The Knight And The Friar. Part First. - Sir Thomas Erpingham's Sonnet On His Lady.

A poem by George Colman


Such star-like lustre lights her Eyes,
They must have darted from a Sphere,
Our duller System to surprise,
Outshining all the Planets here;
And, having wander'd from their wonted place,
Fix in the wond'rous Heaven of her Face.


The modest Rose, whose blushes speak
The ardent kisses of the Sun,
Off'ring a tribute to her Cheek,
Droops, to perceive its Tint outdone;
Then withering with envy and despair,
Dies on her Lips, and leaves its Fragrance there.


Ringlets, that to her Breast descend,
Increase the beauties they invade;
Thus branches in luxuriance bend,
To grace the lovely Hills they shade;
And thus the glowing Climate did entice
Tendrils to curl, unprune'd, o'er Paradise.

* * * * *

Sir Thomas having close'd his love-sick strain,
Come, buxom Muse! and let us frisk again!

Close to a Chapel, near the Castle-gates,
Dwelt certain stickers in the Devil's skirts;
Who, with prodigious fervour, shave their pates,
And shew a most religious scorn for shirts.

Their House's sole Endowment was our Knight's:--
Thither an Abbot, and twelve Friars, retreating,
Conquer'd (sage, pious men!) their appetites
With that infallible specifick--eating.

'Twould seem, since tenanted by holy Friars,
That Peace and Harmony reign'd here eternally;--
Whoever told you so were cursed liars;--
The holy Friars quarrell'd most infernally.

Not a day past
Without some schism among these heavenly lodgers;
But none of their dissensions seem'd to last
So long as Friar John's and Friar Roger's.

I have been very accurate in my researches,
And find this Convent (truce with whys and hows)
Kept in a constant ferment with the rows
Of these two quarrelsome fat sons of Churches.

But when Sir Thomas went to his devotions,
Proceeding thro' their Cloister with his Bride,
You never could have dream'd of their commotions,
The stiff-rump'd rascals look'd so sanctified:

And it became the custom of the Knight
To go to matins every day;
He jogg'd his Bride, as soon as it was light,
Crying, "my dear, 'tis time for us to pray."--

This custom he establish'd, very soon,
After his honey-moon.

Wives of this age might think his zeal surprising;
But much his pious lady did it please,
To see her Husband, every morning, rising,
And going, instantly, upon his knees.

Never, I ween,
In any person's recollection,
Was such a couple seen,
For genuflection!

Making as great a drudgery of prayer
As humble Curates are oblige'd to do,--
Whose labour, wo the while! scarce buys them cassocks;
And, every morning, whether foul or fair,
Sir Thomas and the Dame were in their pew,
Craw-thumping, upon hassocks.

It could not otherwise befall
(Sir Thomas, and his Wife, this course pursuing,)
But that the Lady, affable to all,
Should greet the Friars, on her way
To matins, as she met them, every day,
Good morninging, and how d'ye doing:

Now nodding to this Friar, now to that,
As thro' the Cloister she was wont to trip;
Stopping, sometimes, to have a little chat,
On casual topicks, with the holy brothers;--
So condescending was her Ladyship,
To Roger, John, and all the others.

All this was natural enough
To any female of urbanity;--
But holy men are made of as frail stuff
As all the lighter sons of Vanity!--

And these her Ladyship's chaste condescensions,
In Friar John bred damnable desire;
Heterodox, unclean intentions;--
Abominable in a Friar!

Whene'er she greeted him, his gills grew red,
While she was quite unconscious of the matter;--
But he, the beast! was casting sheeps-eyes at her,
Out of his bullock-head.

That coxcombs were and are, I need not give,
Nor take the trouble, now, to prove;
Nor that those dead, like many, now, who live,
Have thought a Lady's condescension, love.

This happen'd with fat Friar John!--
Monastick Coxcomb! amorous, and gummy;
Fill'd with conceit up to his very brim!--
He thought his guts and garbage doated on,
By a fair Dame, whose Husband was to him
Hyperion to a mummy.

Burning with flames the Lady never knew,
Hotter and heavier than toasted cheese,
He sent her a much warmer billet-doux
Than Abelard e'er writ to Eloïse.

But whether Friar John's fat shape and face,
Tho' pleading both together,
Were sorry advocates, in such a case;--
Or, whether
He marr'd his hopes, by suffering his pen
With too much fervour to display 'em;--
As very tender Nurses, now and then,
Cuddle their Children, till they overlay 'em;--

'Twas plain, his pray'r to decorate the brows
Of good Sir Thomas was so far from granted,
That the Dame went, directly, to her spouse,
And told him what the filthy Friar wanted.

