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POSTHUMOUS TALES: TALE 5. VILLARS, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: Know you the fate of villars?
Last Line: And love regain'd his subject and his throne.

Poet. KNOW you the fate of Villars? --
Friend. What! the lad
At school so fond of solitude, and sad;
Who broke our bounds because he scorn'd a guide,
And would walk lonely by the river's side?
P. The same! -- who rose at midnight to behold
The moon beams shedding their ethereal gold;
Who held our sports and pleasures in disgrace,
For Guy of Warwick, and old Chevy Chase. --
F. Who sought for friendships, gave his generous heart
To every boy who chose to act the part;
Or judged he felt it -- not aware that boys
Have poor conceit of intellectual joys:
Theirs is no season for superfluous friends,
And none they need, but those whom Nature lends.
P. But he, too, loved? --
F. Oh! yes: his friend betray'd
The tender passion for the angel-maid.
Some child whose features he at church had seen,
Became his bosom's and his fancy's queen;
Some favourite look was on his mind impress'd --
His warm and fruitful fondness gave the rest.
P. He left his father? --
F. Yes! and rambled round
The land on foot -- I know not what he found.
Early he came to his paternal land,
And took the course he had in rambling plann'd.
Ten years we lost him: he was then employ'd
In the wild schemes that he, perhaps, enjoy'd.
His mode of life, when he to manhood grew,
Was all his own -- its shape disclosed to few.
Our grave, stern dames, who know the deeds of all,
Say that some damsels owe to him their fall;
And, though a Christian in his creed profess'd,
He had some heathen notions in his breast.
Yet we may doubt; for women, in his eyes,
Were high and glorious, queens and deities;
But he, perhaps, adorer and yet man,
Transgress'd yet worshipp'd. There are those who can.
Near him a Widow's mansion he survey'd --
The lovely mother of a lovelier Maid;
Not great their wealth; though they were proud to claim
Alliance with a house of noblest name.
Now, had I skill, I would right fain devise
To bring the highborn spinster to your eyes.
I could discourse of lip, and chin, and cheek,
But you would see no picture as I speak.
Such colours cannot -- mix them as I may --
Paint you this nymph -- We'll try a different way.
First take Calista in her glowing charms,
E'er yet she sank within Lothario's arms,
Endued with beauties ripe, and large desires,
And all that feels delight, and that inspires;
Add Cleopatra's great, yet tender soul,
Her boundless pride, her fondness of control,
Her daring spirit, and her wily art,
That, though it tortures, yet commands the heart;
Add woman's anger for a lover's slight,
And the revenge, that insult will excite;
Add looks for veils, that she at will could wear,
As Juliet fond, as Imogen sincere, --
Like Portia grave, sententious, and design'd
For high affairs, or gay as Rosalind --
Catch, if you can, some notion of the dame,
And let Matilda serve her for a name.
Think next how Villars saw th' enchanting maid,
And how he loved, pursued, adored, obey'd --
Obey'd in all, except the dire command,
No more to dream of that bewitching hand.
His love provoked her scorn, his wealth she spurn'd,
And frowns for praise, contempt for prayer return'd;
But, proud yet shrewd, the wily sex despise
The would-be husband -- yet the votary prize.
As Roman conquerors, of their triumph vain,
Saw humbled monarchs in their pompous train,
Who, when no more they swell'd the show of pride,
In secret sorrow'd, or in silence died;
So, when our friend adored the Beauty's shrine,
She mark'd the act, and gave the nod divine;
And strove with scatter'd smiles, yet scarcely strove,
To keep the lover, while she scorn'd his love.
These, and his hope, the doubtful man sustain'd;
For who that loves believes himself disdain'd? --
Each look, each motion, by his fondness read,
Became Love's food, and greater fondness bred;
The pettiest favour was to him the sign
Of secret love, and said, 'I'll yet be thine!'
One doleful year she held the captive swain,
Who felt and cursed, and wore and bless'd, the chain;
Who pass'd a thousand galling insults by,
For one kind glance of that ambiguous eye.
