Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE TRAGEDY, by RICHARD HARRIS BARHAM

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE TRAGEDY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Catherine of cleves was a lady of rank
Last Line: Be call'd on, -- sad poet! -- to tell your sad story!
Alternate Author Name(s): Ingoldsby, Thomas
Subject(s): Adultery

CATHERINE of Cleves was a Lady of rank:
She had lands and fine houses, and cash in the Bank;
She had jewels and rings, And a thousand smart things:
Was lovely and young, With a rather sharp tongue,
And she wedded a noble of high degree
With the star of the order of St. Esprit;
But the Duke de Guise Was, by many degrees,
Her senior, and not very easy to please;
He'd a sneer on his lip, and a scowl with his eye,
And a frown on his brow, -- and he look'd like a Guy, --
So she took to intriguing With Monsieur St. Megrin,
A young man of fashion, and figure, and worth,
But with no great pretensions to fortune or birth;
He would sing, fence, and dance,
With the best man in France,
And took his rappee with genteel nonchalance;
He smiled, and he flatter'd, and flirted with ease,
And was very superior to Monseigneur de Guise.
Now Monsieur St. Megrin was curious to know
If the Lady approved of his passion or no;
So without more ado, He put on his surtout,
And went to a man with a beard like a Jew,
One Signor Ruggieri, A cunning-man near, he
Could conjure, tell fortunes, and calculate tides,
Perform tricks on the cards, and Heaven knows what besides,
Bring back a stray'd cow, silver ladle, or spoon,
And was thought to be thick with the Man in the Moon.
The Sage took his stand With his wand in his hand,
Drew a circle, then gave the dread word of command,
Saying solemnly -- 'Presto! -- Hey, quick! Cock-a-lorum!'
When the Duchess immediately popp'd up before 'em.
Just then a Conjunction of Venus and Mars,
Or something peculiar above in the stars,
Attracted the notice of Signor Ruggieri,
Who 'bolted,' and left him alone with his deary. --
Monsieur St. Megrin went down on his knees,
And the Duchess shed tears large as marrow-fat peas,
When, -- fancy the shock, -- A loud double knock,
Made the Lady cry 'Get up, you fool! -- there's de Guise!'
'Twas his Grace, sure enough;
So Monsieur, looking bluff,
Strutted by, with his hat on, and fingering his ruff,
While, unseen by either, away flew the Dame
Through the opposite key-hole, the same way she came;
But, alack! and alas! A mishap came to pass,
In her hurry she, somehow or other, let fall
A new silk Bandana she'd worn as a shawl;
She had used it for drying
Her bright eyes while crying,
And blowing her nose, as her Beau talk'd of dying

Now the Duke, who had seen it so lately adorn her,
And knew the great C with the Crown in the corner,
The instant he spied it, smoked something amiss,
And said with some energy, 'D----- it! what's this?
He went home in a fume, And bounced into her room,
Crying, 'So, Ma'am, I find I've some cause to be jealous!
Look here! -- here's a proof you run after the fellows!
-- Now take up that pen, -- if it's bad choose a better, --
And write, as I dictate, this moment a letter
To Monsieur -- you know who!' The Lady looked blue;
But replied with much firmness -- 'Hang me if I do!'
De Guise grasp'd her wrist With his great bony fist,
And pinch'd it, and gave it so painful a twist,
That his hard, iron gauntlet the flesh went an inch in, --
She did not mind death, but she could not stand pinching;
So she sat down and wrote This polite little note: --
'Dear Mister St. Megrin, The Chiefs of the League in
Our house mean to dine This evening at nine;
I shall, soon after ten, Slip away from the men,
And you'll find me up-stairs in the drawing-room then;
Come up the back way, or those impudent thieves
Of Servants will see you; Yours

She directed and seal'd it, all pale as a ghost,
And de Guise put it into the Twopenny Post.

St. Megrin had almost jump'd out of his skin
For joy that day when the post came in;
He read the note through, Then began it anew,
And thought it almost too good news to be true. --
He clapp'd on his hat. And a hood over that,
With a cloak to disguise him, and make him look fat.
So great his impatience, from half after Four
He was waiting till Ten at De Guise's back-door.
When he heard the great clock of St. Genevieve chime
He ran up the back staircase six steps at a time.
He had scarce made his bow, He hardly knew how,
When alas! and alack! There was no getting back,
For the drawing-room door was bang'd to with a whack; --
In vain he applied To the handle and tried,
Somebody or other had lock'd it outside!
And the Duchess in agony mourn'd her mishap,
'We are caught like a couple of rats in a trap.'

Now the Duchess's Page, About twelve years of age,
For so little a boy was remarkably sage;
And just in the nick, to their joy and amazement,
Popp'd the Gas-lighter's ladder close under the casement.
But all would not do, -- Though St. Megrin got through
The window, -- below stood De Guise and his crew,
And though never man was more brave than St. Megrin,
Yet fighting a score is extremely fatiguing;
He thrust carte and tierce Uncommonly fierce,
But not Beelzebub's self could their cuirasses pierce;
While his doublet and hose, Being holiday clothes,
Were soon cut through and through from his knees to his nose;
Still an old crooked sixpence the Conjurer gave him,
From pistol and sword was sufficient to save him;
But when beat on his knees, That confounded De Guise
Came behind with the 'fogle' that caused all this breeze,
Whipp'd it tight round his neck, and when backward he'd jerk'd him,
The rest of the rascals jump'd on him and Burk'd him.
The poor little Page, too, himself got no quarter, but
Was served the same way, And was found the next day
With his heels in the air, and his head in the water-butt;
Catherine of Cleves Roar'd 'Murder!' and 'Thieves!'
From the window above While they murder'd her love;
Till, finding the rogues had accomplish'd his slaughter,
She drank Prussic acid without any water,
And died like a Duke-and-a-Duchess's daughter!


Take warning, ye fair, from this tale of the Bard's,
And don't go where fortunes are told on the cards,
But steer clear of Conjurers, -- never put query
To 'Wise Mrs. Williams,' or folks like Ruggieri.
When alone in your room shut the door close, and lock it!
Lest you too should stumble, and Lord Leveson Gower, he
Be call'd on, -- sad poet! -- to tell your sad story!

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