Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, STANZAS TO PUNCHINELLO, by HORACE SMITH



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STANZAS TO PUNCHINELLO, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Thou lignum-vitae roscius, who
Last Line: First of head-breaking and side-splitting actors!
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Horatio
Subject(s): Actors & Actresses; Death; Faces; Youth; Dead, The


THOU lignum-vitae Roscius, who
Dost the old vagrant stage renew,
Peerless, inimitable, Punchinello!
The Queen of smiles is quite out-done
By thee, all-glorious king of fun,
Thou grinning, giggling, laugh-extorting fellow!

At other times mine ear is wrung
Whene'er I hear the trumpet's tongue,
Waking associations melancholic;
But that which heralds thee recalls
All childhood's joys and festivals,
And makes the heart rebound with freak and frolic.

Ere of thy face I get a snatch,
Oh! with what boyish glee I catch
Thy twittering, cackling, bubbling, squeaking gibber --
Sweeter than syren voices -- fraught
With richer merriment than aught
That drops from witling mouths, though uttered glibber.

What way was ever known before
To keep the circle in a roar,
Nor wound the feelings of a single hearer!
Engrossing all the jibes and jokes,
Unenvied by the duller folks,
A harmless wit -- an unmalignant jeerer.

The upturned eyes I love to trace
Of wondering mortals, when their face
Is all alive with an expectant gladness;
To mark the flickering giggle first,
The growing grin -- the sudden burst,
And universal shout of merry madness.

I love those sounds to analyse,
From childhood's shrill ecstatic cries,
To age's chuckle with its coughing after;
To see the grave and the genteel
Rein awhile the mirth they feel,
Then loose their muscles, and let out the laughter.

Sometimes I note a henpecked wight
Enjoying thy marital might,
To him a beatific beau ideal;
He counts each crack on Judy's pate,
Then homeward creeps to cogitate
The difference 'twixt dramatic wives and real.

But, Punch, thou'rt ungallant and rude,
In plying thy persuasive wood;
Remember that thy cudgel's girth is fuller
Than that compassionate, thumb-thick,
Established wife-compelling stick,
Made legal by the dictum of Judge Buller.

When the officious doctor hies
To cure thy spouse, there's no surprise;
Thou should'st receive him with nose-tweaking grappling;
Nor can we wonder that the mob
Encores each crack upon his nob,
When thou art feeing him with oaken sapling.

As for our common enemy,
Old Nick, we all rejoice to see
The coup de grace that silences his wrangle;
But, lo! Jack Ketch! -- ah, welladay!
Dramatic justice claims its prey,
And thou in hempen handkerchief must dangle.

Now helpless hang those arms which once
Rattled such music on the sconce;
Hushed is that tongue which late out-jested Yorick;
That hunch behind is shrugged no more,
No longer heaves the paunch before,
Which wagged with such a pleasantry plethorick.

But Thespian deaths are transient woes,
And still less durable are those
Suffered by lignum-vitae malefactors;
Thou wilt return alert, alive,
And long, oh long mayest thou survive,
First of head-breaking and side-splitting actors!





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