Richard Harris Barham
'Monstre' Balloon Poem by Richard Harris Barham
Oh! the balloon, the great balloon!
It left Vauxhall one Monday at noon,
And every one said we should hear of it soon
With news from Aleppo or Scanderoon.
But very soon after, folks changed their tune:
'The netting had burst -- the silk -- the shalloon;
It had met with a trade-wind -- a deuced monsoon --
It was blown out to sea -- it was blown to the moon --
They ought to have put off their journey till June;
Sure none but a donkey, a goose, or baboon,
Would go up, in November, in any balloon!'
Then they talk'd about Green --' Oh! where's Mister Green?
And where's Mister Hollond who hired the machine?
And where is Monk Mason, the man that has been
Up so often before -- twelve times or thirteen --
And who writes such nice letters describing the scene?
And where's the cold fowl, and the ham, and poteen?
The press'd beef, with the fat cut off -- nothing but lean?
And the portable soup in the patent tureen?
Have they got to Grand Cairo? or reach'd Aberdeen?
Or Jerusalem -- Hamburgh -- or Ballyporeen?--
No! they have not been seen! Oh! they haven't been seen!'
Stay! here's Mister Gye -- Mr. Frederick Gye.
'At Paris,' says he, 'I've been up very high,
A couple of hundred of toises, or nigh,
A cockstride the Tuilleries' pantiles, to spy,
With Dollond's best telescope stuck at my eye,
And my umbrella under my arm like Paul Pry,
But I could see nothing at all but the sky;
So I thought with myself 'twas of no use to try
Any longer: and feeling remarkably dry
From sitting all day stuck up there, like a Guy,
I came down again, and -- you see -- here am I!'
But here's Mr. Hughes!-- What says young Mr. Hughes?--
'Why, I'm sorry to say, we've not got any news
Since the letter they threw down in one of their shoes,
Which gave the Mayor's nose such a deuce of a bruise,
As he popp'd up his eye-glass to look at their cruise
Over Dover; and which the folks flock'd to peruse
At Squier's bazaar, the same evening, in crews,
Politicians, newsmongers, town council, and blues,
Turks, heretics, infidels, jumpers, and Jews,
Scorning Bachelor's papers, and Warren's reviews;
But the wind was then blowing towards Helvoetsluys,
And my father and I are in terrible stews,
For so large a balloon is a sad thing to lose!'--
Here's news come at last!-- Here's news come at last!--
A vessel's come in, which has sail'd very fast;
And a gentleman serving before the mast,--
Mister Nokes -- has declared that 'the party has past
Safe across to the Hague, where their grapnal they cast
As a fat burgomaster was staring aghast
To see such a monster come borne on the blast,
And it caught in his waistband, and there it stuck fast!'--
Oh! fie! Mister Nokes,-- for shame, Mister Nokes!
To be poking your fun at us plain-dealing folks --
Sir, this isn't a time to be cracking your jokes,
And such jesting, your malice but scurvily cloaks;
Such a trumpery tale every one of us smokes,
And we know very well your whole story's a hoax!--
'Oh! what shall we do?-- Oh! where will it end?--
Can nobody go?-- Can nobody send
To Calais -- or Bergen-op-zoom -- or Ostend?
Can't you go there yourself?-- Can't you write to a friend,
For news upon which we may safely depend?'--
Huzzah: huzzah! one and eight-pence to pay
For a letter from Hamborough, just come to say
They descended at Weilburg about break of day;
And they've lent them the palace there, during their stay,
And the town is becoming uncommonly gay,
And they're feasting the party, and soaking their clay
With Johannisberg, Rudesheim, Moselle, and Tokay;
And the landgraves, and margraves, and counts beg and pray
That they won't think, as yet, about going away;
Notwithstanding, they don't mean to make much delay,
But pack up the balloon in a waggon or dray,
And pop themselves into a German 'po-shay,'
And get on to Paris by Lisle and Tournay;
Where they boldly declare, any wager they'll lay,
If the gas people there do not ask them to pay
Such a sum as must force them at once to say 'Nay,'
They'll inflate the balloon in the Champs Elysées,
And be back again here, the beginning of May.--
Dear me! what a treat for a juvenile fête!
What thousands will flock their arrival to greet!
There'll be hardly a soul to be seen in the street,
For at Vauxhall the whole population will meet,
And you'll scarcely get standing-room, much less a seat,
For this all preceding attraction must beat:
Since, there they'll unfold, what we want to be told,
How they cough'd,-- how they sneezed,-- how they shiver'd with cold,--
How they tippled the 'cordial,' as racy and old
As Hodges, or Deady, or Smith ever sold,
And how they all then felt remarkably bold:
How they thought the boil'd beef worth its own weight in gold;
And how Mister Green was beginning to scold
Because Mister Mason would try to lay hold
Of the moon, and had very near overboard roll'd!
And there they'll be seen -- they'll be all to be seen!
The great-coats, the coffee-pot, mugs, and tureen!
With the tight-rope, and fire-works, and dancing between,
If the weather should only prove fair and serene,
And there, on a beautiful transparent screen,
In the middle you'll see a large picture of Green,
Mr. Hollond on one side, who hired the machine,
Mr. Mason on t'other, describing the scene;
And Fame, on one leg in the air, like a queen,
With three wreaths and a trumpet will over them lean;
While Envy, in serpents and black bombazine,
Looks on from below with an air of chagrin.
Then they'll play up a tune in the Royal Saloon,
And the people will dance by the light of the moon,
And keep up the ball till the next day at noon;
And the peer and the peasant, the lord and the loon,
The haughty grandee, and the low picaroon,
The six-foot life-guardsman, and little gossoon,
Will all join in three cheers for the 'monstre' balloon
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