« IndietroContinua »
"Now I believe the Troglodite3 of old,
Whereof Herodotus and Strabo told,
Since every where, about these parts, in holes
Cunicular men I find, and human moles."
How pleasant here to dream the hour away
On the bold shore of this indented bay ;
Or else to trace thy stream, romantic Dart !
'Mid savage scenes ne'er, tamed by human art;
Or, nursing high and holy thoughts, explore
The naked majesty of tall Dartmoor ;
Then shoreward to descend through whispering alleys,
And catch 'short glances of the smiling valleys,
And ever and anon the dancing gleam
Of that swift-gliding, coy, and arrowy stream;
And from this hill-top look down on the sea,
That gently laves the fairest shores that be.
Cockneys! it is a pleasant thing in May
To enjoy the beauties of remote Torbay.
Here could I live-bless'd if such lot were mine!
Nor for the world and all its follies pine ;
Here, careless of the crowd, pay life its dues,
With learned leisure court the willing muse;
And while I gaze upon my gentle wife
Dear, comfortable name!--forget the strife,
The hurry, jostling of the troubled stage,
Trodden by the wild Spirit of the Age.
Let lovely Devon now, reluctant Muse!
Give place to the Sicilian Syracuse ;
From Babbicombe, the nook we love so well,
Turn thee to Cytherea's golden shell ;
Now let us bid the fiery mountain hail,
And try what sweetness lurks in Enna's vale :
A crowned lady of that happy clime,
And her uncivil court demand our rhyme.
In the Trinacrian isle, where gloomy Dis
Gather'd his flower, once reign'd young Argenis,
A princess fair, not fairer than our own,
Nor came she younger to the perilous throne.
Death had, before she saw the light, removed
Another princess whom the Sicels loved;
And oft his bow the insatiate archer drew,
And with the royal house familiar grew;
Till to the sceptre which her grandsire bore,
She was herself presumptive successor.
Too soon, while yet her life was in the dawn,
Her noble sire was from the world withdrawn;
And she, who for her training needed most
A father's manly care, that blessing lost.
Her widow'd mother, with devotion rare,
Loved her, nursed, rear'd with all a mother's care,
But guarded not 'gainst arts, to her unknown,
That circumvent the prince and sap the throne.
The Princess-ahl too soon, and not too late-
Was call'd to meddle with affairs of state,
With tiny hand to sway the uneasy helm,
And wayward course of an unquiet realm,
Much had she read in history's glozing page,
Much had been taught in her brief pupillage.
The dancing of the young and lovely Queen
Was like Titania's on the fairy green;
In all the graces feminine she shone,
Though she could ride like quiver'd Amazon ;
The soul of music from her lute she call’d,
And every hearer's ear and heart enthrallid.
ller calm clear brow, her soft but piercing eye,
Her gestures, voice, proclaim'd the royalty
Of her high being : wheresoe'er she moved
She was a creature seen to be beloved.
She was the nation's bright peculiar star,
Loved by those near her, worshipp'd from afar ;
Pure as the dove, by Jordan's holy stream,
Bright as the Dian of a poet's dream,
A princess on her people's weal intent,
A glowing beauty, young and innocent!
Alas for Argenis ! she did not know
What hurtful things around a palace grow;
What noxious reptiles, with injurious aim,
Protend their feelers round a royal frame.
Honest of heart, with pure intentions fraught,
Of apprehension quick, and ready thought;
Suspicionless, herself without disguise,
Mistrusting not her well-pleased ears and eyes,
How could she think a dangerous faction bound her,
And, while they cringed, threw treacherous meshes round her?
Alas that honesty should be deceived,
That flattery more than truth should be believed !
Alas that Argenis, the royal maid,
Should be by her false favourites betray'd !
Whilst yet the Sicels were in war engaged,
Amongst themselves no fierce contentions raged;
But madness seized the giddy multitude,
Soon as the foreign tyrant was subdued.
What they esteem'd before was now but dross,
And victory by some was deem'd a loss.
Oh crooke' souls ! down drooping to the ground,
Empty of heavenly things, unclean, unsound!
Then a lewd faction, stung with long disgrace,
Against the laws stirr’d up the populace;
Batter'd the state, and, out of public zeal,
Broke down the fences of the common weal;
Made charters void, and at the altar strook
The bishop's mitre, and the pastor's crook ;
And he who saved them from the public foe
Was doom'd their basest, fiercest hate to know :
Nor for a moment paused this currish band
In scattering firebrands through their native land;
Till royalty became a scorned thing,
And a brute rabble jostled lord and king.
The leaders of the mob, for place and gain,
Inflamed the passions they could not restrain ;
And even peers of generous blood were known
To make disorder's guilty cause their own.
The princé, a man too easy for the time,
With a good-humour'd scorn indulged the crime,
Till he discover'd, when it was too late,
Their object was the ruin of the state.
Law was despised, and order overborne,
And the old roots of civic peace uptorn ;
E'en the religion of their fathers came
To be accounted bigotry and shame.
The commonwealth by statists was deranged,
Who were not pleased till every thing was changed.
A realm so troubled the new Queen call'd hers,
And those mad statists were her ministers.
The first in favour and in place, not rank,
Was one whose age play'd many a youthful prank ;
Like the tall mountain, fruitful oft of woe,
Fire in his bosom, on his head was snow;
A young old man, of keen and subtle wit,
Whom the Court suited, and who suited it.
Affairs of state he treated as a jest,
Mismanaged some, and cared not for the rest.
Fourth in descent from vigorous rustic blood,
In his ripe years was a green lustihood,
That made him look the character he play'd,
The well.graced favourite of the Royal Maid.
