Hannah More

(1745-1833 / England)

Florio : A Tale, For Fine Gentleman And Fine Ladies. In Two Parts


PART I.

Florio, a youth of gay renown,
Who figured much about the town,
Had pass'd, with general approbation,
The modish forms of education;
Knew what was proper to be known,
The establish'd jargon of Bon-ton;
Had learnt, with very moderate reading,
The whole new system of good breeding:
He studied to be cold and rude,
Though native feeling would intrude.
Unlucky sense and sympathy,
Spoilt the vain thing he strove to be:
For Florio was not meant by nature,
A silly, or a worthless creature:
He had a heart disposed to feel,
Had life and spirit, taste and zeal;
Was handsome, generous; but, by fate,
Predestined to a large estate!
Hence, all that graced his opening days,
Was marr'd by pleasure, spoilt by praise.
The Destiny, who wove the thread
Of Florio's being, sigh'd, and said,
'Poor Youth! this cumbrous twist of gold,
More than my shuttle well can hold,
For which thy anxious fathers toil'd,
Thy white and even thread has spoil'd:
'Tis this shall warp thy pliant youth
From sense, simplicity, and truth,
Thy erring sire, by wealth misled,
Shall scatter pleasures round thy head,
When wholesome discipline's control,
Should brace the sinews of thy soul;
Coldly thou'lt toil for learning's prize,
For why should he that's rich be wise?'
The gracious Master of womankind,
Who knew us vain, corrupt, and blind,
In mercy, tho' in anger said,
That man should earn his daily bread;
His lot inaction renders worse,
While labour mitigates the curse.
The idle, life's worst burthens bear,
And meet, what toil escapes, despair.
Forgive, nor lay the fault on me,
This mixture of mythology;
The Muse of Paradise has deign'd
With truth to mingle fables feign'd;
And tho' the Bard who would attain
The glories, Milton, of thy strain,
Will never reach thy style or thoughts,
He may be like thee -- in thy faults.
Exhausted Florio, at the age
When youth should rush on glory's stage;
When life should open fresh and new,
And ardent hope her schemes pursue;
Of youthful gayety bereft,
Had scarce an unbroach'd pleasure left;
He found already to his cost,
The shining gloss of life was lost;
And pleasure was so coy a prude,
She fled the more, the more pursued;
Or if, o'ertaken and caress'd
He loath'd and left her when possess'd.
But Florio knew the World; that science
Sets sense and learning at defiance;
He thought the World to him was known,
Whereas he only knew the Town
In men this blunder still you find,
All think their little set -- Mankind.
Tho' high renown the youth had gain'd,
No flagrant crimes his life had stain'd;
No tool of falsehood, slave of passion,
But spoilt by Custom and the Fashion.
Tho' known among a certain set;
He did not like to be in debt!
He shudder'd at the dicer's box,
Nor thought it very heterodox,
That tradesmen should be sometimes paid,
And bargains kept as well as made.
His growing credit, as a sinner,
Was that he liked to spoil a dinner;
Made pleasure and made business wait,
And still, by system, came too late;
Yet 'twas a hopeful indication,
On which to be found a reputation:
Small habits, well pursued betimes,
May reach the dignity of crimes.
And who a juster claim preferr'd,
Than one who always broke his word?
His mornings were not spent in vice,
'Twas lounging, sauntering, eating ice:
Walk up and down St. James's-Street,
Full fifty times the youth you'd meet:
He hated cards, detested drinking,
But stroll'd to shun the toil of thinking;
'Twas doing nothing was his curse,
Is there a vice can plague us worse?
The wretch who digs the mine for bread,
Or ploughs, that others may be fed,
Feels less fatigue than that decreed
To him who cannot think, or read.
Not all the peril of temptations,
Not all the conflict of the passions,
Can quench the spark of glory's flame,
Or quite extinguish Virtue's name;
Like the true taste for genuine saunter,
Like sloth, the soul's most dire enchanter.
The active fires that stir the breast,
Her poppies charm to fatal rest;
They rule in short and quick succession,
But Sloth keeps one long, fast possession;
Ambition's reign is quickly clos'd,
Th' usurper Rage is soon depos'd;
Intemperance, where there's no temptation,
Makes voluntary abdication;
Of other tyrants short the strife,
But Indolence is king for life.
The despot twists with soft control,
Eternal fetters round the soul.
