I believe there are few 

But have heard of a Jew, 

Named Shylock, of Venice, as arrant a ‘screw’ 

In money transactions as ever you knew; 

An exorbitant miser, who never yet lent 

A ducat at less than three hundred per cent., 

Insomuch that the veriest spendthrift in Venice, 

Who’d take no more care of his pounds than his pennies, 

When press’d for a loan, at the very first sight 

Of his terms, would back out, and take refuge in Flight. 

It is not my purpose to pause and inquire 

If he might not, in managing thus to retire, 

Jump out of the frying-pan into the fire; 

Suffice it, that folks would have nothing to do, 

Who could possibly help it, with Shylock the Jew. 
But, however discreetly one cuts and contrives, 

We’ve been most of us taught in the course of our lives,

That ‘Needs must when the Elderly Gentleman drives!’ 

In proof of this rule, 

A thoughtless young fool, 

Bassanio, a Lord of the Tomnoddy school, 

Who, by showing at Operas, Balls, Plays, and Court, 

A ‘swelling’ (Payne Collier would read ‘swilling’) ‘port,’ 

And inviting his friends to dine, breakfast, and sup, 

Had shrunk his ‘weak means,’ and was ‘stump’d,’ and ‘hard up,’ 

Took occasion to send 

To his very good friend 

Antonio, a merchant whose wealth had no end, 

And who’d often before had the kindness to lend 

Him large sums, on his note, which he’d managed to spend. 
‘Antonio,’ said he, ‘Now listen to me; 

I’ve just hit on a scheme which, I think you’ll agree, 

All matters consider’d, is no bad design, 

And which, if it succeeds, will suit your book and mine. 

‘In the first place, you know all the money I’ve got, 

Time and often, from you has been long gone to pot, 

And in making those loans you have made a bad shot; 

Now do as the boys do when, shooting at sparrows 

And tom-tits, they chance to lose one of their arrows, 

— Shoot another the same way — I’ll watch well its track, 

And, turtle to tripe, I’ll bring both of them back! 

So list to my plan, 

And do what you can, 

To attend to and second it, that’s a good man! 
‘There’s a Lady, young, handsome, beyond all compare, at 

A place they call Belmont, whom, when I was there, at 

The suppers and parties my friend Lord Mountferrat 

Was giving last season, we all used to stare at, 

Then, as to her wealth, her solicitor told mine, 

Besides vast estates, a pearl fishery, and gold mine, 

Her iron strong box 

Seems bursting its locks, 

It’s stuffed so with shares in ‘Grand Junctions,’ and ‘Docks,’ 

Not to speak of the money’s she’s got in the stocks, 

French, Dutch, and Brazilian, Columbian, and Chilian, 

In English Exchequer-bills full half a million, 

Not ‘kites,’ manufactured to cheat and inveigle, 

But the right sort of ‘flimsy,’ all signed by Monteagle. 

Then I know not how much in Canal-shares and Railways 

And more speculations I need not detail, ways 

Of vesting which, if not so safe as some think’em, 

Contribute a deal to improving one’s income; 

In short, she’s a Mint! 

— Now I say, deuce is in’t 

If with all my experience, I can’t take a hint, 

And her ‘eye’s speechless messages,’ plainer than print

At the time that I told you of, know from a squint, 

In short, my dear Tony, 

My trusty old crony, 

Do stump up three thousand once more as a loan — I 

Am sure of my game — though, of course there are brutes, 

Of all sorts and sizes, preferring their suits 

To her you may call the Italian Miss Coutts, 

Yet Portia — she’s named from that daughter of Cato’s–

Is not to be snapp’d up like little potatoes, 

And I have not a doubt I shall rout every lout 

Ere you’ll whisper Jack Robinson — cut them all out — 

Surmount every barrier, Carry her, marry her! 

— Then hey! my old Tony, when once fairly noosed, 

For her Three-and-a-half per cents — New and Reduced!’ 
With a wink of his eye His friend made reply 

In his jocular manner, sly, caustic, and dry. 

‘Still the same boy, Bassanio — never say ‘die’! 

— Well — I hardly know how I shall do’t, but I’ll try.– 

Don’t suppose my affairs are at all in a hash, 

But the fact is, at present I’m quite out of cash; 

The bulk of my property, merged in rich cargoes, is 

Tossing about, as you know, in my Argosies, 

Tending, of course, my resources to cripple,– I 

‘ve one bound to England,– another to Tripoli– 

Cyprus — Masulipatam — and Bombay;– 

A sixth, by the way, I consigned t’other day 

To Sir Gregor M’Gregor, Cacique of Poyais, 

A country where silver’s as common as clay. 

Meantime, till they tack, And come, some of them, back, 

What with Custom-house duties, and bills falling due, 

My account with Jones Loyd and Co. looks rather blue; 

While, as for the ‘ready,’ I’m like a Church-mouse,– 

I really don’t think there’s five pounds in the house. 

But, no matter for that, 

Let me just get my hat, 

And my new silk umbrella that stands on the mat, 

And we’ll go forth at once to the market — we two,– 

And try what my credit in Venice can do; 

I stand well on ‘Change, and, when all’s said and done, I 

Don’t doubt I shall get it for love or for money.’ 
They were going to go, 

When, lo! down below, 

In the street, they heard somebody crying, ‘Old Clo’!’ 