He was prime minister and palace-mayor,
Of royal dinners, pleasures, jests, purveyor;
As if he had not quite enough to do,
He was her private secretary too.
There never was à courtlier man than he,
A pleasanter and merrier could not be.
He had been, and was still one apt to win
The soft sex to the approach of pleasant sin.
In every trick of court finesse at home,
Gay, humorous, quick-witted, frolicksome;
His toil of state was how to take his ease,
His way to keep in office was—to please.
With seeming carelessness and playful art
The lively elder play'd the courtier's part.
With pleasure's bait his Queen he did entice;
And never wearied her with good advice;
With his good-will she gave up heart, ear; eye,
And mind, to soul-dissolving luxury.
Pity for Argenis he had not been
Court-jester, not adviser of the Queen.
Nor on himself did he alone depend
For being minister and private friend ;
A quickset hedge he planted round her throne
In her attendants, creatures of his own;
They were about her court, about her bed,
Ladies of whom no harm was ever said,
Till old Andrugio brought them into play,
To serve his interest, and maintain his sway.
Too soon their mistress thought their converse sweet,
While they wink'd with their eyes, spake with their feet,
And to her ears their whisper'd scandal brought,
Invented signs, and with their fingers taught.
How could a chamber cabinet like this
Fail to deceive the youthful Argenis ?
Won by their flattery, by their wiles deceived,
She in her mother's love no more believed ;
But trusted them who thus her heart assail'd,
And their bad influence for a time prevail'd.
But after darkest gloom the day-beams rise,
And spread their welcome light along the skies ;
So queenly Argenis shall show again,
Like the day-orb, a disc without a stain.
Among Andrugio's followers was one, Who for adventures o'er the deep had gone ; And with the lust of power recross'd the waves, For he had ruled a tribe of Lybian slaves. Although for place and pay he bent the knee, Less than the first he much disdain'd to be. Much he loved power, but loved distinction more, A speech-maker and perfumed troubadour; A courtly coxcomb in the noon of life, Who turn’d to good account his buxom wife, And had her near the royal person placed, That by her means he might himself be graced. Oft by her aid, 'tis said, he hover'd near The Queen's retirement, her sweet words to hear, To throw himself into the royal way, By accident, on some convenient day. Beware, Andrugio! lest by cunning spell His lady get thy place for Sidrophell.
The hird of this council was a man, Who, like a high-fed colt, life's courses ran. The foremost still to raise the hue and cry Against the fall'n, and from their side to fly. The party next in power to him was best, And with them, for their time, he took his rest. His interest was the horizon of his view, To keep in place the only aim he knew. He viewed himself, with measureless content, The slave of each succeeding government. Ten times the helmsman of the state was changed, But from his post Antonio never ranged. Bold to the weak, and cringing to the strong, He would, to serve his turn, abet the wrong. He cared not for his country or her fame; His policy bequeath'd her lasting shame. In wordy protocols what state-craft lies ! By them he managed courts and colonies; But managed so, that the victorious isle Should be insulted, hated, scorn’d the while.
One was a gamester, spendthrift, debauchee, From honour and religious scruple free. Another, by a nephew's happy claim, Partook the honour of a famous nameA gross dull man that meant no harm in truth, But little fit to be near virgin youth. There was another differing from both, Religious, moral, but a very sloth; That one day waking, rubb'd his solemn brow, And found himself in place, he knew not how ; Then smiling placidly, return'd to sleep In company he never thought to keep; With slumberous dulness nodded night and day, And slept e'en while they took his place away.
A sly Calabrian, who could well advance His party's merit, managed the finance; Though given to wine-bibbing, he not the less, When drunk, his windy nothings could express,
Speak against time, and, innocent of
sense, Indulge in all the freaks of eloquence; And, with an equal happiness, dilate On money matters, and affairs of state. Howe'er he did mismanage and abuse His office and the public revenues, He was with so much worldly wisdom blest As to take care to feather his own nest; And for his younglings, with paternal pride As natural, he did no less provide. In his own praise he spouted much and long, Neither his taxes nor his costs were wrong; And turning e'en defeat into a boast, He praised his colleagues, praised himself the most ; And to the last, with place and pay content, He never knew what public virtue meant, Till, when he was worn out, but still elate, A title crown'd his service in debate.
Then came Macario, bless'd with arts that win Titles and pelf, of Gallic origin; His sire had traded where the Niger flows, And with his years his heap of treasure rose ; Wealth he amass'd with all a miser's love, Yet his affections set on things above; At once hugg'd earth and heavenward turn'd his eye, And died in odour sweet of sanctity. His son Macario to state-craft was bred, And was a time-server in heart and head; His party loved, for his especial gain, Too wise to work for nothing and complain : So he took care to be beforehand paid, And like his father drove a thriving trade ; Ready of speech and pen he work'd his way From life's inglorious gloom to the upper day, Became a counsellor and man of note, And from the palace his despatches wrote.
The next was he that had the most to do, And did with honesty his course pursue, Industrious, early at his post and late, A hack in office and the slave of state. He had no sort of misgiving or fear, But play'd historian, playwright, pamphleteer; He mended laws political, and broke The laws of grammar when he wrote, or spoke. He was self-confident to that degree, Nothing beyond his powers he thought could be. He would have led an army to the field, And as a warrior had been last to yield; E'en against Tully would have tried to speak, Or write a better Iliad than the Greek. The winds, like Æolus, he'd disenchain, As though with power to shut them up again ; But ah! no like success his efforts crown’d, The storm-promoter was no storm-king found. His heart was honest, but his mind perverse, And what he tried to mend he made much worse ; To quench a spark he fann'd it into fire, Gave the steed rein that did the curb require ; Did greatest evil with the best intent, And all his zeal for right in error spent.