The Second Brother’s Tale

Miss Vardill

We live in the vale of St John, because there is water and sod;
And limit our number to seven, because we are wise men and odd;
But as hermits of seventy and seven are said to be too fond of prosing
We tell all our tales in odd verse and write them to keep us from dosing;
And lest you should think us strange creatures, crept into a comical new ark,
Our lives shall be published and sold, as a modern appendix to Plutarch;
And then you may judge whether Chilo, or Bion, or old Periander,
Were wiser than we who hang love, and drown care, and sometimes bury anger.
We write for Posterity’s sake; tho’ (as somebody said to our betters)
The Post-master-general Time may never deliver our letters.
Mr Editor, this is the whole; for compliment only parade is;
And if I should add any more; you’d think us a club of Young Ladies:
So as all our statutes forbid us to write even prose without measure,
I seal up my note ex officio, and am with a great deal of pleasure,

Yours &c. &c.
Prosai Poetico

one of the Tale-telling Club or
Brotherhood of Bioscribes.

  * * *

Know ye the town of the turkey and turtle,
Fit emblems of deeds that are done in their clime,
Where stems of the laurel and leaves of the myrtle
Grow broad in balconies, and glorious in rhyme?
Where the tongue of the news-seller never is mute,
And the orange-stands glow with their yellow-cheek’d fruit,
Where the stains of the street and the smoke of the sky,
And the purple of faces, are darkest in dye?
Where statesmen are pure as the papers they sign
And even the cloth of their coats — superfine?
’Tis a tale of the Times! — ’tis a dream of the sun!
Can he smile on the deeds by his Editors done
O! — large as the sigh at a lover’s farewell
Are the fees which they take, and the fibs that they tell!

  * * *

No breath of air disturbs the march
Of waves below Blackfriar’s arch
Where rural dames and civic men
Gaze on the monument of Wren: — 
Where shall we see, beyond St Paul,
A church so stately and so tall?
Beneath that arch, with fav’ring tide
A lonely boatman seem’d to glide,
Till in Queenhithe’s pellucid quay
Safe on his silent oars he lay;
And trembling, to the crystal wave
His soft and secret burden gave.
Sudden it plung’d and slowly sank
The calm wave rippled to the bank;
And all its tenfold wrappers sleep
Among those treasures of the deep,
Which ruby finger’d nymphs of Thame
From justice and excisemen claim.
 The Sheriff from his ware-room flies,
Nor turns upon the Change his eyes:
Not thus he look’d when in his way
The precious ball from Indus lay
’Tis said he goes to seek a lock
More sure than that which guards his stock;
For faithless hands have stolen all
That most he priz’d — his newest shawl.

The shawl’s large size ’twere vain to tell,
But look on that of Bond Street belle
It will assist thy fancy well!
So rich, so measurelessly wide,
’Twas camel’s hair on every side;
Yes! — camel’s hair! and should they say
That shawl was spun near Tyne or Tay
By honour! I would answer nay
And when with hyacinthine hue
It grac’d my Lady’s vesture new,
On her might nabobs gaze and own
Her form deserv’d an eastern throne;
As midst the wide Egyptian hall
She stood superior to them all,
And swept the marble, where her feet
Gleam’d thro’ the stains of Lombard Street
Like lilies of too early birth,
That sink beneath the dews of earth.

  * * *

As in the ball’s capacious room,
The glossy pride of Delhi’s loom;
From yellow camels of cashmere,
Adorns the winter of the year;
So Beauty wraps the heart of man
(Tho’ cold as snows of Astrakhan)
In many a soft and tangled fold
Of mimic silk and seeming gold.
But seen too oft at rout or ball,
Woe waits the Beauty and the Shawl;
For every touch that woos their stay
Will wear their brightest hues away,
Till in neglected corners thrown
The shawl and lady fade alone.