–‘By the Pope, there’s the man for our purpose!– I knew 

We should not have to search long. Salanio, run you, 

— Salarino,– quick!– haste! ere he get out of view, 

And call in that scoundrel, old Shylock the Jew!’ 
With a pack, 

Like a sack 

Of old clothes at his back, 

And three hats on his head, Shylock came in a crack, 

Saying, ‘Rest you fair, Signior Antonio!– vat, pray, 

Might your vorship be pleashed for to vant in ma vay!’ 
–‘Why, Shylock, although, As you very well know, 

I am what they call ‘warm,’– pay my way as I go, 

And, as to myself, neither borrow nor lend, 

I can break through a rule to oblige an old friend; 

And that’s the case now — Lord Bassanio would raise 

Some three thousand ducats — well,– knowing your ways, 

And that nought’s to be got from you, say what one will,

Unless you’ve a couple of names to the bill, 

Why, for once, I’ll put mine to it, 

Yea, seal and sign to it — 

Now, then, old Sinner, let’s hear what you’ll say 

As to ‘doing’ a bill at three months from to-day? 

Three thousand gold ducats, mind — all in good bags 

Of hard money — no sealing-wax, slippers, or rags?’ 
‘– Vell, ma tear,’ says the Jew, ‘I’ll see vat I can do! 

But Mishter Antonio, hark you, ’tish funny 

You say to me, ‘Shylock, ma tear, ve’d have money!’ 

Ven you very vell knows, How you shpit on ma clothes, 

And use naughty vords — call me Dog — and avouch 

Dat I put too much int’resht py half in ma pouch, 

And vhile I, like de resht of ma tribe, shrug and crouch, 

You find fault mit ma pargains, and say I’m a Smouch. 

— Vell!–n o matters, ma tear,– Von vord in your ear! 

I’d be friends mit you bote — and to make dat appear, 

Vy, I’ll find you de monies as soon as you vill, 

Only von littel joke musht be put in de pill; 

Ma tear, you musht say, 

If on such and such day 

Such sum or such sums, you shall fail to repay, 

I shall cut vere I like, as de pargain is proke, 

A fair pound of your flesh — chest by vay of a joke.’ 
So novel a clause Caused Bassanio to pause; 

But Antonio, like most of those sage ‘Johnny Raws’ 

Who care not three straws 

About Lawyers or Laws, 

And think cheaply of ‘Old Father Antic,’ because 

They have never experienced a gripe from his claws, 

‘Pooh pooh’d’ the whole thing.–‘Let the Smouch have his way, 

Why, what care I, pray, 

For his penalty?– Nay, 

It’s a forfeit he’d never expect me to pay: 

And, come what come may, I hardly need say 

My ships will be back a full month ere the day.’ 

So, anxious to see his friend off on his journey, 

And thinking the whole but a paltry concern, he 

Affixed with all speed 

His name to a deed, 

Duly stamp’d and drawn up by a sharp Jew attorney. 

Thus again furnish’d forth, Lord Bassanio, instead 

Of squandering the cash, after giving one spread, 

With fiddling and masques, at the Saracen’s Head, 

In the morning ‘made play,’ And without more delay, 

Started off in the steam-boat for Belmont next day. 

But scarcely had he 

From the harbour got free, 

And left the Lagunes for the broad open sea, 

Ere the ‘Change and Rialto both rung with the news 

That he’d carried off more than mere cash from the Jew’s. 
Though Shylock was old, 

And, if rolling in gold, 

Was as ugly a dog as you’ wish to behold, 

For few in his tribe ‘mongst their Levis and Moseses, 

Sported so Jewish an eye, beard, and nose as his, 

Still, whate’er the opinion of Horace and some be, 

Your aquilæ generate sometimes Columbæ, 

Like Jephthah, as Hamlet says, he’d ‘one fair daughter,’

And every gallant, who caught sight of her, thought her,

A jewel — a gem of the very first water; 

A great many sought her, 

Till one at last caught her, 

And, upsetting all that the Rabbis had taught her, 

To feelings so truly reciprocal brought her, 

That the very same night Bassanio thought right 

To give all his old friends that farewell ‘invite,’ 

And while Shylock was gone there to feed out of spite, 

On ‘wings made by a tailor’ the damsel took flight. 
By these ‘wings’ I’d express 

A grey duffle dress, 

With brass badge and muffin cap, made, as by rule, 

For an upper-class boy in the National School. 

Jessy ransack’d the house, popp’d her breeks on, and when so 

Disguised, bolted off with her beau — one Lorenzo, 

An ‘Unthrift,’ who lost not a moment in whisking 

Her into the boat, 

And was fairly afloat 

Ere her Pa had got rid of the smell of the griskin. 

Next day, while old Shylock was making a racket, 

And threatening how well he’d dust every man’s jacket 

Who’d help’d her in getting aboard of the packet, 

Bassanio at Belmont was capering and prancing, 

And bowing, and scraping, and singing, and dancing, 

Making eyes at Miss Portia, and doing his best 

To perform the polite, and to cut out the rest; 

And, if left to herself, he, no doubt, had succeeded, 

For none of them waltz’d so genteelly as he did; 

But an obstacle lay, Of some weight, in his way, 

The defunct Mr. P. who was now turned to clay, 

Had been an odd man, and, though all for the best he meant, 

Left but a queer sort of ‘Last will and testament,’– 

Bequeathing her hand, 

With her houses and land, 

&c., from motives one don’t understand, 

As she rev’renced his memory, and valued his blessing,

To him who should turn out the best hand at guessing! 
Like a good girl, she did 

Just what she was bid, 

In one of three caskets her picture she hid, 

And clapp’d a conundrum a-top of each lid. 
A couple of Princes, a black and a white one, 

Tried first, but they both fail’d in choosing the right one. 

Another from Naples, who shoe’d his own horses; 

A French Lord, whose graces might vie with Count D’Orsay’s;– 

A young English Baron;– a Scotch Peer his neighbour;– 

A dull drunken Saxon, all moustache and sabre; 

All follow’d, and all had their pains for their labour. 

Bassanio came last — happy man be his dole! 

