Canto the Third -

CANTO THE THIRD .

In this light bark, his fugitive abode,
A pair of Nymphs, gay libertines, were stow'd —
A couple of Dragoons to these were join'd,
In ribbald wit both heroes of their kind —
A Monk — a Nurse — a thund'ring Gasconader,
Of Saints and Vestals a renown'd invader.
It must be own'd, that for a Bird of grace
The whims of chance had found a comic place:
But Strange are bedfellows that flock together,
With no credentials for it but the weather .
Amaz'd, Ver-Vert in pleasure's giddy range
Encounter'd habits that were new and strange;
Nor manners legible, nor language known,
Upon a savage country he was thrown,
Scar'd and embarrass'd at the foreign style,
As if his boat had sail'd upon the Nile .
Where are the edifying orisons
That breath'd in air the purity of Nuns,
The note that sigh'd, the whisper half-suppress'd,
And the soft raptures of the sainted breast?
Instead of these, with many an odious word
The licence of the Bacchanal is heard.
The warriors twain, with irreligious tongue,
A language held that of the tavern rung.
To charm the dullness of the lingering day,
Their lips to social bumpers found the way.
The Gascon Hero to a Cyprian Miss
Detail'd the chapter of unhallow'd bliss.
Wild in their cups the noisy boatmen swore,
And us'd a Saint as they would use an oar ;
With complicated blasphemies exclaim'd,
And when most naked — were the least asham'd:
Their manly tone upon the listening Bird,
Round and articulate, impress'd the word.
At first, his thoughts entangled and confus'd,
A mute reserve the timid Stranger us'd;
He dar'd not in such company be known,
And wish'd he could his eloquence disown.
But with a courtly tone they all concurr'd
In supplicating language to the Bird.
At length, with air entranc'd and rolling eyes,
An " Ave-Mary " came, half lost in sighs.
Imagine at those words the peal of mirth —
Perhaps you 'll guess the revolution's birth .
A Novice, open thus to ridicule,
Began to fear that he had play'd the fool;
And that he could not ears well-bred allure
Unless the Convent-style he could abjure.
Proud from his birth, nor had the Courtier's lay
Been ever coy its tickling dues to pay;
His guards unseen the Loves and Graces wept,
Suspicion fled, and jealous Honour slept;
He could not bear the lash of gay contempt,
And sinn'd, from fashion's whip to be exempt —
(Nor he alone — for ask the rake of note
If he is not a libertine by rote ,
Who gets the vicious character by heart,
And pays to vanity the borrow'd part!)
The Gascon debauchee his tongue defil'd,
His failing heart its early pets revil'd,
For they had never put into his head
The lively rhetorick at Paris bred,
Where faint and bold, in wild confusion strung,
Make anarchy the charter of the tongue.
Little he said, but he was mute for shame;
With listening ear sat brooding on his aim;
Deep in reflections, on the task intent,
He gave the mimic ear no other bent:
But first it was judicious to forget
The chaste endearments of the Nun-coquette.
Alas! before two little days were past,
Of airs demure he whistled off the last: —
Of Monk and of Dragoon the manly tone,
Their style, their tactic, he had made his own; —
For, as the docile nature vacant grew,
At once to ripeness bad instruction flew;
With apt facility, and prone to ill,
He curs'd and swore, as if the time to kill.
Like an old Fiend in holy water's cup,
Who taints the hallow'd stream, or drinks it up,
Of abstinence the penal code abjur'd,
Thought it a vulgar illness, and was cur'd.
It has been said, that only by degrees
The Devil enters, and the Angel flees;
But he at one bold stroke became profess'd ,
Without novitiate , perfect as the rest.
His ear too well the alphabet retain'd,
That memory and love to habit chain'd;
When half the ribbald words to air had sprung,
The other half ran glibly off the tongue;
Wrapt in himself the upstart Minion grew,
Disown'd his early fame, and grasp'd the new;
To soothe and flatter a suborning world,
From Heaven, apostate sinner, he was hurl'd.
Example thus can shed its venom'd juice,
Corrode the habits, and the heart seduce.
Amid these baneful scenes of honour lost,
What generous tears had this elopement cost!
Enamour'd Sisters, by a Jilt embrac'd;
What lavish blessings you are still to waste
Upon the dear perfidious ; reckoning hours,
And for his wish'd return preparing flowers;
Alas, for him — the satyr of your zeal,
Whose breast has parted with its power to feel,
With depth of sorrow for the pet resign'd,
On the cold earth by fading lamps you pin'd,
Or, as if silence could your frenzy tame,
Carthusians for a miracle became!
Cease the fond strife! your lov'd is yours no more,
Corrupt and faithless on a foreign shore:
The beak so gentle, and the air so pure,
The mind religious, and the voice demure,
Are fled, and lost: a ruffian bold and coarse,
Apostate, impious, with blaspheming hoarse:
The Winds and River-nymphs your harvest reap; —
The Vices in their net your truant keep:
No more his learning or his talents boast,
For what is genius, fled from honour's post?
Oh, think of him no more, but let him stray —
His gifts and promis'd virtues thrown away!
But, oh, what Muse can touch the rising flame,
When to the Port of Nantes this wonder came!
For keen desire too late the morn appear'd,
And late the Moon its radiant lamp has rear'd:
In these dread intervals the busy mind
Leaves tir'd and panting Nature far behind.
It promis'd here a cultivated Bird,
In whom the Virtues and the Loves concurr'd,
Of noble manners, tender and humane,
A mind impervious to the moral stain,
An exemplary teacher, guide, and friend! —
Perfidious hopes! — calamity their end!
The boat arriv'd — upon the bank a Nun,
Provider for the rest, had breathless run;
There every dawn, since first the letter went,
That forc'd or brib'd Nevers to her assent,
Had seen the holy Maid her vigils keep,
And stretch her eyes impatient o'er the deep,
As if to hasten Love's prophetic sail,
And whistle for more pinions to the gale.
The Bird experienc'd knew her by her mien,
Her prudish eyes, half open, half unseen —
By the large cap, and linen superfine —
Her gloves of lily hue, the vestal sign —
Her dying notes, and little cross, unfold
The Bigot Maid, in sacrifice enroll'd.
He shudder'd; and it staggers all belief,
That with an oath, explicit, round, and brief,
He gave her and her beads en militaire
To all the merry devils he could spare:
It's clear of doubt, at least, that he had rather
Have mess'd with his Dragoons in stormy weather,
With Rakes whose wanton frolicks he had learnt,
Than with a Missal have his fingers burnt.
At ceremony's claim he took offence;
But spleen to the subdued is no defence:
By force to a detested grate she bore him,
And spread her venerable charms before him.
'Tis whisper'd, that he bit her on the road;
But on what part his vengeance he bestow'd
Is undetermin'd, and a contest yet,
A theme of disappointment and regret.
Some to the neck this outrage have consign'd,
Some have the fingers to his beak resign'd;
Others more deep — " will hardly tell us where: "
But why should this be any Poet's care?
Suffice it, that he reach'd the hallow'd cells,
In which, though all are Saints, the heart rebels.
The fame of his august arrival flew,
And bells in concert wild the Sisters drew.
It happen'd all were at the matin choir,
But soon they left the consecrated fire:
They run — they leap; " 'tis he — 'tis he , my Sister:
Last night the Abbess dreamt that he had kiss'd her. "
Mere Angelique betray'd her years no more —
She ran, though never seen to run before.
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