One night the nymph called country dance--
(Whom folks, of late, have used so ill,
Preferring a coquette from France,
That mincing thing, Mamselle quadrille)--
Having been chased from London down
To that most humble haunt of all
She used to grace--a Country Town--
Went smiling to the New-Year's Ball.
"Here, here, at least," she cried, tho' driven
"From London's gay and shining tracks--
"Tho', like a Peri cast from heaven,
"I've lost, for ever lost, Almack's--
"Tho' not a London Miss alive
"Would now for her acquaintance own me;
"And spinsters, even, of forty-five,
"Upon their honors ne'er have known me;
"Here, here, at least, I triumph still,
"And--spite of some few dandy Lancers.
"Who vainly try to preach Quadrille--
"See naught but true-blue Country Dancers,
"Here still I reign, and, fresh in charms,
"My throne, like Magna Charta, raise
"'Mong sturdy, free-born legs and arms,
"That scorn the threatened chaine anglaise."
'Twas thus she said, as mid the din
Of footmen, and the town sedan,
She lighted at the King's Head Inn,
And up the stairs triumphant ran.
The Squires and their Squiresses all,
With young Squirinas, just come out,
And my Lord's daughters from the Hall,
(Quadrillers in their hearts no doubt,)--
All these, as light she tript upstairs,
Were in the cloak-room seen assembling--
When, hark! some new outlandish airs,
From the First Fiddle, set her trembling.
She stops--she listens--can it be?
Alas, in vain her ears would 'scape it--
It is "Di tanti palpiti"
As plain as English bow can scrape it.
"Courage!" however--in she goes,
With her best, sweeping country grace;
When, ah too true, her worst of foes,
Quadrille, there meets her, face to face.
Oh for the lyre, or violin,
Or kit of that gay Muse, Terpsichore,
To sing the rage these nymphs were in,
Their looks and language, airs and trickery.
There stood Quadrille, with cat-like face
(The beau-ideal of French beauty),
A band-box thing, all art and lace
Down from her nose-tip to her shoe-tie.
Her flounces, fresh from Victorine--
From Hippolyte, her rouge and hair--
Her poetry, from Lamartine--
Her morals, from--the Lord knows where.
And, when she danced--so slidingly,
So near the ground she plied her art,
You'd swear her mother-earth and she
Had made a compact ne'er to part.
Her face too, all the while, sedate,
No signs of life or motion showing.
Like a bright pendule's dial-plate--
So still, you'd hardly think 'twas going.
Full fronting her stood Country Dance--
A fresh, frank nymph, whom you would know
For English, at a single glance--
English all o'er, from top to toe.
A little gauche, 'tis fair to own,
And rather given to skips and bounces;
Endangering thereby many a gown,
And playing, oft, the devil with flounces.
Unlike Mamselle--who would prefer
(As morally a lesser ill)
A thousand flaws of character,
To one vile rumple of a frill.
No rouge did She of Albion wear;
Let her but run that two-heat race
She calls a Set, not Dian e'er
Came rosier from the woodland chase.
Such was the nymph, whose soul had in't
Such anger now--whose eyes of blue
(Eyes of that bright, victorious tint,
Which English maids call "Waterloo")--
Like summer lightnings, in the dusk
Of a warm evening, flashing broke.
While--to the tune of "Money Musk,"
Which struck up now--she proudly spoke--
"Heard you that strain--that joyous strain?
"'Twas such as England loved to hear,
"Ere thou and all thy frippery train,
"Corrupted both her foot and ear--
"Ere Waltz, that rake from foreign lands,
"Presumed, in sight of all beholders,
"To lay his rude, licentious hands
"On virtuous English backs and shoulders--
"Ere times and morals both grew bad,
"And, yet unfleeced by funding block-heads,
"Happy John Bull not only had,
"But danced to, 'Money in both pockets.'
"Alas, the change!--Oh, Londonderry,
"Where is the land could 'scape disasters,
"With such a Foreign Secretary,
"Aided by Foreign Dancing Masters?
"Woe to ye, men of ships and shops!
"Rulers of day-books and of waves!
"Quadrilled, on one side, into fops,
"And drilled, on t'other, into slaves!
"Ye, too, ye lovely victims, seen,
"Like pigeons, trussed for exhibition,
"With elbows, à la crapaudine,
"And feet, in--God knows what position;
"Hemmed in by watchful chaperons,
"Inspectors of your airs and graces,
"Who intercept all whispered tones,
"And read your telegraphic faces;
"Unable with the youth adored,
"In that grim cordon of Mammas,
"To interchange one tender word,
"Tho' whispered but in queue-de-chats.
"Ah did you know how blest we ranged,
"Ere vile Quadrille usurpt the fiddle--
"What looks in setting were exchanged,
"What tender words in down the middle;
"How many a couple, like the wind,
"Which nothing in its course controls,
Left time and chaperons far behind,
"And gave a loose to legs and souls;
How matrimony throve--ere stopt
"By this cold, silent, foot-coquetting--
"How charmingly one's partner propt
"The important question in poussetteing.
"While now, alas--no sly advances--
"No marriage hints--all goes on badly--
"'Twixt Parson Malthus and French Dances,
"We, girls, are at a discount sadly.
"Sir William Scott (now Baron Stowell)
"Declares not half so much is made
"By Licences--and he must know well--
"Since vile Quadrilling spoiled the trade."
She ceased--tears fell from every Miss--
She now had touched the true pathetic:--
One such authentic fact as this,
Is worth whole volumes theoretic.
Instant the cry was "Country Dance!"
And the maid saw with brightening face,
The Steward of the night advance,
And lead her to her birthright place.
The fiddles, which awhile had ceased,
Now tuned again their summons sweet,
And, for one happy night, at least,
Old England's triumph was complete.