Put his conjuring cap on,– considered the whole,– 

The gold put aside as 

Mere ‘hard food for Midas,’ 

The silver bade trudge 

As a ‘pale common drudge;’ 

Then choosing the little lead box in the middle, 

Came plump on the picture, and found out the riddle. 
Now, you’re not such a goose as to think, I dare say, 

Gentle Reader, that all this was done in a day, 

Any more than the dome Of St. Peter’s at Rome 

Was built in the same space of time; and, in fact, 

Whilst Bassanio was doing 

His billing and cooing, 

Three months had gone by ere he reach’d the fifth act; 

Meanwhile that unfortunate bill became due, 

Which his Lordship had almost forgot, to the Jew, 

And Antonio grew In a deuce of a stew, 

For he could not cash up, spite of all he could do; 

(The bitter old Israelite would not renew,) 

What with contrary winds, storms, wrecks, and embargoes, his 

Funds were all stopp’d, or gone down in his argosies, 

None of the set having come into port, 

And Shylock’s attorney was moving the Court 

For the forfeit supposed to be set down in sport. 
The serious news 

Of this step of the Jew’s, 

And his fix’d resolution all terms to refuse, 

Gave the newly-made Bridegroom a fit of ‘the Blues,’ 

Especially, too, as it came from the pen 

Of his poor friend himself on the wedding-day,– then, 

When the Parson had scarce shut his book up, and when 

The Clerk was yet uttering the final Amen. 
‘Dear Friend,’ it continued, ‘all’s up with me — I 

Have nothing on earth now to do but to die! 

And, as death clears all scores, you’re no longer my debtor; 

I should take it as kind 

Could you come — never mind — 

If your love don’t persaude you, why,– don’t let this letter!’ 
I hardly need say this was scarcely read o’er 

Ere a post-chaise and four 

Was brought round to the door 

And Bassanio, though, doubtless, he thought it a bore, 

Gave his Lady one kiss, and then started at score. 

But scarce in his flight 

Had he got out of sight 

Ere Portia, addressing a groom, said, ‘My lad, you a 

Journey must take on the instant to Padua; 

Find out there Bellario,a Doctor of Laws, 

Who, like Follett, is never left out of a cause, 

And give him this note, 

Which I’ve hastily wrote, 

Take the papers he’ll give you — then push for the ferry 

Below, where I’ll meet you, you’ll do’t in a wherry, 

If you can’t find a boat on the Brenta with sails to it 

— Stay, bring his gown too, and wig with three tails to it.’
Giovanni (that’s Jack) 

Brought out his hack, 

Made a bow to his mistress, then jump’d on its back, 

Put his hand to his hat, and was off in a crack. 

The Signora soon follow’d herself, taking as her 

Own escort Nerissa her maid, and Balthasar. 

‘The Court is prepared, the Lawyers are met, 

The Judges all ranged, a terrible show!’ 

As Captain Macheath says,– and when one’s in debt, 

The sight’s as unpleasant a one as I know, 

Yet still not so bad after all, I suppose, 

As if, when one cannot discharge what one owes, 

They should bid people cut off one’s toes or one’s nose; 

Yet here, a worse fate, 

Stands Antonio, of late 

A Merchant, might vie e’en with Princes in state, 

With his waistcoat unbutton’d, prepared for the knife, 

Which, in taking a pound of flesh, must take his life; 

— On the other side Shylock, his bag on the floor, 

And three shocking bad hats on his head, as before, 

Imperturbable stands, 

As he waits their commands 

With his scales and his great snicker-snee in his hands:

— Between them, equipt in a wig, gown and bands, 

With a very smooth face, a young dandified Lawyer, 

Whose air, ne’ertheless, speaks him quite a top-sawyer, 

Though his hopes are but feeble, 

Does his possible 

To make the hard Hebrew to mercy incline, 

And in lieu of his three thousand ducats take nine, 

Which Bassanio, for reasons we well may divine, 

Shows in so many bags all drawn up in a line. 

But vain are all efforts to soften him — still 

He points to the bond He so often has conn’d, 

And says in plain terms he’ll be shot if he will. 

So the dandified Lawyer, with talking grown hoarse, 

Says, ‘I can say no more — let the law take its course.’ 
Just fancy the gleam of the eye of the Jew, 

As he sharpen’d his knife on the sole of his shoe 

From the toe to the heel, And grasping the steel, 

With a business-like air was beginning to feel 

Whereabouts he should cut, as a butcher would veal, 

When the dandified Judge puts a spoke in his wheel. 

‘Stay, Shylock,’ says he, Here’s one thing — you see 

This bond of yours gives you here no jot of blood! 

— The words are ‘A pound of flesh,’– that’s clear as mud — 

Slice away, then, old fellow — but mind!– if you spill 

One drop of his claret that’s not in your bill, 

I’ll hang you, like Haman?– By Jingo I will!’ 
When apprised of this flaw, You never yet saw 

Such an awfully mark’d elongation of jaw 

As in Shylock, who cried, ‘Plesh ma heart! ish dat law?’– 

Off went his three hats, 

And he look’d as the cats 

Do, whenever a mouse has escaped from their claw. 

‘– Ish’t the law?’– why the thing won’t admit of a query — 

‘No doubt of the fact, 

Only look at the act; 

Acto quinto, cap. tertio, Dogi Falieri — 

Nay, if, rather than cut, you’d relinquish the debt, 

The Law, Master Shy, has a hold on you yet. 

See Foscari’s ‘Statutes at large’–‘If a Stranger 

A Citizen’s life shall, with malice, endanger, 

The whole of his property, little or great, 

Shall go, on conviction, one half to the State, 

And one to the person pursued by his hate; 

And, not to create 

Any farther debate, 

The Doge, if he pleases, may cut off his pate.’ 

So down on your marrowbones, Jew, and ask mercy! 

Defendant and Plaintiff are now wisy wersy.’ 
What need to declare 

How pleased they all were 

At so joyful an end to so sad an affair? 

Or Bassanio’s delight at the turn things had taken, 

His friend having saved, to the letter, his bacon?– 

How Shylock got shaved, and turn’d Christian, though late, 

To save a life-int’rest in half his estate? 

