A Tale for the Hermits
Sly Love borrow’d April’s new mantle of green,
Her white daisied cap and her flow’red pelerine;
Then flew to the dale where sev’n Hermits preside —
Whim, Grief, Spleen and Folly, Shame, Anger, and Pride.
“Who comes?” said the Porter and scowl’d thro the gate —
“A poor little flow’r-girl your orders to wait:
My basket I fill’d in the gardens of Spring
And hyacinths, jonquils, and violets bring.”
“I choose a narcissus,” said Folly and smil’d
“Or this scarlet tulip so vagrant and wild.”
“First show me your basket,” said Pride, “if you please —
Let’s see if at last I can purchase heart’s ease.”
Said Whim, “Pretty nymph, from your garland I take
This pink and sweet pea for my cousin Wit’s sake
These sprigs of fresh laurel she cannot refuse:
And now, Brother Hermits, what next shall we choose?”
The flow’r-bearer whisper’d — “This fragrant bouquet
Miss Beauty has bought on her toilet to set —
But here is the myrtle whose evergreen leaf
Distill’d by her hand, is a balsam for grief.
“I found it half-starv’d in an anchoret’s cell
Where the dew-drops of charity froze ere they fell:
This myrtle shall lend your lone hermitage shade
When spring-roses droop and narcissuses fade.”
Spleen said ’twas a gift fit for vanity’s shrine,
Pert Folly cried laughing he wish’d ’twas a vine;
And Pride, their historian, replied with a sneer,
That women and coxcombs such trifles might rear!
Cried Anger , “’Tis monstrous for sages like us
To cheaper bouquets with a profligate pass —
Go! turn out this thief in a gipsy’s attire;
I’ll take her starved myrtle to stir up our fire.”
Grief beckon’d to Whim, “Let us vote for the tree —
Its faint fading branch is an emblem of me:”
And Shame would have hidden the whole, but he came
Too late to preserve it from feeding a flame.
Love laughing exclaim’d, “Ye are all April Fools!
That myrtle, my sceptre, the universe rules:
The flame it has kindled for ever shall burn,
But Love, once rejected, disdains to return!”
The Hermits next day call’d a council of state
On Cupid’s sly visit incog. to debate;
Said Pride, their grave Proeses, “A visit so strange
Our whole commonwealth and its basis will change:
My statutes are libell’d — Spleen raves and looks queer;
Shame hardly remembers how poor he came here,
And Anger, lock’d up in his closet above,
Is seeking the olive-branch left here by Love!
While Folly sits learning mustachioes to trim
Mirth enters incog. to electrify Whim.
He stifles us all with his patent gas lamp,
And Grief, when Love call’d here, thought fit to decamp.
We soon on a worthy successor must fix
Unless we reduce our small synod to six;
Since Grief follows Love and is plotting to wrong us,
Let good Common-sense supersede him among us.”
Thus duly propos’d and elected nem: con:
Good Sense the attire of a hermit put on;
Love saw the new member and said with a sigh,
“This stranger will govern them longer than I.
For Spleen, chas’d by Mirth, must depart in disguise
While Pride to mild Prudence surrenders his place;
Shame, Folly, and Anger to Coventry sent
Will make room for Honesty, Peace, and Content.
Gay Whim of his chemical vapours bereft
Some sweets may distil from the roses I left;
But Love can the Hermitage enter no more
While plain Common-sense keeps his seat at the door!