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Whate'er the stranger's caste or creed,
Pundit or papist, saint or sinner, He found a stable for his steed,
And welcome for himself and dinner.
If, when he reached his journey's end,
And warmed himself in court and college, He had not gained an honest friend,
And twenty curious scraps of knowledge; If he departed as he came,
With no new light on love or liquor, Good sooth the traveller was to blame,
And not the Vicarage or the Vicar.
His talk was like a stream which runs
With rapid change from rocks to roses ; It slipped from politics to puns ;
It passed from Mahomet to Moses ; Beginning with the laws which keep
The planets in their radiant courses, And ending with some precept deep
For dressing eels or shoeing horses.
He was a shrewd and sound divine,
Of loud dissent the mortal terror; And when by dint of page and line,
He 'stablished truth or startled error, The Baptist found him far too deep;
The Deist sighed with saving sorrow, And the lean Levite went to sleep
And dreamt of eating pork to-morrow.
His sermon never said or showed
That earth is foul, that Heaven is gracious,
Without refreshment on the road
From Jerome or from Athanasius ; And sure a righteous zeal inspired
The hand and head that penned and planned them, For all who understood admired,
And some who did not understand them.
He wrote too, in a quiet way,
Small treatises and smaller verses, And sage remarks on chalk and clay,
And hints to noble lords and nurses ; True histories of last year's ghost ;
Lines to a ringlet or a turban, And trifles for the “Morning Post,”
And nothings for Sylvanus Urban.
He did not think all mischief fair,
Although he had a knack of joking ; He did not make himself a bear,
Although he had a taste for smoking. And when religious sects ran mad
He held, in spite of all his learning, That if a man's belief is bad
It will not be improved by burning.
And he was kind and loved to sit
In the low hut or garnished cottage, And praise the farmer's homely wit,
And share the widow's homelier pottage. At his approach complaint grew mild,
And when his hand unbarred the shutter, The clammy lips of fever smiled
The welcome that they could not utter.
He always had a tale for me
Of Julius Cæsar or of Venus ;
Cat's-cradle, leap-frog, and Quæ genus ;
To steal the staff he put such trust in,
When he began to quote Augustine.
Alack the change! In vain I look
For haunts in which by boyhood trifled;
The trees I climbed, the beds I rifled !
You reach it by a carriage entry;
And pews are fitted for the gentry.
Sit in the Vicar's seat: you'll hear
The doctrine of a gentle Johnian;
Whose tone is very Ciceronian.
And construe on the slab before you
The man who wrote the above admirable portrait was as good as he was clever. The next has equal merit:
Near a small village in the West,
Where many very worthy people
To guard from evil church and steeple,
A tenement of brick and plaster, Of which, for forty years and four,
My good friend Quince was lord and master.
Welcome was he in hut and hall,
To maids and matrons, peers and peasants ; He won the sympathies of all
By making puns and making presents. Though all the parish was at strife,
He kept his counsel and his carriage, And laughed, and loved a quiet life,
And shrunk from chancery suits and marriage.
Sound was his claret and his head,
Warm was his double ale and feelings; His partners at the whist-club said
That he was faultless in his dealings. He went to church but once a-week,
Yet Dr. Poundtext always found him An upright man, who studied Greek,
And liked to see his friends around him.
Asylums, hospitals and schools
He used to swear were made to cozen;
All who subscribed to them were fools
And he subscribed to half-a-dozen. It was his doctrine that the poor
Were always able, never willing ; And so the beggar at the door
Had first abuse and then a shilling.
Some public principles he had,
But was no flatterer nor fretter;
And said I cannot make them better.
And much he scored the placeman's snuffle, And cut the fiercest quarrels short
With, "Patience, gentlemen, and shuffle !"
For full ten years his pointer, Speed,
Had couched beneath his master's table, For twice ten years his old white steed
Had fattened in his master's stable. Old Quince averred upon his troth
They were the ugliest beasts in Devon ; And none knew why he fed them both
With his own hands, six days in seven.
Whene'er they heard his ring or knock,
Quicker than thought the village slatterns Flung down the novel, smoothed the frock,
And took up Mrs. Glasse or patterns. Alice was studying baker's bills;
Louisa looked the queen of knitters; Jane happened to be hemming frills ;
And Nell by chance was making fritters.