P. Well! time, perhaps, might to the coldest heart
Some gentle thought of one so fond impart;
And pride itself has often favour shown
To what it governs, and can call its own.
F. Thus were they placed, when to the village came
That lordly stranger, whom I need not name;
Known since too well, but then as rich and young,
Untried his prowess, and his crimes unsung.
Smooth was his speech, and show'd a gentle mind,
Deaf to his praise, and to his merits blind;
But raised by woman's smile, and pleased with all mankind.
At humble distance he this fair survey'd,
Read her high temper, yet adored the Maid;
Far off he gazed, as if afraid to meet,
Or show the hope her anger would defeat:
Awful his love, and kept a guarded way,
Afraid to venture, till it finds it may.
And soon it found! nor could the Lady's pride
Her triumph bury, or her pleasure hide.
And jealous Love, that ever looks to spy
The dreaded wandering of a lady's eye,
Perceived with anguish, that the prize long sought
A sudden rival from his hopes had caught.
Still Villars loved; at length, in strong despair,
O'er-tortured passion thus preferr'd its prayer: --
'Life of my life! at once my fate decree --
I wait my death, or more than life, from thee:
I have no arts, nor powers, thy soul to move,
But doting constancy, and boundless love;
This is my all: had I the world to give,
Thine were its throne -- now bid me die or live!'
'Or die or live' -- the gentle Lady cried --
'As suits thee best; that point thyself decide,
But if to death thou hast thyself decreed,
Then like a man perform the manly deed;
The well-charged pistol to the ear apply,
Make loud report, and like a hero die:
Let rogues and rats on ropes and poison seize --
Shame not thy friends by petty death like these;
Sure we must grieve at what thou think'st to do,
But spare us blushes for the manner too!'
Then with inviting smiles she turn'd aside,
Allay'd his anger, and consoled his pride.
Oft had the fickle fair beheld with scorn
The unhappy man bewilder'd and forlorn,
Then with one softening glance of those bright eyes
Restored his spirit, and dispersed his sighs.
Oft had I seen him on the lea below,
As feelings moved him, walking quick or slow:
Now a glad thought, and now a doleful came,
And he adored or cursed the changeful dame,
Who was to him as cause is to effect --
Poor tool of pride, perverseness, and neglect!
Upon thy rival were her thoughts bestow'd,
Ambitious love within her bosom glow'd;
And oft she wish'd, and strong was her desire,
The Lord could love her like the faithful Squire;
But she was rivall'd in that noble breast --
He loved her passing well, but not the best,
For self reign'd there: but still he call'd her fair,
And woo'd the Muse his passion to declare.
His verses all were flaming, all were fine;
With sweetness, nay with sense, in every line --
Not as Lord Byron would have done the thing,
But better far than lords are used to sing.
It pleased the Maid, and she, in very truth,
Loved, in Calista's love, the noble youth;
Not like sweet Juliet, with that pure delight,
Fond and yet chaste, enraptur'd and yet right;
Not like the tender Imogen, confined
To one, but one! the true, the wedded mind;
True, one preferr'd our sighing nymph as these,
But thought not, like them, one alone could please.
Time pass'd, nor yet the youthful peer proposed
To end his suit, nor his had Villars closed
Fond hints the one, the other cruel bore;
That was more cautious, this was kind the more:
Both for soft moments waited -- that to take
Of these advantage; fairly this to make.
These moments came -- or so my Lord believed --
He dropp'd his mask; and both were undeceived.
She saw the vice that would no longer feign,
And he an angry beauty's pure disdain.
Villars that night had in my ear confess'd,
He thought himself her spaniel and her jest.
He saw his rival of his goddess sure,
'But then,' he cried, 'her virtue is secure;
Should he offend, I haply may obtain
The high reward of vigilance and pain;
Till then I take, and on my bended knee,
Scraps from the banquet, gleanings of the tree.'
Pitying, I smiled; for I had known the time
Of Love insulted -- constancy my crime.