Yet tho' so polish'd Florio's breeding,
Think him not ignorant of reading;
For he to keep him from the vapours,
Subscrib'd at Hookham's, saw the papers;
Was deep in poet's-corner wit;
Knew what was in Italics writ;
Explain'd fictitious names at will,
Each gutted syllable could fill;
There oft, in paragraphs, his name
Gave symptom sweet of growing fame;
Tho' yet they only serv'd to hint
That Florio lov'd to see in print,
His ample buckles' alter'd shape,
His buttons chang'd, his varying cape.
And many a standard phrase was his
Might rival bore, or banish quiz;
The man who grasps this young renown,
And early starts for fashion's crown;
In time that glorious prize may wield.
Which clubs, and ev'n Newmarket yield.
He studied while he dress'd, for true 'tis,
He read Compendiums, Extracts, Beauties,
Abreges, Dictionaires, Recueils,
Mercures, Journaux, Extraits, and Feuilles:
No work in substance now is follow'd,
The Chemic Extract only 's swallow'd.
He lik'd those literary cooks
Who skim the cream of others' books;
And ruin half an Author's graces,
By plucking bon-mots from their places;
He wonders any writing sells,
But these spic'd mushrooms and morells;
His palate these alone can touch,
Where every mouthful is bonne bouche.
Some phrase, that with the public took,
Was all he read of any book;
For plan, detail, arrangement, system,
He let them go, and never miss'd 'em.
Of each new Play he saw a part,
And all the Anas had my heart;
He found whatever they produce
Is fit for conversation-use;
Learning so ready for display,
A page would prime him for a day:
They cram not with a mass of knowledge,
Which smacks of toil, and smells of college,
Which in the memory useless lies,
Or only makes men -- good and wise.
This might have merit once indeed,
But now for other ends we read.
A friend he had, Bellario hight,
A reasoning, reading, learned wight;
At least, with men of Florio's breeding,
He was a prodigy of reading.
He knew each stale and vapid lie
In tomes of French Philosophy;
And then, we fairly may presume,
From Pyrrho down to David Hume,
'Twere difficult to single out
A man more full of shallow doubt;
He knew the little sceptic prattle,
The sophist's paltry arts of battle;
Talk'd gravely of the Atomic dance,
Of moral fitness, fate, and chance;
Admired the system of Lucretius,
Whose matchless verse makes nonsense specious!
To this his doctrine owes its merits,
Like poisonous reptiles kept in spirits.
Though sceptics dull his schemes rehearse,
Who have not souls to taste his verse.
Bellario founds his reputation
On dry, stale jokes, about Creation;
Would prove, by argument circuitous,
The combination was fortuitous.
Swore Priests' whole trade was to deceive,
And prey on bigots who believe;
With bitter ridicule could jeer,
And had the true free-thinking jeer.
Grave arguments he had in store,
Which have been answer'd o'er and o'er;
And used, with wondrous penetration
The trite old trick of false citation;
From ancient Authors fond to quote
A phrase or thought they never wrote.
Upon his highest shelf there stood
The Classics neatly cut in wood;
And in a more commodious station,
You'd found them in a French translation:
He swears, 'tis from the Greek he quotes,
But keeps the French -- just for the notes.
He worshipp'd certain modern names
Who History write in Epigrams,
In pointed periods, shining phrases,
And all the small poetic daisies,
Which crowd the pert and florid style,
Where fact is dropt to raise a smile;
Where notes indecent or profane
Serve to raise doubts, but not explain:
Where all is spangle, glitter, show,
And truth is overlaid below:
Arts scorn'd by History's sober muse
Arts Clarendon disdain'd to use.
Whate'er the subject of debate,
'Twas larded still with sceptic prate;
Begin whatever theme you will,
In unbelief he lands you still;
The good, with shame I speak it, feel
Not half this proselyting zeal;
While cold their Master's cause to own
Content to go to Heaven alone;
The infidel in liberal trim,
Would carry all the World with him;
Would treat his wife, friend, kindred, nation,
Mankind -- with what? -- Annihilation.
Though Florio did not quite believe him,
He thought, why should a friend deceive him?
Much as he prized Bellario's wit,
He liked not all his notions yet;
He thought him charming, pleasant, odd,
But hoped one might believe in God;
Yet such the charms that graced his tongue,
He knew not how to think him wrong.
Though Florio tried a thousand ways,
Truth's insuppressive torch would blaze;
Where once her flame was burnt, I doubt
If ever it go fairly out.
Yet, under great Bellario's care,
He gain'd each day a better air;
With many a leader of renown,
Deep in the learning of the Town,
Who never other science knew,
But what from that prime source they drew;
Pleased to the Opera, they repair,
To get recruits of knowledge there,
Mythology gain at a glance,
And learn the Classics from a dance:
In Ovid they ne'er cared a groat,
How fared the venturous Argonaut;
Yet charm'd they see Medea rise
On fiery dragons to the skies.
