Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BLASPHEMER'S WARNING; A LAY OF ST. ROMWOLD, by RICHARD HARRIS BARHAM



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THE BLASPHEMER'S WARNING; A LAY OF ST. ROMWOLD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In kent, we are told
Last Line: Or -- what sometimes occurs -- run away with a saint!
Alternate Author Name(s): Ingoldsby, Thomas
Subject(s): Blasphemy; Marriage; Curses; Weddings; Husbands; Wives


IN Kent, we are told,
There was seated of old,
A handsome young gentleman, courteous and bold
He'd an oaken strong-box, well replenish'd with gold,
With broad lands, pasture, arable, woodland, and wold,
Not an acre of which had been mortgaged or sold;
He'd a Plesaunce and Hall passing fair to behold,
He had beeves in the byre, he had flocks in the fold,
And was somewhere about five-and-twenty years old.
His figure and face, For beauty and grace,
To the best in the county had scorn'd to give place.
Small marvel, then, If, of women and men
Whom he chanced to forgather with, nine out of ten
Express'd themselves charm'd with Sir Alured Denne.

From my earliest youth, I've been taught as a truth,
A maxim which most will consider as sooth,
Though a few, peradventure, may think it uncouth:
There are three social duties, the whole of the swarm
In this great human hive of ours ought to perform,
And that too as soon as conveniently may be;
The first of the three -- Is, the planting a Tree!
The next, the producing a Book -- then, a Baby!
(For my part, dear Reader, without any jesting, I,
So far, at least, have accomplish'd my destiny.)

From the foremost, i.e. The 'planting the Tree,'
The Knight may, perchance, have conceived himself free,
Inasmuch as that, which way soever he looks,
Over park, mead, or upland, by streamlets and brooks,
His fine beeches and elms shelter thousands of rooks;
In twelve eighty-two, There would also accrue
Much latitude as to the article, Books;
But, if those we've disposed of, and need not recall
Might, as duties, appear in comparison small,
One remain'd, there was no getting over at all,
-- The providing a male Heir for Bonnington Hall;
Which, doubtless, induced the good Knight to decide,
As a matter of conscience, on taking a Bride.

It's a very fine thing and delightful to see
Inclination and duty unite and agree,
Because it's a case That so rarely takes place;
In the instance before us then Alured Denne
Might well be esteem'd the most lucky of men,
Inasmuch as hard by, Indeed so very nigh,
That her chimneys, from his, you might almost descry,
Dwelt a Lady at whom he'd long cast a sheep's eye,
One whose character scandal itself could defy,
While her charms and accomplishments rank'd very high,
And who would not deny A propitious reply,
But reflect back his blushes, and give sigh for sigh.
(A line that's not mine, but Tom Moore's, by-the-bye.)

There was many a gay and trim bachelor near,
Who felt sick at heart when the news met his ear,
That fair Edith Ingoldsby, she whom they all
The 'Rosebud of Tappington' ceased not to call,
Was going to say, 'Honour, love, and obey'
To Sir Alured Denne, Knight, of Bonnington Hall,
That all other suitors were left in the lurch,
And the parties had even been 'out-ask'd' in church.
For every one says, In those primitive days,
And I must own I think it redounds to their praise,
None dream'd of transferring a daughter or niece
As a bride, by an 'unstamp'd agreement,' or lease,
'Fore a Register's Clerk, or a Justice of Peace;
While young ladies had fain Single women remain
And unwedded maids to the last 'crack of doom' stick,
Ere marry, by taking a jump o'er a broomstick.

So our bride and bridegroom agreed to appear
At holy St. Romwold's, a Priory near,
Which a long while before, I can't say in what year,
Their forebears had join'd with the neighbours to rear,
And endow'd, some with bucks, some with beef, some with beer,
To comfort the friars, and make them good cheer.
Adorning the building With carving and gilding,
And stone altars, fix'd to the chantries and fill'd in;
(Papistic in substance and form, and on this count
With Judge Herbert Jenner Fust justly at discount,
See Cambridge Societas Camdeniensis
V. Faulkner, tert. prim. Januarii Mensis,
With 'Judgment reversed, cost of suit, and expenses';)
All raised to St. Romwold, with some reason, styled
By Duke Humphrey's confessor, 'a Wonderful Child,
For ne'er yet was Saint, except him, upon earth
Who made 'his profession of faith' at his birth,
And when scarce a foot high, or six inches in girth,
Converted his 'Ma,' and contrived to amend a
Sad hole in the creed of his grandsire, King Penda.

