Page images
PDF
EPUB

JOHN PHILIPS. 1676–1708.

THE SPLENDID SHILLING.

66

'Sing, heavenly Muse! Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme,”

A shilling, breeches, and chimeras dire. HAPPY the man, who, void of cares and strife, In silken or in leather purse retains A splendid shilling: he nor hears with pain New oysters cried, nor sighs for cheerful ale ; But with his friends, when nightly mists arise, To Juniper's Magpie or Town Hall* repairs ; Where, mindful of the nymph whose wanton eye Transfix'd his soul and kindled amorous flames, Chloe or Phillis, he each circling glass Wisheth her health, and joy, and equal love. Meanwhile he smokes and laughs at merry tale, Or pun ambiguous, or conundrum quaint. But I, whom griping penury surrounds, And Hunger, sure attendant upon Want, With scanty offals and small acid tiff (Wretched repast !) my meager corpse sustain : Then solitary walk, or doze at home In garret vile, and with a warming puff Regale chill'd fingers : or from tube as black As winter-chimney or well-polish'd jet, Exhale mundungus, ill-perfuming scent: Not blacker tube, nor of a shorter size, Smokes Cambro-Briton (versed in pedigree, Sprung from Cadwallador and Arthur, kings Full famous in romantic tale) when he, O'er many a craggy hill and barren cliff, Upon a cargo of famed Cestrian cheese, High over-shadowing rides, with a design To vend his wares, or at the Arvonian mart,

* Two noted alehouses in Oxford, 1700.

Or Maridunum, or the ancient town
Yclep'd Brechinia, or where Vaga's stream
Encircles Ariconium, fruitful soil !
Whence flow nectareous wines, that well may vie
With Massic, Setin, or renown'd Falern.

Thus, while my joyless minutes tedious flow,
With looks demure and silent pace, a Dun,
Horrible monster! hated by gods and men,
To my aërial citadel ascends,
With vocal heel thrice thundering at my gate,
With hideous accent thrice he calls; I know
The voice ill-boding, and the solemn sound.
What should I do? or whither turn? Amazed,
Confounded, to the dark recess I fly
Of woodhole; straight my bristling hairs erect
Through sudden fear; a chilly sweat bedews
My shuddering limbs, and (wonderful to tell !)
My tongue forgets her faculty of speech:
So horrible he seems! His faded brow,
Intrench'd with many a frown, and conic beard,
And spreading band, admired by modern saints,
Disastrous acts forbode ; in his right hand
Long scrolls of paper solemnly he waves,
With characters and figures dire inscribed,
Grievous to mortal eyes (ye gods, avert
Such plagues from righteous men!). Behind him
Another monster, not unlike himself, [stalks
Sullen of aspect, by the vulgar call'd
A catchpole, whose polluted hands the gods,
With force incredible and magic charms,
First have endued : if he his ample palm
Should haply on ill-fated shoulder lay
Of debtor, straight his body, to the touch
Obsequious (as whilom knights were wont),
To some enchanted castle is convey'd,
Where gates impregnable and coercive chains
In durance strict detain him, till, in form
Of money, Pallas sets the captive free.

Beware, ye debtors ! when ye walk, beware,

Be circumspect; oft with insidious ken
The caitiff eyes your steps aloof, and oft
Lies perdue in a nook or gloomy cave,
Prompt to enchant some inadvertent wretch
With his unhallow'd touch. So (poets sing)
Grimalkin, to domestic vermin sworn
An everlasting foe, with watchful eye
Lies nightly brooding o'er a chinky gap,
Protending her fell claws, to thoughtless mice
Sure ruin. So her disembowell'd web
Arachne, in a hall or kitchen, spreads
Obvious to vagrant flies: she secret stands
Within her woven cell : the humming prey,
Regardless of their fate, rush on the toils
Inextricable, nor will aught avail
Their arts, or arms, or shapes of lovely hue;
The wasp insidious, and the buzzing drone,
And butterfly, proud of expanded wings
Distinct with gold, entangled in her snares,
Useless resistance make; with eager strides,
She towering flies to her expected spoils ;
Then, with envenom'd jaws, the vital blood
Drinks of reluctant foes, and to her cave
Their bulky carcasses triumphant drags.

