Hobbinol; or The Rural Games - Canto 3


Though some of old, and some of modern date,
Penurious, their victorious heroes fed
With barren praise alone; yet thou, my Muse!
Benevolent with more indulgent eyes
Behold the' immortal Hobbinol; reward
With due regalement his triumphant toils.
Let Quixote's hardy courage, and renown,
With Sancho's prudent care be meetly join'd.
O thou of bards supreme, Maeonides!
What well-fed heroes grace thy hallow'd page!
Laden with glorious spoils, and gay with blood
Of slaughter'd hosts, the victor chief returns.
Whole Troy before him fled, and men, and gods,
Oppos'd in vain. For the brave man, whose arm
Repell'd his country's wrong, ev'n he, the great
Atrides, king of kings, ev'n he prepares
With his own royal hand the sumptuous feast.
Full to the brim the brazen caldrons smoke,
Through all the busy camp the rising blaze
Attests their joy, heroes and kings forego
Their state and pride, and at his elbow wait
Obsequious. On a polish'd charger plac'd,
The bulky chine, with plenteous fat inlaid,
Of golden hue, magnificently shines.
The choicest morseis sever'd to the gods,
The hero next, well paid for all his wounds,
The rich repast divides with Jove; from out
The sparkling bowl he draws the generous wine,
Unmix'd, unmeasur'd; with unstinted joy
His heart o'erflows. In like triumphant port
Sate the victorious Hobbinol; the crowd
Transported view, and bless their glorious chief:
All Kiftsgate sounds his praise with joint acclaim.
Him every voice, him every knee confess'd,
In merit, as in right, their king. Upon
The flowery turf, earth's painted lap, are spread
The rural dainties; such as nature boon
Presents with lavish hand, or such as owe
To Ganderetta's care their grateful taste,
Delicious. For she long since prepar'd
To celebrate this day, and with good cheer
To grace his triumphs. Crystal gooseberries
Are pil'd on heaps; in vain the parent tree
Defends her luscious fruit with pointed spears.
The ruby-tinctur'd corinth clustering hangs,
And emulates the grape; green codlings float
In dulcet creams; nor wants the last year's store,
The hardy nut, in solid mail secure,
Impregnable to winter frosts, repays
Its hoarder's care. The custard's gelid flood
Impatient youth, with greedy joy, devours.
Cheesecakes and pies, in various forms uprais'd,
In well-built pyramids, aspiring stand.
Black hams, and tongues, that speechless can persuade
To ply the brisk carouse, and cheer the soul
With jovial draughts. Nor does the jolly god
Deny his precious gifts; here jocund swains,
In uncouth mirth delighted, sporting quaff
Their native beverage, in the brimming glass
The liquid amber smiles. Britons, no more
Dread your invading foes; let the false Gaul,
Of rule insatiate, potent to deceive,
And great by subtile wiles, from the' adverse shore
Pour forth his numerous hosts, Iberia! join
Thy towering fleets, once more aloft display
Thy consecrated banners, fill thy sails
With prayers and vows, most formidably strong
In holy trumpery, let old Ocean groan
Beneath the proud Armada, vainly deem'd
Invincible; yet fruitless all their toils,
Vain every rash effort, while our fat glebe,
Of barley-grain productive, still supplies
The flowing treasure, and with sums immense
Supports the throne; while this rich cordial warms
The farmer's courage, arms his stubborn soul
With native honour, and resistless rage.
Thus vaunt the crowd, each freeborn heart o'erflows
With Britain's glory, and his country's love.