Of course to the shrine Of so young a divine
Flow'd much holy water, and some little wine,
And when any young folks did to marriage incline,
The good friars were much in request, and not one
Was more 'sought unto' than the Sub-prior Mess John.
To him, there and then, Sir Alured Denne
Wrote a three-corner'd note with a small crow-quill pen,
To say what he wanted, and fix 'the time when,'
And, as it's well known that your people of quality
Pique themselves justly on strict punctuality,
Just as the clock struck the hour he'd named in it,
The whole bridal party rode up to the minute.

Now whether it was that some rapturous dream,
Comprehending 'fat pullets and clouted cream,'
Had borne the good man, in his vision of bliss,
Far off to some happier region than this --
Or whether his beads, 'gainst his fingers rebelling,
Took longer than usual that morning in telling;
Or whether his conscience with knotted cord purging,
Mess John was indulging himself with a scourging,
In penance for killing some score of the fleas,
Which, infesting his hair-shirt, deprived him
Or whether a barrel of Faversham oysters,
Brought in on the evening before, to the cloisters,
Produced indigestion, Continues a question:
The particular cause is not worth a debate;
For my purpose it's clearly sufficient to state
That whatever the reason, his rev'rence was late,
And Sir Alured Denne, Not the meekest of men,
Began banning away at a deuce of a rate.

Now here, though I do it with infinite pain,
Gentle reader, I find I must pause to explain
That there was -- what, I own, I grieve to make known --
On the worthy Knight's character one single stain,
But for which, all his friends had borne witness, I'm sure,
He had been sans reproche, as he still was sans peur.
The fact is, that many distinguish'd commanders
'Swore terribly (teste T. Shandy) in Flanders.'
Now into these parts our Knight chancing to go, countries
Named from this sad, vulgar custom, 'The Low Countries,'
Though on common occasions as courteous as daring,
Had pick'd up this shocking bad habit of swearing,
And if anything vex'd him, or matters went wrong,
Was given to what low folks call, 'Coming it strong.'
Good, bad, or indifferent then, young or old,
He'd consign them, when once in a humour to scold,
To a place where they certainly would not take cold.
-- Now if there are those, and I've some in my eye,
Who'd esteem this a crime of no very deep dye,
Let them read on -- they'll find their mistake by-and-by.

Near or far Few people there are,
But have heard, read, or sung about Young Lochinvar,
How in Netherby Chapel, 'at morning tide,'
The Priest and the Bridegroom stood waiting the Bride;
How they waited, 'but ne'er A Bride was there.'
Still I don't find, on reading the ballad with care,
The bereaved Mr. Graham proceeded to swear,
And yet to experience so serious a blight in
One's dearest affections, is somewhat exciting.
'Tis manifest then That Sir Alured Denne
Had far less excuse for such bad language, when
It was only the Priest, not the Bride, who was missing --
He had fill'd up the interval better with kissing.
And 'twas really surprising, And not very wise in
A Knight to go on so anathematising,
When the head and the front of the Clergyman's crime
Was but being a little behind as to time: --
Be that as it may, He swore so that day
At the reverend gentleman's ill-judged delay,
That not a bystander who heard what he said,
But listen'd to all his expressions with dread,
And felt all his hair stand on end on his head;
Nay, many folks there Did not stick to declare
The phenomenon was not confined to the hair,
For the little stone Saint who sat perch'd o'er the door,
St. Romwold himself, as I told you before,
What will scarce be believed Was plainly perceived
To shrug up his shoulders, as very much grieved,
And look down with a frown So remarkably brown,
That all saw he'd now quite a different face on
From that he received at the hands of the mason;
Nay, many averr'd he half rose in his niche,
When Sir Alured, always in metaphor rich,
Call'd his priest an 'old son of -----' some animal -- which,
Is not worth the inquiry -- a hint's quite enough on
The subject -- for more I refer you to Buffon.

