A New Canto
I'm sick of fame-I'm gorged with it-so full I almost could regret the happier hour When northern oracles proclaimed me dull, Grieving my Lord should so mistake his power- E'en they, who now my consequence would lull, And vaunt they hail'd and nurs'd the opening flower. Vile cheats! He knew not, impudent Reviewer, Clear spring of Helicon from common sewer. 'Tis said, they killed the gentle soul'd Montgomery- I'll swear, they did not shed for him a tear! He had not spirit to revenge their mummery, Nor lordly purse to print and persevere: I measured stings with 'em-a method summary- Not that I doubt their penitence sincere; And I've a fancy running in my head They'll like; or so by some it will be said. When doomsday comes, St. Paul's will be on fire- I should not wonder if we live to see it- Of us, proof pickles, Heaven must rather tire, And want a reckoning-if so, so be it- Only about the Cupola, or higher, If there's a place unoccupied, give me it- To catch, before I touch my sinner's salary, The first grand crackle in the whispering gallery. The ball comes tumbling with a lively crash, And splits the pavement up, and shakes the shops, Teeth chatter, china dances, spreads the flash, The omnium falls, the Bank of England stops; Loyal and radical, discreet and rash, Each on his knees in tribulation flops; The Regent raves (Moore chuckling at his pain) And sends about for ministers in vain. The roaring streamers flap, red flakes are shot This way and that, the town is a volcano- And yells are heard, like those provoked by Lot, Some, of the Smithfield sort, and some soprano; Some holy water seek, the font is hot, And fizzing in a tea-kettle piano. Now bring your magistrates, with yeomen back'd, Bawls Belial, and read the Riot-act!- The Peak of Derbyshire goes to and fro; Like drunken sot the Monument is reeling: Now fierce and fiercer comes the furious glow, The planets, like a juggler's ball, are wheeling: I am a graceless poet, as you know, Yet would not wish to wound a proper feeling, Nor hint you'd hear, from saints in agitation, The lapsus linguæ of an execration. Mark yon bright beauty, in her tragic airs, How her clear white the mighty smother tinges! Delicious chaos! that such beauty bares!- And now those eyes outstretch their silken fringes, Staring bewildered-and anon she tears Her raven tresses ere the wide flame singes- Oh! would she feel as I could do, and cherish One wild forgetful rapture, ere all perish!- Who would be vain? Fair maids and ugly men Together rush, the dainty and the shabby, (No gallantry will soothe ye, ladies, then) High dames, the wandering beggar and her babby, In motley agony, a desperate train, Flocking to holy places like the Abbey, Till the black volumes, closing o'er them, scowl, Muffling for ever curse, and shriek, and howl. A woman then may rail, nor would I stint her; Her griefs, poor soul, are past redress in law- And if this matter happen in the winter, There'll be at Petersburgh a sudden thaw, And Alexander's palace, every splinter Burn, Christmas like and merry, though the jaw Of its imperial master take to trembling, As when the French were quartered in the Cremlin. Rare doings in the North! as trickle down Primeval snows, and white bears swash and caper, And Bernadotte, that swaggerer of renown, To Bonaparte again might hold a taper, Ay, truckle to him, cap in hand or crown, To save his distance from the sturdy vapour. Napoleon, too, will he look blank and paly? He hung the citizens of Moscow gaily- He made a gallant youth his darkling prey, Nor e'er would massacre or murder mince, And yet I fear, on this important day To see the hero pitifully wince: Go, yield him up to Belzebub, and say, Pray treat him like a gentleman and prince. I doubt him thorough-bred, he's not a true one, A bloodhound spaniel-crossed and no Don Juan. Death-watches now, in every baking wall, tick Faster and faster, till they tick no more, And Norway's copper-mines about the Baltic Swell, heave, and rumble with their boiling ore, Like some griped giant's motion peristaltic, Then burst, and to the sea vast gutters pour; And as the waters with the fire stream curl, Zooks! what a whizzing, roaring, sweltering whirl! Lo! the great deep laid bare, tremendous yawning, Its scalding waves retiring from the shore, Affrighted whales on dry land sudden spawning, And small fish fry where fish ne'er fried before. No Christian eye shall see another dawning- The Turkish infidel may now restore His wives to liberty, and, ere to Hell he go, Roll to the bottom of the Archipelago! And now, ye coward sinners! (I'm a bold one, Scorning all here, nor caring for hereafter, A radical, a stubborn, and an old one) Behold! each riding on a burning rafter, The devils (in my arms I long to fold one) Splitting their blue