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The bridle round his trembling arm was twined,
Ye deem, fair ladies, that on things above These friars' thoughts were fix'd in holy love. But, the plain truth it pains me to declare, Three robbers the pretended brothers were ; And here they lurk'd beside the gloomy way, To make the unweeting traveller a prey. Before them with his ass that bore the oil The old man comes, and seems so worn with toil, In his behalf compassion might have spoke To any but a thief in friar's cloak. Even in these his faint and feeble age Had power to check the course of brutal rage. Straight they resolved to spare him needless fright, And rob him only by some happy slight. Then one, not more a rascal than a wit, With ready thought on an expedient hit. Sudden he quits his place, and softly steals With noiseless step behind the old man's heels. The rest on tiptoe follow, but no fear From one, who little saw and less could hear ; And, as to aid the project, a shrill blast Swept all the leaves and thro' the woodland past. Yet gently on the reins his hands were laid : Nor with adroiter skill the satin braid A beau e'er loosen'd from his fair one's side, Than he the halter from the brute untied, And to his nowl the loosen'd knot applied :
So trudged along, a paragon of rogues,
The old man yet was dumb. But in a while
With that for one whole year at least will shine
That said, his nowl out of the noose he slipp'd, And from his quondam master nimbly tripp'd, Who, worthy man, regretted not his beast, O’erjoy’d to think so hard a fate released.
A few days after, as may well be thought,
But “thou,” he added, “ till the day be come,
He promised ; and he did not fail his word, With thistles, herb and blade, the rack was stored : No more he felt the saddle or the pack, His friend would suffer none to mount his back. And not alone the body's good design’d, But cater'd for the palate of the mind. The stable walls the pictured hues adorn : And still he sleeks his coat both eve and morn. The neighbours wonder at such care and cost, And shake their heads and fear his senses lost; Till to a few more trusted he explains The cause of his profuseness and his pains. Some jeer him, others doubt, but most believe, Applaud his zeal, and for the prisoner grieve, Expecting still to see the ears retreat, The hide grown smooth, and arms instead of feet.
Year after year elapsed. “A weary time Awaits,” the old man cried, “ this second crime ; The fault, I fear, him doom’d to expiate By a life’s penance in this dismal state.”
Too true he guess’d. The soul could never stir, Nor moult for human hair its rougher fur : And when at length it yielded to the blow That lays all asses, in all vestures, low, His fate was mourn'd, as one who had been in Too strict a sentence for so slight a sin. Some tears the senior shed, but dried his eyes, « At least Saint Peter has him now,” he cries, Resolved as best he could to grace his obsequies.
The hide was stuff'd and in the stall-room kept; The crib replenish’d and th' apartment swept, The frequent lamp illumed the rafter'd roof; And every saint was pray'd in his behoof.
And the old man so constantly averr'd
Having the before-mentioned numerous calls on his purse, my father was glad of the opportunity of increasing his income by again engaging in clerical duty. A fashionable chapel in London was not at all suited to his retiring habits, he therefore gladly availed himself of the offer of the curacy and lectureship of Chiswick, of which parish the Rev. Thomas Frere Bowerbank was vicar. This made his removal to the sphere of his duties requisite; he therefore purchased a house at Chiswick, which had been formerly the residence of Sir James Thornhill, and his son-in-law, Hogarth. Here he fixed his residence in the summer of the year
1814. Two or three letters to his friend Price, and one to Mr. Birch, being all that remain of this date, and his journal for this and the following year, must suffice to fill up this space of his uneventful life.