It's supposed that the Knight
Himself saw the sight,
And it's likely he did, as he easily might,
For 'tis certain he paused in his wordy attack,
And, in nautical language, seem'd 'taken aback';
In so much that when now
The 'prime cause of the row,'
Father John, in the chapel at last made his bow,
The Bridegroom elect was so mild and subdued,
None could ever suppose he'd been noisy and rude,
Or made use of the language to which I allude.
Fair Edith herself, while the knot was a-tying,
Her bridesmaids around her, some sobbing, some sighing,
Some smiling, some blushing, half-laughing, half-crying,
Scarce made her responses in tones more complying
Than he who'd been raging and storming so recently,
All softness now, and behaving quite decently.
Many folks thought too the cold stony frown
Of the Saint up aloft from his niche looking down,
Brought the sexton and clerk each an extra half-crown,
When, the rite being over, the fees were all paid,
And the party remounting, the whole cavalcade
Prepared to ride home with no little parade.

In a climate so very unsettled as ours
It's as well to be cautious and guard against showers,
For though, about One, You've a fine brilliant sun,
When your walk or your ride is but barely begun,
Yet long ere the hour-hand approaches the Two,
There is not in the whole sky one atom of blue,
But it 'rains cats and dogs,' and you're fairly wet through
Ere you know where to turn, what to say, or to do;
For which reason I've bought, to protect myself well, a
Good stout Taglioni and gingham umbrella.
But in Edward the First's days I very much fear
Had a gay cavalier Thought fit to appear
In any such 'toggery' -- then 'twas term'd 'gear' --
He'd have met with a highly significant sneer,
Or a broad grin extending from ear unto ear,
On the features of every soul he came near;
There was no taking refuge too then, as with us,
On a slip-sloppy day, in a cab or a 'bus;
As they rode through the woods,
In their wimples and hoods,
Their only resource against sleet, hail, or rain
Was, as Spenser describes it, to 'pryck o'er the plaine';
That is, to clap spurs on, and ride helter-skelter
In search of some building or other for shelter.

Now it seems that the sky, Which had been of a dye
As bright and as blue as your lady-love's eye,
The season in fact being genial and dry,
Began to assume An appearance of gloom
From the moment the Knight began fidget and fume,
Which deepen'd and deepen'd till all the horizon
Grew blacker than aught they had ever set eyes on,
And soon from the far west, the elements, rumbling
Increased and kept pace with Sir Alured's grumbling.
Bright flashes between, Blue, red, and green,
All livid and lurid began to be seen;
At length down it came -- a whole deluge of rain,
A perfect Niagara, drenching the plain;
And up came the reek, And down came the shriek
Of the winds like a steam-whistle starting a train;
And the tempest began so to roar and to pour,
That the Dennes and the Ingoldsbys, starting at score,
As they did from the porch of St. Romwold's church door,
Had scarce gain'd a mile, or a mere trifle more,
Ere the whole of the crew
Were completely wet through.
They dash'd o'er the downs, and they dash'd through the vales,
They dash'd up the hills, and they dash'd down the dales,
As if elderly Nick was himself at their tails;
The Bridegroom in vain Attempts to restrain
The Bride's frighten'd palfrey by seizing the rein,
When a flash and a crash
Which produced such a splash
That a Yankee had call'd it 'an Almighty Smash,'
Came down so complete At his own courser's feet
That the rider, though famous for keeping his seat,
From its kickings and plungings, now under, now upper,
Slipp'd out of his demi-pique over the crupper,
And fell from the back of his terrified cob
On what bards less refined than myself term his 'Nob.'
(To obtain a genteel rhyme's sometimes a tough job.) --

Just so -- for the nonce to enliven my song
With a classical simile cannot be wrong --
Just so -- in such roads and in similar weather,
Tydides and Nestor were riding together,
When, so says old Homer, the King of the Sky,
The great 'Cloud-compeller,' his lightnings let fly,
And their horses both made such a desperate shy
At this freak of old Zeus,
That at once they broke loose,
Reins, traces, bits, breechings, were all of no use;
If the Pylian Sage, without any delay,
Had not whipp'd them sharp round and away from the fray,
They'd have certainly upset his cabriolet,
And there'd been the -- a name I won't mention -- to pay.