Here, in a merry knot combin'd, the nymphs
Pour out mellifluous streams, the balmy spoils
Of the laborious bee. The modest maid
But coyly sips, and blushing drinks, abash'd:
Each lover, with observant eye beholds
Her graceful shame, and at her glowing cheeks
Rekindles all his fires; but matrons sage,
Better experienc'd, and instructed well
In midnight mysteries, and feast-rites old,
Grasp the capacious bowl; nor cease to draw
The spumy nectar. Healths of gay import
Fly merrily about; now Scandal sly
Insinuating gilds the specious tale
With treacherous praise, and with a double face
Ambiguous wantonness demurely sneers,
Till circling brimmers every veil withdraw,
And dauntless impudence appears unmask'd.
Others apart, in the cool shade retir'd,
Silurian cyder quaff, by that great bard
Eunobled, who first taught my groveling Muse
To mount airial. O! could I but raise
My feeble voice to his exalted strains,
Or " to the height of this great argument,"
The generous liquid in each line should bounce
Spiritous, nor oppressive cork subdue
Its foaming rage; but to the lofty theme
Unequal, Muse decline the pleasing task.
Thus they luxurious, on the grassy turf
Revell'd at large: while nought around was heard
But mirth confus'd, and undistinguish'd joy,
And laughter far resounding; serious care
Found here no place, to Ganderetta's breast
Retiring; there with hopes and fears perplex'd
Her fluctuating mind. Hence the soft sigh
Escapes unheeded, spite of all her art;
The trembling blushes, on her lovely cheeks,
Alternate ebb, and flow; from the full glass
She flies abstemious, shuns the' untasted feast:
But careful Hobbinol, whose amorous eye
From her's ne'er wander'd, haunting still the place
Where his dear treasure lay, discover'd soon
Her secret woe, and bore a lover's part.
Compassion melts his soul, her glowing cheeks
He kiss'd, enamour'd, and her panting heart
He press'd to his; then with these soothing words,
Tenderly smiling, her faint hopes reviv'd.
" Courage, my Fair! the splendid prize is thine
Indulgent Fortune will not damp our joys,
Nor blast the glories of this happy day.
Hear me, ye swains! Ye men of Kiftsgate! hear;
Though great the honours by your hands conferr'd,
These royal ornaments, though great the force
Of this puissant arm, as all must own,
Who saw this day the bold Gorgonius fall;
Yet were I more renown'd for feats of arms,
And knightly prowess, than that mighty Guy,
So fam'd in antique song, Warwick's great earl
Who slew the giant Colbrand, in fierce fight
Maintain'd a summer's day, and freed this realm
From Danish vassalage; his pondrous sword,
And massy spear, attest the glorious deed;
Nor less his hospitable soul is seen
In that capacious caldron, whose large freight
Might feast a province: yet were I like him
The nation's pride, like him I could forego
All earthly grandeur, wander through the world
A jocund pilgrim, in the lonesome den,
And rocky cave, with these my royal hands
Scoop the cold streams, with herbs, and roots content,
Mean sustenance! could I by this but gain
For the dear Fair, the prize her heart desires.
Believe me, charming maid! I'd be a worm,
The meanest insect, and the lowest thing
The world despises, to enhance thy fame. "
So cheer'd he his fair queen, and she was cheer'd.
Now with a noble confidence inspir'd,
Her looks assure success, now stripp'd of all
Her cuinbrous vestments, beauty's vain disguise,
She shines unclouded in her native charms.
Her plaited hair behind her in a brede
Hung careless, with becoming grace each blush
Varied her cheeks, than the gay rising dawn
More lovely, when the new-born light salutes
The joyful earth, impurpling half the skies.
Her heaving breast, through the thin cov'ring view'd,
Fix'd each beholder's eye; her taper thighs,
And lineaments exact, would mock the skill
Of Phidias; Nature alone can form
Such due proportion. To compare with her
Oread, or Dryad, or of Delia's train,
Fair virgin huntress, for the chase array'd
With painted quiver, and unerring bow,
Were but to lessen her superior mien,
And goddess-like deport. The master's hand,
Rare artisan! with proper shades improves
His lively colouring; so here, to grace
Her brighter charms, next her upon the plain
Fusca the brown appears, with greedy eye
Views the rich prize, her tawny front erects
Audacious, and with her legs unclean,
Booted with grime, and with her freckled skin
Offends the crowd. She of the Gipsy train
Had wander'd long, and the sun's scorching rays
Imbrown'd her visage grim; artful to view.