For Dido, though they never knew her
As Maro's magic pencil drew her,
Faithful and fond, and broken-hearted,
Her pious vagabond departed;
Yet, for Didone how they roar!
And Cara! Cara! loud encore.
One taste, Bellario's soul possess'd,
The master passion of his breast;
It was not one of those frail joys,
Which, by possession, quickly cloys;
This bliss was solid, constant, true;
'Twas action, and 'twas passion too;
For though the business might be finish'd,
The pleasure scarcely was diminish'd;
Did he ride out, or sit, or walk?
He lived it o'er again in talk;
Prolong'd the fugitive delight,
In words by day, in dreams by night.
'Twas eating did his soul allure,
A deep, keen, modish Epicure;
Though once his name, as I opine,
Meant not such men as live to dine.
Yet all our modern Wits assure us,
That's all they know of Epicurus:
They fondly fancy, that repletion
Was the chief good of that famed Grecian.
To live in gardens full of flowers,
And talk philosophy in bowers.
Or, in the covert of a wood,
To descant on the sovereign good,
Might be the notion of their founder,
But they have notions vastly sounder;
Their bolder standards they erect,
To form a more substantial sect;
Old Epicurus would not own 'em,
A dinner is their summum bonum.
More like you'll find such sparks as these
To Epicurus' deities;
Like them they mix not with affairs,
But loll and laugh at human cares,
To beaux this difference is allow'd,
They choose a sofa for a cloud;
Bellario had embraced with glee,
This practical philosophy.
Young Florio's father had a friend,
And ne'er did Heaven a worthier send;
A cheerful knight of good estate,
Whose heart was warm, whose bounty great.
Where'er his wide protection spread,
The sick were cheer'd the hungry fed;
Resentment vanish'd where he came,
And law-suits fled before his name:
The old esteem'd, the young caress'd him,
And all the smiling village bless'd him.
Within his castle's Gothic gate,
Sate plenty, and old-fashion'd State:
Scarce Prudence could his bounties stint;
Such characters are out of print;
O! would kind Heaven, the age to mend,
A new edition of them send,
Before our tottering Castles fall,
And swarming Nabobs seize on all!
Some little whims he had, 'tis true,
But they were harmless, and were few;
He dreaded nought like alteration,
Improvement still was innovation;
He said, when any change was brewing,
Reform was a fine name for ruin;
This maxim firmly he would hold,
'That always must be good that's old.'
The acts which dignify the day
He thought portended its decay:
And fear'd 'twould show a falling State,
If Sternhold should give way to Tate:
The Church's downfal he predicted,
Were modern tunes not interdicted;
He scorn'd them all, but crown'd with palm
The man who set the hundredth Psalm.
Of moderate parts, of moderate wit,
But parts for life and business fit,
Whate'er the theme, he did not fail,
At Popery and the French to rail;
And started wide, with fond digression,
To praise the Protestant succession;
Of Blackstone he had read a part,
And all Burns' Justice knew by heart.
He thought man's life too short to waste
On idle things call'd wit and taste.
In books that he might lose no minute,
His very verse had business in it.
He ne'er had heard of Bards of Greece,
But had read half of Dyer's Fleece.
His sphere of knowledge still was wider,
His Georgics, 'Philips upon Cyder;'
He could produce in proper place,
Three apt quotations from the 'Chace,'
Ad in the hall from day to day,
Old Isaac Walton's Angler lay.
This good and venerable knight,
One daughter had, his soul's delight;
For face, no mortal could resist her,
She smiled like Hebe's youngest sister;
Her life, as lovely as her face,
Each duty mark'd with every grace;
Her native sense improved by reading,
Her native sweetness by good-breeding:
She had perused each choicer sage
Of ancient date, or later age;
But her best knowledge still she found
On sacred, not on Classic ground;
'Twas thence her noblest stores she drew,
And well she practised what she knew.
Let by Simplicity divine,
She pleased, and never tried to shine;
She gave to chance each unschool'd feature,
And left her cause to sense and Nature.
The Sire of Florio, ere he died,
Decreed fair Celia Florio's bride;
Bade him his latest wish attend,
And win the daughter of his friend;
When the last rites to him were paid,
He charged him to address the maid;
Sir Gilbert's heart the wish approved,
For much his ancient friend he loved.