Well, the Knight in a moment recover'd his seat --
Mr. Widdicombe's mode of performing that feat
At Astley's could not be more neat or complete,
-- It's recorded, indeed, by an eminent pen
Of our own days, that this our great Widdicombe, then
In the heyday of life, had afforded some ten
Or twelve lessons in riding to Alured Denne, --
It is certain the Knight Was so agile and light
That an instant sufficed to set matters right,
Yet the Bride was by this time almost out of sight;
For her palfrey, a rare bit of blood, who could trace
Her descent from the 'pure old Caucasian race,'
Sleek, slim, and bony, as Mr. Sidonia's
Fine 'Arab Steed' Of the very same breed,
Which that elegant gentleman rode so genteelly
-- See Coningsby, written by 'B. Disraeli' --
That palfrey, I say, From this trifling delay
Had made what at sea's call'd 'a great deal of way.'
'More fleet than the roe-buck' and free as the wind,
She had left the good company rather behind;
They whipp'd and they spurr'd and they after her press'd;
Still Sir Alured's steed was 'by long chalks' the best
Of the party, and very soon distanced the rest;
But long ere e'en he had the fugitive near'd,
She dash'd into the wood and at once disappear'd!
It's a 'fashious' affair when you're out on a ride
-- Ev'n supposing you 're not in pursuit of a bride,
If you are, it's more fashious, which can't be denied, --
And you come to a place where three cross-roads divide,
Without any way-post, stuck up by the side
Of the road to direct you and act as a guide,
With a road leading here, and a road leading there,
And a road leading no one exactly knows where.
When Sir Alured came In pursuit of the dame
To a fork of this kind, -- a three-prong'd one -- small blame
To his scholarship if in selecting his way
His respect for the Classics now led him astray;
But the rule, in a work I won't stop to describe, is
In medio semper tutissimus ibis,
So the Knight, being forced of three paths to enter one,
Dash'd, with these words on his lips, down the centre one.

Up and down hill, Up and down hill,
Through brake and o'er briar he gallops on still,
Aye banning, blaspheming, and cursing his fill
At his courser because he had given him a 'spill';
Yet he did not gain ground
On the palfrey, the sound,
On the contrary, made by the hoofs of the beast
Grew fainter and fainter, -- and fainter, -- and -- ceased!
Sir Alured burst through the dingle at last,
To a sort of a clearing, and there -- he stuck fast:
For his steed, though a freer one ne'er had a shoe on,
Stood fix'd as the Governor's nag in 'Don Juan,'
Or much like the statue that stands, cast in copper, a
Few yards south-east of the door of the Opera,
Save that Alured's horse had not got such a big tail,
While Alured wanted the cock'd hat and pig-tail.

Before him is seen A diminutive Green
Scoop'd out from the covert -- a thick leafy screen
Of wild foliage, trunks with broad branches between
Encircle it wholly, all radiant and sheen,
For the weather at once appear'd clear and serene,
And the sky up above was a bright mazarine,
Just as though no such thing as a tempest had been.
In short, it was one of those sweet little places
In Egypt and Araby known as 'oases.'
There, under the shade
That was made by the glade,
The astonish'd Sir Alured sat and survey'd
A little low building of Bethersden stone,
With ivy and parasite creepers o'ergrown,
A Sacellum, or cell, In which Chronicles tell
Saints and anchorites erst were accustom'd to dwell;
A little round arch, on which, deeply indented,
The zig-zaggy pattern by Saxons invented
Was cleverly chisell'd, and well represented,
Surmounted a door, Some five feet by four,
It might have been less or it might have been more,
In the primitive ages they made these things lower
Than we do in buildings that had but one floor;
And these Chronicles say, When an anchorite grey
Wish'd to shut himself up and keep out of the way,
He was commonly wont in such low cells to stay,
And pray night and day on the rez de chaussee.

There, under the arch I've endeavour'd to paint,
With no little surprise, And scarce trusting his eyes
The Knight now saw standing that little Boy Saint!
The one whom before He'd seen over the door
Of the Priory shaking his head as he swore --
With mitre, and crosier, and rochet, and stole on,
The very self-same -- or at least his Eidolon!
With a voice all unlike to the infantine squeak
You'd expect, that small Saint now address'd him to speak;
In a bold, manly tone, he Began while his stony
Cold lips breath'd an odour quite Eau de Cologne-y;
In fact, from his christening, according to rumour, he
Beat Mr. Brummell to sticks, in perfumery.