The spreading palm, and with vile cant deceive
The love-sick maid, who barters all her store
For airy visions and fallacious hope.
Gorgonius, if the current fame say true,
Her comrade once, they many a merry prank
Together play'd, and many a mile had stroll'd,
For him fit mate. Next Tabitha the tall
Strode o'er the plain, with huge gigantic pace,
And overlook'd the crowd, known far and near
For matchless speed; she many a prize had won,
Pride of that neighbouring mart, for mustard fam'd,
Sharp-biting grain, where amicably join
The sister floods, and with their liquid arms
Greeting embrace. Here Gamaliel sage,
Of Cameronian brood, with ruling rod
Trains up his babes of grace, instructed well
In all the gainful discipline of prayer:
To point the holy leer, by just degrees
To close the twinkling eye, to' expand the palms,
To' expose the whites, and with the sightless ball
To glare upon the crowd; to raise, or sink
The docile voice, now murmuring soft and low
With inward accent calm, and then again
In foaming floods of rapturous eloquence
Let loose the storm, and thunder through the nose
The threaten'd vengeance: every muse profane
Is banish'd hence, and Heliconian streams
Deserted, the fam'd Leman lake supplies
More plenteous draughts, of more divine import.
Hail, happy youths! on whom indulgent Heav'n
Each grace divine bestows, nor yet denies
Carnal beatitudes, sweet privilege
Of saints elect! royal prerogative!
Here in domestic cares employ'd and bound
To annual servitude, frail Tabitha,
Her pristine vigour lost, now mourns in vain
Her sharpen'd visage, and the sickly qualms
That grieve her soul; a prey to Love, while Grace
Slept heedless by: yet her undaunted mind
Still meditates the prize, and still she hopes,
Beneath the' unwieldy load, her wonted speed.
Others of meaner fame the stately Muse
Records not, on more lofty flights intent
She spurns the ground, and mounts her native skies.
Room for the master of the ring; ye swains!
Divide your crowded ranks. See! there on high
The glittering prize, on the tall standard borne,
Waving in air; before him march in files
The rural minstrelsy, the rattling drum
Of solemn sound, and the' animating horn,
Each huntsman's joy: the tabor and the pipe,
Companion dear at feasts, whose cheerful notes
Give life and motion to the' unwieldy clown.
Ev'n Age revives; and the pale puking maid
Feels ruddy health rekindling on her cheeks,
And with new vigour trips it o'er the plain.
Counting each careful step, he paces o'er
The' allotted ground, and fixes at the goal
His standard, there himself majestic swells.
Stretch'd in a line, the panting rivals wait
The' expected signal, with impatient eyes
Measure the space between, and in conceit
Already grasp the warm-contested prize.
Now all at once rush forward to the goal,
And step by step, and side by side, they ply
Their busy feet, and leave the crowd behind.
Quick heaves each breast, and quick they shoot along
Through the divided air, and bound it o'er the plain.
To this, to that, capricious Fortune deals
Short hopes, short fears, and momentary joy.
The breathless throng, with open throats pursue,
And broken accents shout imperfect praise.
Such noise confus'd is heard, such wild uproar,
When on the main the swelling surges rise,
Dash o'er the rocks, and hurrying through the flood,
Drive on each other's backs, and crowd the strand.
Before the rest tall Tabitha was seen.
