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A moral essay now is all her care,
A satire next, and then a bill of fare.
A scene she now projects, and now a dish;
Here Act the First, and here, Remove with Fish.
Now, while this eye in a fine frenzy rolls,
That soberly casts up a bill for coals;
Black pins and daggers in one leaf she sticks,
And tears, and threads, and bowls, and thimbles mix.
I saw thee, Netley, as the sun
Across the western wave
Was sinking slow,
And a golden glow
To thy roofless towers he gave;
And the ivy sheen
With its mantle of green
That wrapt thy walls around,
Shone lovelily bright
In that glorious light,
And I felt ’t was holy ground.
Then I thought of the ancient time
The days of thy monks of old, -
When to matin, and vesper, and compline chime,
The loud Hosanna roll'd,
And, thy courts and “long-drawn aisles” among,
Swell'd the full tide of sacred song.
And then a vision pass'd
Across my mental eye;
And silver shrines, and shaven crowns,
And delicate ladies, in bombazeen gowns,
And long white vails, went by;
Stiff, and staid, and solemn, and sad, -
-But one, methought, wink'd at the Gardener-lad !
Then came the Abbot, with miter and ring,
And pastoral staff, and all that sort of thing,
And a monk with a book, and a monk with a bell,
And “dear linen souls,”
In clean linen stoles,
Swinging their censers, and making a smell. —
And see where the Choir-master walks in the rear
With front severe
And brow austere,
Now and then pinching a little boy's ear
When he chants the responses too late or too soon,
Or his Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La's not quite in tune.
(Then you know
They'd a "movable Do,"
Not a fix'd one as now--and of course never knew
How to set up a musical Hullah-baloo.)
It was, in sooth, a comely sight,
And I welcom'd the vision with pure delight.
But then “a change came o'er"
My spirit—a change of fear-
That gorgeous scene I beheld no more,
But deep beneath the basement floor
A dungeon dark and drear!
And there was an ugly hole in the wall
For an oven too big,—for a cellar too small !
And mortar and bricks
All ready to fix,
And I said, “Here's a Nun has been playing some tricks !--
That horrible hole!-it seems to say,
for a living prey !'”
And my heart grew sick, and my brow grew sad
And I thought of that wink at the Gardener-lad.
Ah me! ah me!-'tis sad to think
That maiden's eye, which was made to wink,
Should here be compelled to grow blear and blink,
Or be closed for aye
In this kind of way,
Shut out forever from wholesome day,
Wall’d up in a hole with never a chink,
No light,-no air,—no victuals,—no drink !
And that maiden's lip,
Which was made to sip,
Should here grow wither'd and dry as a chip!
- That wandering glance and furtive kiss,
Exceedingly naughty, and wrong, I wis,
Should yet be considered so much amiss
As to call for a sentence severe as this ! -
And I said to myself, as I heard with a sigh
poor lone victim's stifled cry,
“Well, I can't understand
How any man's hand
Could wall up that hole in a Christian land !
Why, a Mussulman Turk
Would recoil from the work,
And though, when his ladies run after the fellows, he
Stands not on trifles, if madden'd by jealousy,
Its objects, I'm sure, would declare, could they speak,
In their Georgian, Circassian, or Turkish, or Greek,
"When all's said and done, far better it was for us,
Tied back to back
And sewn up in a sack, To be pitch'd neck-and-heels from a boat in the Bosphorus!
-Oh! a saint 't would vex
To think that the sex
Should be no better treated than Combe's double XI
Sure some one might run to the Abbess, and tell her
A much better method of stocking her cellar.”
If ever on polluted walls
Heaven's right arm in vengeance falls,-
If e'er its justice wraps in flame
The black abodes of sin and shame,
That justice, in its own good time,
Shall visit, for so foul a crime,
Ope desolation's floodgate wide,
And blast thee, Netley, in thy pride!
Lo where it comes !—the tempest lowers,
It bursts on thy devoted towers;
Ruthless Tudor's bloated form
Rides on the blast, and guides the storm;
I hear the sacrilegious cry,
"Down with the nests, and the rooks will fly!"
Downl down they come-a fearful fall —
Arch, and pillar, and roof-tree, and all,
Stained pane, and sculptured stone,
There they lie on the greensward strown--
Moldering walls remain alone!
Miter, and crozier, and all are flown!
And yet, fair Netley, as I gaze
Upon that gray and moldering wall,
The glories of thy palmy days
Its very stones recall !
They "come like shadows, so depart”-
I see thee as thou wert—and art-
Sublime in ruin !-grand in woe!
Lone refuge of the owl and bat;
No voice awakes thine echoes now!
No sound-good gracious !-what was that?
Was it the moan,
The parting groan
Of her who died forlorn and alone,
Embedded in mortar, and bricks, and stone ?---
Full and clear
On my listening ear
It comes-again-near and more near-
Why zooks! it's the popping of Ginger Beer!
- I rush to the door
I tread the floor,
By abbots and abbesses trodden before,
In the good old chivalric days of yore,
And what see there?
In a rush-bottom'd chair
A hag surrounded by crockery-ware,
Vending, in cups, to the credulous throng
A nasty decoction miscallid Souchong,-
And a squeaking fiddle and “wry-necked fife”
Are screeching away, for the life !—for the life !
Danced to by “All the World and his Wife.”
Tag, Rag, and Bobtail
, are capering there, Worse scene, I ween, than Bartlemy Fair !Two or three chimney-sweeps, two or three clowns, Playing at “pitch and toss,” sport their “
Two or three damsels, frank and free,
Are ogling, and smiling, and sipping Bohea.
Parties below, and parties above,
Some making tea, and some making love.
Then the “toot-toot-toot"
Of that vile demi-flute, -
The detestable din
Of that cracked violin, And the odors of “Stout," and tobacco, and gin! «_Dear me!" I exclaim'd, “what a place to be in!" And I said to the person who drove my “shay" (A very intelligent man, by the way),
This, all things considered, is rather too gay! It don't suit my humor,--so take me away! Dancing ! and drinking !-cigar and song! If not profanation, it is coming it strong,' And I really consider it all very wrong. -Pray, to whom does this property now belong ?" —
He paus'd, and said,
Scratching his head,
“Why I really do think he's a little to blame,
But I can't say I knows the gentleman's name!"
“Well-well !" quoth I,
As I heaved a sigh,
And a tear-drop fell from my twinkling eye,
“My vastly good man, as I scarcely doubt
That some day or other you 'll find it out,
Should he come in your way,
Or ride in your shay'
(As perhaps he may),
· Be so good as to say
That a Visitor whom you drove over one day,
Was exceedingly angry, and very much scandalized,
Finding these beautiful ruins so Vandalized,
And thus of their owner to speak began,
As he ordered you home in haste,
NO DOUBT HE'S A VERY RESPECTABLE MAN,
But, I can't say much for his taste !'”