How the dandified Lawyer, who’d managed the thing, 

Would not take any fee for his pains but a ring 

Which Mrs. Bassanio had given to her spouse, 

With injunctions to keep it on leaving the house?– 

How when he, and the spark 

Who appeared as his clerk, 

Had thrown off their wigs, and their gowns, and their jetty coats, 

There stood Nerissa and Portia in petticoats?– 

How they pouted, and flouted, and acted the cruel, 

Because Lord Bassanio had not kept his jewel?– 

How they scolded and broke out, 

Till having their joke out, 

They kissed, and were friends, and, all blessing and blessed, 

Drove home by the light 

Of a moonshiny night, 

Like the one in which Troilus, the brave Trojan knight, 

Sat astride on a wall, and sigh’d after his Cressid?– 
All this, if ’twere meet, 

I’d go on to repeat, 

But a story spun out so’s by no means a treat, 

So, I’ll merely relate what, in spite of the pains 

I have taken to rummage among his remains, 

No edition of Shakspeare, I’ve met with, contains; 

But, if the account which I’ve heard be the true one, 

We shall have it, no doubt, before long, in a new one. 
In an MS., then sold 

For its full weight in gold, 

And knock’d down to my friend, Lord Tomnoddy, I’m told 

It’s recorded that Jessy, coquettish and vain, 

Gave her husband, Lorenzo, a good deal of pain; 

Being mildly rebuked, she levanted again, 

Ran away with a Scotchman, and, crossing the main, 

Became known by the name of the ‘Flower of Dumblane.’ 
That Antonio, whose piety caused, as we’ve seen, 

Him to spit upon every old Jew’s gaberdine, 

And whose goodness to paint 

All colours were faint, 

Acquired the well-merited prefix of ‘Saint,’ 

And the Doge, his admirer, of honour the fount, 

Having given him a patent, and made him a Count, 

He went over to England, got nat’ralis’d there, 

And espous’d a rich heiress in Hanover Square. 
That Shylock came with him; no longer a Jew, 

But converted, I think may be possibly true, 

But that Walpole, as these self-same papers aver, 

By changing the y in his name into er, 

Should allow him a fictitious surname to dish up, 

And in Seventeen-twenty-eight make him a Bishop, 

I cannot believe–but shall still think them two men 

Till some Sage proves the fact ‘with his usual acumen.’ 

MORAL. 
From this tale of the Bard 

It’s uncommonly hard 

If an editor can’t draw a moral.–‘Tis clear, 

Then,– In ev’ry young wife-seeking Bachelor’s ear 

A maxim, ‘bove all other stories, this one drums, 

‘PITCH GREEK TO OLD HARRY, AND STICK TO CONUNDRUMS!!’ 
To new-married ladies this lesson it teaches, 

‘You’re “no that far wrong” in assuming the breeches!’ 
Monied men upon ‘Change, and rich Merchants it schools 

To look well to assets — nor play with edge tools! 

Last of all, this remarkable History shows men, 

What caution they need when they deal with old-clothesmen! 

So bid John and Mary 

To mind and be wary, 

And never let one of them come down the are’

Poem – To Late –  Richard Harris Barham

To LateToo late! though flowerets round me blow, 

And clearing skies shine bright and fair; 

Their genial warmth avails not now — 

Thou art not here the beam to share. 
Through many a dark and dreary day, 

We journeyed on ‘midst grief and gloom; 

And now at length the cheering ray 

Breaks forth, it only gilds thy tomb. 
Our days of hope and youth are past, 

Our short-lived joys for ever flown; 

And now when Fortune smiles at last, 

She finds me cheerless, chilled — alone! 
Ah! no; too late the boon is given, 

Alike the frowns and smiles of Fate; 

The broken heart by sorrow riv’n, 

But murmurs now, ‘Too late! Too late!’

Poem – The Witch’s Frolic – Richard Harris Barham

[Scene, the ‘Snuggery’ at Tappington.– Grandpapa in a high-backed cane-bottomed elbow-chair of carved walnut-tree, dozing; his nose at an angle of forty-five degrees,–his thumbs slowly perform the rotatory motion described by lexicographers as ‘twiddling.’–The ‘Hope of the family’ astride on a walking-stick, with burnt-cork mustachios, and a pheasant’s tail pinned in his cap, solaceth himself with martial music.– Roused by a strain of surpassing dissonance, Grandpapa Loquitur. ] 

Come hither, come hither, my little boy Ned! 

Come hither unto my knee– 

I cannot away with that horrible din, 

That sixpenny drum, and that trumpet of tin. 

Oh, better to wander frank and free 

Through the Fair of good Saint Bartlemy, 

Than list to such awful minstrelsie. 

Now lay, little Ned, those nuisances by, 

And I’ll rede ye a lay of Grammarye. 
[Grandpapa riseth, yawneth like the crater of an extinct volcano, proceedeth slowly to the window, and apostrophizeth the Abbey in the distance.] 
I love thy tower, Grey Ruin, 

I joy thy form to see, 

Though reft of all, 

Cell, cloister, and hall, 

Nothing is left save a tottering wall, 

That, awfully grand and darkly dull, 

Threaten’d to fall and demolish my skull, 

As, ages ago, I wander’d along 

Careless thy grass-grown courts among, 

In sky-blue jacket and trowsers laced, 

The latter uncommonly short in the waist. 

Thou art dearer to me, thou Ruin grey, 

Than the Squire’s verandah over the way; 

And fairer, I ween, 

The ivy sheen 

That thy mouldering turret binds, 

Than the Alderman’s house about half a mile off, 

With the green Venetian blinds. 
Full many a tale would my Grandam tell, 

In many a bygone day, 

Of darksome deeds, which of old befell 

In thee, thou Ruin grey! 