and brazen sides with laughter, Play at snapdragon, in their merry fits, O'er some conventicle for hypocrites. Ay, serve the skulkers, with their looks so meek, As they've, no doubt, served lobsters in their time, (Poor blacks! no Wilberforce for them can speak, Pleading their colour is their only crime,) Trundle them all to bubble and to squeak- No doubt they shut their ears against my rhyme, Yet sneak, rank elders, fearful of denials, To pick Susannahs up in Seven-Dials. Brave fiends! for usurers and misers melt And make a hell broth of their cursed gold: On all who mock at want they never felt, On all whose consciences are bought and sold, E'en as on me, be stern damnation dealt, And lawyers, damn them all-the blood runs cold, That man should deal with misery, to mock it, And filch an only shilling from its pocket. Ay, damn them all, a deep damnation wait On all such callous, crooked, hopeless souls! Ne'er mince the matter to discriminate, But let the devil strike them from the Rolls: 'Twill cheer their clients to behold their fate, And round their bonfires dance in merry shoals. Some poor men's tales I've heard upon my journies, Would make a bishop long to roast attornies. Perhaps the thing may take another turn, And one smart shock may split the world in two, And I in Italy, you soon may learn, On t'other half am reeling far from you. No doubt 'twould split, where first it ought to burn, Across some city, that its sins should rue, Some wicked capital, for instance, Paris, And stop the melodrames from Mr. Harris. Save London, none is wickeder, or bigger, An odious place too, in these modern times, Small incomes, runaways, and swindlers eager To fleece and dash; and then their quacks and mimes, Their morals lax, and literary rigour, Their prim cesuras, and their gendered rhymes,- Mine never could abide their statutes critical, They'd call them neutral or hermaphroditical. True, their poor Play-wrights (truth, I speak with pain) Yield ours a picking, and I beg their pardon- 'Tis needless-down must come poor Drury Lane, And, scarcely less poor, down come Covent Garden: If we must blaze, no squabbles will remain That Actor's hearts against each other harden- Committees, creditors, all wrapped in flames, That leave no joke for Horace Smith or James. In rebus modus est: whene'er I write I mean to rhapsodize, and nothing more- If some poor nervous souls my Muse affright, I might a strain of consolation pour,- Talk of the spotless spirits, snowy white, Which, newly clad, refreshing graves restore, And silvery wreaths of glory round them curl'd, Serenely rise above the blazing world. Free, bursting from his mound of lively green, Wing'd light as zephyr of the rosy morn, The poor man smiling on the proud is seen, With something of a mild, forgiving scorn- The marbled proud one, haply with the mean, Sole on his prayer of intercession borne: Upward in peal harmonious they move, Soft as the midnight tide of hallow'd love. The rich humane, who with their common clay Divided graciously, distinguished few; Good Christians, who had slept their wrongs away, In peace with this life, and the next in view; Strugglers with tyrant passion and its prey, Love's single hearted victims, sacred, true, Who, when dishonour's path alone could save, Bore a pure pang to an untimely grave- Blest they, who wear the vital spirit out, Even thus, degrading not the holy fire, Nor bear a prostituted sense about, The misery of never quench'd desire, Still quench'd, still kindling, every thought devout Lost in the changeful torment-portion dire!- Return we to our heaven, our fire and smoke, Though now you may begin to take the joke! What joke?-My verses-mine, and all beside, Wild, foolish tales of Italy and Spain, The gushing shrieks, the bubbling squeaks, the bride Of nature, blue-eyed, black-eyed, and her swain, Kissing in grottoes, near the moon-lit tide, Though to all men of common sense 'tis plain, Except for rampant and amphibious brute, Such damp and drizzly places would not suit. Mad world! for fame we rant, call names, and fight- I scorn it heartily, yet love to dazzle it, Dark intellects by day, as shops by night, All with a bright, new, speculative gas lit, Wars the blue vapour with the oil-fed light, Hot sputter Blackwood, Jeffrey, Giffard, Hazlitt- The Muse runs madder, and, as mine may tell, Like a loose comet, mingles Heaven and Hell. You shall have more of her another time, Since gulled you will be with our flights poetic, Our eight, and ten, and twenty feet sublime, Our maudlin, hey-down-derrified pathetic: For my part, though I'm doom'd to write in rhyme, To read it would be worse than an emetic- But something must be done to cure the spleen, And keep my name in capitals, like Kean.
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