Six rapid months like lightning fly,
And the last gray was now thrown by;
Florio, reluctant, calls to mind
The orders of a Sire too kind;
Yet go he must; he must fulfil
The hard conditions of the will:
Go, at that precious hour of prime,
Go, at that swarming, bustling time,
When the full town to joy invites,
Distracted with its own delights;
When pleasure pours from her full urn,
Each tiresome transport in its turn;
When Dissipation's altars blaze,
And men run mad a thousand ways;
When, on his tablets, there were found
Engagements for full six weeks round;
Must leave, with grief and desperation,
Three packs of cards of invitation,
And all the ravishing delights
Of slavish days, and sleepless nights.
Ye nymphs, whom tyrant Power drags down,
With hand despotic, from the town,
When Almack's doors wide open stand,
And the gay partner's offer'd hand
Courts to the dance; when steaming rooms
Fetid with unguents and perfumes,
Invite you to the mobs polite
Of three sure balls in one short night;
You may conceive what Florio felt,
And sympathetically melt;
You may conceive the hardship dire,
To lawns and woodlands to retire,
When freed from Winter's icy chain,
Glad Nature revels on the plain;
When blushing Spring leads on the hours,
And May is prodigal of flowers;
When Passion warbles through the grove,
And all is song, and all is love;
When new-born breezes sweep the vale,
And health adds fragrance to the vale.

PART II.

Six boys, unconscious of their weight,
Soon lodged him at Sir Gilbert's gate;
His trusty Swiss, who flew still faster,
Announced the arrival of his Master:
So loud the rap which shook the door,
The hall re-echoed to the roar;
Since first the castle walls were rear'd,
So dread a sound had ne'er been heard;
The din alarm'd the frighten'd deer
Who in a corner slunk for fear,
The Butler thought 'twas beat of drum,
The Steward swore the French were come;
It ting'd with red Poor Florio's face,
He thought himself in Portland-Place.
Short joy! he enter'd, and the gate
Closed on him with its ponderous weight.
Who, like Sir Gilbert, now was blest?
With rapture he embraced his guest.
Fair Celia blush'd, and Florio utter'd
Half sentences, or rather mutter'd
Disjointed words -- as, 'honour! pleasure!
'Kind! -- vastly good, Ma'am! -- beyond measure:'
Tame expletives, with which dull Fashion
Fills vacancies of sense and passion.
Yet, though disciple of cold Art,
Florio soon found he had a heart,
He saw; and but that Admiration
Had been too active, too like passion;
Or had he been to Ton less true,
Cupid had shot him through and through;
But, vainly speeds the surest dart,
Where Fashion's mail defends the heart
The shaft her cold repulsion found,
And fell, without the power to wound;
For fashion, with a mother's joy,
Dipp'd in her lake the darling boy;
That lake whose chilling waves impart
The gift to freeze the warmest heart:
Yet guarded as he was with phlegm,
With such delight he eyed the dame,
Found his cold heart so melt before her,
And felt so ready to adore her;
That fashion fear'd her son would yield,
And flew to snatch him from the field;
O'er his touch'd heart her AEgis threw,
The Goddess Mother straight he knew;
Her power he own'd, she saw and smiled,
And claim'd the triumph of her child.
Celia a table still supplied,
Which modish luxury might deride;
A modest feast the hope conveys,
The Master eats on other days;
While gorgeous banquets oft bespeak
A hungry household all the week;
And decent elegance was there,
And Plenty with her liberal air.
But vulgar Plenty gave offence,
And shock'd poor Florio's nicer sense.
Patient he yielded to his fate,
When good Sir Gilbert piled his plate;
He bow'd submissive, made no question,
But that 'twas sovereign for digestion;
But, such was his unlucky whim,
Plain meats would ne'er agree with him;
Yet feign'd to praise the gothic treat,
And, if he ate not, seem'd to eat.
In sleep sad Florio hoped to find,
The pleasures he had left behind,
He dreamt, and, lo! to charm his eyes,
The form of Weltje seem'd to rise;
The gracious vision waved his wand,
And banquets sprung to Florio's hand;
Th' imaginary savours rose
In tempting odours to his nose.
A bell, not Fancy's false creation,
Gives joyful 'note of preparation;'
He starts, he wakes, the bell he hears;
Alas! it rings for morning prayers.
But how to spend next tedious morning,
Was past his possible discerning;
Unable to amuse himself,
He tumbled every well-ranged shelf;
This book was dull, and that was wise,
And this was monstrous as to size.