And I the readiest ear would lend, 

And stare like frighten’d pig; 

While my Grandfather’s hair would have stood up an end, 

Had he not worn a wig. 
One tale I remember of mickle dread– 

Now lithe and listen, my little boy Ned! 
Thou mayest have read, my little boy Ned, 

Though thy mother thine idlesse blames, 

In Doctor Goldsmith’s history book, 

Of a gentleman called King James, 

In quilted doublet, and great trunk breeches, 

Who held in abhorrence tobacco and witches. 
Well,– in King James’s golden days,– 

For the days were golden then,– 

They could not be less, for good Queen Bess 

Had died aged threescore and ten, 

And her days, we know, 

Were all of them so; 

While the Court poets sung, and the Court gallants swore 

That the days were as golden still as before. 
Some people, ’tis true, a troublesome few, 

Who historical points would unsettle, 

Have lately thrown out a sort of a doubt 

Of the genuine ring of the metal; 

But who can believe to a monarch so wise 

People would dare tell a parcel of lies? 
— Well, then, in good King James’s days,– 

Golden or not does not matter a jot,– 

Yon ruin a sort of a roof had got; 

For though, repairs lacking, its walls had been cracking 

Since Harry the Eighth sent its friars a-packing, 

Though joists, and floors, 

And windows, and doors 

Had all disappear’d, yet pillars by scores 

Remain’d, and still propp’d up a ceiling or two, 

While the belfry was almost as good as new; 

You are not to suppose matters look’d just so 

In the Ruin some two hundred years ago. 
Just in that farthermost angle, where 

You see the remains of a winding-stair, 

One turret especially high in air 

Uprear’d its tall gaunt form; 

As if defying the power of Fate, or 

The hand of ‘Time the Innovator;’ 

And though to the pitiless storm 

Its weaker brethren all around 

Bowing, in ruin had strew’d the ground, 

Alone it stood, while its fellows lay strew’d, 

Like a four-bottle man in a company ‘screw’d,’ 

Not firm on his legs, but by no means subdued. 
One night –‘ twas in Sixteen hundred and six — 

I like when I can, Ned, the date to fix,– 

The month was May, 

Though I can’t well say 

At this distance of time the particular day — 

But oh! that night, that horrible night! 

Folks ever afterwards said with affright 

That they never had seen such a terrible sight. 
The Sun had gone down fiery red; 

And if that evening he laid his head 

In Thetis’s lap beneath the seas, 

He must have scalded the goddess’s knees. 

He left behind him a lurid track 

Of blood-red light upon clouds so black, 

That Warren and Hunt, with the whole of their crew, 

Could scarcely have given them a darker hue. 
There came a shrill and a whistling sound, 

Above, beneath, beside, and around, 

Yet leaf ne’er moved on tree! 

So that some people thought old Beelzebub must 

Have been lock’d out of doors, and was blowing the dust 

From the pipe of his street-door key. 
And then a hollow moaning blast 

Came, sounding more dismally still than the last, 

And the lightning flash’d, and the thunder growl’d, 

And louder and louder the tempest howl’d, 

And the rain came down in such sheets as would stagger a 

Bard for a simile short of Niagara. 
Rob Gilpin ‘was a citizen;’ 

But, though of some ‘renown,’ 

Of no great ‘credit’ in his own, 

Or any other town. 
He was a wild and roving lad, 

For ever in the alehouse boozing; 

Or romping,– which is quite as bad,– 

With female friends of his own choosing. 
And Rob this very day had made, 

Not dreaming such a storm was brewing, 

An assignation with Miss Slade,– 

Their trysting-place this same grey Ruin. 
But Gertrude Slade became afraid, 

And to keep her appointment unwilling, 

When she spied the rain on her window-pane 

In drops as big as a shilling; 

She put off her hat and her mantle again,– 

‘He’ll never expect me in all this rain!’ 
But little he recks of the fears of the sex, 

Or that maiden false to her tryst could be, 

He had stood there a good half hour 

Ere yet commenced that perilous shower, 

Alone by the trysting-tree! 
Robin looks east, Robin looks west, 

But he sees not her whom he loves the best; 

Robin looks up, and Robin looks down, 

But no one comes from the neighbouring town. 
The storm came at last, loud roar’d the blast, 

And the shades of evening fell thick and fast; 

The tempest grew; and the straggling yew, 

His leafy umbrella, was wet through and through; 

Rob was half dead with cold and with fright, 

When he spies in the ruins a twinkling light — 

A hop, two skips, and a jump, and straight 

Rob stands within that postern gate. 
And there were gossips sitting there, 

By one, by two, by three: 

Two were an old ill-favour’d pair; 

But the third was young, and passing fair, 

With laughing eyes and with coal-black hair; 

A daintie quean was she! 

Rob would have given his ears to sip 

But a single salute from her cherry lip. 
As they sat in that old and haunted room, 

In each one’s hand was a huge birch broom, 

On each one’s head was a steeple-crown’d hat, 

On each one’s knee was a coal-black cat; 

Each had a kirtle of Lincoln green — 

It was, I trow, a fearsome scene. 
‘Now riddle me, riddle me right, Madge Gray, 

What foot unhallow’d wends this way? 

Goody Price, Goody Price, now areed me aright, 

Who roams the old ruins this drearysome night?’ 
Then up and spake that sonsie quean, 

And she spake both loud and clear: 

‘Oh, be it for weal, or be it for woe, 

Enter friend, or enter foe, 

Rob Gilpin is welcome here!– 
‘Now tread we a measure! a hall! a hall! 

