The History of the Garter

Miss Porden

Part the 3rd

Nay do not yet, ye Nine ascend
Not yet my toil, or yours, must end,
Why fly ye in such haste away?
(As driven by electric power)
In serious or in sprightly lay,
When Bards but name the nuptial hour!

Is it (since sages oft have said)
The Muses yet were never wed,
Ye envious, will not stay to hear
Of joys ye cannot hope to share,
Hence then, ye selfish, cross old maids!
Hence to your solitary shades,
There praise yourselves, as only wise,
And rail at Man, and nuptial joys,
Or tears of malice there distill
To swell your Aganippe’s rill.
Then some blest Bard, whose striking feature,
Is not true humour, but ill nature,
For Attic Salt the brine shall sip
And drink, and drink, with eager lip.
Hence! for I scorn your aid — my plan
I’ll end without ye — as I can.

Thricfe honoured Garter, noblest theme
That ever blessed a poet’s dream,
Oh thou whose name shall live in glory
While Albion holds a place in story!
Whose honours never shall be shorn
While knees are bound, or stockings worn,
Discover to a faithful friend,
What magic rites on thee depend.

Oft when the hour of midnight sounds,
And thieves and goblins walk their rounds,
Then backward up the creaking stairs
The maiden to her room repairs,
And trembling while her other hand
From her right knee removes the band.
Nine times around the bed-post twines,
And with nine magic knots confines.
While many a wondrous spell is said,
Of rhyme uncouth, and import dread,
Then to her couch she backward moves,
And thinks of him, whom most she loves,
Till Morpheus from the pleasing theme
Prolongs in sleep, her waking dream.

But should this incantation fail,
And sleep too sound, no light bestow,
A stronger charm may yet prevail,
In dreams her destined spouse to show,
And ere the sun withdraws his light
Present him to her eager sight.
For this, the Garter must around
Her snowy wrist, nine times be bound
And she with solemn voice meantime
Pronounce the thrice repeated rhyme
In silence then her lips must close
Till Morpheus sends the wished repose
One single accent would dispel
The influence of this powerful spell.
Severe restraint! how aggravating
To her inherent love of prating!
What inward struggles, uncouth faces
What twists, what grins, what strange grimaces
The impetuous tide of speech to quell
And keep unbroke the magic spell.
If woman, but for half an hour
So hard a trial dare to prove
How strong must be the unequall’d power
Of Curiosity and Love!

When some fond youth condemned to roam,
Far from the maid to him most dear,
Permits his thoughts to wander home
And fondly turns to muse on her
The Garter’s loosen’d band, ’tis said
Instant informs the gentle maid.

To Love, from all examples quoted
The Garter ever is devoted,
And like Leucate’s leap may prove
A cure for unrequited love.

But now I see a nobler story
In modern days the Garter’s glory

Part the 4th

In Britain’s Isle there stands a town,
And once, ’tis said of high renown
The ruined tower, the broken wall
The gate, fast nodding to its fall.
The empty fosse — the abbey lone
Neglected, mouldering, stone from stone,
The frequent fanes once throng’d ’tis said
But now deserted and decayed
The bridge begun — but never ended
Past state, with modern meanness blended
Are shown to prove what it has been
But more they prove, how changed the scene.

The natives of this ancient city
Fame says, are wondrous wise and witty
And that the praise is well applied
The following facts will soon decide

Once on a time their grave Lord Mayor
Sat down a sumptuous feast to share,
Asked for a toast — forgot his station
And gave Himself and Corporation!

A walk there is, where belles repair,
Both for the music and the air,
But this, as by its banks it goes,
Old Ouze in winter overflows,
And hence an alderman renowned
For learning, wit, and sense profound
Here plants (and wisely, who can doubt!)
A quickset hedge, to keep him out!
His church, some Christian’s pious zeal
Had given of bells a noble peal,
But whensoe’er they rang — the people
Feared lest they should ring down the steeple;
Yet with these noble bells to part,
Would break each honest churchman’s heart,
So lest misfortune should betide,
To lower the steeple they decide.
The work agreed, was soon begun,
Went briskly on; at length was done.
The bells new scoured and shining bright
Prepared to reassume their station
And ring for their own elevation;
The churchmen found, ah woe the day!
Ponderous their debt, their pocket light,
And workmen pressing for their pay,
So reck’ning thus, without the host,
At once their cash and labour lost,
They sold the bells, to pay the cost!