With eager joy he gobbled down
Whate'er related to the town;
Whate'er look'd small, whate'er look'd new,
Half-bound, or stitch'd in pink or blue;
Old play-bills, Astley's last year's feats,
And Opera disputes in sheets,
As these dear records meet his eyes,
Ghosts of departed pleasures rise;
He lays the book upon the shelf,
And leaves the day to spend itself.
To cheat the tedious hours, whene'er
He sallied forth to take the air,
His sympathetic ponies knew
Which way their Lord's affections drew;
And, every time he went abroad,
Sought of themselves the London road:
He ask'd each mile of every clown,
How far they reckon'd it to town?
And still his nimble spirits rise,
Whilst thither he directs his eyes;
But when his coursers back he guides,
The sinking Mercury quick subsides.
A week he had resolved to stay,
But found a week in every day;
Yet if the gentle maid was by,
Faint pleasure glisten'd in his eye;
Whene'er she spoke, attention hung
On the mild accents of her tongue;
But when no more the room she graced,
The slight impression was effaced.
Whene'er Sir Gilbert's sporting guests
Retail'd old news, or older jests,
Florio, quite calm, and debonair,
Still humm'd a new Italian air;
He did not even feign to hear them,
But plainly show'd he could not bear them.
Celia perceived his secret thoughts,
But liked the youth with all his thoughts,
Yet 'twas unlike, she softly said,
The tales of love which she had read,
Where heroes vow'd, and sigh'd, and knelt;
Nay, 'twas unlike the love she felt;
Though when her Sire the youth would blame,
She clear'd his but suspected fame,
Ventured to hope, with faultering tongue,
'He would reform, he was but young;'
Confess'd his manners wrong in part,
'But then -- he had so good a heart!'
She sunk each fault, each virtue raised,
And still, where truth permitted, praised;
His interest farther to secure,
She praised his bounty to the poor;
For, votary as his he was of art,
He had a kind and melting heart;
Though, with a smile, he used to own
He had not time to feel in town;
Not that he blush'd to show compassion,--
It chanced that year to be the fashion.
And equally the modish tribe,
To Clubs or Hospitals subscribe.
At length, to wake Ambition's flame,
A letter from Bellario came;
Announcing the supreme delight,
Preparing for a certain night,
By Flavia fair, return'd from France,
Who took him captive at a glance:
The invitations all were given!
Five hundred cards! -- a little heaven!--
A dinner first -- he would present him,
And nothing, nothing must prevent him.
Whosever wish'd a noble air,
Must gain it by an entree there;
Of all the glories of the town,
'Twas the first passport to renown.
Then ridiculed his rural schemes,
His pastoral shades, and purling streams;
Sneer'd at his present brilliant life,
His polish'd Sire, and high-bred Wife!
Thus doubly to inflame, he tried,
His curiosity, and pride.
The youth, with agitated heart,
Prepared directly to depart;
But, bound in honour to obey
His father, at no distant day,
He promised soon to hasten down,
Though business call'd him now to town;
Then faintly hints a cold proposal--
But leaves it to the Knight's disposal--
Stammer'd half words of love and duty,
And mutter'd much of -- 'worth and beauty;'
Something of 'passion' then he dropt,
'And hoped his ardour'-- Here he stopt;
For some remains of native truth
Flush'd in his face, and check'd the youth;
Yet still the ambiguous suffusion,
Might pass for artless love's confusion.
The doating father thought 'twas strange,
But fancied men like times might change;
Yet own'd, nor could he check his tongue,
It was not so when he was young.
That was the reign of Love, he swore,
Whose halcyon days are now no more.
In that bless'd age, for honour famed,
Love paid the homage Virtue claim'd;
Not that insipid, daudling Cupid,
With heart so hard, and air so stupid,
Who coldly courts the charms which lie
In Affectation's half closed eye.
Love then was honest, genuine passion,
And manly gallantry the fashion;
Yet pure as ardent was the flame
Excited by the beauteous dame;
Hope should subsist on slender bounties,
And Suitors gallop'd o'er two counties,
The Ball's fair partner to behold,
Or humbly hope -- she caught no cold.
But mark how much Love's annals mend!
Should Beauty's Goddess now descend;
On some adventure should she come,
To grace a modish drawing-room;
Spite of her form and heavenly air,
What Beau would hand her to her chair?
Vain were that grace, which, to her son,
Disclosed what Beauty had not done:
Vain were that motion which betray'd,
The goddess was no earth-born maid;
If noxious Faro's baleful spright,
With rites infernal ruled the night,
The group absorb'd in play and pelf,
Venus might call her doves herself.
