The History of the Garter

Miss Porden

Dedicated (without permission) to Mr J.B. of York

Part the 1st

I do not propose here to trace
Whence came the Garter’s ancient race,
But if tradition we may trust,
The stocking was invented first;
In our third Edward’s glorious time
Begins the subject of my rhyme,
When chivalry, with gentle grace
Had smoothed of war the iron face,
And round the hero’s temples ’twined
The myrtle with the laurel joined.

Now many a noble conquest own
In glory’s zenith Edward shone,
But tired at length of war’s alarms
He bowed to beauty’s stronger charms,
And now ’twas giv’n to Sarum’s fair
The royal lover to ensnare.
Large was the hall, the assembly gay,
The torches shed a mimic day;
The enlivening glass to all had lent
Or heightened native merriment,
The minstrels now to please the king,
To sprightly measures touched the string
And those brave knights who late in France
Had dyed in gore the deathful lance,
Now joined with glee the sprightly dance.
And never was a brighter throng
The theme of fabling poet’s song
For Europe’s bravest sons were there
And Albion’s fairest of the fair.

On beauty’s breast, Love’s sweetest throne,
Or floating locks, or sparkling zone,
The diamonds caught the torches rays,
And flash’d a momentary blaze.
Her tresses floating on the gale
Arabia’s choicest sweets exhale,
More graceful than the swans that glide
On winding Avon’s classic tide —
Or swallows that in rapid flight,
Seem lost in Heaven’s cerulean light,
Swift thro’ the mazy dance she floats,
Responsive to the minstrel’s notes
Who now a louder measure ring
And swifter strike the trembling string,
And while her cheek alternate shows
The lily pale, the blushing rose,
Oft in a low and hurried tone
Distinguished by her ear alone,
Will Love his secret birth make known.

The monarch now, his age forgot,
His dignity, his corns, what not,
Seized the fair Countess’ snowy hand
And led to join the sprightly band.
All to the radiant pair gave way,
And on they tripped alert and gay.
But here my blushing Muse would fain
Conceal the truth, or drop the strain,
For now as ancient legends tell
The Countess’ azure garter fell!
The monarch seized the envied prize
With glowing cheek and sparkling eyes
And twined with much of festive glee,
The ribband round his royal knee,
As gaily rising from the ground
He saw each fair one standing round
Her fan of various plumage made
Held up, the smile, or blush, to shade.
Then, “Honi soit qui mal y pense”
He cried, and join’d again the dance.

Henceforth as valour’s best reward
The badge of blue the monarch gave,
This envied mark, which all regard
The guerdon of the great and brave.

Ye fair from you the order rose
Hence modern beaux may learn of old
What honors to the sex was paid,
May hear, and blush, as they are told.

Part the 2nd

And now I leave the lighted hall
The minstrel’s harp, the sprightly ball,
To sylvan themes my lyre I string
Your aid ye sylvan Muses bring.

Tis May — all Nature smiles around,
And flowers adorn the enamelled ground,
In fragrant robe the thorn is dressed,
Or glows with roseate hue,
The poppy boasts its crimson vest
The harebell hangs its head of blue.
And see in yonder verdant glade
A gay and festive scene displayed,
Where clad in robes of cheerful green
Yon stately elms extend their screen,
See all the rural world repair,
To taste the pleasures of the fair.
In plain and modest garb attired,
There rustic beauty shines admired.
The swains in many a sylvan sport
Contend to win some envied prize
Ambition thus, in field or court
Impels the simple, or the wise.
 Round the tall pole in frolic ring,
With artless grace they gaily spring,
Or celebrate in pastoral lay
The beauties of the youthful May.
On every face, in every eye,
Is seen the smile, the glance of joy.
 But mark yon youth, his steady pace,
His neat attire, and artless grace,
Health on his rosy cheek is seen
And joy shine thro’ his modest mien,
While his dark eyes reveal a mind
Tho’ steady cheerful, frank, and kind.
In vain the rustic maidens try
To draw the youthful Colin’s eye,
For him in vain the flowery crown
Amid their clustering ringlets shone,
Or conscious of her form, the fair
Adjusts her robe with nicer care.
While rivals cast a jealous eye
Unnoticed — Colin passed them by
For Adelina favoured maid
To whom his vows of love were paid,
Whose charms inspired his artless song,
Was not amid the festal throng.
 Now where a pedlar held to view
His stores of various kind and hue
He came — knives, scissors, there displayed
Needles and pins in order laid
Laces, and songs, and ribbands gay
Invite the passing youth to stay.
The store he viewed nor pondered long,
But chose the subject of my song
Twin garters snowy white of hue
Save where he read, in lines of blue
“If you love me, as I love you,
No power on earth, shall part us two.”
His purchase made, with eager haste
Along a sheltered lane he passed,
And soon he reached the lovely spot,
Where stood his Adelina’s cot;
The garden small but neat, was planned
And cultured by her gentle hand;
There wallflowers shone, and tulips gay,
In all the flowery pride of May,
The lilac shed its rich perfume,
Woodbines just bursting into bloom
To the supporting trellis clung,
And o’er the door their branches flung,
Above, the timid vine, was seen,
Scarce yet uncurled, her tendrils green.
The birds, for whom around the door
Her hand in winter, spread the store,
Now warbled from a neighbouring grove
Their varied notes, of joy, and love.
He entered where the duteous maid
Beside her mother’s couch had stayed
Nor murmured that her parent’s pain
Withheld her from the festal train.
(For sickness, wont to take its wing
At the mild influence of the spring
Had unsubdued still lingered here
Regardless of the advancing year,)
Yet oft she cast toward the fair
A wondering glance, “Is Colin there?”
He came, her glowing cheeks revealed
The joy her bashful lips concealed;
As o’er her mother’s couch he bent
With question kind, and looks intent
Expression to his youthful face,
And speaking eye, lent livelier grace,
In secret, while the maiden stole
A glance that showed her inmost soul.
 Now Colin turning to the maid
With hurried hand his gift displayed,
“Now small” he cried, its worth must prove
Weighed with her merit or his love,
Yet trusted she would kindly take
The humble gift, for Colin’s sake
And hoped that it might first be worn
On Adelina’s nuptial morn.

With something ’twixt a smile and tear
The maid received the gift of love
The mother smiled upon the pair
And joy the rapid moments drove.

Now soon with health restored again
The dame could join the festive train,
When Colin to the altar led
With bashful joy, the blushing maid,
Hymen propitious, blest the hour
And Heaven its blessings deigned to shower
On his, and Adelina’s bower

End of Part the 2nd