Not thus our friend: for him the morning shone,
In tenfold glory, as for him alone;
He wept, expecting still reproof to meet,
And all that was not cruel count as sweet.
Back he return'd, all eagerness and joy,
Proud as a prince, and restless as a boy.
He sought to speak, but could not aptly find
Words for his use, they enter'd not his mind;
So full of bliss, that wonder and delight
Seem'd in those happy moments to unite.
He was like one who gains, but dreads to lose,
A prize that seems to vanish as he views:
And in his look was wildness and alarm --
Like a sad conjuror who forgets his charm,
And, when the demon at the call appears,
Cannot command the spirit for his fears:
So Villars seem'd by his own bliss perplex'd,
And scarcely knowing what would happen next.
But soon, a witness to their vows, I saw
The maiden his, if not by love, by law;
The bells proclaim'd it -- merry call'd by those
Who have no foresight of their neighbours' woes.
How proudly show'd the man his lovely bride,
Demurely pacing, pondering, at his side!
While all the loving maids around declared,
That faith and constancy deserved reward.
The baffled Lord retreated from the scene
Of so much gladness, with a world of spleen;
And left the wedded couple, to protest,
That he no fear, that she no love possess'd,
That all his vows were scorn'd, and all his hope a jest.
Then fell the oaks to let in light of day,
Then rose the mansion that we now survey,
Then all the world flock'd gaily to the scene
Of so much splendour, and its splendid queen;
But whether all within the gentle breast
Of him, of her, was happy or at rest, --
Whether no lonely sigh confess'd regret,
Was then unknown, and is a secret yet;
And we may think, in common duty bound,
That no complaint is made where none is found.
Then came the Rival to his villa down,
Lost to the pleasures of the heartless town;
Famous he grew, and he invited all
Whom he had known to banquet at the Hall;
Talk'd of his love, and said, with many a sigh,
''Tis death to lose her, and I wish to die.'
Twice met the parties; but with cool disdain
In her, in him with looks of awe and pain.
Villars had pity, and conceived it hard
That true regret should meet with no regard --
'Smile, my Matilda! virtue should inflict
No needless pain, nor be so sternly strict.'
The Hall was furnish'd in superior style,
And money wanted from our sister isle;
The lady-mother to the husband sued --
'Alas! that care should on our bliss intrude!
You must to Ireland; our possessions there
Require your presence, nay, demand your care.
My pensive daughter begs with you to sail;
But spare your wife, nor let the wish prevail.'
He went, and found upon his Irish land
Cases and griefs he could not understand.
Some glimmering light at first his prospect cheer'd --
Clear it was not, but would in time be clear'd;
But when his lawyers had their efforts made,
No mind in man the darkness could pervade;
'Twas palpably obscure: week after week
He sought for comfort, but was still to seek.
At length, impatient to return, he strove
No more with law, but gave the rein to love;
And to his Lady and their native shore
Vow'd to return, and thence to turn no more.
While yet on Irish ground in trouble kept,
The Husband's terrors in his toils had slept;
But he no sooner touch'd the British soil,
Than jealous terrors took the place of toil --
'Where has she been? and how attended? Who
Has watch'd her conduct, and will vouch her true?
She sigh'd at parting, but methought her sighs
Were more profound than would from nature rise;
And though she wept as never wife before,
Yet were her eyelids neither swell'd nor sore.
Her lady-mother has a good repute,
As watchful dragon of forbidden fruit;
Yet dragons sleep, and mothers have been known
To guard a daughter's secret as their own;
Nor can the absent in their travel see
How a fond wife and mother may agree.
'Suppose the lady is most virtuous! -- then,
What can she know of the deceits of men?
Of all they plan, she neither thinks nor cares;
But keeps, good lady! at her books and prayers.
'In all her letters there are love, respect,
Esteem, regret, affection, all correct --
Too much -- she fears that I should see neglect;
And there are fond expressions, but unlike
The rest, as meant to be observed and strike;
Like quoted words, they have the show of art,
And come not freely from the gentle heart --
Adopted words, and brought from memory's store,
When the chill faltering heart supplies no more:
'Tis so the hypocrite pretends to feel,
And speaks the words of earnestness and zeal.