Think, Reader, think! if thou hast ta'en, for life,
A partner to thy bed, for worse or better,
Think what Sir Thomas felt, when his chaste wife
Brandish'd, before his eyes, the Friar's letter!

He felt, Sir,--Zounds!--
Yes, Zounds! I say, Sir,--for it makes me swear--
More torture than he suffer'd from the wounds
He got among the French, in France;--
Not that I take upon me to advance
The knight was ever wounded there.

Think gravely, Sir, I pray:--fancy the Knight--
('Tis quite a Picture)--with his heart's delight!
Fancy you see his virtuous Lady stand,
Holding the Friar's foulness in her hand!--

How should Sir Thomas, Sir, behave?
Why bounce, and sputter, surely, like a squib:--
You would have done the same, Sir, if a knave,
A frouzy Friar, meddle'd with your Rib.

His bosom almost burst with ire
Against the Friar;

Rage gave his face an apoplectick hue;
His cheeks turn'd purple, and his nose turn'd blue;
He swore with this mock Saint he'd soon be even;--
He'd have him flay'd, like Saint Bartholomew;--
And, now again, he'd have him stone'd, like Stephen.

But, "Ira furor brevis est,"
As Horace, quaintly, has express'd;--

Therefore the Knight, finding his foam and froth
Work thro' the bung-hole of his mouth, like beer,
Pull'd out the vent-peg of his wrath,
To let the stream of his revenge run clear:

Debating, with himself, what mode might suit him,
To trounce the rogue who wanted to cornute him.

First, an attack against his Foe he plann'd,
Learn'd in the Field, where late he fought so felly;
That is--to march up, bravely, sword in hand,
And run the Friar thro' his holy belly.

At last, his better judgment did declare--
Seeing his honour would as little shine
By sticking Friars, as by killing swine--
To circumvent him, by a ruse de guerre:

And, as the project ripen'd in his head,
Thus to his virtuous Wife he said:

"Now sit thee down, my Lady bright!
And list thy Lord's desire;
An assignation thou shalt write,
Beshrew me! to the Friar.

"Aread him, at the midnight hour,
In silent sort to go,
And bide thy coming, in the Bower--
For there do Crabsticks grow.

"He shall not tarry long;--for why?
When Twelve have striking done,
Then, by the God of Gardens![7] I
Will cudgel him till One."

The Lady wrote just what Sir Thomas told her;
For, it is no less strange than true,
That Wives did, once, what Husbands bid them do;--
Lord! how this World improves, as we grow older!

She name'd the midnight hour;--
Telling the Friar to repair
To the sweet, secret Bower;--
But not a word of any crabsticks there.

Thus have I seen a liquorish, black rat,
Lure'd by the Cook, to sniff, and smell her bacon;
And, when he's eager for a bit of fat,
Down goes a trap upon him, and he's taken.

A tiny Page,--for, formerly, a boy
Was a mere dunce who did not understand
The doctrines of Sir Pandarus, of Troy,--
Slipp'd the Dame's note into the Friar's hand,
As he was walking in the cloister;
And, then, slipp'd off,--as silent as an oyster.

The Friar read;--the Friar chuckle'd:--
For, now the Farce's unities were right:
Videlicet--The Argument, a Cuckold;
The Scene, a Bow'r; Time, Twelve o'clock, at night.

Blithe was fat John!--and, dreading no mishap,
Stole, at the hour appointed, to the trap;
But, so perfume'd, so musk'd, for the occasion,--
His tribute to the nose so like invasion,--
You would have sworn, to smell him, 'twas no rat,
But a dead, putrified, old civet-cat.

He reach'd the spot, anticipating blisses,
Soft murmurs, melting sighs, and burning kisses,
Trances of joy, and mingling of the souls;
When, whack! Sir Thomas hit him on the joles.

Now, on his head it came, now on his face,
His neck, and shoulders, arms, legs, breast, and back;
In short, on almost every place
We read of in the Almanack.

Blows rattle'd on him thick as hail;
Making him rue the day that he was born;--
Sir Thomas plied his cudgel like a flail,
And thrash'd as if he had been thrashing corn.

At length, a thump,--(painful the facts, alas!
Truth urges us Historians to relate!)--
Took Friar John so smart athwart the pate,
It acted like a perfect coup de grace.

Whether it was a random shot,
Or aim'd maliciously,--tho' Fame says not--
Certain his soul (the Knight so crack'd his crown)
Fled from his body; but which way it went,
Or whether Friars' souls fly up, or down,
Remains a matter of nice argument.

Points so abstruse I dare not dwell upon;
Enough, for me, his body is not gone;

For I have business, still, in my narration,
With the fat carcass of this holy porpus;
And Death, tho' sharp in his Administration,
Never suspended such an Habeas Corpus.

End Of Part I.

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