Thomas Love Peacock


A Selection of

Poems from Melincourt



        Ballad Terzetto from chapter xvii
        The Flower of Love from chapter xvii
        Glee---The Ghosts from chapter xvi
        The Magic Bark from chapter xli
        The Morning of Love from chapter xxviii
        Quintetto from chapter xxxix
        The Sundial from chapter xxxii
        Terzetto from chapter xix
        The Tomb of Love from chapter ix


   The Tomb of Love

BY THE mossy weed-flowered column,
  Where the setting moonbeam's glance
Streams a radiance cold and solemn
  On the haunts of old romance:
Know'st thou what those shafts betoken,
  Scattered on that tablet lone,
Where the ivory bow lies broken
  By the monumental stone?

When true knighthood's shield, neglected,
  Mouldered in the empty hall;
When the charms that shield protected
  Slept in death's eternal thrall;
When chivalric glory perished
  Like the pageant of a dream,
Love in vain its memory cherished,
  Fired in vain the minstrel's theme.

Falsehood to an elvish minion
  Did the form of Love impart:
Cunning plumed its vampire pinion;
  Avarice tipped its golden dart.
Love, the hideous phantom flying,
  Hither came, no more to rove:
There his broken bow is Iying
  On that stone the tomb of Love!

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   Glee---The Ghosts

IN LIFE three ghostly friars were we,
And now three friarly ghosts we be.
Around our shadowy table placed,
The spectral bowl before us floats:
With wine that none but ghosts can taste,
We wash our unsubstantial throats.
Three merry ghosts--three merry ghosts--
  three merry ghosts are we:
Let the ocean be Port, and we'll think it good sport
To be laid in that Red Sea.

With songs that jovial spectres chaunt,
Our old refectory still we haunt.
The traveller hears our midnight mirth:
"O list!" he cries, "the haunted choir!
"The merriest ghost that walks the earth, "
"Is sure the ghost of a ghostly friar."
Three merry ghosts--three merry ghosts--
  three merry ghosts are we:
Let the ocean be Port, and we'll think it good sport
To be laid in that Red Sea.

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   Ballad Terzetto
THE LADY, THE KNIGHT, AND THE FRIAR.

  THE LADY.
O cavalier! what dost thou here,
Thy tuneful vigils keeping;
While the northern star looks cold from far
And half the world is sleeping?

  THE KNIGHT.
O lady! here, for seven long year,
Have I been nightly sighing,
Without the hope of a single tear
To pity me were I dying.

  THE LADY.
Should I take thee to have and to hold,
Who hast nor lands nor money?
Alas! 'tis only in flowers of gold
That married bees flnd honey.

  THE KNIGHT.
O lady fair! to my constant prayer
Fate proves at last propitious;
And bags of gold in my hand I bear,
And parchment scrolls delicious.

  THE LADY.
My maid the door shall open throw,
For we too long have tarried:
The friar keeps watch in the cellar below,
And we will at once be married.

  THE FRIAR.
My children! great is Fortune's power;
And plain this truth appears,
That gold thrives more in a single hour,
Than love in seven long years.

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   The Flower of Love

'TIS SAID the rose is Love's own flower,
Its blush so bright, its thorns so many;
And winter on its bloom has power,
But has not on its sweetness any.
For though young Love's ethereal rose
Will droop on Age's wintry bosom,
Yet still its faded leaves disclose
The fragrance of their earliest blossom.

But ah! the fragrance lingering there
Is like the sweets that mournful duty
Bestows with sadly-soothing care,
To deck the grave of bloom and beauty.
For when its leaves are shrunk and dry,
Its blush extinct, to kindle never,
That fragrance is but Memory's sigh,
That breathes of pleasures past for ever.

Why did not Love the amaranth choose,
That bears no thorns, and cannot perish ?
Alas! no sweets its flowers diffuse,
And only sweets Love's life can cherish.
But be the rose and amaranth twined,
And Love, their mingled powers assuming,
Shall round his brows a chaplet bind,
For ever sweet, for ever blooming.

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   Terzetto
  1.
HARK! o'er the silent waters stealing,
The dash of oars sounds soft and clear:
Through night's deep veil, all forms concealing,
Nearer it comes, and yet more near.

