A Tale, Too True


A Tale,

Too True.


ONE beautiful morning, when Paul was a

child,

And went with a satchel to school,

The rogue played the truant, which proves he

was wild,

And, though little, a very great fool.

 

He came to a cottage that grew on the moor,

No mushroom was ever so strong;

‘Twas snug as a mouse-trap, and, close by the

door,

A river ran rippling along.

 

The cot was embosomed in rook-nested trees,

The chesnut, the beech, and the oak;

Geese gabbled in concert with bagpiping bees;

While softly ascended the smoke.

 

At the door sat a damsel, a sweet little girl,

Arrayed in a petticoat green;

Her skin was as lovely as mother of pearl,

And milder than moonlight her mien.

 

She sung as she knotted a garland of flowers,

Right mellowly warbled her tongue;

Such strains in Elysium’s romantical bowers,

To soothe the departed, are sung.

 

Paul stood like a gander, he stood like himself;

Eyes, ears, nose, and mouth open wide!

When, suddenly rising, the pretty young elf

The thunder struck wanderer spied.

 

She started and trembled, she blushed and she

smiled;

Then dropping a curtsey, she said—

“Pray, what brought you hither, my dear little

“child?

“Did your legs run away with your head?”

 

” Yes— yes!”— stammered Paul, and he made

a fine bow;

At least ’twas the finest he could:

Tho’ the lofty bred belles of St. James’s, I trow,

Would have called it— a bow made of wood!

 

No matter— the dimple-chin’d damsel was

pleased,

And modestly gave him her wrist:

Paul took the fair present, and tenderly squeezed,

As if he’d a wasp in his fist!

 

Then into the cottage she led the young fool,

Who stood all aghast to behold

The lass’s grim mother— who managed a school—

A beldame, a witch, and a scold!

 

Her eyes were as red as two lobsters when boiled,

Her complexion the colour of straw;

Tho’ she grinned, like a death’s head, whenever

she smiled,

She shewed not a tooth in her jaw!

 

Her body was shrivelled and dried like a kecks;

Her arms were all veins, bone, and skin:

And then she’d a beard, sir! in spite of her sex,

I don’t know how long, on her chin!

 

Her dress was as mournful as mourning can be:

Black sackcloth, bleached white with her tears!

For a widow—fair ladies!— a widow was she,

Most dismally stricken in years!

 

The charms of her youth, if she ever had any,

Were all under total eclipse;

While the charms of her daughter, who truly

had many,

Were only unfolding their lips.

 

Thus far in a wilderness, bleak and forlorn,

When winter deflowers the year,

All hoary and horrid, I’ve seen an old thorn

In icicle trappings appear;

 

While a sweet smiling snow drop enamels its

root,

Like the morning star gilding the sky;

Or an elegant crocus peeps out at its foot,

As blue as Miss Who-ye-will’s eye!

 

“Dear mother!” the damsel exclaimed, with a

sigh;

“I’ve brought you a poor little wretch—

“Your victim— and mine!”— but a tear from

her eye

Washed away all the rest of her speech.

 

The beldame then mounting her spectacles on,

Like an arch o’er the bridge of her nose,

Examined the captive, and crying, “Well done!”

Bade him welcome with twenty dry blows!

 

Paul fell down astounded, and only not dead,

For death was not quite within call:

Recovering, he found himself in a warm bed,

And in a warm fever and all!

 

Reclined on her elbow, to anguish a prey,

The maiden, in lovely distress,

Sat weeping her soul from her eye lids away

How could the fair mourner do less?

 

But when she perceived him reviving again

She carrolled a sonnet so sweet;

The captive, transported, forgot all his pain,

And presently fell at her feet.

 

All rapture and fondness, all folly and joy—

“Dear damsel! for your sake,” he cried;

“I’ll be your cross mother’s own dutiful boy,

“And you shall one day be my bride!”

 

“For shame!” quoth the nymph, though she

looked the reverse;

“Such nonsense I cannot approve:

“Too young we’re to wed!”— Paul said, “So

“much the worse!—

“—But are we too young then to love?”

 

The lady replied, in a language that speaks

Not unto the ear but the eye:

The language that blushes thro’ eloquent cheeks,

When modesty looks very sly!

 

Our true lovers lived— for the fable faith true—

As merry as larks in a nest,

Who are learning to sing while the hawk is in view;

—The ignorant always are blest!—

 

Thro’ vallies and meadows they wandered by day,

And whistled and warbled along;

So liquidly glided their moments away,

Their life was a galloping song!

 

When they twittered their notes from the brow

of an hill,

If November did not look like May,

If rocks did not caper, nor rivers stand still,

The asses, at least, did not bray!

 

If the trees would not leap, nor the mountains

advance,

They were deafer than bailiffs ’tis clear;

If sun, moon and stars did not lead up a dance,

They wanted a musical ear!

 

But sometimes the beldame, cross, crazy and old,

Would thunder, and threaten, and swear:

Expose them to tempests, to heat, and to cold.

To danger, fatigue, and despair!

 

For wisdom, she argued, could only be taught

By bitter experience to fools:

And she acted, as every good school mistress

ought,

Quite up to the beard of her rules.

 

Her school, by the bye, was the noblest on earth

For mortals to study themselves;

There many great folks, who were folios by birth,

She cut down to pitiful twelves!

 

Her rod, like death’s scythe, in her levelling hand,

Bowed down rich, poor, wicked and just;

Kings, queens, popes and priests, at the touch of

her wand,

Were crumbled to primitive dust!

 

At length, in due season, the planets who reign,

By chance or some similar art,

Commanded the damsel to honour her swain

With her hand as the key to her heart.

 

The grisly old mother then blest the fond pair:

“While you live, O my darlings!” she cried;

“My favours, unasked for, you always shall share,

“And cleave like two ribs to my side!

 

“Poor Paul is a blockhead in marrow and bone,

“Whom nought but my rod can make wise;

“The fellow will only, when all’s said and done,

“Be just fit to live when he dies!”

 

The witch was a prophetess, all must allow,

And Paul a strange moon-stricken youth,

Who somewhere had picked up—I’ll not tell you

how—

A vile knack of telling the truth!

 

His sorrows and sufferings his consort may paint,

In colours of water and fire;

She saw him in prison, desponding and faint;

She saw him in act to expire!

 

Then melting her voice to the tenderest tone,

The lovely enthusiast began

To sing, in sweet numbers, the comforts unknown

That solace the soul of the man;

 

Who, hated, forsaken, tormented, opprest,

And wrestling with anguish severe,

Can turn his eye inward, and view in his breast

A conscience unclouded and clear.

 

The captive looked up with a languishing eye,

Half quenched in a tremulous tear;

He saw the meek angel of hope standing by,

He heard her solicit his ear.

 

Her strain then exalting, and swelling her lyre,

The triumphs of patience she sung;

While passions of music, and language of fire,

Flowed full and sublime from her tongue.

 

At length the gay morning of liberty shone,

At length the dread portals flew wide;

Then, hailing each other with transports un-

known,

The captive escaped with his bride.

 

So when the last trumpet’s loud signal—”Arise!”

Shall ring through the empire of space,

The clay from the tomb, and the soul from the skies,

Shall meet in a raptured embrace.

 

But now at the death of our long-winded song,

The readers their night caps may take;

If those, who have slumbered so sweet and so long,

Will only one moment awake.

 

— Behold, in a fable, the Poet’s own life;

From whence this lean moral we draw:

The MUSE is PAUL POSITIVE’S twenty-tongued

Wife!

MISFORTUNE his Mother-in-Law!