Stretching amain, and whirling o'er the field;
Swift as the shooting star, that gilds the night
With rapid transient blaze she runs, she flies;
Sudden she stops, nor longer can endure
The painful course, but drooping sinks away,
And like that falling meteor, there she lies
A jelly cold on earth. Fusca with joy
Beheld her wretched plight; o'er the pale corse
Insulting bounds; hope gave her wings, and now
Exerting all her speed, step after step,
At Ganderetta's elbow urg'd her way,
Her shoulder pressing, and with poisonous breath
Tainting her ivory neck. Long while had held
The sharp contest, had not propitious Heav'n
With partial hands, to such transcendent charms
Dispens'd its favours. For as o'er the green
The careless Gipsy, with incautious speed,
Push'd forward, and her rival Fair had reach'd
With equal pace, and only not o'erpass'd:
Haply she treads, where late the merry train,
In wasteful luxury, and wanton joy
Lavish had spilt the cider's frothy flood,
And mead with custard mix'd. Surpris'd, appall'd,
And in the treacherous puddle struggling long,
She slipp'd, she fell, upon her back supine
Extended lay; the laughing multitude
With noisy scorn approv'd her just disgrace.
As the sleek leveret skins before the pack,
So flies the nymph, and so the crowd pursue.
Borne on the wings of wind the dear one flies,
Swift as the various goddess, nor less bright
In beauty's prime; when through the yielding air
She darts along, and with refracted rays
Paints the gay clouds; celestial messenger,
Charg'd with the high behests of Heav'n's great queen
Her at the goal with open arms receiv'd
Fond Hobbinol; with active leap he seiz'd
The costly prize, and laid it at her feet.
Then pausing stood, dumb with excess of joy,
Expressive silence! for each tender glance
Betray'd the raptures that his tongue conceal'd.
Less mute, the crowd in echoing shouts applaud
Her speed, her beauty, his obsequious love.
Upon a little eminence, whose top
O'erlook'd the plain, a steep, but short ascent,
Plac'd in a chair of state, with garlands crown'd,
And loaded with the fragrance of the spring,
Fair Ganderetta shone; like mother Eve
In her gay silvan lodge, delicious bow'r!
Where Nature's wanton hand, above the reach
Of rule, or art, had lavish'd all her store,
To deck the flowery roof; and at her side,
Imperial Hobbinol, with front sublime,
Great as a Roman consul, just return'd
From cities sack'd, and provinces laid waste,
In his paternal wicker sate, enthron'd,
With eager eyes the crowd about them press,
Ambitious to behold the happy pair.
Each voice, each instrument, proclaims their joy
With loudest vehemence: such noise is heard,
Such a tumultuous din, when, at the call
Of Britain's sovereign, the rustic bands
O'erspread the fields, the subtile candidates
Dissembled homage pay, and court the fools
Whom they despise; each proud majestic clown
Looks big, and shouts amain, mad with the taste
Of power supreme, frail empire of a day
That with the setting sun extinct is lost.
Nor is thy grandeur, mighty Hobbinol!
Of longer date. Short is, alas! the reign
Of mortal pride: we play our parts awhile,
And strut upon the stage; the scene is chang'd,
And offers us a dungeon for a throne.
Wretched vicissitude! for after all
His tinsel dreams of empire and renown,
Fortune, capricious dame, withdraws at once
The goodly prospect, to his eyes presents
Her, whom his conscious soul abhorr'd, and fear'd.
Lo! pushing through the crowd, a meagre form,
With hasty step, and visage incompos'd!
Wildly she star'd; rage sparkled in her eyes,
And poverty sate shrinking on her cheeks.
Yet through the cloud that hung upon her brows
A faded lustre broke, that dimly shone
Shorn of its beams; the ruins of a face,
Impair'd by time, and shatter'd by misfortunes.
A froward babe hung at her flabby breast,
And tugg'd for life; but wept, with hideous moan,
His frustrate hopes, and unavailing pains.
Another o'er her bending shoulder peep'd,
Swaddled around with rags of various hue.
He kens his comrade-twin with envious eye.
As of his share defrauded; then amain
He also screams, and to his brother's cries,
In doleful concert joins his loud laments.
