Dr. Syntax, Part Four (Cantos 4 and 5)


More from The Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque

In Canto I, Syntax conceives his project and takes off on his quest on his mare Grizzle, leaving his wife behind. Canto II finds Syntax confronting, instead of a sublime scene of wild beauty, a pack of braying donkeys. As he mourns the scene, he is attacked by highwaymen who steal his purse and his mare, leaving the poor Syntax tied to a tree.


He is rescued in Canto Three and remembers his good wife had sewn some of his money into his clothes, so he is not without funds. He finds his way to an inn and Grizzle is found, though the poor horse has had her ears and tail docked.

Excerpts from Canto IV


He finds sleep in the inn refreshing:
…Thus wrapt in slumber Syntax lay —
Forgot the troubles of the day:
So sound his sleep, so sweet his rest.
By no disturbing dreams distrest;
That, all at ease, he lay entranced.
Till the fair morn was far advanc'd. …

After his morning ablutions and a hearty breakfast…

"...And when the well-fed meal was o'er,
Grizzle was order'd to the door;
Betty was also told to say.
The mighty sum there was to pay:
Betty, obedient to his will,
Her court'sy makes, and brings the bill.
Down the long page he cast his eye,
Then shook his head, and heav'd a sigh,
"What! am I doom'd, where'er I go.
In all I meet to find a foe?
Where'er I wander, to be cheated.
To be bamboozled and ill-treated!"
Thus, as he read each item o'er,
The hostess op'd the parlour door;
When Syntax 'rose in solemn state.
And thus began the fierce debate:—
“Good woman; here, your bill retake,
And, prithee, some abatement make;
I could not such demands afford. …
Were I a bishop or a lord.”


Dr. Syntax Disputing his Bill with the Landlady


… Hostess: "The charges all are fairly made;
If you will eat, I must be paid.
My bills have never found reproaches
From lords and ladies, in their coaches...”

Finally Dr. Syntax makes an offer:

“I'm in haste to get away,
Though one pound three I will not pay:
So, if you'll take one-half th' amount,
We'll quickly settle the account.
There is your money — do you see ?
And let us part in charity."

The hostess agrees, and Canto IV ends with Dr. Syntax waiting for his mare, Grizzle..

Excerpts from Canto V:

Once on his way, Dr. Syntax reflects on his quest.

“It seems to be my luckless case.
At ev'ry point, in every place.
To meet with trouble and disgrace.
But yesterday I left my home.
In search of fancied wealth to roam;
And nought, I think, but ills betide me
Sure, some foul spirit runs beside me;
Some blasting demon from the east,
A deadly foe to man and beast.
That loves to riot in disaster,
And plague alike both horse and master.”

Dr. Syntax seeks out some help for his horse’s wounds, and once she is treated, goes on to stay at another inn. The next morning he goes down for breakfast.

“In spirits from his calm repose;
And while the maid prepar'd the tea,
He look'd around the room to see
What story did the walls disclose
Of human joys, of human woes.
The window quickly caught his eye,
On whose clear panes he could descry
The motley works of many a Muse:
There was enough to pick and choose;
And, "Faith!" said he, "to strive to hook
Some of these lines into my book:
For here there are both grave and witty,
And some, I see, are rather pretty."
From a small pocket in his coat
He drew his tablets, — when he wrote
Whate'er the pregnant panes possess'd;
And these choice lays among the rest:
’If my fond breast were made of glass.
And you could see what there doth pass,
Kitty, my ever charming fair!
You'd see your own sweet image there.’" ...


Dr. Syntax Copying the Wit of the Window


After copying down several more of these stories,

“...But as he copied, quite delighted,
All that the Muse had thus indited,
A hungry dog, and prone to steal.
Ban off with half his breakfast meal;
While Dolly, ent'ring with a kettle.
Was follow'd by a man of mettle.
Who swore he’d have the promis'd kiss;
And, as he seiz'd the melting bliss,
From the hot, ill-pois'd kettle's spout,
The boiling stream came pouring out.
Which drove the Doctor from the Muse,
By quickly filling both his shoes.”

Canto V ends with poor Dr. Syntax suffering yet another affront: his shoes are steaming!

To be continued soon....