So pass my days. But when nocturnal shades
This world envelop, and th' inclement air
Persuades men to repel benumbing frosts
With pleasant wines and crackling blaze of wood;
Me, lonely sitting, nor the glimmering light
Of make-weight candle, nor the joyous talk
Of loving friend, delights : distress'd, forlorn,
Amid the horrors of the tedious night,
Darkling I sigh, and feed with dismal thoughts
My anxious mind: or sometimes mournful verse
Indite, and sing of groves and myrtle shades,
Or desperate lady near a purling stream,
Or lover pendant on a willow-tree.
Meanwhile I labour with eternal drought,
And restless wish, and rave; my parched throat

a

Finds no ́relief, nor heavy eyes repose :
But if a slumber haply does invade
My weary limbs, my fancy's still awake,
Thoughtful of drink, and eager, in a dream,
Tipples imaginary pots of ale
In vain; awake, I find the settled thirst
Still gnawing, and the pleasant phantom curse.

Thus do I live, from pleasure quite debarr'd,
Nor taste the fruits that the sun's genial rays
Mature, john-apple, nor the downy peach,
Nor walnut in rough-furrow'd coat secure,
Nor medlar, fruit delicious in decay;
Afflictions great! yet greater still remain :
My galligaskins, that have long withstood
The winter's fury and encroaching frosts,
By time subdued (what will not time subdue !),
A horrid chasm disclosed with orifice
Wide, discontinuous; at which the winds
Eurus and Auster, and the dreadful force
Of Boreas, that congeals the Cronian waves,
Tumultuous enter with dire chilling blasts,
Portending agues. Thus a well-fraught ship
Long sail'd secure, or through th' Ægean deep,
Or the Ionian, till cruising near
The Lilybean shore, with hideous crush
On Scylla or Charybdis (dangerous rocks !)
She strikes rebounding ; whence the shatter'd oak,
So fierce a shock unable to withstand,
Admits the sea : in at the gaping side
The crowding wavęs gush with impetuous rage,
Resistless, overwhelming; horrors seize
The mariners ; Death in their eyes appears ; [pray:
They stare, they lave, they pump, they swear, they
(Vain efforts !) still the battering waves rush in,
Implacable, till, deluged by the foam,
The ship sinks foundering in the vast abyss.

VOL. I.-T

JOSEPH ADDISON. 1672–1719.

A LETTER FROM ITALY.

1

“ Salve magna parens frugum Saturnia tellus,
Magna virûm! tibi res antiquæ laudis et artis
Aggredior, sanctos ausus recludere fontes."

Virg., Georg., ii.
While you, my lord, the rural shades admire,
And from Britannia's public posts retire,
Nor longer, her ungrateful sons to please,
For their advantage sacrifice your ease;
Me into foreign realms my fate conveys
Through nations fruitful of immortal lays,
Where the soft season and inviting clime
Conspire to trouble your repose with rhyme.

For wheresoe'er I turn my ravish'd eyes,
Gay gilded scenes and shining prospects rise,
Poetic fields encompass me around,
And still I seem to tread on classic ground;
For here the Muse so oft her harp has strung,
That not a mountain rears its head unsung,
Renown'd in verse each shady thicket grows,
And every stream in heavenly numbers flows.

How am I pleased to search the hills and woods
For rising springs and celebrated floods !
To view the Nar, tumultuous in his course,
And trace the smooth Clitumnus to his source;
To see the Mincio draw his watery store,
Through the long windings of a fruitful shore;
And hoary Albula's infected tide
O'er the warm bed of smoking sulphur glide.

Fired with a thousand raptures, I survey Eridanus through flowery meadows stray, The king of floods! that, rolling o'er the plains, The towering Alps of half their moisture drains, And proudly swoln with a whole winter's snows, Distributes wealth and plenty where he flows.

« PreviousContinue »