'Sir Alured Denne!' Said the Saint, be atten
-- tive! Your ancestors, all most respectable men,
Have for some generations been vot'ries of mine;
They have brought me mould candles and bow'd at my shrine,
They have made my monks presents of ven'son and wine,
With a right of free pasturage, too, for their swine.
And, though you in this Have been rather remiss,
Still I owe you a turn for the sake of 'lang syne.'
And I now come to tell you, your cursing and swearing
Have reach'd to a pitch that is really past bearing.
'Twere a positive scandal In even a Vandal,
It ne'er should be done, save with bell, book, and candle:
And though I've now learn'd, as I've always suspected,
Your own education's been somewhat neglected;
Still you're not such an uninform'd pagan, I hope,
As not to know cursing belongs to the Pope!
And his Holiness feels, very properly, jealous
Of all such encroachments by paltry lay fellows.
Now, take my advice, Saints never speak twice,
So take it at once, as I once for all give it;
Go home! you'll find there all as right as a trivet,
But mind, and remember, if once you give way
To that shocking bad habit, I'm sorry to say,
I have heard you so sadly indulge in to-day,
As sure as you're born, on the very first trip
That you make -- the first oath that proceeds from your lip,
I'll soon make you rue it! -- I've said it -- I'll do it!
"Forewarn'd is forearm'd," you shan't say but you knew it.
Whate'er you hold dearest or nearest your heart,
I'LL TAKE IT AWAY, if I come in a cart!
I will on my honour! you know it's absurd
To suppose that a Saint ever forfeits his word
For a pitiful Knight, or to please any such man --
I've said it! I'll do't -- if I don't, I'm a Dutchman!' --

He ceased -- he was gone as he closed his harangue,
And some one outside shut the door with a bang!
Sparkling with dew, Each green herb anew
Its profusion of sweets round Sir Alured threw,
As pensive and thoughtful he slowly withdrew
(For the hoofs of his horse had got rid of their glue),
And the cud of reflection continued to chew
Till the gables of Bonnington Hall rose in view.
Little reck'd he what he smelt, what he saw
Brilliance of scenery, Fragrance of greenery,
Fail'd in impressing his mental machinery;
Many an hour had elapsed, well I ween, ere he
Fairly was able distinction to draw
'Twixt the odour of garlic and bouquet du Roi.

Merrily, merrily sounds the horn,
And cheerily ring the bells;
For the race is run, The goal is won,
The little lost mutton is happily found,
The Lady of Bonnington's safe and sound
In the Hall where her new Lord dwells!
Hard had they ridden, that company gay,
After fair Edith, away and away:
This had slipp'd back o'er his courser's rump,
That had gone over his ears with a plump,
But the lady herself had stuck on like a trump,
Till her panting steed Relax'd her speed,
And feeling, no doubt, as a gentleman feels
When he's once shown a bailiff a fair pair of heels,
Stopp'd of herself, as it's very well known
Horses will do, when they're thoroughly blown,
And thus the old group had forgather'd again,
Just as the sunshine succeeded the rain.
Oh, now the joy, and the frollicking, rollicking
Doings indulged in by one and by all!
Gaiety seized on the most melancholic in
All the broad lands around Bonnington Hall.
All sorts of revelry, All sorts of devilry,
All play at 'High Jinks,' and keep up the ball.
Days, weeks, and months, it is really astonishing,
When one's so happy, how Time flies away;
Meanwhile the Bridegroom requires no admonishing,
As to what pass'd on his own wedding-day;
Never since then, Had Sir Alured Denne
Let a word fall from his lip or his pen
That began with a D, or left off with an N!

Once, and once only, when put in a rage,
By a careless young rascal he'd hired as a Page,
All buttons and brass, When in handling a glass
Of spiced hippocras, throws It all over his clothes,
And spoils his best pourpoint, and smartest trunk hose,
While stretching his hand out to take it and quaff it (he
'd given a rose noble a yard for the taffety),
Then, and then only, came into his head,
A very sad word that began with a Z;
But he check'd his complaint,
He remember'd the Saint,
In the nick -- Lady Denne was beginning to faint --
That sight on his mouth acted quite as a bung,
Like Mahomet's coffin, the shocking word hung
Half-way 'twixt the root and the tip of his tongue.

Many a year Of mirth and good cheer
Flew over their heads, to each other more dear
Every day they were quoted by peasant and peer
As the rarest examples of love ever known,
Since the days of Le Chivaler D'Arbie and Joanne,
Who in Bonnington chancel lie sculptured in stone.