'Hers was a sudden, though a sweet consent;
May she not now as suddenly repent?
My rival's vices drove him from her door;
But hates she vice as truly as before?
How do I know, if he should plead again,
That all her scorn and anger would remain?
'Oh! words of folly -- is it thus I deem
Of the chaste object of my fond esteem?
Away with doubt! to jealousy adieu!
I know her fondness, and believe her true.
'Yet why that haste to furnish every need,
And send me forth with comfort, and with speed?
Yes; for she dreaded that the winter's rage
And our frail hoy should on the seas engage.
'But that vile girl! I saw a treacherous eye
Glance on her mistress! so demure and sly,
So forward too -- and would Matilda's pride
Admit of that, if there was nought beside?'
Such, as he told me, were the doubt, the dread,
By jealous fears on observations fed.
Home he proceeded: there remain'd to him
But a few miles -- the night was wet and dim;
Thick, heavy dews descended on the ground,
And all was sad and melancholy round.
While thinking thus, an inn's far gleaming fire
Caused new emotions in the pensive Squire.
'Here I may learn, and seeming careless too,
If all is well, ere I my way pursue.
How fare you, landlord? -- how, my friend, are all? --
Have you not seen -- my people at the Hall?
Well, I may judge -- -- '
'Oh! yes, your Honour, well,
As Joseph knows; and he was sent to tell.' --
'How! sent -- I miss'd him -- Joseph, do you say?
Why sent, if well? -- I miss'd him on the way.'
There was a poacher on the chimney-seat,
A gipsy, conjuror, smuggler, stroller, cheat.
The Squire had fined him for a captured hare,
Whipp'd and imprison'd -- he had felt the fare,
And he remember'd: 'Will your Honour know
How does my Lady? that myself can show.
On Monday early -- for your Honour sees
The poor man must not slumber at his ease,
Nor must he into woods and coverts lurk,
Nor work alone, but must be seen to work:
'Tis not, your Honour knows, sufficient now
For us to live, but we must prove it -- how:
Stay, please your Honour, -- I was early up,
And forth without a morsel or a sup.
There was my Lady's carriage -- Whew! it drove
As if the horses had been spurr'd by Love.'
'A poet, John!' said Villars -- feebly said,
Confused with fear, and humbled and dismay'd --
'And where this carriage? -- but, my heart! enough --
Why do I listen to the villain's stuff? --
And where wert thou? and what the spur of thine,
That led thee forth? -- we surely may divine!'
'Hunger, your Honour! I and my poor wife
Have now no other in our wane of life.
Were Phoebe handsome, and were I a Squire,
I might suspect her, and young Lords admire.' --
'What! rascal -- -- ' -- 'Nay, your Honour, on my word,
I should be jealous of that fine young Lord;
Yet him my Lady in the carriage took,
But innocent -- I'd swear it on the book.'
'You villain, swear!' -- for still he wish'd to stay,
And hear what more the fellow had to say.
'Phoebe, said I, a rogue that had a heart
To do the deed would make his Honour smart --
Says Phoebe, wisely, "Think you, would he go,
If he were jealous, from my Lady? -- No."'
This was too much! poor Villars left the inn,
To end the grief that did but then begin.
'With my Matilda in the coach! -- what lies
Will the vile rascal in his spleen devise?
Yet this is true, that on some vile pretence
Men may entrap the purest innocence.
He saw my fears -- alas! I am not free
From every doubt -- but, no! it cannot be.'
Villarsmoved slow, moved quick, as check'd by fear,
Or urged by Love, and drew his mansion near.
Light burst upon him, yet he fancied gloom,
Nor came a twinkling from Matilda's room.
'What then? 'tis idle to expect that all
Should be produced at jealous fancy's call;
How! the park-gate wide open! who would dare
Do this, if her presiding glance were there?