See! where the long reflection glistens,
In yon lone tower her watch-light burns:
To hear our distant oars she listens,
And, listtening, strikes the harp by turns.

The stars are bright, the skies unclouded;
No moonbeam shines; no breezes wake:
Is it my love, in darkness shrouded,
Whose dashing oar disturbs the lake?

  2.
0 haste, sweet maid, the cords unrolling;
The holy hermit chides our stay!
  1. 2. 3.
Hark! from his lonely islet tolling,
His midnight bell shall guide our way.

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   The Morning of Love

O! THE spring-time of life is the season of blooming,
And the morning of love is the season of joy;
Ere noontide and summer, with radiance consuming,
Look down on their beauty, to parch and destroy.
0! faint are the blossoms life's pathway adorning,
When the first magic glory of hope is withdrawn;
For the flowers of the spring, and the light of the morning,
Have no summer budding, and no second dawn.

Through meadows all sunshine, and verdure, and flowers
The stream of the valley in purity flies;
But mixed with the tides, where some proud city lowers,
O! where is the sweetness that dwelt on its rise ?
The rose withers fast-on the breast it first graces;
Its beauty is fled ere the day be half done:--
And life is that stream which its progress defaces,
And love is that flower which can bloom but for one.

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   The Sundial

THE IVY o'er the mouldering wall
Spreads like a tree, the growth of years:
The wild wind through the doorless hall
A melancholy music rears,
A solitary voice, that sighs
O'er man's forgotten pageantries.
  Above the central gate, the clock,
Through clustering ivy dimly seen,
Seems, like the ghost of Time, to mock
The wrecks of power that once has been.
The hands are rusted on its face;
Even where they ceased, in years gone by,
To keep the flying moments pace;
Fixing, in Fancy's thoughtful eye,
A point of ages passed away,
A speck of time, that owns no tie
With aught that lives and breathes to-day.
  But 'mid the rank and towering grass,
Where breezes wave, in mournful sport,
The weeds that choke the ruined court,
The careless hours that circling pass,
Still trace upon the dialled brass
The shade of their unvarying way:
And evermore, with every ray
That breaks the clouds and gilds the air,
Time's stealthy steps are imaged there:
Even as the long-revolving years
In self-reflecting circles flow,
From the first bud the hedge-row bears,
To wintry Nature's robe of snow.
The changeful forms of mortal things
Decay and pass; and art and power
Oppose in vain the doom that flings
Oblivion on their closing hour:
While still, to every woodland vale,
New blooms, new fruits, the seasons bring,
For other eyes and lips to hail
With looks and sounds of welcoming:
As where some stream light-eddying roves
By sunny meads and shadowy groves,
Wave following wave departs for ever,
But still flows on the eternal river.

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   Quintetto

MR. FEATHERNEST, MR. VAMP, MR. KILLTHEDEAD, MR. PAPERSTAMP, AND MR. ANYSIDE ANTIJACK.

To the tune of "Turning, turning, turning, as wheel goes round."

  RECITATIVE. MR. PAPERSTAMP.
Jack Horner's CHRISTMAS PIE my learned nurse
Interpreted to mean the public purse.
From thence a plum he drew. O happy Horner!
Who would not be ensconced in thy snug corner

  THE FIVE.
While round the public board all eagerly we linger,
for what we can get we will try, try, try:
And we'll all have a finger, a finger, a finger,
We'll all have a finger in the CHRISTMAS PIE.

  MR. FEATHERNEST.
By my own poetic laws, I'm a dealer in applause
For those who don't deserve it, but will buy, buy
So round the court I linger, and thus I get a finget
A finger, finger, finger in the CHRISTMAS PIE.

  THE FIVE.
And we'll all have a finger, a finger, a finger,
We'll all have a finger in the CHRISTMAS PIE.

  MR. VAMP.
My share of pie to win, I will dash through thick and thin
And philosophy and liberty shall fly, fly, fly:
And truth and taste shall know, that their eve Iasting foe
Has a finger, finger, finger in the CHRISTMAS PIE.

  THE FIVE.
And we'll all have a finger, a finger, a finger,
We'll all have a finger in the CHRISTMAS PIE.

  MR. KILLTHEDEAD.
I'll make my verses rattle with the din of war and battle,
For war doth increase sa-la-ry, ry, ry:
And I'll shake the public ears with the triumph of Algiers,
And thus I ll get a finger in the CHRISTMAS PIE.

