The Noble Patron.

A poem by Henry Austin Dobson

"Ce sont les amours
Qui font les beaux jours."

What is a Patron? JOHNSON knew,
And well that lifelike portrait drew.
He is a Patron who looks down
With careless eye on men who drown;
But if they chance to reach the land,
Encumbers them with helping hand.
Ah! happy we whose artless rhyme
No longer now must creep to climb!
Ah! happy we of later days,
Who 'scape those Caudine Forks of praise!
Whose votive page may dare commend
A Brother, or a private Friend!
Not so it fared with scribbling man,
As POPE says, "under my Queen ANNE."

DICK DOVECOT (this was long, be sure,
Ere he attained his Wiltshire cure,
And settled down, like humbler folks,
To cowslip wine and country jokes)
Once hoped--as who will not?--for fame,
And dreamed of honours and a Name.

A fresh-cheek'd lad, he came to Town
In homespun hose and russet brown,
But armed at point with every view
Enforced in RAPIN and BOSSU.
Besides a stout portfolio ripe
For LINTOT'S or for TONSON'S type.
He went the rounds, saw all the sights,
Dropped in at Wills and Tom's o' nights;
Heard BURNET preach, saw BICKNELL dance,
E'en gained from ADDISON a glance;
Nay, once, to make his bliss complete,
He supp'd with STEELE in Bury Street.
('Tis true the feast was half by stealth:
PRUE was in bed: they drank her health.)

By this his purse was running low,
And he must either print or go.
He went to TONSON. TONSON said--
Well! TONSON hummed and shook his head;
Deplor'd the times; abus'd the Town;
But thought--at length--it might go down;
With aid, of course, of Elzevir,
And Prologue to a Prince, or Peer.
Dick winced at this, for adulation
Was scarce that candid youth's vocation:
Nor did he deem his rustic lays
Required a Coronet for Bays.

But there--the choice was that, or none.
The Lord was found; the thing was done.
With HORACE and with TOOKE'S Pantheon,
He penn'd his tributary pæan;
Despatched his gift, nor waited long
The meed of his ingenuous song.

Ere two days pass'd, a hackney chair
Brought a pert spark with languid air,
A lace cravat about his throat,--
Brocaded gown,--en papillotes.
("My Lord himself," quoth DICK, "at least!"
But no, 'twas that "inferior priest,"
His Lordship's man.) He held a card:
My Lord (it said) would see the Bard.

The day arrived; DICK went, was shown
Into an anteroom, alone--
A great gilt room with mirrored door,
Festoons of flowers and marble floor,
Whose lavish splendours made him look
More shabby than a sheepskin book.
(His own book--by the way--he spied
On a far table, toss'd aside.)

DICK waited, as they only wait
Who haunt the chambers of the Great.
He heard the chairmen come and go;
He heard the Porter yawn below;
Beyond him, in the Grand Saloon,
He heard the silver stroke of noon,
And thought how at this very time
The old church clock at home would chime.
Dear heart, how plain he saw it all!
The lich-gate and the crumbling wall,
The stream, the pathway to the wood,
The bridge where they so oft had stood.
Then, in a trice, both church and clock
Vanish'd before ... a shuttlecock.

A shuttlecock! And following slow
The zigzag of its to-and-fro,
And so intent upon its flight
She neither look'd to left nor right,
Came a tall girl with floating hair,
Light as a wood-nymph, and as fair.

O Dea certé!--thought poor Dick,
And thereupon his memories quick
Ran back to her who flung the ball
In HOMER'S page, and next to all
The dancing maids that bards have sung;
Lastly to One at home, as young,
As fresh, as light of foot, and glad,
Who, when he went, had seem'd so sad.
O Dea certé! (Still, he stirred
Nor hand nor foot, nor uttered word.)

Meanwhile the shuttlecock in air
Went darting gaily here and there;
Now crossed a mirror's face, and next
Shot up amidst the sprawl'd, perplex'd
Olympus overhead. At last,
Jerk'd sidelong by a random cast,
The striker miss'd it, and it fell
Full on the book DICK knew so well.

(If he had thought to speak or bow,
Judge if he moved a muscle now!)

The player paused, bent down to look,
Lifted a cover of the book;
Pished at the Prologue, passed it o'er,
Went forward for a page or more
(Asem and Asa: DICK could trace
Almost the passage and the place);
Then for a moment with bent head
Rested upon her hand and read.

(DICK thought once more how cousin CIS
Used when she read to lean like this;--
"Used when she read,"--why, CIS could say
All he had written,--any day!)

Sudden was heard a hurrying tread;
The great doors creaked. The reader fled.
Forth came a crowd with muffled laughter,
A waft of Bergamot, and after,
His Chaplain smirking at his side,
My Lord himself in all his pride--
A portly shape in stars and lace,
With wine-bag cheeks and vacant face.

DICK bowed and smiled. The Great Man stared,
With look half puzzled and half scared;
Then seemed to recollect, turned round,
And mumbled some imperfect sound:
A moment more, his coach of state
Dipped on its springs beneath his weight;
And DICK, who followed at his heels,
Heard but the din of rolling wheels.

Away, too, all his dreams had rolled;
And yet they left him half consoled:
Fame, after all, he thought might wait.
Would CIS? Suppose he were too late!
Ten months he'd lost in Town--an age!

Next day he took the Wiltshire Stage.

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