Charles Stuart Calverley
Charades - Poem by Charles Stuart Calverley
She stood at Greenwich, motionless amid
The ever-shifting crowd of passengers.
I marked a big tear quivering on the lid
Of her deep-lustrous eye, and knew that hers
Were days of bitterness. But, 'Oh! what stirs'
I said 'such storm within so fair a breast?'
Even as I spoke, two apoplectic curs
Came feebly up: with one wild cry she prest
Each singly to her heart, and faltered, 'Heaven be blest!'
Yet once again I saw her, from the deck
Of a black ship that steamed towards Blackwall.
She walked upon MY FIRST. Her stately neck
Bent o'er an object shrouded in her shawl:
I could not see the tears--the glad tears--fall,
Yet knew they fell. And 'Ah,' I said, 'not puppies,
Seen unexpectedly, could lift the pall
From hearts who KNOW what tasting misery's cup is,
As Niobe's, or mine, or Mr. William Guppy's.'
* * *
Spake John Grogblossom the coachman to Eliza Spinks the cook:
'Mrs. Spinks,' says he, 'I've foundered: 'Liza dear, I'm overtook.
Druv into a corner reglar, puzzled as a babe unborn;
Speak the word, my blessed 'Liza; speak, and John the coachman's yourn.'
Then Eliza Spinks made answer, blushing, to the coachman John:
'John, I'm born and bred a spinster: I've begun and I'll go on.
Endless cares and endless worrits, well I knows it, has a wife:
Cooking for a genteel family, John, it's a goluptious life!
'I gets 20 pounds per annum--tea and things o' course not reckoned, -
There's a cat that eats the butter, takes the coals, and breaks MY
There's soci'ty--James the footman;--(not that I look after him;
But he's aff'ble in his manners, with amazing length of limb -
'Never durst the missis enter here until I've said 'Come in':
If I saw the master peeping, I'd catch up the rolling-pin.
Christmas-boxes, that's a something; perkisites, that's something too;
And I think, take all together, John, I won't be on with you.'
John the coachman took his hat up, for he thought he'd had enough;
Rubbed an elongated forehead with a meditative cuff;
Paused before the stable doorway; said, when there, in accents mild,
'She's a fine young 'oman, cook is; but that's where it is, she's
* * *
I have read in some not marvellous tale,
(Or if I have not, I've dreamed)
Of one who filled up the convivial cup
Till the company round him seemed
To be vanished and gone, tho' the lamps upon
Their face as aforetime gleamed:
And his head sunk down, and a Lethe crept
O'er his powerful brain, and the young man slept.
Then they laid him with care in his moonlit bed:
But first--having thoughtfully fetched some tar -
Adorned him with feathers, aware that the weather's
Uncertainty brings on at nights catarrh.
They staid in his room till the sun was high:
But still did the feathered one give no sign
Of opening a peeper--he might be a sleeper
Such as rests on the Northern or Midland line.
At last he woke, and with profound
Bewilderment he gazed around;
Dropped one, then both feet to the ground,
But never spake a word:
Then to my WHOLE he made his way;
Took one long lingering survey;
And softly, as he stole away,
Remarked, 'By Jove, a bird!'
If you've seen a short man swagger tow'rds the footlights at Shoreditch,
Sing out 'Heave aho! my hearties,' and perpetually hitch
Up, by an ingenious movement, trousers innocent of brace,
Briskly flourishing a cudgel in his pleased companion's face;
If he preluded with hornpipes each successive thing he did,
From a sun-browned cheek extracting still an ostentatious quid;
And expectorated freely, and occasionally cursed:-
Then have you beheld, depicted by a master's hand, MY FIRST.
O my countryman! if ever from thy arm the bolster sped,
In thy school-days, with precision at a young companion's head;
If 'twas thine to lodge the marble in the centre of the ring,
Or with well-directed pebble make the sitting hen take wing:
Then do thou--each fair May morning, when the blue lake is as glass,
And the gossamers are twinkling star-like in the beaded grass;
When the mountain-bee is sipping fragrance from the bluebell's lip,
And the bathing-woman tells you, Now's your time to take a dip:
When along the misty valleys fieldward winds the lowing herd,
And the early worm is being dropped on by the early bird;
And Aurora hangs her jewels from the bending rose's cup,
And the myriad voice of Nature calls thee to MY SECOND up:-
Hie thee to the breezy common, where the melancholy goose
Stalks, and the astonished donkey finds that he is really loose;
There amid green fern and furze-bush shalt thou soon MY WHOLE behold,
Rising 'bull-eyed and majestic'--as Olympus queen of old:
Kneel,--at a respectful distance,--as they kneeled to her, and try
With judicious hand to put a ball into that ball-less eye:
Till a stiffness seize thy elbows, and the general public wake -
Then return, and, clear of conscience, walk into thy well-earned steak.
Ere yet 'knowledge for the million'
Came out 'neatly bound in boards;'
When like Care upon a pillion
Matrons rode behind their lords:
Rarely, save to hear the Rector,
Forth did younger ladies roam;
Making pies, and brewing nectar
From the gooseberry-trees at home.
They'd not dreamed of Pan or Vevay;
Ne'er should into blossom burst
At the ball or at the levee;
Never come, in fact, MY FIRST:
Nor illumine cards by dozens
With some labyrinthine text,
Nor work smoking-caps for cousins
Who were pounding at MY NEXT.
Now have skirts, and minds, grown ampler;
Now not all they seek to do
Is create upon a sampler
Beasts which Buffon never knew:
But their venturous muslins rustle
O'er the cragstone and the snow,
Or at home their biceps muscle
Grows by practising the bow.