At cards this worthy alderman
Of wit as great a proof display’d
He held no tenth card in his hand
Except the nine of hearts, he said.
But most in law their wit is seen
As will a well known tale declare
And angry swain with pitchfork keen
His neighbour gor’d — no matter where
The man for the assault was tried
The jury eager to decide
(Perchance they smelt their distant dinner)
As guiltless first acquit the sinner,
A different doom the judge required
Again the twelve wise men retired
“Manslaughter,” they at length declare
The slaughter’d man was standing there,
Prepar’d the first to quiz the court
And make their sage decrees his sport.

But stop — what means this long preamble,
My Pegasus seems prone to ramble,
’Tis mine to sing the Garter’s glory
Not of their wisdom, make the story.

A youth in this famed city dwelt
Nor yet had Cupid’s malice felt
Until to rouse the latent flame
A youthful maid from London came
It needs not here her charms declare
As ladies always must be fair,
But if we may believe renown
’Tis said, the gentle youth was Brown.
This damsel oft demurely sitting
Bequiled the evening hours with knitting
Two garters of unsullied hue
Beneath her snowy fingers grew,
Her labour long this youth had eyed,
And sighed and looked, and looked and sighed!
And oft in vain preferred his prayer,
The garters to possess and wear,
Refused, he long had tried to find
For whom this envied gift designed
To maid was deaf to all he said
Went knitting on, nor raised her head
At last howe’er he found the truth
The gift was for some happier youth
Oh who can tell his jealous pain
Which oft unable to restrain
Her hand he pulled — the loops let down
Drew on himself her angry frown
Yet still he hoped when these were done
To see a pair for him begun.

But still the maid obdurate spurned
Her suppliant, and to town returned,
Not Homer’s pen could now declare
The anguish of the youth’s despair,
Thro’ all the town the tale was spread,
Fame added too, that he was dead,
Hung in a garter from his bed!
And numerous epitaphs were made.

Four months had slowly passed away,
At length came Cupid’s favoured day,
The happy morn of Valentine,
When coyest maids to love incline.
The hapless youth so long maltreated
Who at his breakfast table seated,
His bread so brown and milk so white,
No longer gave his mind delight,
On London still was fixed his thought,
When lo! the post — a packet brought.

The seal his hurried fingers break,
But oh! what words his joy can speak,
When from the opened packet rolled
Two scarlet garters wrought with gold
And in her hand distinctly traced
These lines the snowy paper graced.1

 Oh! if it is a joy to find
 Our friends when present warm and kind
 Yet greater far, the joy to prove
 Our memory dear to those we love!
 That absence strives to break in vain
 And rivets still the lengthening chain.

And now at last I’ve done my song,
A tale (’tis said) should not be long
Each hearer may divine the rest,
And end it, as may like him best.


In days of yore the damsel fair
When forth to fight her hero sending,
Bestowed some scarf of texture rare
The gold with richest purple blending.

This by her slender fingers wove,
And graced with many a tender story
Preserved the memory of his love
And urged him thro’ the field of glory.

But I present since Cupid’s Court
Has changed like other courts its charters
A token of a different sort,
Wrought by my hand a pair of Garters.

How bright their scarlet hue — behold
The canna’s brilliant tint out-vying
And mark the lines of mimic gold,
Upon their silken surface lying.

These Damon on thy knee shall shine,
Than scarfs for peaceful swains much fitter
Shall call to mind thy Valentine,
And bid thee think upon the Knitter

Feb 14th 1813

  1. The Editress is here requested to insert the lines (lately read in the Attic Chest) which accompanied the garters to York.