Well -- it happen'd at last, After certain years past,
That an embassy came to our court from afar --
From the Grand-duke of Muscovy -- now call'd the Czar,
And the Spindleshank'd Monarch, determined to do
All the grace that he could to a nobleman, who
Had sail'd all that way from a country which few
In our England had heard of, and nobody knew,
With a hat like a muff, and a beard like a Jew,
Our arsenals, buildings, and dock-yards to view,
And to say how desirous His Prince Wladimirus
Had long been with mutual regard to inspire us,
And how he regretted he was not much nigher us,
With other fine things, Such as Kings say to Kings
When each tries to humbug his dear Royal Brother, in
Hopes by such 'gammon' to take one another in --
King Longshanks, I say, Being now on his way
Bound for France, where the rebels had kept him at bay,
Was living in clover, At this time at Dover,
I' the castle there, waiting a tide to go over.

He had summon'd, I can't tell you how many men,
Knights, nobles, and squires to the wars of Guienne,
And among these of course was Sir Alured Denne,
Who, acting like most Of the knights in the host,
Whose residence was not too far from the coast,
Had brought his wife with him, delaying their parting,
Fond souls, till the very last moment of starting.

Of course, with such lots of lords, ladies, and knights,
In their Saracenettes, and their bright chain-mail tights,
All accustom'd to galas, grand doings, and sights,
A matter like this was at once put to rights;
'Twould have been a strange thing,
If so polish'd a king,
With his Board of Green Cloth, and Lord Steward's department,
Couldn't teach an Ambassador what the word 'smart' meant.
A banquet was order'd at once for a score,
Or more, of the corps that had just come on shore,
And the King, though he thought it 'a bit of a bore,'
Ask'd all the elite Of his levee to meet
The illustrious Strangers and share in the treat;
For the Boyar himself, the Queen graciously made him her
Beau for the day, from respect to Duke Wladimir.
(Queer as this name may appear in the spelling,
You won't find it trouble you, Sound but the W
Like the first L in Llan, Lloyd, and Llewellyn!)

Fancy the fuss and the fidgety looks
Of Robert de Burghersh, the constables, cooks;
For of course the cuisine Of the King and the Queen
Was behind them at London, or Windsor, or Sheene,
Or wherever the Court ere it started had been,
And it's really no jest, When a troublesome guest
Looks in at a time when you're busy and prest,
Just going to fight, or to ride, or to rest,
And expects a good lunch when you've none ready drest.
The servants, no doubt, Were much put to the rout,
By this very extempore sort of set-out.

But they wisely fell back upon poor Richard's plan,
'When you can't what you would, you must do what you can!'
So they ransack'd the country, folds, pig-styes, and pens,
For the sheep and the porkers, the cocks and the hens:
'Twas said a Tom-cat of Sir Alured Denne's,
A fine tabby-grey, Disappear'd on that day,
And whatever became of him no one could say;
They brought all the food That ever they cou'd,
Fish, flesh, and fowl, with sea-coal and dry wood,
To his Majesty's Dapifer, Eudo (or Ude),
They lighted the town up, set ringing the bells,
And borrow'd the waiters from all the hotels.
A bright thought, moreover, came into the head
Of Dapifer Eudo, who'd some little dread,
As he said, for the thorough success of his spread.
So he said to himself, 'What a thing it would be
Could I have here with me Some one, two, or three
Of their outlandish scullions from over the sea!
It's a hundred to one if the Suite or their Chief
Understand our plum-puddings, or barons of beef;
But with five minutes' chat with their cooks or their valets,
We'd soon dish up something to tickle their palates!'
With this happy conceit for improving the mess,
Pooh-poohing expense, he despatch'd an express,
In a waggon and four on the instant to Deal,
Who dash'd down the hill without locking the wheel,
And, by means which I guess but decline to reveal,
Seduced from the Downs, where at anchor their vessel rode,
Lumpoff Icywitz, serf to a former Count Nesselrode,
A cook of some fame, Who invented the same
Cold pudding that still bears the family name.
This accomplish'd, the Chef's peace of mind was restored,
And in due time a banquet was placed on the board
'In the very best style,' which implies in a word,
'All the dainties the season' (and king) 'could afford.'
There were snipes, there were rails,
There were woodcocks and quails,
There were peacocks served up in their pride (that is, tails)
Fricandeau, fricassees. Ducks and green peas,
Cotelettes a la Indienne, and chops a la Soubise
(Which last you may call 'onion sauce' if you please),
There are barbecu'd pigs Stuff'd with raisins and figs,
Omelettes and haricots, stews and ragouts,
And pork griskins, which Jews still refuse and abuse.
Then the wines, -- round the circle how swiftly they went
Canary, Sack, Malaga, Malvoisie, Tent;
Old Hock from the Rhine, wine remarkably fine,
Of the Charlemagne vintage of seven ninety-nine, --
Five cent'ries in bottle had made it divine!
The rich juice of Rousillon, Gascoygne, Bordeaux,
Marasquin, Curacoa, Kirschen Wassar, Noyeau,
And gin which the company voted 'No Go';
The guests all hob-nobbing, And bowing and bobbing,
Some prefer white wine, while others more value red,
Few, a choice few, Of more orthodox gout,
Stick to 'old crusted port,' among whom was Sir Alured;
Never indeed at a banquet before
Had that gallant commander enjoy'd himself more.