Now tread we a measure,’ quoth she — 

The heart of Robin 

Beat thick and throbbing — 

‘Roving Rob, tread a measure with me!’– 

‘Ay, lassie!’ quoth Rob, as her hand he gripes, 

‘Though Satan himself were blowing the pipes!’ 
Now around they go, and around, and around, 

With hop-skip-and-jump, and frolicsome bound, 

Such sailing and gilding, 

Such sinking and sliding, 

Such lofty curvetting, 

And grand pirouetting; 

Ned, you would swear that Monsieur Gilbert 

And Miss Taglioni were capering there! 
And oh! such awful music!– ne’er 

Fell sounds so uncanny on mortal ear, 

There were the tones of a dying man’s groans 

Mix’d with the rattling of dead men’s bones: 

Had you heard the shrieks, and the squeals, and the squeaks, 

You’d not have forgotten the sound for weeks. 
And around, and around, and around they go, 

Heel to heel, and toe to toe, 

Prance and caper, curvet and wheel, 

Toe to toe, and heel to heel. 

”Tis merry, ’tis merry, Cummers, I trow, 

To dance thus beneath the nightshade bough!’– 
‘Goody Price, Goody Price, now riddle me right, 

Where may we sup this frolicsome night?’– 

‘Mine Host of the Dragon hath mutton and veal! 

The Squire hath partridge, and widgeon, and teal; 

But old Sir Thopas hath daintier cheer, 

A pasty made of the good red deer, 

A huge grouse pie, and a fine Florentine, 

A fat roast goose, and a turkey and chine.’– 

–‘Madge Gray, Madge Gray, 

Now tell me, I pray, 

Where’s the best wassail bowl to our roundelay?’ 
‘– There is ale in the cellars of Tappington Hall, 

But the Squire is a churl, and his drink is small; 

Mine host of the Dragon 

Hath many a flaggon 

Of double ale, lamb’s-wool, and eau de vie, 

But Sir Thopas, the Vicar, 

Hath costlier liquor,– 

A butt of the choicest Malvoisie. 

He doth not lack 

Canary or Sack; 

And a good pint stoup of Clary wine 

Smacks merrily off with a Turkey and Chine!’ 
‘Now away! and away! without delay, 

Hey Cockalorum! my Broomstick gay, 

We must be back ere the dawn of the day: 

Hey up the chimney! away! away!’– 

Old Goody Price 

Mounts in a trice, 

In showing her legs she is not over nice; 

Old Goody Jones, 

All skin and bones, 

Follows ‘like winking.’ Away go the crones, 

Knees and nose in a line with the toes, 

Sitting their brooms like so many Ducrows; 

Latest and last 

The damsel pass’d, 

One glance of her coal-black eye she cast; 

She laugh’d with glee loud laughters three, 

‘Dost fear, Rob Gilpin, to ride with me!’– 

Oh, never might man unscath’d espy 

One single glance from that coal-black eye. 

— Away she flew!– 

Without more ado 

Rob seizes and mounts on a broomstick too, 

‘Hey! up the chimney, lass! Hey after you!’ 
It’s a very fine thing on a fine day in June 

To ride through the air in a Nassau Balloon; 

But you’ll find very soon, if you aim at the Moon 

In a carriage like that you’re a bit of a ‘Spoon,’ 

For the largest can’t fly 

Above twenty miles high, 

And you’re not half way then on your journey, nor nigh; 

While no man alive 

Could ever contrive, 

Mr. Green has declared, to get higher than five. 

And the soundest Philosophers hold that, perhaps, 

If you reach’d twenty miles your balloon would collapse,

Or pass by such action 

The sphere of attraction, 

Getting into the track of some comet — Good-lack! 

‘Tis a thousand to one that you’d never come back; 

And the boldest of mortals a danger like that must fear, 

And be cautious of getting beyond our own atmosphere. 

No, no; when I try 

A trip to the sky, 

I shan’t go in that thing of yours, Mr. Gye, 

Though Messieurs Monk Mason, and Spencer, and Beazly, 

All join in saying it travels so easily. 

No; there’s nothing so good 

As a pony of wood — 

Not like that which, of late, they stuck up on the gate 

At the end of the Park, which caused so much debate, 

And gave so much trouble to make it stand straight,– 

But a regular Broomstick — you’ll find that the favourite,– 

Above all, when, like Robin, you haven’t to pay for it. 

— Stay — really I dread 

I am losing the thread 

Of my tale; and it’s time you should be in your bed, 

So lithe now, and listen, my little boy Ned! 
The Vicarage walls are lofty and thick, 

And the copings are stone, and the sides are brick, 

The casements are narrow, and bolted and barr’d, 

And the stout oak door is heavy and hard; 

Moreover, by way of additional guard, 

A great big dog runs loose in the yard, 

And a horse-shoe is nail’d on the threshold sill,– 

To keep out aught that savours of ill,– 

But, alack! the chimney-pot’s open still! 

— That great big dog begins to quail, 

Between his hind-legs he drops his tail, 

Crouch’d on the ground, the terrified hound 

Gives vent to a very odd sort of a sound; 

It is not a bark, loud, open, and free, 

As an honest old watch-dog’s bark should be; 

It is not a yelp, it is not a growl, 

But a something between a whine and a howl; 

And, hark!–a sound from the window high 

Responds to the watch-dog’s pitiful cry: 

It is not a moan, 

It is not a groan; 

It comes from a nose,– but is not what a nose 

Produces in healthy and sound repose. 

Yet Sir Thopas the Vicar is fast asleep, 

And his respirations are heavy and deep! 
He snores, ’tis true, but he snores no more 

As he’s aye been accustom’d to snore before, 

And as men of his kidney are wont to snore;– 

(Sir Thopas’s weight is sixteen stone four 

He draws his breath like a man distress’d 

By pain or grief, or like one oppress’d 

By some ugly old Incubus perch’d on his breast. 

A something seems 

To disturb his dreams, 

And thrice on his ear, distinct and clear, 

Falls a voice as of somebody whispering near 

In still small accents, faint and few, 

‘Hey down the chimney-pot!–Hey after you!’ 
Throughout the Vicarage, near and far, 

There is no lack of bolt or of bar, 

Plenty of locks 

To closet and box, 

Yet the pantry wicket is standing ajar! 

