Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

Short was his joy. He little knew

The power of magic was no fable Out of the window, whisk, they flew,

But left a spell upon the table *.

The words too eager to unriddle,

The poet felt a strange disorder ; Transparent bird-lime form’d the middle,

And chains invisible the border.

So cunning was the apparatus,

The powerful pot-hooks did so move him, That, will he, nill he, to the great house,

He went, as if the devil drove him.

Yet on his way (no sign of grace,

For folks in fear are apt to pray) To Phoebus he preferr'd his case,

And begg’d his aid that dreadful day,

The godhead would have back'd bis quarrel ;

But with a blush on recollection, Own'd, that his quiver and his laurel

'Gainst four such eyes were no protection. The court was sat, the culprit there,

Forth from their gloomy mansions creeping, The lady Janes and Joans repair,

And from the gallery t stand peeping:

* The note which the ladies left upon the table. + The music-gallery, which overlooked the ball.

Such as in silence of the night

Come (sweep) along some winding entry, (Tyacke* has often seen the sight)

Or at the chapel-door stood sentryt:
In peaked hoods and mantles tarnish'd,

Sour visages, enough to scare ye,
High dames of honour once, that garnish'd

The drawing-room of fierce Queen Mary.

The peeress comes. The audience stare,

And doff their hats with due submission; She curtsies, as she takes her chair,

To all the people of condition.

The bard, with many an artful fib,

Had in imagination fenc'd bim, Disprov'd the arguments of Squibf,

And all that Groom I could urge against him.

* The housekeeper. Her name which has hitherto, in ALL editions of Gray's Poems, been written Styack, is corrected from her grave-stone in the church-yard, and the accounts of contemporary persons in the parish. Housekeepers are usually styled Mrs.; the final s, doubtless, cansed the name to be misapprehended and mispelt.

+ The old chapel, the door of which was “at the opposite extremity of the ball.

# The former has hitherto been styled groom of the chamber, and the latter steward, but the legend on a grave-stone, close to Tyacke's, is to the memory of William Groom, and appears to offer evidence that Gray mistook the name of the ane for the office of the other.

But soon his rhetoric forsook him,

When he the solemn hall had seen; A sudden fit of ague shook him,

He stood as mute as poor Macleane*,

Yet something he was heard to mutter,

“ How in the park beneath an old tree, (Without design to hurt the butter,

Or any malice to the poultry),

“ He once or twice had penn'd a sonnet;

Yet hop'd, that he might save his bacon: Numbers would give their oaths upon it,

He ne'er was for a conj'rer taken.” The ghostly prudes with hayged face

Already had condemn'd the sinner. My lady rose,

and with a graceShe smil'd, and bid him come to dinner. “ Jesu-Maria! Madam Bridget,

Why, what can the viscountess mean? (Cried the square-boods in woful fidget)

The times are alter'd quite and clean! “ Decorum's turn’d to mere civility;

Her air and all her manners show it. Commend me to her affability!

Speak to a commoner and poet!”.

[Here five hundred stanzas are lost.]

* A famous bighwayman hanged the week before, And so God save our noble king,

And guard us from long-winded lubbers, That to eternity would sing,

And keep my lady from her rubbers*.

* See a Sequel to the Long Story, in Hakewill's History of Windsor, by John Penn, Esq., and a farther Seqnel to that, by the late laureate, H. J. Pye, Esq.

Anecdotes of the personages commemorated in the Long Story, while they continued to live in the same society, furnish a natural appendix to that lively narrative. Of these, it would have appeared preferable to select such as related to the short period which immediately succeeded it; and which preceded the death of the Poet's mother in 1753, so much deplored by bim. None, however, can be at present koown. We bave indeed some account of one of the principal personages in the year 1752, in another society; and it appears from the following passage, in a letter of Mrs. Montagu, of that date, that the lady had then admitted the attention and homage of her future husband. “ I wish the fair shepherdess (Miss Speed) a happy meeting with her Pastor Fido, at the next masquerade, for I think it more probable she will meet him there, than under the shady 'oak, or spreading beech.' But, whether it be owing to the charms of this new and favoured lover on her leisure hours, or to any disposition of reserve, of which the letter of Gray in answer to Mr. Walpole (vide Orford's Works, vol, v. p. 392), seems to convey a proof, or to other causes, the little information that can now be gleaned relative to the society of Stoke in those times, is due to the recollections and friendly communication of Admiral Sir John T. Duckworth, K. B. ; whose respected father became vicar of this place in the year 1756. This distinguished officer says, that he and his elder brother at that time, when they were about eight or ten years of age, were regularly and frequently invited, with their father and mother, lo dine at “the Great House,” the presence of youthful

the social ease,

company being no-wise unwelcome in the cheerful circle. He likewise remembers, that he was then used to accompany his father in his visits to Mr. Gray and his aunt, Mrs. Rogers, at West End; that he has often been at home when those visits were returned; and that on these occasions, the author of the Ode to Eton College would frequently take pleasure in gratifying the young Etonian by the gift of a shilling, or balf a crown; “ which (adds the gallant admiral) was at that time no inconsiderable present.” But a circumstance, which, from its singalarity, made a stronger impression upon bis mind than even this claim upon his gratitude, affords a substantial proof that

from which the ghostly female champions of false decorum, a few years before, had inferred a lamentable decay of manners, had undergone no change that could give them cause for triumph. He relates that he has “ more than once” been an eye witness of the potent effect wrought by the exuberant spirits of the “ witty amazon,” in prevailing upon the poet, instead of being conducted by a muse, or mounted on his Pegasus, to trust himself to her guidance, along the parish lanes, in a butcher's cart; which unusual spectacle could hardly have failed to stir the surprise and surmises of the ploughman," yet delaying “ homeward to plod his weary way.” We may conclude from this frolic, that the policy which determined the first marcbing of the troops," proceeded from po cause more probable than from her hostility to the stern character of “ the drawing-room of fierce Queen Mary.” On the other hand, it must be confessed that the poet thus gave ample proof of the sincerity of his ejaculation, Alas! wbo would not wish to please her!” But that his gallantry had no deeper root than the complaisance of friendship he seems to proclaim, not only in his letter to Mr. Walpole, but in another to Dr. Wharton, written shortly after the incident of the Long Story. “My heart,"

“ is po less yours than it has long been; and the last thing in the world that will throw it into tamalt is a fine lady. Another erroneous surmise of the same nature might be formed on hearing (what nevertheless is true) that the beautiful rondeau which appears in the latter editions of his works,

[ocr errors]

says he,

« НазадПродовжити »