Then came 'sweets' -- served in silver were tartlets and pies -- in glass,
Jellies composed of punch, calves' feet, and isinglass,
Creams, and whipt-syllabubs, some hot, some cool,
Blancmange, and quince-custards, and gooseberry-fool.
And now from the good taste which reigns, it's confest,
In a gentleman's, that is, an Englishman's, breast,
And makes him polite to a stranger and guest,
They soon play'd the deuce
With a large Charlotte Russe;
More than one of the party despatch'd his plate twice
With 'I'm really ashamed, but -- another small slice!
Your dishes from Russia are really so nice!'
Then the prime dish of all! 'There was nothing so good in
The whole of the Feed' One and all were agreed,
'As the great Lumpoff Icywitz' Nesselrode pudding!'
Sir Alured Denne, who'd all day, to say sooth,
Like Iago, been 'plagued with a sad raging tooth,'
Which had nevertheless interfered very little
With his -- what for my rhyme I'm obliged to spell -- vittle,
Requested a friend Who sat near him to send
Him a spoonful of what he heard all so commend,
And begg'd to take wine with him afterwards, grateful
Because for a spoonful he'd sent him a plateful.
Having emptied his glass -- he ne'er balk'd or spill'd it --
The gallant Knight open'd his mouth -- and then fill'd it.

You must really excuse me -- there's nothing could bribe
Me at all to go on and attempt to describe
The fearsome look then Of Sir Alured Denne!
-- Astonishment, horror, distraction of mind,
Rage, misery, fear, and iced pudding -- combined!
Lip, forehead, and cheek -- how these mingle and meet
All colours, all hues, now advance, now retreat
Now pale as a turnip, now crimson as beet!
How he grasps his armchair in attempting to rise!
See his veins how they swell! mark the roll of his eyes!
Now east and now west, now north and now south,
Till at once he contrives to eject from his mouth
That vile 'spoonful' -- what He has got he knows not,
He isn't quite sure if it's cold or it's hot;
At last he exclaims, as he starts from his seat,
'A SNOWBALL by-----!' what I decline to repeat, --
'Twas the name of a bad place, for mention unmeet.

Then oh what a volley! -- a great many heard
What flow'd from his lips, and 'twere really absurd
To suppose that each man was not shock'd by each word.
A great many heard, too, with mix'd fear and wonder,
The terrible crash of the terrible thunder,
That broke as if bursting the building asunder;
But very few heard, although every one might,
The short, half-stifled shriek from the chair on the right,
Where the Lady of Bonnington sat by her knight;
And very few saw -- some -- the number was small,
In the large ogive window that lighted the hall,
A small stony Saint in a small stony pall,
With a small stony mitre, and small stony crosier,
And small stony toes that owed nought to the hosier,
Beckon stonily downward to some one below,
As Merryman says 'for to come for to go'!
While every one smelt a delicious perfume
That seem'd to pervade every part of the room!

Fair Edith Denne, The bonne et belle then,
Never again was beheld among men!
But there was the fauteuil on which she was placed,
And there was the girdle that graced her small waist,
And there was her stomacher, brilliant with gems,
And the mantle she wore, edged with lace at the hems,
Her rich brocade gown sat upright in its place,
And her wimple was there -- but where -- WHERE WAS HER FACE?
'Twas gone with her body -- and nobody knows,
Nor could any one present so much as suppose
How that Lady contrived to slip out of her clothes
But 'twas done -- she was quite gone -- the how and the where,
No mortal was ever yet found to declare;
Though inquiries were made, and some writers record
That Sir Alured offer'd a handsome reward.