Worthier they those dames who, fable
Says, rode 'palfreys' to the war
With gigantic Thanes, whose 'sable
Destriers caracoled' before;
Smiled, as--springing from the war-horse
As men spring in modern 'cirques' -
They plunged, ponderous as a four-horse
Coach, among the vanished Turks:-
In the good times when the jester
Asked the monarch how he was,
And the landlady addrest her
Guests as 'gossip' or as 'coz';
When the Templar said, 'Gramercy,'
Or, ''Twas shrewdly thrust, i' fegs,'
To Sir Halbert or Sir Percy
As they knocked him off his legs:
And, by way of mild reminders
That he needed coin, the Knight
Day by day extracted grinders
From the howling Israelite:
And MY WHOLE in merry Sherwood
Sent, with preterhuman luck,
Missiles--not of steel but firwood -
Thro' the two-mile-distant buck.
Evening threw soberer hue
Over the blue sky, and the few
Poplars that grew just in the view
Of the hall of Sir Hugo de Wynkle:
'Answer me true,' pleaded Sir Hugh,
(Striving to woo no matter who,)
'What shall I do, Lady, for you?
'Twill be done, ere your eye may twinkle.
Shall I borrow the wand of a Moorish enchanter,
And bid a decanter contain the Levant, or
The brass from the face of a Mormonite ranter?
Shall I go for the mule of the Spanish Infantar -
(That _R_, for the sake of the line, we must grant her,) -
And race with the foul fiend, and beat in a canter,
Like that first of equestrians Tam o' Shanter?
I talk not mere banter--say not that I can't, or
By this MY FIRST--(a Virginia planter
Sold it me to kill rats)--I will die instanter.'
The Lady bended her ivory neck, and
Whispered mournfully, 'Go for--MY SECOND.'
She said, and the red from Sir Hugh's cheek fled,
And 'Nay,' did he say, as he stalked away
The fiercest of injured men:
'Twice have I humbled my haughty soul,
And on bended knee I have pressed MY WHOLE -
But I never will press it again!'
On pinnacled St. Mary's
Lingers the setting sun;
Into the street the blackguards
Are skulking one by one:
Butcher and Boots and Bargeman
Lay pipe and pewter down;
And with wild shout come tumbling out
To join the Town and Gown.
And now the undergraduates
Come forth by twos and threes,
From the broad tower of Trinity,
From the green gate of Caius:
The wily bargeman marks them,
And swears to do his worst;
To turn to impotence their strength,
And their beauty to MY FIRST.
But before Corpus gateway
MY SECOND first arose,
When Barnacles the freshman
Was pinned upon the nose:
Pinned on the nose by Boxer,
Who brought a hobnailed herd
From Barnwell, where he kept a van,
Being indeed a dogsmeat man,
Vendor of terriers, blue or tan,
And dealer in MY THIRD.
'Twere long to tell how Boxer
Was 'countered' on the cheek,
And knocked into the middle
Of the ensuing week:
How Barnacles the Freshman
Was asked his name and college;
And how he did the fatal facts
He called upon the Proctor
Next day at half-past ten;
Men whispered that the Freshman cut
A different figure then:-
That the brass forsook his forehead,
The iron fled his soul,
As with blanched lip and visage wan
Before the stony-hearted Don
He kneeled upon MY WHOLE.
Sikes, housebreaker, of Houndsditch,
But so surpassingly profane
He never was before,
As on a night in winter,
When--softly as he stole
In the dim light from stair to stair,
Noiseless as boys who in her lair
Seek to surprise a fat old hare -
He barked his shinbone, unaware
Encountering MY WHOLE.
As pours the Anio plainward,
When rains have swollen the dykes,
So, with such noise, poured down MY FIRST,
Stirred by the shins of Sikes.
The Butler Bibulus heard it;
And straightway ceased to snore,
And sat up, like an egg on end,
While men might count a score:
Then spake he to Tigerius,
A Buttons bold was he:
'Buttons, I think there's thieves about;
Just strike a light and tumble out;
If you can't find one, go without,
And see what you may see.'
But now was all the household,
Almost, upon its legs,
Each treading carefully about
As if they trod on eggs.
With robe far-streaming issued
And close behind him,--stout and true
And tender as the North, -
Came Mrs. P., supporting
On her broad arm her fourth.
Betsy the nurse, who never
From largest beetle ran,
And--conscious p'raps of pleasing caps -
The housemaids, formed the van:
And Bibulus the Butler,
His calm brows slightly arched;
(No mortal wight had ere that night
Seen him with shirt unstarched
And Bob, the shockhaired knifeboy,
Wielding two Sheffield blades,
And James Plush of the sinewy legs,
The love of lady's maids:
And charwoman and chaplain
Stood mingled in a mass,
And 'Things,' thought he of Houndsditch,
'Is come to a pretty pass.'
Beyond all things a Baby
Is to the schoolgirl dear;
Next to herself the nursemaid loves
Her dashing grenadier;
Only with life the sailor
Parts from the British flag;
While one hope lingers, the cracksman's fingers
Drop not his hard-earned 'swag.'
But, as hares do MY SECOND
Thro' green Calabria's copses,
As females vanish at the sight
Of short-horns and of wopses;
So, dropping forks and teaspoons,
The pride of Houndsditch fled,
Dumbfoundered by the hue and cry
He'd raised up overhead.
* * *
They gave him--did the Judges -
As much as was his due.
And, Saxon, should'st thou e'er be led
To deem this tale untrue;
Then--any night in winter,
When the cold north wind blows,
And bairns are told to keep out cold
By tallowing the nose:
When round the fire the elders
Are gathered in a bunch,
And the girls are doing crochet,
And the boys are reading Punch:-
Go thou and look in Leech's book;
There haply shalt thou spy
A stout man on a staircase stand,
With aspect anything but bland,
And rub his right shin with his hand,
To witness if I lie.
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