And the little low door, through which you must go, 

Down some half-dozen steps, to the cellar below, 

Is also unfasten’d, though no one may know, 

By so much as a guess, how it comes to be so; 

For wicket and door, 

The evening before, 

Were both of them lock’d, and the key safely placed 

On the bunch that hangs down from the Housekeeper’s waist. 
Oh! ’twas a jovial sight to view 

In that snug little cellar that frolicsome crew!– 

Old Goody Price 

Had got something nice, 

A turkey-poult larded with bacon and spice;– 

Old Goody Jones 

Would touch nought that had bones,– 

She might just as well mumble a parcel of stones. 

Goody Jones, in sooth, had got never a tooth, 

And a New-College pudding of marrow and plums 

Is the dish of all others that suiteth her gums. 
Madge Gray was picking 

The breast of a chicken, 

Her coal-black eye, with its glance so sly, 

Was fixed on Rob Gilpin himself, sitting by 

With his heart full of love, and his mouth full of pie; 

Grouse pie, with hare 

In the middle, is fare 

Which, duly concocted with science and care, 

Doctor Kitchener says, is beyond all compare; 

And a tenderer leveret 

Robin had never ate; 

So, in after times, oft he was wont to asseverate. 

‘Now pledge we the wine-cup!–a health! a health! 

Sweet are the pleasures obtain’d by stealth! 

Fill up! fill up!– the brim of the cup 

Is the part that aye holdeth the toothsomest sup! 

Here’s to thee, Goody Price! Goody Jones, to thee! 

To thee, Roving Rob! and again to me! 

Many a sip, never a slip 

Come to us four ‘twixt the cup and the lip!’ 
The cups pass quick, 

The toasts fly thick, 

Rob tries in vain out their meaning to pick, 

But hears the words ‘Scratch,’ and ‘Old Bogey,’ and ‘Nick.’ 

More familiar grown, 

Now he stands up alone, 

Volunteering to give them a toast of his own. 

‘A bumper of wine! 

Fill thine! Fill mine! 

Here’s a health to old Noah who planted the Vine!’ 

Oh then what sneezing, 

What coughing and wheezing, 

Ensued in a way that was not over pleasing! 

Goody Price, Goody Jones, and the pretty Madge Gray,

All seem’d as their liquor had gone the wrong way. 
But the best of the joke was, the moment he spoke 

Those words which the party seem’d almost to choke, 

As by mentioning Noah some spell had been broke, 

Every soul in the house at that instant awoke! 

And, hearing the din from barrel and bin, 

Drew at once the conclusion that thieves had got in. 

Up jump’d the Cook and caught hold of her spit; 

Up jump’d the Groom and took bridle and bit; 

Up jump’d the Gardener and shoulder’d his spade; 

Up jump’d the Scullion,– the Footman,– the Maid; 

(The two last, by the way, occasion’d some scandal, 

By appearing together with only one candle, 

Which gave for unpleasant surmises some handle 

Up jump’d the Swineherd,– and up jump’d the big boy, 

A nondescript under him, acting as pig boy; 

Butler, Housekeeper, Coachman — from bottom to top 

Everybody jump’d up without parley or stop, 

With the weapon which first in their way chanced to drop,– 

Whip, warming-pan, wig-block, mug, musket and mop. 
Last of all doth appear, 

With some symptoms of fear, 

Sir Thopas in person to bring up the rear, 

In a mix’d kind of costume, half Pontificalibus, 

Half what scholars denominate Pure Naturalibus; 

Nay, the truth to express, 

As you’ll easily guess, 

They have none of them time to attend much to dress; 

But He or She, 

As the case may be, 

He or She seizes what He or She pleases, 

Trunk-hosen or kirtles, and shirts or chemises. 

And thus one and all, great and small, short and tall, 

Muster at once in the Vicarage-hall, 

With upstanding locks, starting eyes, shorten’d breath, 

Like the folks in the Gallery Scene in Macbeth, 

When Macduff is announcing their Sovereign’s death. 
And hark! what accents clear and strong, 

To the listening throng come floating along! 

‘Tis Robin encoring himself in a song– 

‘Very good song! very well sung! 

Jolly companions every one!’– 
On, on to the cellar! away! away! 

On, on, to the cellar without more delay! 

The whole posse rush onwards in battle array. 

Conceive the dismay of the party so gay, 

Old Goody Jones, Goody Price, and Madge Gray, 

When the door bursting wide, they descried the allied 

Troops, prepared for the onslaught, roll in like a tide, 

And the spits, and the tongs, and the pokers beside!– 

‘Boot and saddle’s the word! mount, Cummers, and ride!’– 

Alarm was ne’er caused more strong and indigenous 

By cats among rats, or a hawk in a pigeon-house; 

Quick from the view 

Away they all flew, 

With a yell, and a screech, and a halliballoo, 

‘Hey up the chimney! Hey after you!’ 

The Volscians themselves made an exit less speedy 

From Corioli, ‘flutter’d like doves’ by Macready. 
They are gone, save one, 

Robin alone! 

