« AnteriorContinuar »
exit. The waterman and the veteran gave some pretty hard rubs, while Ned and myself found our satire would be thrown away on such an apology .for a man.
* Poor devil !" whispered Ned to the maiden at his side, “he looks as if he had escaped from one calamitous death to meet with another more severe : 'tis really too bad of you; no sooner has he escaped from drowning, but what you must begin to roast him alive !"
This ' romantic incident occupied our thought and conversation until we arrived at Greenwich; when, the ladies not finding their brothers where they did not expect to meet them, consented to employ the idle arms of Ned and your bumble servant, and in this manner we sallied to the Fair. And here a scene awaited our wondering eyes, that fully repaid us for the distance and dangers we had encountered and undergone. To one like myself, accustomed to nothing but gloom and monotony, it was doubly gratifying. Look where you would, there was nothing to be seen but joyous faces. Youths, with their lasses, bounded by us with buoyant steps and merry eyes; and all, near and afar off, seemed to be divided into two classes, and actuated by a double principle—to be happy, and to make happy !-the one to empty their purses, the other to fill theirs.
The spirit of joy scon entered my veins--and for what? I could see nothing there that could gratify a taste, accustomed to enjoyments more intellectual and refined. What were to me all Mr. Gyngell's conjurations, or the bewitch*ing grimaces of Mr. Richardson's fool, which formed the centre of attraction for all the gaping bumpkins and adventurous citizens in the fair. Alas! Mr. Paap, little as he was, had for me not the smallest charms: nor did the Swiss Giantess, like the immortal Portia, “towering above her sex," although undoubtedly in herself a very great curiosity, excite in me the least.
No, the freshness of my heart's young spring had long since been withered up in the pursuit of harsh and abstract studies. Its energies had been cramped from the effect of inspirations-not at the fountain of Hippo crene- but by one far less romantic, though not less dear the venerable spout of Garden Court, Inner Temple. I could, therefore, only account for my hilarity by supposing, that happiness, like misery, is infectious. Having seen all that we could see (for nothing), we went to the park, where new pleasures awaited us. "Let them talk as they will of the cockneys," cried Ned, with enthusiasm, “if they admire Greenwich Park, they have no need to read Burke on the Sublime and Beautiful." It was indeed de lightful; the sky was cloudless, and for the season of the year, unusually brilliant: as if a Higher Power loved to contribute towards the happiness of his children. And the mild and cherishing beams of the sun, who seemed on this occasion to put forth his most gladdening aspect, shedding light and life on a scene, which would be darkness and sorrow without him. In short, Nature, as if to be in keeping with the scene, had dressed herself in her holiday apparel, and I thought I had never seen her look so lovely before.
It was here that England's Maiden Queen coquetted with those gallants of old, the Sydneys and Raleighs. It was here that the Chevalier performed that stroke of gallantry, of making his velvet cloak a clean passage for the feet of his Royal Mistress, and also towards his own fortune! Could I retread the spot without feeling a glow of that chivalrous feeling, which warmed his breast, and wishing
myself another Raleigh, with an Élizabeth at my side, for whose Royal feet I might perform a similar service? In
short, from a dull, calculating being, I became just as buoyant and light: hearted a sprite as ever Whit-sun shone upon.
The galaxy of attraction seemed to be the foot of a hill, which many gay youths and maidens attempted in vain to ascend, invariably rolling down again as soon as they had reached half-way. They reminded me very closely of the general fate of those youthful aspirants, who endeavour to climb a certain other hill, more inviting, and seemingly less inaccessible, and which hill, gentle reader--if you have not yet found it outis, Parnassus.
