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The following little Pieces, by Charles Lamb, printed in the Athenæum of January 10, 1846, are stated to have been extracted from Albums or Scrap-Books, and to have been theretofore unpublished.
ON BEING ASKED TO WRITE IN MISS WESTWOOD'S ALBUM.
My feeble Muse, that fain her best would
Write, at command of Frances Westwood,
But feels her wits not in their best mood,
Fell lately on some idle fancies,
As she 's much given to romances,
About this selfsame style of Frances ;
Which seems to be a name in common
Attributed to man or woman.
She thence contrived this flattering moral,
With which she hopes no soul will quarrel,
That she whom this twin title decks,
Combines what 's good in either sex ;
Unites—how very rare the case is ! -
Masculine sense to female graces :
And quitting not her proper rank,
Is both in one
-Fanny and Frank.
Oct. 12, 1827.
THE FIRST LEAF OF SPRING.
WRITTEN ON THE FIRST LEAP OF A LADY'S ALBUM,
Thou fragile, filmy, gossamery thing,
First leaf of spring!
At every lightest breath that quakest,
And with a zephyr shakest ;
Scarce stout enough to hold thy slender form together
In calmest halcyon weather ;
Next sister to the web that spiders weave
Poor flutterers to deceive
Into their treacherous silken bed:
0! how art thou sustain’d, how nourished ?
All trivial as thou art,
Thou playest a mighty part,
And art the herald to a throng
Of buds, blooms, fruit,
That shall thy cracking branches sway,
While birds on every spray
Shall pay the copious fruitage with a sylvan song.
So 'tis with thee, whoe'er on thee shall look,
First leaf of this beginning modest book.
Slender thou art, God knowest,
And little grace bestowest,
But in thy train shall follow after
Wit, wisdom, seriousness in hand with laughter ;
Provoking jests, restraining soberness,
In their appropriate dress;
And I shall joy to be outdone
By those who brighter trophies won;
Without a grief
That I thy slender promise have begun,
CHARLES LAMB. 1832.
The midnight hour has passed away, and yet
The Queen of Night still holds her starry court;
The tangled clouds sail swiftly by,—and now
She bathes the city in a flood of light !
Far other than the proud and garish day,
Like Charity, her mild and gentle beams
Soften, or hide, each rude and broken line;
Prisons and Palaces! And stately domes,
And hovels mean!
The dreaming poet loves
To muse 'mid shady groves, and by the side
Of clear and murmuring streams; but rather here
May Contemplation find its food, and dwell
On man—God's latest and most wondrous work.
And thou, proud River, I can scarcely heed
That on thy shores where thou dost wander ’mid
The green and smiling fields,—the shepherd lays
His crook and slumbers in the noonday heat:
For from the stream which flows like molten lead
Beneath the moonbeams, I behold a grove
Of masts against the starry sky. The wealth,
The argosies of princely merchants here,
That to the ear of fancy whispers tales
Of far off climes, and England's power and pride.
Yon stately vessel only waits the dawn
To raise aloft her snowy sails that then
Shall bear her “like a thing of life” away,
Though now she rests like a fond child upon
A doting mother's breast. And all is still,
Save the soft ripple of the rising tide.
Thou gorgeous city of our pride and love!
But yonder Abbey wakens other thoughts-
The hearts of kings, and statesmen, warriors, bards,
Lie there entomb'd—the Mighty of the Earth,
The dust for rolling centuries revered,
And they the honoured of a recent age.
He of the rude, untaught, unletter'd mind,
Innately great, beside the darling child
Of arts advanced, and years more wonderful !
In this alike the lesson which they teach
That death shall level all. And yet methinks,
It is a soul-inspiring thought to lure
The adventurous spirit on to noble deeds,
The thought that all which ever did belong
To earth, perchance, shall rest beside the good
And great; while faithful records shall enshrine
The subtler part within the grateful hearts
Of future unborn ages.
Turn we now
To yon large gloomy pile—the abode of guilt
And wretchedness. Yet virtue stays to weep;
For she is all too wise and pure to fear
That tears, e'en for the guilty, e'er can stain
One dazzling fold in which herself is wrapt.
Oh! virtue stern and cold were liker far
A statue, than the warm and breathing form
Which mortals long to clasp! Alas she knows
The tempter's power which comes in equal strength,
Though varied guise, unto the silken couch
And pallet rude,—and though she dares not touch
The scale of Justice, turns aside to weep!
Mark you the faint and glimmering light which falls
From yonder casement dim? Is it the watch
Untiring love still keeps beside the bed
Of death or sickness ? or doth there the young
Aspiring student seek to hive the store,
The golden priceless store, from wisdom's page ?
Or doth an aching heart forbid the eye
To close ? Imagination quickly weaves
A thousand unsubstantial webs, -and now
The sleeping city in its hush'd repose,
Looks like the phantom of its waking self!
There is a burst of revelry that breaks
Upon the solemn stillness of the hour,
But near the boisterous crew which homeward wends
Gaunt famine stalks, and holds the shrivelled hand,
Ah, yes ! they turn, the homeless wretch relieve.
I cannot hear her low and broken words,
But they, the young and gay, are silent now,-
The chord of sympathy by pity waked
Has dull'd their selfish mirth,
But morning breaks
In all its glory. See! the silver moon
Has doff'd her shining crown, and all the stars
That made the sky a jewell'd mirror, melt
In the pale azure of the early dawn.
Man wakes again to joy, and peace, and hope,
Day.dreams, and bright reality,--to toil,
Or ease and luxury-alas, as well
To pain and sin, to care and suffering !
“ HOW THEY BROUGHT THE GOOD NEWS FROM
GHENT TO AIX."
I. I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and He, I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all Three ; “Good speed !” cried the watch as the gate-bolts undrew“ Speed " echoed the wall to us galloping through ; Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest, And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Not a word to each other, we kept the great pace
Neck by neck, stride for stride, never changing our place ;
I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit,
Nor galloped less steadily Rowland a whit.
'Twas moonset at starting ; but while we drew near
Lokeren, the cocks crew, and twilight dawned clear ;
At Boom a great yellow star came out to see ;
At Duffield, 'twas morning as plain as could be ;
And from Mecheln's church-steeple we heard the half chime,
So Joris broke silence with “ Yet there is time!”
At Aerschot, up leaped, of a sudden, the sun,
And against him the cattle stood black every one,
To stare thro' the mist at us galloping past,
And I saw my stout galloper, Rowland, at last
With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The baze as some bluff river headland its spray.
And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track ;
And one eye's black intelligence,—ever that glance
O'er the white edge at me, his own master, askance !
And the thick heavy spume-flakes, which aye and anon,
His fierce lips shook upward in galloping on.
By Hassalt, Dirck groaned, and cried Joris, “Stay spur,
Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault 's not in her,
We'll remember at Aix”—for one heard the quick wheeze
Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees,
And sunk tail and horrible heave of the flank,
As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.
So left were we galloping, Joris and I,
Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky ;
The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
’Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff,
Till over by Dalhem a dome spire sprang white,
And "Gallop," gasped Joris, " for Aix is in sight!”