As Florio pass'd the Castle-gate,
His spirits seem to lose their weight;
He feasts his lately vacant mind
With all the joys he hopes to find;
Yet on whate'er his fancy broods,
The form of Celia still intrudes;
Whatever other sounds he hears,
The voice of Celia fills his ears;
Howe'er his random thoughts might fly,
Nor was the obstrusive vision o'er,
Even when he reach'd Bellario's door;
The friends embraced with warm delight,
And Flavia's praises crown'd the night.
Soon dawn'd the day which was to show
Glad Florio what was heaven below.
Flavia, admired wherever known,
The acknowledged Empress of bon-ton;
O'er Fashion's wayward kingdom reigns,
And holds Bellario in her chains:
Various her powers; a wit by day,
By night unmatch'd for lucky play.
The flattering, fashionable tribe,
Each stray bon-mot to her ascribe;
And all her 'little senate' own
She made the best Charade in town;
Her midnight suppers always drew
Whate'er was fine, whate'er was new.
There oft the brightest fame you'd see
The victim of a repartee;
For slander's Priestess still supplies
The Spotless for the sacrifice.
None at her polish'd table sit,
But who aspired to modish wit;
The persiflage, th' unfeeling jeer,
The civil, grave, ironic sneer;
The laugh, which more than censure wounds,
Which, more than argument, confounds.
There the fair deed, which would engage
The wonder of a nobler age,
With unbelieving scorn is heard,
Or still to selfish ends referr'd;
If in the deed no flaw they find,
To some base motive 'tis assign'd;
When Malice longs to throw her dart,
But finds no vulnerable part,
Because the Virtues all defend,
At every pass, their guarded friend;
Then by one slight insinuation,
One scarce perceived exaggeration;
Sly Ridicule, with half a word,
Can fix her stigma of -- absurd;
Nor care, nor skill, extracts the dart,
With which she stabs the feeling heart;
Her cruel caustics inly pain,
And scars indelible remain.
Supreme in wit, supreme in play,
Despotic Flavia all obey;
Small were her natural charms of face,
Till heighten'd with each foreign grace;
But what subdued Bellario's soul
Beyond Philosophy's control,
Her constant table was as fine
As if ten Rajahs were to dine;
She every day produced such fish as
Would gratify the nice Apicius,
Or realize what we think fabulous
I' th' bill of fare of Heliogabalus.
Yet still the natural taste was cheated,
'Twas deluged in some sauce one hated.
'Twas sauce! 'twas sweetmeat! 'twas confection!
All poignancy! and all perfection!
Rich Entrements, whose name none knows,
Ragouts, Tourtes, Tendrons, Fricandeaux,
Might picque the sensuality
O' th' hogs of Epicurus' sty;
Yet all so foreign, and so fine,
'Twas easier to admire, than dine.
O! if the Muse had power to tell
Each dish, no Muse has power to spell!
Great Goddess of the French Cuisine!
Not with unhallow'd hands I mean
To violate thy secret shade,
Which eyes profane shall ne'er invade;
No! of thy dignity supreme,
I, with 'mysterious reverence,' deem!
Or, should I venture with rash hand,
The vulgar would not understand;
None but th' initiated know
The raptures keen thy rites bestow.
Thus much to tell I lawful deem,
Thy works are never what they seem;
Thy will this general law has past,
That nothing of itself shall taste.
Thy word this high decree enacted,
'In all be Nature counteracted!'
Conceive, who can, the perfect bliss,
For 'tis not given to all to guess,
The rapturous joy Bellario found,
When thus his every wish was crown'd.
To Florio, as the best of friends,
One dish he secretly commends;
Then hinted, as a special favour,
What gave it that delicious flavour;
A mystery he so much reveres,
He never to unhallow'd ears
Would trust it, but to him would show
How far true Friendship's power could go.
Florio, though dazzled by the fete,
With far inferior transport eat;
A little warp his taste had gain'd,
Which, unperceived, till now, remain'd;
For, from himself he would conceal
The change he did not choose to feel;
He almost wish'd he could be picking
An unsophisticated chicken;
And when he cast his eyes around,
And not one simple morsel found,
O give me, was his secret wish,
My charming Celia's plainest dish!
Thus Nature, struggling for her rights,
Lets in some little, casual lights,
And Love combines to war with Fashion,
Though yet 'twas but an infant passion;
The practised Flavia tried each art
Of sly attack to steal his heart;
Her forced civilities oppress,
Fatiguing through mere graciousness;
While many a gay, intrepid dame,
By bold assault essay'd the same.
Fill'd with disgust, he strove to fly
The artful glance and fearless eye;
Their jargon now no more he praises,
Nor echoes back their flimsy phrases.