But yet, by chance -- I know not what to think,
For thought is hell, and I'm upon the brink!
Not for a thousand worlds, ten thousand lives,
Would I -- -- Oh! what depends upon our wives!
Pains, labours, terrors, all would I endure,
Yes, all but this -- and this, could I be sure -- -- '
Just then a light within the window shone,
And show'd a lady, weeping and alone.
His heart beat fondly -- on another view,
It beat more strongly, and in terror too --
It was his Sister! -- and there now appear'd
A servant creeping like a man that fear'd.
He spoke with terror -- 'Sir, did Joseph tell?
Have you not met him?' --
'Is your Lady well?'
'Well? Sir -- your Honour -- -- '
'Heaven and earth! what mean
Your stupid questions? I have nothing seen,
Nor heard, nor know, nor -- Do, good Thomas, speak!
Your mistress -- -- '
'Sir, has gone from home a week --
My Lady, Sir, your sister -- -- '
But, too late
Was this -- my Friend had yielded to his fate.
He heard the truth, became serene and mild,
Patient and still, as a corrected child;
At once his spirit with his fortune fell
To the last ebb, and whisper'd -- It is well.
Such was his fall; and grievous the effect!
From henceforth all things fell into neglect --
The mind no more alert, the form no more erect.
Villars long since, as he indulged his spleen
By lonely travel on the coast, had seen
A large old mansion suffer'd to decay
In some law-strife, and slowly drop away.
Dark elms around the constant herons bred,
Those the marsh dykes, the neighbouring ocean, fed;
Rocks near the coast no shipping would allow,
And stubborn heath around forbade the plough;
Dull must the scene have been in years of old,
But now was wildly dismal to behold --
One level sadness! marsh, and heath, and sea,
And, save these high dark elms, nor plant nor tree.
In this bleak ruin Villars found a room,
Square, small, and lofty -- seat of grief and gloom:
A sloping skylight on the white wall threw,
When the sun set, a melancholy hue;
The Hall of Vathek has a room so bare,
So small, so sad, so form'd to nourish care.
'Here,' said the Traveller, 'all so dark within,
And dull without, a man might mourn for sin,
Or punish sinners -- here a wanton wife
And vengeful husband might be cursed for life.'
His mind was now in just that wretched state,
That deems Revenge our right, and crime our fate.
All other views he banish'd from his soul,
And let this tyrant vex him and control;
Life he despised, and had that Lord defied,
But that he long'd for Vengeance e'er he died.
The law he spurn'd, the combat he declined,
And to his purpose all his soul resign'd.
Full fifteen months had pass'd, and we began
To have some hope of the returning man;
Now to his steward of his small affairs
He wrote, and mention'd leases and repairs
But yet his soul was on its scheme intent,
And but a moment to his interest lent.
His faithless wife and her triumphant peer
Despised his vengeance, and disdain'd to fear;
In splendid lodgings near the town they dwelt,
Nor fears from wrath, nor threats from conscience felt.
Long time our friend had watch'd, and much had paid
For vulgar minds, who lent his vengeance aid.
At length one evening, late returning home,
Thoughtless and fearless of the ills to come,
The Wife was seized, when void of all alarm,
And vainly trusting to a footman's arm;
Death in his hand, the Husband stood in view,
Commanding silence, and obedience too;
Forced to his carriage, sinking at his side,
Madly he drove her -- Vengeance was his guide.
All in that ruin Villars had prepared,
And meant her fate and sorrow to have shared;
There he design'd they should for ever dwell,
The weeping pair of a monastic cell.
An ancient couple from their cottage went,
Won by his pay, to this imprisonment;
And all was order'd in his mind -- the pain
He must inflict, the shame she must sustain;
But such his gentle spirit, such his love,
The proof might fail of all he meant to prove.
Features so dear had still maintain'd their sway,
And looks so loved had taught him to obey;
Rage and Revenge had yielded to the sight
Of charms that waken wonder and delight;
The harsher passions from the heart had flown,
And LOVE regain'd his Subject and his Throne.

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