O dire effect of lawless love! O sting
Of pleasures past! As when a full-freight ship,
Blest in a rich return of pearl, or gold,
Or fragrant spice, or silks of costly die,
Makes to the wish'd-for port with swelling sails,
And all her gaudy trim display'd; o'erjoy'd
The master smiles but if from some small creek.
A lurking corsair the rich quarry spies,
With all her sails bears down upon her prey,
And peals of thunder from her hollow sides
Check his triumphant course; aghast he stands,
Stiffen'd with fear, unable to resist,
And impotent to fly; all his fond hopes
Are dash'd at once; nought now, alas! remains
But the sad choice of slavery, or death.
So far'd it with the hapless Hobbinol,
In the full blaze of his triumphant joy
Surpris'd by her, whose dreadful face alone
Could shake his stedfast soul. In vain he turns,
And shifts his place averse; she haunts him still,
And glares upon him with her haggard eyes,
That fiercely spoke her wrongs. Words swell'd with sighs
At length burst forth, and thus she storms, enrag'd:
" Know'st thou not me? false man! not to know me
Argues thyself unknowing of thyself,
Puff'd up with pride, and bloated with success.
Is injur'd Mopsa then so soon forgot?
Thou knew'st me once, ah! woe is me! thou did'st.
But if laborious days, and sleepless nights,
If hunger, cold, contempt, and penury,
Inseparable guests, have thus disguis'd
Thy once belov'd, thy handmaid dear; if thine
And Fortune's frowns have blasted all my charms;
If here no roses grow, no lilies bloom,
Nor rear their heads on this neglected face;
If through the world I range a slighted shade,
The ghost of what I was, forlorn, unknown;
At least know these. See! this sweet-simpering babe;
Dear image of thyself; see! how it sprunts
With joy at thy approach! see, how it gilds
Its soft smooth face, with false paternal smiles!
Native deceit, from thee, base man, deriv'd!
Of view this other self, in every art
Of smiling fraud, in every treacherous leer,
The very Hobbinol! Ah! cruel man!
Wicked, ingrate! And could'st thou then so soon,
So soon forget that pleasing fatal night,
When me, beneath the flowery thorn surpris'd,
Thy artful wiles betray'd? Was there a star,
By which thou didst not swear? Was there a curse,
A plague on earth, thou didst not then invoke
On that devoted head; if e'er thy heart
Prov'd haggard to my love, if e'er thy hand
Declin'd the nuptial bond? But, oh! too well,
Too well, alas! my throbbing breast perceiv'd
The black impending storm; the conscious moon
Veil'd in a sable cloud her modest face,
And boding owls proclaim'd the dire event.
And yet I love thee, — Oh! could'st thou behold
That image dwelling in my heart! But why?
Why waste I here these unavailing tears?
On this thy minion, on this tawdry thing,
On this gay victim, thus with garlands crown'd,
All, all my vengeance fall! Ye lightnings blast
That face accurs'd, the source of all my woe!
Arm, arm, ye furies! arm; all hell break loose!
While thus I lead you to my just revenge,
And thus " — Up starts the' astonish'd Hobbinol
To save his better half: — " Fly, fly, " he cries,
" Fly, my dear life, the fiend's malicious rage. "
Borne on the wings of fear away she bounds,
And in the neighbouring village pants forlorn: —
So the cours'd hare to the close covert flies,
Still trembling, though secure. Poor Hobbinol
More grievous ills attend, around him press
A multitude, with huge Herculean clubs,
Terrific band! the royal mandate these
Insulting show: arrested, and amaz'd,
Half dead he stands; no friends dare interpose,
But bow dejected to the' imperial scroll:
Such is the force of law. While conscious shame
Sits heavy on his brow, they view the wretch
To Rhadamanth's august tribunal dragg'd:
Good Rhadamanth! to every wanton clown
Severe, indulgent to himself alone.
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