Given By Lieutenant-Colonel D ---- To His Friends In The Ruins Of Berry Castle, Devonshire.[A]
By your permission, Ladies! I address ye,
And for the boon you grant, my Muse shall bless ye.
I do not mean in solemn verse to tell
What fate the race of Pomeroy befell;
To trace the castle-story of each year,
To learn how many owls have hooted here;
What was the weight of stone, which form'd this pile,
Will on your lovely cheeks awake no smile:
Such antiquarian sermons suit not me,
Nor any soul who loves festivity.
Past times I heed not; be the present hour
In life, while yet it blooms, my chosen flow'r,
For well I know, what Time cannot disown,
Amidst this mossy pile of mould'ring stone,
That Hospitality was never seen
To spread more social joy upon the green;
Or, when its noble and capacious hall
Rang with the gambol gay, or graceful ball,
More beauty never charm'd its ancient beaux
Than what its honour'd ruins now enclose.
Thanks to the clouds, which from the soaking show'r
Preserve the vot'ries of the present hour;
For, strange to tell, beneath the chilling storm,
Lately the rose reclin'd her frozen form;
Yet since, beneath the favour of the weather,
We are (a laughing group) conven'd together,
Pray let the Muse pursue her merry route,
To shew what pass'd before we all set out.
To some fair damsel, who, intent to charm,
Declares she thinks the weather fine and warm,
Such words as these address her trembling ear -
"I really think we shall have rain, my dear;
Pray do not go, my love," cries soft mama;
"You shall not go, that's flat," cries stern papa.
A lucky sunbeam shines on the discourse,
The parents soften, and Miss mounts her horse.
Each tickled with some laugh-inspiring notion,
Behold the jocund party all in motion:
Some by a rattling buggy are befriended,
Some mount the cart - but not to be suspended.
The mourning-coach[B] is wisely counter-order'd
(The very thought on impious rashness border'd),
Because the luckless vehicle, one night,
Put all its merry mourners in a fright,
Who, to conduct them to the masquerade,
Sought from its crazy wheels their moving aid.
Us'd to a soleme pace, the creaking load
Bounded unwillingly along the road;
Down came the whole - oh! what a sight was there!
O'er a blind Fiddler roll'd a Flow'r-Nymph fair;
A glitt'ring Spaniard, who had lost his nose,
Roar'd out, "Oh! d - n it, take away your toes;"
A blooming Nun fell plump upon a Jew,
Still to the good old cause of traffic true,
Buried in clothes, exclaim'd the son of barter,
"Got blesh my shoul! you'll shell this pretty garter?"
Here let me pause; - the Muse, in sad affright,
Turns from the dire disasters of that night;
Quite panic-struck she drops her trembling plumes,
And thus a moralizing theme assumes: -
Know, gentle Ladies, once these shapeless walls,
O'er whose grey wreck the shading ivy crawls,
Compos'd a graceful mansion, whose fair mould
Led from the road the trav'ller, to behold.
Oft, when the morning ting'd the redd'ning skies,
Far off the spiral smoke was seen to rise;
At noon the hospitable board was spread,
Then nappy ale made light the weary head;
And when grey eve appear'd, in shadows damp,
Each casement glitter'd with th' enliv'ning lamp;
Here the laugh titter'd, there the lute of Love
Fill'd with its melody the moon-light grove:
All, all are fled! - Time ruthless stalks around,
And bends the crumbling ruin to the ground:
Time, Ladies, too (I know you do not like him,
And, if a fan could end him, you would strike him),
Will with as little gallantry devour
From your fair faces their bewitching pow'r;
Then, like these ruins, beauteous in decay,
Still shall you charm, and men shall still obey:
Then, with remembrance soft, and tender smile,
Perchance you'll think upon this mossy pile;
And, with a starting tear of joy declare,
"Oh! how we laugh'd, how merry were we there!"