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" And sends full soon a tender-hearted hind,
Who, wondering at our loud unusual note,
Strays curiously aside, and so doth find
The orphan child laid in the grass remote,
And laps the foundling in his russet coat,
Who thence was nurtured in his kindly cot:-
But how he prospered let proud London quote,
How wise, how rich, and how renowned he got,
And chief of all her citizens, I wot.
“Witness his goodly vessels on the Thames,
Whose holds were fraught with costly merchandise,–
Jewels from Ind, and pearls for courtly dames,
And gorgeous silks that Samarcand supplies :
Witness that Royal Bourse he bade arise,
The mart of merchants from the East and West;
Whose slender summit, pointing to the skies,
Still bears, in token of his grateful breast,
The tender grasshopper, his chosen crest —
“The tender grasshopper, his chosen crest,
That all the summer, with a tuneful wing,
Makes merry chirpings in its grassy nest,
Inspirited with dew to leap and sing :-
So let us also live, eternal King !
Partakers of the green and pleasant earth :-
Pity it is to slay the meanest thing,
That, like a mote, shines in the smile of mirth : .
Enough there is of joy's decrease and dearth!
"Enough of pleasure, and delight, and beauty,
Perished and gone, and hasting to decay ;-
Enough to sadden even thee, whose duty
Or spite it is to havoc and to slay :
Too many a lovely race, razed quite away,
Hath left large gaps in life and human loving :-
Here then begin thy cruel war to stay,
And spare fresh sighs, and tears, and groans, reproving
Thy desolating hand for our removing.”
Now here I heard a shrill and sudden cry,
And looking up, I saw the antic Puck
Grappling with Time, who clutched him like a fly,
Victim of his own sport, — the jester's luck!
He, whilst his fellows grieved, poor wight, had stuck
His freakish gauds upon the Ancient's brow,
And now his ear, and now his beard, would pluck;
Whereas the angry churl had snatched him now,
Crying, “ Thou impish mischief, who art thou?"
“Alas !” quoth Puck, “a little random elf,
Born in the sport of nature, like a weed,
For simple sweet enjoyment of myself,
But for no other purpose, worth, or need;
And yet withal of a most happy breed;
And there is Robin Goodfellow besides,
My partner dear in many a prankish deed
To make dame Laughter hold her jolly sides,
Like merry mummers twain on holy tides.
“ 'Tis we that bob the angler’s idle cork,
Till even the patient man breathes half a curse ;
We steal the morsel from the gossip's fork,
And curdling looks with secret straws disperse,
Or stop the sneezing chanter at mid verse :
And when an infant's beauty prospers ill,
We change, some mothers say, the child at nurse
But any graver purpose to fulfil,
We have not wit enough, and scarce the will
"We never let the canker melancholy
To gather on our faces like a rust,
But gloss our features with some change of folly,
Taking life's fabled miseries on trust,
But only sorrowing when sorrow must :
We ruminate no sage's solemn cud,
But own ourselves a pinch of lively dust
To frisk upon a wind, — whereas the flood
Of tears would turn us into heavy mud.
“Beshrew those sad interpreters of nature,
Who gloze her lively universal law,
As if she had not formed our cheerful feature
To be so tickled with the slightest straw !
So let them vex their mumping mouths, and draw
The corners downward, like a watery moon,
And deal in gusty sighs and rainy flaw -
We will not woo foul weather all too soon,
Or nurse November on the lap of June.
“For ours are winging sprites, like any bird
That shun all stagnant settlements of grief;
And even in our rest our hearts are stirred,
Like insects settled on a dancing leaf :
This is our small philosophy in brief,
Which thus to teach hath set me all agape.
But dost thou relish it? O, hoary chief ! ,
Unclasp thy crooked fingers from my nape,
And I will show thee many a pleasant scrape.”
Then Saturn thus : — shaking his crooked blade
O’erhead, which made aloft a lightning flash
In all the fairies' eyes, dismally frayed !
His ensuing voice came like the thunder crash —
Meanwhile the bolt shatters some pine or ash —
“ Thou feeble, wanton, foolish, fickle thing !
Whom naught can frighten, sadden, or abash, -
To hope my solemn countenance to wring
To idiot smiles ! — but I will prune thy wing !
“Lo! this most awful handle of my scythe
Stood once a May-pole, with a flowery crown,
Which rustics danced around, and maidens blithe,
To wanton pipings ; — but I plucked it down,
And robed the May Queen in a church-yard gown,
Turning her buds to rosemary and rue;
And all their merry minstrelsy did drown,
And laid each lusty leaper in the dew ; -
So thou shalt fare — and every jovial crew!”
Here he lets go the struggling imp, to clutch
His mortal engine with each grisly hand,
Which frights the elfin progeny so much,
They huddle in a heap, and trembling stand
All round Titania, like the queen bee's band,
With sighs and tears and very shrieks of woe! —
Meanwhile, some moving argument I planned,
To make the stern Shade merciful, — when, lo !
He drops his fatal scythe without a blow!
For, just at need, a timely Apparition
Steps in between, to bear the awful brunt;
Making him change his horrible position,
To marvel at this comer, brave and blunt,
That dares Time's irresistible affront,
Whose strokes have scarred even the gods of old ; -
Whereas this seemed a mortal, at mere hunt
For coneys, lighted by the moonshine cold,
Or stalker of stray deer, stealthy and bold.
Who, turning to the small assembled fays,
Doffs to the lily queen his courteous cap,
And holds her beauty for a while in gaze,
With bright eyes kindling at this pleasant hap;
And thence upon the fair moon's silver map,
As if in question of this magic chance,
Laid like a dream upon the green earth’s lap;
And then upon old Saturn turns askance,
Exclaiming, with a glad and kindly glance :-
“0, these be Fancy's revellers by night!
Stealthy companions of the downy moth —
Diana's motes, that flit in her pale light,
Shunners of sunbeams in diurnal sloth ; -
These be the feasters on night's silver cloth, -
The gnat with shrilly trump is their convener,
Forth from their flowery chambers, nothing loth,
With lulling tunes to charm the air serener,
Or dance upon the grass to make it greener.
“These be the pretty genii of the flowers,
Daintily fed with honey and pure dew –
Midsummer's phantoms in her dreaming hours,
King Oberon, and all his merry crew,
The darling puppets of romance's view;
Fairies, and sprites, and goblin elves, we call them,
Famous for patronage of lovers true; -
No harm they act, neither shall harm befall them,
So do not thus with crabbed frowns appall them.”
0, what a cry was Saturn's then ! – it made
The fairies quake. “What care I for their pranks,
However they may lovers choose to aid,
Or dance their roundelays on flowery banks ? ..