* * * * *

King Edward went o'er to his wars in Guienne,
Taking with him his barons, his knights, and his men.
You may look through the whole
Of that King's muster-roll,
And you won't find the name of Sir Alured Denne;
But Chronicles tell that there formerly stood
A little old chapel in Bilsington wood;
The remains to this day, Archaeologists say,
May be seen, and I'd go there and look if I could.
There long dwelt a hermit remarkably good,
Who lived all alone, And never was known
To use bed or bolster, except the cold stone;
But would groan and would moan in so piteous a tone,
A wild Irishman's heart had responded 'Och hone!'
As the fashion with hermits of old was to keep skins
To wear with the wool on -- most commonly sheepskins --
He, too, like the rest, was accustom'd to do so;
His beard, as no barber came near him, too, grew so,
He bore some resemblance to Robinson Crusoe;
In Houndsditch, I'm told, you'll sometimes see a Jew so.

He lived on the roots, And the cob-nuts and fruits,
Which the kind-hearted rustics, who rarely are churls
In such matters, would send by their boys and their girls;
They'd not get him to speak,
If they tried for a week,
But the colour would always mount up in his cheek,
And he'd look like a dragon if ever he heard
His young friends use a naughty expression or word.
How long he lived or at what time he died,
'Twere hard, after so many years, to decide,
But there's one point, on which all traditions agree,
That he did die at last, leaving no legatee,
And his linen was mark'd with an A and a D.

Alas, for the glories of Bonnington Hall!
Alas, for its splendour! alas, for its fall!
Long years have gone by Since the trav'ller might spy
Any decentish house in the parish at all.
For very soon after the awful event
I've related, 'twas said through all that part of Kent
That the maids of a morning, when putting the chairs
And the tables to rights, would oft pop unawares,
In one of the parlours, or galleries, or stairs,
On a tall, female figure, or find her, far horrider,
Slowly o' nights promenading the corridor;
But whatever the hour, or wherever the place,
No one could ever get sight of her face!
Nor could they perceive Any arm in her sleeve,
While her legs and her feet, too, seem'd mere 'make believe,'
For she glided along with that shadow-like motion
Which gives one the notion
Of clouds on a zephyr, or ships on the ocean;
And though of her gown they could hear the silk rustle,
They saw but that side on't ornee with the bustle.
The servants, of course, though the house they were born in,
Soon 'wanted to better themselves,' and gave warning,
While even the new Knight grew tired of a guest
Who would not let himself or his family rest;
So he pack'd up his all, And made a bare wall
Of each well-furnish'd room in his ancestors' Hall,
Then left the old Mansion to stand or to fall,
Having previously barr'd up the windows and gates,
To avoid paying cesses and taxes and rates,
And settled on one of his other estates,
Where he built a new mansion, and called it Denne Hill,
And there his descendants reside, I think, still.
Poor Bonnington, empty, or left, at the most,
To the joint occupation of rooks and a Ghost,
Soon went to decay, And moulder'd away,
But whether it dropp'd down at last I can't say,
Or whether the jackdaws produced, by degrees, a
Spontaneous combustion like that one at Pisa
Some cent'ries ago, I'm sure I don't know,
But you can't find a vestige now ever so tiny,
'Perierunt,' as some one says, 'etiam ruinae.'

MORAL

The first maxim a couple of lines may be said in,
If you are in a passion, don't swear at a wedding!

Whenever you chance to be ask'd out to dine,
Be exceedingly cautious -- don't take too much wine!
In your eating remember one principal point,
Whatever you do, have your eye on the joint!
Keep clear of side dishes, don't meddle with those
Which the servants in livery, or those in plain clothes,
Poke over your shoulders and under your nose;
Or, if you must live on the fat of the land,
And feed on fine dishes you don't understand,
Buy a good book of cookery! I've a compact one,
First-rate of the kind, just brought out by Miss Acton,
This will teach you their names, the ingredients they're made of,
And which to indulge in, and which be afraid of,
Or else, ten to one, between ice and cayenne,
You'll commit yourself some day, like Alured Denne.

'To persons about to be married' I'd say,
Don't exhibit ill-humour, at least on The Day!
And should there perchance be a trifling delay
On the part of officials, extend them your pardon,
And don't snub the parson, the clerk, or churchwarden!
To married men this -- For the rest of your lives,
Think how your misconduct may act on your wives!
Don't swear then before them, lest haply they faint,
Or -- what sometimes occurs -- run away with a Saint!





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