Page images
PDF

And, when the twinge comes shooting through you,
Her care might be of service to you?'
Sir, I'm not dying, though I know
You charitably think me so ;-
Not dying yet, though you, and others,
In augury your learned brothers,
Take pains to prophesy events
Which lie some twenty winters hence.
Some twenty ?-look ! you shake your head
As if I were insane or dead,
And tell your children and your wife-
“Old men grow very fond of life !"
Alas! you prescience never ends
As long as it concerns your friends ;
But your own fifty-third December
Is what you never can remember!
And when I talk about my health
And future hopes of weal or wealth,
With something 'twixt a grunt and groan
You mutter in an undertone-
“ Hark! how the dotard chatters still ! *
He'll not believe he's old or ill !
He goes on forming great designs,—
Has just laid in a stock of wines,
And promises his niece a ball,
As if grey hairs would never fall !
I really think he's all but mad.”
Then, with a wink and sigh, you add,

* I must confess that Dr. Swift

Has lent me here a little lift;
For when I steal some trifling hits
From older and from brighter wits,
I have some touch of conscience left,
And seldom like to hide the theft.
This is my plan -I name no name,
But wish all others did the same.

“ Tom is a friend I dearly prize,
But never thought him over wise !"

You—who are clever to foretell
Where ignorance might be as well-
Would marvel how my health has stood :
My pulse is firm, digestion good,
I walk to see my turnips grow,
Manage to ride a mile or so,
Get to the village church to pray,
And drink my pint of wine a day ;
And often, in an idle mood,
Emerging from my solitude,
Look at my sheep, and geese, and fowls,
And scare the sparrows and the owls,
Or talk with Dick about my crops,
And learn the price of malt and hops.

You say that when you saw me last
My appetite was going fast,
My eye was dim, my cheek was pale,
My bread—and stories—both were stale ;
My wine and wit were growing worse,
And all things else, except my purse;
In short, the very blind might see
I was not what I used to be.

My glass (which I believe before ye)
Will teach me quite another story;
My wrinkles are not many yet,
My hair is still as black as jet ;
My legs are full, my cheeks are ruddy,
My eyes, though somewhat weak by study,
Retain a most vivacious ray,
And tell no stories of decay ;
And then my waist, unvexed, unstayed,
By fetters of the tailor's trade,
Tells you, as plain as waist can tell,
I'm most unfashionably well.

And yet you think I'm growing thinner !
You'd stare to see me eat my dinner!
You know that I was held by all
The greatest epicure in Hall,
And that the voice of Granta's sons
Styled me the Gourmand of St. John's :-
I have not yet been found unable
To do my duty to my table,
Though at its head no lady gay
Hath driven British food away,
And made her hapless husband bear
Alike her fury and her fare.
If some kind-hearted chum calls in,
An extra dish and older bin
And John in all his finery drest
Do honour to the welcome guest;
And then we talk of other times,
Of parted friends, and distant climes,
And lengthened converse, tale, and jest,
Lull every anxious care to rest;
And when unwillingly I rise
With newly wakened sympathies
From conversation-and the bowl,
The feast of stomach—and of soul,
I lay me down, and seem to leap
O’er forty summers in my sleep;
And youth, with all its joy and pain,
Comes rushing on my soul again.

I rove where'er my boyhood roved-
I love whate'er my boyhood loved
And rocks, and vales, and woods, and streams,
Fleet o'er my pillow in my dreams.

'Tis true, some ugly foes arise,
E’en in this earthly paradise,
Which you, good Pringle, may beguile,
By Mrs. P's unceasing smile;
I am an independent elf,
And keep my comforts in myself.
If my best sheep have got the rot-
Or if the Parson hits a blot-
Or if young witless prates of laurel -
Or if my tithe produces quarrel-
Or if my roofing wants repairs-
Or if I'm angry with my heirs-
Or if I've nothing else to do-
I grumble for an hour or two;
Riots or rumours unrepressed,
My niece-or knuckle-over-drest,
The lateness of a wished-for post,
Miss Mackrell's story of the ghost,
New wine, new fashions, or new faces,
New bills, new taxes, or new places,
Or Mr. Hume's enumeration
Of all the troubles of the nation,
Will sometimes wear my patience out!
Then, as I said before, the gout-
Well, well, my heart was never faint !
And yet it might provoke a saint.
A rise of bread, or fall of rain,
Sometimes unite to give me pain ;
And oft my lawyer's bag of papers
Gives me a taste of spleen and vapours.

Angry or sad, alone or ill,
I have my senses with me still ;
Although my eyes are somewhat weak,
Yet can I dissipate my pique,
By Poem, Paper, or Review;
And though I'm dozy in my pew
At Dr. Poundtext's second leaf,
I am not yet so very deaf
As to require the rousing noise
Of screaming girls and roaring boys.
Thrice--thrice acc!ırsed be the day
When I shall fling my bliss away,
And, to disturb my quiet life,
Take discord in the shape of wise !
Time, in his endless muster-roll,
Shall mark the hour with blackest coal,
When old Tom Quince shall cease to see
The Chronicle with toast and tea,
Confine his rambles to his park,
And never dine till after dark,
And change his comfort and his crony
For crowd and conversazione.

If every aiding thought is vain,
And momentary grief and pain
Urge the old man to frown and fret,
He has another comfort yet ;
This earth has thorns, as poets sing,
But not for ever can they sting;
Our sand from out its narrow glass
Rapidly passes !--let it pass!
I seek not, I, to check or stay
The progress of a single day,
But rather cheer my hours of pain,
Because so few of them remain.

« PreviousContinue »