The Yellow Damask Chair

Oh ye of generous soul, and gentle blood,
Who love the annals of the great and good;
Who love to trace their memory on earth.
Who trod their destined course in silent worth;
Who, in this age of direful innovation,
Hold fast the principles of conservation;
Who reverence ancient customs, and revere
The usages your ancestors held dear:
To such, I fondly hope, not all in vain,
I dedicate my brief memorial strain.

You know to prize, and you will guard with care
The memoirs of a yellow damask chair.
But to you levelling miscreants, who hold
That nought is good and worthy that is old;
Who, in the spirit of this modern time,
Reform even virtue, till ye make it crime.
Who 'stead of flower'd satin, would relax
On vile cane chairs, with small indented backs;
You who would scorn my antique form, and hear
My retrospections with unhallow'd sneer;
Read not one line, away, away, and spare
The harrow'd feelings of a high-back'd chair.

Alas! 'tis many a year ago,
And days of joy, and hours of woe
Have flitted by, since I was new;
Since I was fresh in form, and hue,
Unsullied with a stain;
Then Bourbon fill'd his lineal throne,
And that loved Monarch was our own,
Whose like we ne'er shall see again.
Like shadows on the mystic glass,
Dawns on my mind each bygone scene,
Successively they rise, and pass
Away, as tho' they ne'er had been;
Since I was placed, all reverently,
Within a chamber long, and high,
And gladly felt approving eyes,
And heard the voice of pleased surprise.
Methinks even now I hear him talk,
That dear old Earl with garter'd knee,
How stately he was wont to walk,
How gently to sit down on me;
With velvet coat of violet hue,
And ponderous buckles in his shoe.
Ah! Nobles look'd like Nobles then,
That now look just like other men.
He pass'd away, and all was changed,
Thro' his wide hall another ranged,
And time sped on: but memory stays
With rapture on my happiest days;
How gladly glided hours along
To that unconscious, jovial throng:
How courteous was our noble Lord,
How blithe in drawing-room, gay at board:
With what complacence would he eye
The mouldings of my drapery,
When Noble Lady, richly drest,
My satin couch all lightly prest!
Another change—they went, all, all,
That wont to seek that festive hall,
I wist not where, but they were gone;
And I was left, for years alone.
For years I watch'd my splendours fade,
I mark'd the sunbeams, as they play'd
Day after day, I've seen them fall
On that old picture on the wall,
With powder'd hair, and broider'd fan
The picture of my Lady Anne:
Alone, save some old woman came,
Who took my cover off and then
Would wipe the white dust from my frame,
And reverently put it on again.
At length they oped my living tomb,
And once again the daylight shone,
And lighted up the quiet room,
Where I had stood so long alone.
And I heard whispers thro' the dome,
And deep surmise, and echo'd fears,
Which told me they were coming home
Who had not seen that hall for years.
They came. Where were ye visions sweet
Of forms that I was wont to see,
And fondly hoped again to greet?
Deceitful, vain, expectancy!
Where were the hoops, and ruffles rare,
The buckled shoes, and powder'd hair,
The unbending dignity of air,
Where were the shapes I pictured, where?
Yet in the faultless form, and face,
Of her, the Lady of our hall,
That needed not one added grace,
I look'd, and had forgotten all.
And I had just begun to trace
Within my young Lord's glancing eye,
And in his stature, and his mien,
A memory of days gone by;
A glance of what his sires had been:
When, 'stead of smiling eyes, like those
That wont well pleased to light on me,
The laugh of loud derision rose
In merry peals of mocking glee.
Methinks, I could, that hour, have borne
If he had laid me on the fire;
But thus to load, with cruel scorn,
The firm supporter of his sire:
To laugh at me, who aye upheld
The Lords of his most noble name,
Better that he at once had fell'd,
Or laid, me on the crackling flame.
But 'tis not all,—for by my side,
Where soft his sires have prest the ground,
He oft has past with hasty stride,
And sometimes clear'd me at a bound.
Nay once (could yellow damask blush,
I sure should deeply blush to say
The shame of that disgraceful day,)
He past me with a sudden rush,
And, desecration! dared to touch
With varnish'd shoe, my satin couch.
But 'tis enough:—I will not say
Each change from splendour to decay.
I will not pause on each light word
Of careless scorn, that I have heard.
I will not tell how I've been slighted,
Nor dwell on that degenerate race
Of rosewood slight, with cane united,
Who hold, but do not fill, my place:
Things better fit to grace the state
And bear the form, of Fairy Queen,
Than solid men of worth, and weight,
Men, such as I have seen.
Men, that I ween as soon had sate
On that thin web the spider flings,
As trust their forms revered and great,
To such fantastic fragile things.
I will not say how even then
A gleam of former pride arose,
When Lord or Lady deign'd again
On my old cushion to repose.
How I have bless'd auspicious fate,
When she the gentle, and the fair,
Has graced the tarnish'd yellow chair.
Or when, perchance at evening late,
A graceful form was on me thrown,
Ah, how unlike the rigid gait,
With back unbending as my own,
Of him!—But wherefore turn again
To cherish'd scenes beloved in vain?
It may not be, I've caught the last,
Last look of that long gallery,
And every form I loved to see,
Like setting star away has past;
But not to rise again to me.
Yet 'tis some solace in distress,
Some soothing to my loneliness,
The seat where nobles loved to rest
By ruder form shall ne'er be prest.
For I have borne the bold, the bright,
And high-born Maid, and belted Knight,
And statesman worn with toilsome thought,
The comforts of my couch have sought:
And no Plebeian shall recline
Within these honour'd arms of mine.
Past are my splendours, vanish'd all,
Borne down on time's resistless surge,
While I am left to weep their fall,
And sing my former glory's dirge.
Still blithe, from yonder hall I hear
The voice of mirth, and joy, and song,
And there the noble, and the dear,
Still blest and blessing glide along.
While I disabled, and forgot,
Fast moulder in this desert spot.
No eye to weep, no heart to share
The sorrows of a faded damask chair.

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