He felt not Celia's powers of face,
Till weigh'd against bon-ton grimage;
Nor half her genuine beauties tasted,
Till with factitious charms contrasted.
Th' industrious harpies hover'd round,
Nor peace nor liberty he found;
By force and flattery circumvented,
To play, reluctant, he consented;
Each Dame her power of pleasing tried,
To fix the novice by her side;
Of Pigeons, he the very best,
Who wealth, with ignorance, possest:
But Flavia's rhetoric best persuades,
That Sibyl leads him to the shades;
The fatal leaves around the room,
Prophetic, tell th' approaching doom!
Yet, different from the tale of old,
It was the fair one pluck'd the gold;
Her arts the ponderous purse exhaust;
A thousand borrow'd, staked, and lost,
Wakes him to sense and shame again,
Nor force, nor fraud, could more obtain.
He rose, indignant, to attend
The summons of a ruin'd friend,
Whom keen Bellario's arts betray
To all the depths of desperate play;
A thoughtless youth who near him sate,
Was plunder'd of his whole estate;
Toll late he call'd for Florio's aid,
A beggar in a moment made.
And now, with horror, Florio views
The wild confusion which ensues;
Marks how the Dames, of late so fair,
Assume a fierce demoniac air;
Marks where th' infernal furies hold
Their orgies foul o'er heaps of gold;
And spirits dire appear to rise,
Guarding the horrid mysteries;
Marks how deforming passions tear
The bosoms of the losing fair;
How looks convulsed, and haggar'd faces
Chase the scared Loves and frighten'd Graces!
Touch'd with disdain, with horror fired,
Celia! he murmur'd, and retired.
That night no sleep his eyelids prest,
He thought; and thought 's a foe to rest:
Or if, by chance, he closed his eyes,
What hideous spectres round him rise!
Distemper'd Fancy wildly brings
The broken images of things;
His ruin'd friend, with eye-ball fixt,
Swallowing the draught Despair had mixt;
The frantic wife beside him stands,
With bursting heart, and wringing hands;
And every horror dreams bestow,
Of pining Want, or raving Woe.
Next morn, to check, or cherish thought,
His library's retreat he sought;
He view'd each book, with cold regard,
Of serious sage, or lighter bard;
At length among the motley band,
The Idler fell into his hand;
Th' alluring title caught his eye,
It promised cold inanity:
He read with rapture and surprise,
And found 'twas pleasant, though 'twas wise;
His tea grew cold, whilst he, unheeding,
Pursued this reasonable reading.
He wonder'd at the change he found,
Th' elastic spirits nimbly bound;
Time slipt, without disgust, away,
While many a card unanswer'd lay;
Three papers, reeking from the press,
Three Pamphlets thin, in azure dress,
Ephemeral literature well known,
The lie and scandal of the town;
Poison of letters, morals, time!
Assassin of our day's fresh prime!
These, on his table, half the day,
Unthought of, and neglected lay.
Florio had now full three hours read,
Hours which he used to waste in bed;
His pulse beat Virtue's vigorous tone,
The reason to himself unknown;
And if he stopp'd to seek the cause,
Fair Celia's image fill'd the pause.
And now, announced, Bellario's name
Had almost quench'd the new-born flame:
'Admit him,' was the ready word
Which first escaped him not unheard;
When sudden to his mental sight,
Uprose the horrors of last night;
His plunder'd friend before him stands,
And -- 'not at home,' his firm commands.
He felt the conquest as a joy
The first temptation would destroy.
He knew next day that Hymen's hand,
Would tack the slight and slippery band,
Which, in loose bondage, would ensnare
Bellario bright and Flavia fair.
Oft had he promised to attend
The Nuptials of his happy friend:
To go -- to stay -- alike he fears;
At length a bolder flight he dares;
To Celia he resolves to fly,
And catch fresh virtue from her eye;
Though three full weeks did yet remain,
Ere he engaged to come again.
This plan he tremblingly embraced,
With doubtful zeal, and uttering haste;
Nor ventured he one card to read,
Which might his virtuous scheme impede;
Each note, he dreaded might betray him,
And shudder'd lest each rap should stay him.
Behold him seated in his chaise:
With face that self-distrust betrays;
He hazards not a single glance,
Nor through the glasses peeps by chance,
Lest some old friend, or haunt well known,
Should melt his resolution down.
Fast as his foaming coursers fly,
Hyde-Park attracts his half-raised eye;
He steals one fearful, conscious look,
Then drops his eye upon his book.