  THE FIVE.
And we'll all have a finger, a finger, a finger,
We'll all have a finger in the CHRISTMAS PIE.

  MR. PAPERSTAMP.
And while you thrive by ranting, I'll try my luck at canting,
And scribble verse and prose all so dry, dry, dry:
And Mystic's patent smoke public intellect shall choke,
Arld we ll all have a finger in the CHRISTMAS PIE.

  THE FIVE.
We'll all have a finger, a finger, a finger,
We'll all have a finger in the CHRISTMAS PIE.

   MR. ANYSIDE ANTIJACK.
My tailor is so clever, that my coat will turn for ever,
And take any colour you can dye, dye, dye:
For all my earthly wishes are among the loaves and fishes,
And to have my little finger in the CHRISTMAS PIE.

  THE FIVE.
And we'll all have a finger, a finger, a finger,
We'll all have a finger in the CHRISTMAS PIE.

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   The Magic Bark
  I
O FREEDOM! power of life and light!
Sole nurse of truth and glory!
Bright dweller on the rocky cliff!
Lone wanderer on the sea!
Where'er the sunbeam slumbers bright
On snow-clad mountains hoary;
Wherever flies the veering skiff,
O'er waves that breathe of thee!
Be thou the guide of all my thought—
The source of all my being—
The genius of my waking mind---
The spirit of my dreams!
To me thy magic spell be taught,
The captive spirit freeing,
To wander with the ocean-wind
Where'er thy beacon beams.

  II
O! sweet it were, in magic bark,
On one loved breast reclining,
To sail around the varied world,
To every blooming shore;
And oft the gathering storm to mark
Its lurid folds combining;
And safely ride, with sails unfurled,
Amid the tempest's roar;
And see the mighty breakers rave
On cliff, and sand, and shingle,
And hear, with long re-echoing shock,
The caverned steeps reply;
And while the storm-cloud and the wave
In darkness seemed to mingle,
To skim beside the surf-swept rock,
And glide uninjured by.

  III
And when the summer seas were calm,
And summer skies were smiling,
And evening came, with clouds of gold,
To gild the western wave;
And gentle airs and dews of balm,
The pensive mind beguiling,
Should call the Ocean Swain to fold
His sea-flocks in the cave,
Unearthly music's tenderest spell,
With gentlest breezes blending
And waters softly rippling near
The prow's light course along,
Should flow from Triton's winding shell,
Through ocean's depths ascending
From where it charmed the Nereid's ear,
Her coral bowers among.

  IV
How sweet, where eastern Nature smiles,
With swift and mazy motion
Before the odour-breathing breeze
Of dewy morn to glide;
Or, 'mid the thousand emerald isles
That gem the southern ocean,
Where fruits and flowers, from loveliest trees,
O'erhang the slumbering tide:
Or up some western stream to sail,
To where its myriad fountains
Roll down their everlasting rills
From many a cloud-capped height,
Till mingling in some nameless vale,
'Mid forest-cinctured mountains,
The river-cataract shakes the hills
With vast and volumed might.

  V
The poison-trees their leaves should shed,
The yellow snake should perish,
The beasts of blood should crouch and cower,
Where'er that vessel past:
All plagues of fens and vapours bred,
That tropic fervors cherish,
Should fly before its healing power,
Like mists before the blast.
Where'er its keel the strand imprest,
The young fruit's ripening cluster,
The bird's free song, its touch should greet,
The opening flower's perfume;
The streams zalong the green earth's breast
Should roll in purer lustre,
And love should heighten every sweet,
And brighten every bloom.

  VI
And, Freedom! thy meridian blaze
Should chase the clouds that lower,
Wherever mental twilight dim
Obscures Truth's vestal flame,
Wherever Fraud and Slavery raise
The throne of blood-stained Power,
Wherever Fear and Ignorance hymn
Some fabled daemon's name!
The bard, where torrents thunder down
Beside thy burning altar,
Should kindle, as in days of old,
The mind's ethereal fire;
Ere yet beneath a tyrant's frown
The Muse's voice could falter,
Or Flattery strung with chords of gold
The minstrel's venal Iyre.

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Melicourt was first published in 1817.