Among the feminine part of the assembly there seemed an amiable rivalry, who could display the prettiest apcle :: and, ah! if they did not blush, I am sure I did for them, for I thought it was also a contest among them to show, whose swain had presented her with the smartest garters ! The hazel-eyes seemed quite shocked at the want of decorum some of her sex displayed, and to save her blushes, and my eyes, we hastened from the unballowed spot. When we had reached the top of the hill, the view amply repaid me for all the enticements we had resigned in its favour. The Surrey hills in the rear, clothed with verdure, looked with a kind of motherly air on the country around us. · At our feet ran old Father Thames, bearing many a noble vessel on his broad bosom. To the left, where St. Paul's, in all its glory, divided the obscure clouds, peering boldly above the pigmy steeples around it, was London." And thot, great source of wealth, honour, infamy, and crime”-I had already uttered, when a smart push in my back put an end to this promising soliloquy, to my indeseribable terror, and, doubtless, to the reader's satisfaction. I was off my legs in an instant, and experienced one of the most delightful tumbles it was ever the fate of man to enduré. Down I rolled, through bramble and brier, to the anspeakable damage of my nankeens, and at last fell, not only against my inclination, but also a regiment of ginger-beer bottles, some of whom, as if to welcome my arrival, spurted forth their contents most profusely over my unfortunate person. As soon as I could open my eyes, I was forced, from modesty's sake, to close them: for what shonld I see but my luckless companion-the hazel-eyes-following my example with the utmost celerity. A gentle breeze, as if to aecelerate her progress, had sprung up ; and her frock, or some other part of her dress, the name of which I forget, formed a sail, which was soon extended in the air, and displayed-Oh! I shall never forget-one of the prettiest-made legs on which I ever gazed or made versés. On looking up for the cause of this pleasantry, half a dozen merry girls, who seemed to make light of my misfortunes, convinced me that Greenwich Park, on a Fairday, was not a fit place for making soliloquies.
The day was now fast wearing away, and a sombre twilight gleamed through the avenues formed by the trees, when our fair companions, who had not yet found their brothers, thought it time to leave the joyous scene. Accordingly, being foiled in our desire of obtaining any other conveyance, the young ladies consented to waive their scruples, and venture once more in the same conveyance that brought us there. The last one was just putting off, with a complement of seven lively souls, and what is more, as many substantial bodies, already seated. Having Hobson's choice, regard. less of the risk we were running, we consented to make up the eleven. Already within an inch or two of the water, our friend the boat-man disVol. 1. 25.
covered we wanted another to balance the vessel. A ponderous citizen, and his no less respectable wife, who, judging from the alteration they made in the boat, I should have imagined were of much weight in the city, as undoubtedly they were every where else, consented to make up the deficiency. Without more delay, we set forward, and although some of the ladies were perpetually assuring us the boat was upsetting, we reached nearly half way without any accident occurring; when, I verily believe, as a matter of pique that they should not be again disappointed, our pilots managed to come in contact with a vessel, the darkness of the night preventing our seeing her, she having no lights. A general scream was the first intimation I received, followed by a volley of oaths, and “Keep your seats," from the watermen. Disregarding this friendly advice, all simultaneously rose, and a cold bath, more refreshing than agreeable, immediately made known to us the consequence. I must confess, at the moment I thought it was all over with us; though, were we in any
other situation, I am sure the scene would have made one, far more stoical than myself, burst his sides. The citizen was foundering about, half in and half out of the water, like a huge turtle ; while his cara sposa had, as the only thing she could cling to, got fast hold of his pig-tail. At the moment, I do most conscientiously affirm, he thought she was the Evil One, and that for once the devil had got his due. Spare me! O, spare me!” he ejaculated most fervently. One of the watermen, in endeavouring to succour a child, had each of his legs seized on by different girls; while the rest of the passengers were employed in screaming, praying, swearing, and fainting, creating such a variety of sounds, as to defy Babel itself. By this time a number of boats had come up, and, upon a general muster, (God be praised !) we found that all was right. Most of us were pretty well frightened and soaked : with this exception, and the loss of a few fairings, wigs, and handkerchiefs, no other damage had ensued. The whole party, like a troop of Naiads, dripping in all directions, made the best of our way to a public-house, where a good fire and change of linen, plenty of jokes, and a quantum suff. of brandy, put us in rather better humour than might have been expected after this disaster. Many indeed seemed quite delighted in having the ride (and the soak) for nothing, as the watermen had most miraculously disappeared, as soon as the other boats had offered their assistance. Ned and myself were fortunate enough in procuring a chaise, in which we conveyed our fair charges to the doors of their respective mammas, and then made the best of our way towards the Temple, in whose hallowed walls we arrived safe, just as the watchmen had ushered in Tuesday morning.