Triumphant he persists to go;
But gives one sigh to Rotten Row.
Long as he view'd Augusta's towers
The sight relax'd his thinking powers;
In vain he better plans revolves,
While the soft scene his soul dissolves;
The towers once lost, his view he bends,
Where the receding smoke ascends;
But when nor smoke, nor towers arise,
To charm his heart or cheat his eyes;
When once he got entirely clear
From this enfeebling atmosphere;
His mind was braced, his spirits light,
His heart was gay, his humour bright;
Thus feeling, at his inmost soul,
The sweet reward of self-control.
Impatient now, and all alive,
He thought he never should arrive;
At last he spies Sir Gilbert's trees;
Now the near battlements he sees;
The gates he enter'd with delight,
And, self-announced, embraced the knight:
The youth his joy unfeign'd express'd,
The knight with joy received his guest,
And own'd, with no unwilling tongue,
'Twas done like men when he was young.
Three weeks subducted, went to prove,
A feeling like old-fashion'd love.
For Celia, not a word she said,
But blush'd, 'celestial, rosy red!'
Her modest charms transport the youth,
Who promised everlasting truth.
Celia, in honour of the day,
Unusual splendour would display:
Such was the charm her sweetness gave,
He thought her Wedgwood had been seve;
Her taste diffused a gracious air,
And chaste Simplicity was there,
Whose secret power, though silent, great is,
The loveliest of the sweet Penates.
Florio, now present to the scene,
With spirits light and gracious mien,
Sir Gilbert's port politely praises,
And carefully avoids French phrases;
Endures the daily dissertation
On Land-tax, and a ruin'd Nation;
Listens to many a tedious tale
Of poachers, who deserved a jail;
Heard of all the business of the Quorum,
Each cause and crime produced before 'em;
Heard them abuse with complaisance
The language, wines, and wits of France;
Nor did he hum a single air,
While good Sir Gilbert fill'd his chair.
Abroad, with joy and grateful pride
He walks, with Celia by his side:
A thousand cheerful thoughts arise,
Each rural scene enchants his eyes:
With transport he begins to look
On Nature's all-instructive book;
No objects now seem mean, or low,
Which point to Him from whom they flow.
A berry or a bud excites
A chain of reasoning which delights,
Which, spite of sceptic ebullitions
Proves Atheists not the best Logicians.
A tree, a brook, a blade of grass,
Suggests reflections as they pass,
Till Florio, with a sigh, confest
The simplest pleasures are the best!
Bellario's systems sink in air,
He feels the perfect, good, and fair.
As pious Celia raised the theme
To holy faith and love supreme;
Enlighten'd Florio learn'd to trace
In Nature's God the God of Grace.
In wisdom as the convert grew,
The hours on rapid pinions flew;
When call'd to dress, that Titus wore
A wig the alter'd Florio swore;
Or else, in estimating time,
He ne'er had mark'd it as a crime,
That he had lost but one day's blessing,
When we so many lose, by dressing.
The rest, suffice it now to say,
Was finish'd in the usual way.
Cupid impatient for his hour,
Reviled slow Themis' tedious power,
Whose parchment legends, signing, sealing,
Are cruel forms for Love to deal in.
At length to Florio's eager eyes,
Behold the day of bliss arise!
The golden sun illumes the globe,
The burning torch, the saffron robe,
Jus as of old, glad Hymen wears,
And Cupid as of old, appears
In Hymen's train; so strange the case,
They hardly knew each other's face;
Yet both confess'd with glowing heart,
They never were design'd to part;
Quoth Hymen, Sure you're strangely slighted,
At weddings not to be invited;
The reason's clear enough, quoth Cupid,
My company is thought but stupid,
Where Plutus is the favourite guest,
For he and I scarce speak at best.
The self-same sun which joins the twain
Sees Flavia sever'd from her swain:
Bellario sues for a divorce,
And both pursue their separate course.
Oh wedded love; Thy bliss how rare!
And yet the ill-assorted pair,
The pair who choose at Fashion's voice,
Or drag the chain of venal choice,
Have little cause to curse the state;
Who make, should never blame their fate;
Such flimsy ties, say where's the wonder,
If Doctors Commons snap asunder.
In either case, 'tis still the wife,
Gives cast and colour to the life.
Florio escaped from Fashion's school,
His heart and conduct learns to rule;
Conscience his useful life approves;
He serves his God, his country loves;
Reveres her laws, protects her rights,
And, for her interests, pleads or fights:
Reviews with scorn his former life,
And, for his rescue, thanks his Wife.

Submitted: Thursday, September 16, 2010

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