From Inn and Custom House at Dover
At length escaped the Muses’ lover,
And while his eye, in frenzy hurl’d,
Pursued his search in fancy’s worl.
To London fast he made approach
On roof of expedition coach —
Here as his sight unruptured roves
Thro’ Kent’s rich vales and clust’ring groves,
Almost the flying Muse he found,
And on his long-expectant tongue
He flowry numbers softly sung.
But ah! the wheel its giddy round
Resumed, and hoarser rumbling drowned
The lay that else your Bard had sung.
Pass we the journey, pass the gloom
That veiled his cob-web mantled room,
Without the presence of the Muse
Light o’er his garret to diffuse.
Again each well-worm pen he gnaws,
Heads, houses, trees and spiders draws,
In vain his luckless head he scratches
Reads, walks, sits, thinks, and scrawls by snatches.
Howe’er he tries, howe’er he chafes,
No inspiration she vouchsafes.
At length, “I’ll write no more,” he cries,
And in his dandiest brim he hies,
From poet turned to dashing spark
To take the air in gay Hyde Park.
There as he listless strolled along
And idly marked the fluttering throng.
A beauteous dame on high he saw
Borne in a gaily-decked landau;
Her laughing eye of heavenly blue
And smile of winning grace he knew,
Yet could he not her title trace
In memory’s bright by dazzling glass.
With gentle pressure of the hand
She welcomed him to Britain’s land,
“And since,” she cried, “you’ve been in France
You’ve learned, no doubt, quadrilles to dance;
At Lady Charlotte’s Ball tonight
We’ll dance quadrilles in censure’s spite.
You’ll meet me there? See, here’s a card.”
Away she drove, and left our Bard
With pleasure and amazement filled,
His heart with expectation thrilled —
To pass the day in Fashion’s heaven
He dined for once at half-past seven,
Put on his ball dress at eleven,
And when approached the midnight hour
(Not wont as erst with mystic power
The vigils of romance to keep
Or lull the sober world to sleep;
But vow the hour when pleasure wakes
And festive halls loud music shakes)
He joined the gaily grouping throng
Where Paine’s best band their strains prolong;
Where Gunter has the costly board
With every costly viand stored;
When Grecian lamps and chandeliers
And star-decked Knights and ribboned Peers,
Plumes, diamonds, flowers, and gauze unite
With Beauty’s blaze to charm the sight.
Here scarce his bows of duty paid,
See at this side the blue-eyed maid
In graceful elegance advance
To claim him for the promised dance
Her modest eye with pleasure beaming
Her airy figure sylph-like seeming,
Her rosy chaplet that bespeaks
A vain attempt to match her cheeks,
And every nameless witching grace
That played about her form and face,
The dullest eye had surely charmed
The coldest heart had surely warmed.
But how is this? our Bard in France
Scarce knew a cotillon to dance,
And nought had moved him now but shame
And read to bear a recreant’s name,
Yet when he’d touched his partner’s hands
No more like half-scared clown he stands,
No more he sees the dance begin
While sad foreboding from within
Of figures and of steps unknown
Almost excite a smothered groan.
No more he dreads to lose his way
Or cross and jostle in L’Eté —
No more his waving spirits freeze
At thought of spoiling La Trenise
But now he’s airy free and gay
In Nouvelle Chasse or Moulinet,
And lightly trips, so strong the spell,
Thro’ all thy mazes, Pastorelle.
He dreaded once to act the fool
In figuring forth Cavalier Seul
But now a murmer of applause
Attends his well-cut entre-chats
And without e’en a Master’s hint
In steps he rivals famed De Windt.
What may this mean? thro’ all his frame
He felt a soul-inspiring flame,
And could he think that pleasure’s calls
E’er drew the Muse to fashion’s halls
This were the spot of fairy ground
On which his long-lost charmer’s found.
The fire that in his bosom glowed
In tenderest phrase now overflowed,
So flowery soft, his accents fell
They startled e’en his laughing Belle,
Who quickly cried, “I must be gone
To other Balls e’er night be done.”
As duty bids, the Fair he hands
To seek her carriage — but how stands
Our Bard with strange amaze subdued
That wondrous carriage when he viewed!
The body seemed a downy cloud
Where Iris’ brightest colours glowed;
The rolling wheels with music thrilled;
The coachman’s seat a Genius filled;
Soul-moving airs the footman sings;
The horses fly with eagle wings;
And the bright maid who fled his arms
Shone forth a Muse in all her charms.
Her half-bared leg and light-gowned breast
And mien, Terpsichore confessed —
“Adieu!” she cried, “you seek in vain
A Muse to prompt an Attic strain,
Beneath my banners all advancing
The Sisters Nine now take to dancing.
Nor e’en to Ellen’s strong behest
Give willing strains to fill her chest.
Dance then! dance all! and dance your fill,
Reels, waltzes, Spanish dance, quadrille,
Or country dance, or what you will!”
She said — and bade her coachman drive
To Lady Bab’s, and stay till five.
The astonished Bard obedient bowed
And sought again the glittering crowd.
Danced with the gayest through the livelong night,
Then found this farewell strain, the last he means to write.