The water had cooled Ned's courage most completely, not a pun could I get from him all the way home; nor in fact any thing else, but a twenty times repeated determination, not to trust his precious person in a wherry along with a drunken waterman, nine full grown people, and five children.
B. Tuesday, June 7, 1824.
MR. MERTON,—As the public attention has recently been directed to the state of the ancient Palace of Eltham ; and after fluctuating between the prospect of total demolition, and the chance of surrendering some of its most beautiful parts for the ornament of more modern erections, its fortunate lot has been to obtain the means of preservation from further violence: I have thought that the following lines, composed during a holiday ramble to the spot some years ago, might not be uninteresting to your readers.
Eltham belonged to the Crown in the time of Edward the Confessor, and a Palace seems to have been erected there at a very early period, which was a favourite abode of Royalty till the superior attractions of Greenwich drew the Court thither in the reign of Henry VIII. From that time it has gradually decayed through neglect, and its present appearance is more strikingly melancholy, as it was usually the scene of the Christmas and other festivities, so frequent and splendid under our early kings. The historical circumstances alluded to in the poem, are the holding of Parliament in Eltham Hall, by Edward the III. The entertainment given by that Prince to his prisoner John, King of France, in 1364, and that by Richard the II. to Leo, King of Armenia, in 1386, together with his public Christmasings in 1384 and 1385; also the festivals of Henry the Fourth, who kept his last Christmas here in 1412, and was here seized with the disease that occasioned his death. The magnificence of Edward the Fourth, who, during the same solemnity entertained daily 200 persons; and lastly, the creation of Sir Edward Stanley, as Baron Monteagle, the reward of his services at Flodden. This honour was bestowed by Henry the VIII. during Whitsuntide, 1515, and after it, we hear of no memorable action performed at Eltham. James the First, was the last Monarch who visited it. His visit took place in 1612.
A. Changing is the summer
Ever changing from the sight.
Now in calm they sink—they fall ;
Man more mutable than all.
Ruin marks the place alone-
Where his flatterers? where his throne?
And mused on life's uncertain state;
Deserted Eltham's palace gate.
To wave their leafy heads in scorn:
Now joyless, hopeless, and forlorn.
Bade all the woodlands round rejoice;
And shrunk at sorrow's cheerless voice.
Beneath the courser's clattering steel ;
When the young knight was clad in steel,
When the gay palfrey raised his head,
As gentle mistress drew the rein; Now hears alone the herdsman's tread,
The lowing kine, the creaking wain. The moat, whose waters round the wall
In winding deepening circles ran; All verdant now, shall ne'er appal
From its bold banks the foot of man. The hall, where oft in feudal pride
Old England's Peers to council came; When Cressy's field spread far and wide,
Edward of Windsor's warlike fame; Whose rafter'd roof and portals long
Rung while unnumber'd harps awoke ; Now echoes but the thresher's song,
Or the sad flail's incessant stroke.
The sinking sun withdraws his beam
And houses there his cumbrous team. But while the spacious pile I pace,
Her airy pinions fancy rears; And long forgotten forms I trace,
Snatch'd from the grasp of envious years. See the warrior king advance,
Mark his venerable mein;
Frowns majestic o'er the scene.
Gallia's captive heaves the sigh; For the Sable Prince is there,
Edward-pride of chivalry. Change the scene! let fancy roam!
Soon must truth the dream destroy; Change the scene, for years to come
Eltham is the home of joy. There, before the fatal stroke
Richard held his fleeting sway; There imperious Bolinbroke
Drooping passed the mirthful day. First of York's ill-omen'd race,
Edward there the feast prepared ; Thousands came his hall to grace,
Thousands too his bounty shared. Winter lost its horrors then,
All was mirth and wassail sport; England ne'er shall see again
Joys like these in Royal Court. There the haughty Tudor gave
Honors due to martial might; Due to Stanley, bold and brave,
Conquering chief of Flodden fight. But soon Placentia's pleasures led
The Monarch to her peaceful shore; The Royal band from Eltham fled,
To greet its hallowed shades no more. And now must truth resume her strain,
While fancy's visions leave my mind : Her power
subdues the airy train, And bids them banish to the wind. Changing is the voice of fame,
Now to rise and now to fall; But sad Eltham's walls proclaim,
Man more mutable than all!