Robin, whose high state of civilization 

Precludes all idea of aërostation, 

And who now has no notion 

Of more locomotion 

Than suffices to kick, with much zeal and devotion, 

Right and left at the party, who pounced on their victim, 

And maul’d him, and kick’d him, and lick’d him, and prick’d him, 

As they bore him away scarce aware what was done, 

And believing it all but a part of the fun, 

Hic — hiccoughing out the same strain he’d begun, 

‘Jol — jolly companions every one!’ 
Morning grey 

Scarce bursts into day 

Ere at Tappington Hall there’s the deuce to pay; 

The tables and chairs are all placed in array 

In the old oak-parlour, and in and out 

Domestics and neighbours, a motley rout, 

Are walking, and whispering, and standing about; 

And the Squire is there 

In his large arm-chair, 

Leaning back with a grave magisterial air; 

In the front of his seat a 

Huge volume, called Fleta, 

And Bracton, both tomes of an old-fashion’d look, 

And Coke upon Lyttleton, then a new book; 

And he moistens his lips 

With occasional sips 

From a luscious sack-posset that smiles in a tankard 

Close by on a side-table — not that he drank hard, 

But because at that day, 

I hardly need say, 

The Hong Merchants had not yet invented How Qua, 

Nor as yet would you see Souchong or Bohea 

At the tables of persons of any degree: 

How our ancestors managed to do without tea 

I must fairly confess is a mystery to me; 

Yet your Lydgates and Chaucers 

Had no cups and saucers; 

Their breakfast, in fact, and the best they could get, 

Was a sort of a déjeûner à la fourchette; 

Instead of our slops 

They had cutlets and chops, 

And sack-possets, and ale in stoups, tankards, and pots; 

And they wound up the meal with rumpsteaks and ‘schalots. 
Now the Squire lifts his hand 

With an air of command, 

And gives them a sign, which they all understand, 

To bring in the culprit; and straightway the carter 

And huntsman drag in that unfortunate martyr, 

Still kicking, and crying, ‘Come,– what are you arter?’ 

The charge is prepared, and the evidence clear, 

‘He was caught in the cellar a-drinking the beer! 

And came there, there’s very great reason to fear, 

With companions,– to say but the least of them,– queer; 

Such as Witches, and creatures 

With horrible features, 

And horrible grins, 

And hook’d noses and chins, 

Who’d been playing the deuce with his Reverence’s binns.’ 
The face of his worship grows graver and graver, 

As the parties detail Robin’s shameful behaviour; 

Mister Buzzard, the clerk, while the tale is reciting, 

Sits down to reduce the affair into writing, 

With all proper diction, 

And due ‘legal fiction;’ 

Viz: ‘That he, the said prisoner, as clearly was shown, 

Conspiring with folks to deponents unknown, 

With divers, that is to say, two thousand, people, 

In two thousand hats, each hat peak’d like a steeple, 

With force and with arms, 

And with sorcery and charms, 

Upon two thousand brooms 

Enter’d four thousand rooms; 

To wit, two thousand pantries, and two thousand cellars, 

Put in bodily fear twenty-thousand in-dwellers, 

And with sundry,– that is to say, two thousand,– forks, 

Drew divers,– that is to say, ten thousand,– corks, 

And, with malice prepense, down their two thousand throttles, 

Emptied various,–that is to say, ten thousand,– bottles;

All in breach of the peace, moved by Satan’s malignity, 

And in spite of King James, and his Crown, and his Dignity.’ 
At words so profound 

Rob gazes around, 

But no glance sympathetic to cheer him is found. 

— No glance, did I say? 

Yes, one!– Madge Gray!– 

She is there in the midst of the crowd standing by, 

And she gives him one glance from her coal-black eye, 

One touch to his hand, and one word to his ear,– 

(That’s a line which I’ve stolen from Sir Walter, I fear,)– 

While nobody near 

Seems to see her or hear; 

As his worship takes up, and surveys with a strict eye 

The broom now produced as the corpus delicti, 

Ere his fingers can clasp, 

It is snatch’d from his grasp, 

The end poked in his chest with a force makes him gasp, 

And, despite the decorum so due to the Quorum, 

His worship’s upset, and so too is his jorum; 

And Madge is astride on the broomstick before’em. 

‘Hocus Pocus! Quick, Presto! and Hey Cockalorum! 

Mount, mount for your life, Rob!– Sir Justice, adieu!– 

— Hey up the chimney-pot! hey after you!’ 
Through the mystified group, 

With a halloo and whoop, 

Madge on the pommel, and Robin en croupe, 

The pair through the air ride as if in a chair, 

While the party below stand mouth open and stare! 

‘Clean bumbaized’ and amazed, and fix’d, all the room stick, 

‘Oh! what’s gone with Robin,– and Madge,– and the broomstick?’ 

Ay, ‘what’s gone’ indeed, Ned?– of what befell 

Madge Gray, and the broomstick I never heard tell; 

But Robin was found, that morn, on the ground, 

In yon old grey Ruin again, safe and sound, 

Except that at first he complain’d much of thirst, 

And a shocking bad headach, of all ills the worst, 

And close by his knee 

A flask you might see, 

But an empty one, smelling of eau de vie. 
Rob from this hour is an alter’d man; 

He runs home to his lodgings as fast as he can, 

Sticks to his trade, 

Marries Miss Slade, 

Becomes a Te-totaller — that is the same 

As Te-totallers now, one in all but the name; 

Grows fond of Small-beer, which is always a steady sign, 

Never drinks spirits except as a medicine; 

Learns to despise 

Coal-black eyes, 

Minds pretty girls no more than so many Guys; 

Has a family, lives to be sixty, and dies! 
Now my little boy Ned, 

Brush off to your bed, 

Tie your night-cap on safe, or a napkin instead, 

Or these terrible nights you’ll catch cold in your head; 

And remember my tale, and the moral it teaches, 

Which you’ll find much the same as what Solomon preaches. 

Don’t flirt with young ladies! don’t practise soft speeches; 

Avoid waltzes, quadrilles, pumps, silk hose, and kneebreeches;– 

Frequent not grey ruins,–shun riot and revelry, 

Hocus Pocus, and Conjuring, and all sorts of devilry;– 

Don’t meddle with broomsticks,–they’re Beelzebub’s switches; 

Of cellars keep clear,–they’re the devil’s own ditches; 

And beware of balls, banquettings, brandy, and — witches! 

Above all! don’t run after black eyes,– if you do,– 

Depend on’t you’ll find what I say will come true,– 

Old Nick, some fine morning, will ‘hey after you!