  * * *

November’s days have number’d nine
And civic chiefs are met to dine:
The foremost Sheriff fills his place
Conspicuous by his ample face:
The rest in lengthening throng the while
Come slowly thro’ the long defile.
The board a mountain fabric bears
While famish’d gazers crowd their chairs
And theirs shall be a feast tonight
Shall tempt them till tomorrow’s light
Amidst a turtle’s vast tureen
Has shrunk before their onset keen;
And left a chasm wide and bare
For pies that come to perish there,
Each side the middle dish there lay
Small scattered fragments of the fray,
By mighty chiefs and elders riven
From fish of sea, and fowl of heaven,
For where is he that hath beheld
Their famine at a feast dispell’d?

  * * *

“But who is yon whose eager fork
Far flashes in its deadly work?
’Tis he — ’tis he — I know him now — 
I know him by his shaggy brow,
I know him by his felon look
Tho’ in a councilman’s peruke — 
The faithless friend who stole my shawl
He stole my shawl — the very best!
And worse than faithless, drown’d the rest!”
The Sheriff spake, and as he said,
A bottle whistled by his head.

  * * *

With weapon shiver’d to the hilt,
Yet dripping with the sauce he spilt;
Still fix’d upon the sever’d joint
That quivers on its faithful point;
His wig dislodg’d with sudden whirl,
And cleft in twain its firmest curl,
His robe in holes unnumber’d riven,
His back to earth, his feet to heaven,
The Sheriff lies — his finger end
Still pointing at his faithless friend;
While o’er him stands that friend with brow
As bruis’d as his that bled below.

« «  Hiatus  » »

To cheat the softest hearts are prone
But such may cheat themselves alone;
Too timid others’ wealth to grudge
Too meek to meet or brave a judge:
But only mighty hearts can feel
The glorious pride which bids them Steal
And if an empty purse they fear,
Let those that fill their own, beware!
The keenest pangs that felons find
Are rapture to the dreary void,
The tranquil dullness of the mind,
The waste of feelings unemploy’d!
We pant for joys we cannot share;
Content — ’tis monstrous woe to bear!
And souls in vile oblivion left
Must fly at last for ease, to theft.
For who can bear to leave behind
A gorgeous banquet, tho’ he’s din’d?
Who would not then demand of fate
To eat yet not to know he ate?

The mind that broods in patient ease
So like the bear in Norway’s cave
The snows around their captive freeze
Till in his living grave,
One sole and scant relief he draws
By self instruction from his paws — 
Thus are the meek in spirit lost,
Or hid, like Norway’s bears, in frost.

  * * *

Think not I took thy shawl for gold — 
No, Sheriff! no — it is not sold,
Alas! — the seller first must buy — 
I only watch’d and wish’d to try — 
But could not for my wasted purse
Was empty as ’tis now — or worse.
Take back thy shawl, or take my life;
I care not so I please my wife.
She wish’d a mantle from Cashmere
As something welcome, new, and dear:
She wish’d it then — she wish’d it still
Her wish was stronger than my will.
Waste not thy wonderment — her tongue
Is mightier than e’er poet sung:
I cannot if I would be blest — 
I want no paradise but rest! — 
For then — I tell thee, Sheriff! then
I heard her — yes, she talk’d again;
And I, before the morn, was seen
That beaten spouse which thou hast been.

She rag’d — I dare not tell the how,
But look, ’tis written on my brow!
There read of woman’s hand the pow’r
In traces lasting to this hour!

  * * *

They tell thee, in the waters roll
The bale thou hadst — the bale I stole!
If true — if in thy civic chair
Thou mean’st to cite me to the may’r,
O spread thy mighty mandate o’er
My wife, who then will chide no more!
Or send me o’er the broadest sea: — 
But friends or foes, whate’er ye be
In mercy, send her not with me
Or farther hence transport my soul
Than tongues can reach or wives control.

He scap’d — and of his name and race
Left not a token nor a trace;
Save what we brothers must not say
Who met him on his midnight way
And this is all we ever heard
Of him he robb’d, or her he fear’d.