The Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque, Part 6
Excerpts from Canto 8
Dr. Syntax, having entirely misunderstood his night’s accommodation at the sumptuous home of a lord, goes forward in his quest, determined to seek the picturesque and thus, with his trusty pen and ink, earn his fortune:
"...Thus Syntax, with reflection fraught,
Soliloquiz'd the moral thought;
While Grizzle, all alive and gay,
Ambled along the ready way.
Last night she found it no disaster
To share the fortune of her master;
She, 'mong the finest hunters stood,
And shar'd with them the choicest food:
In a fine roomy stable plac'd,
With ev'ry well-trimm'd clothing grac'd.
Poor Grizzle was as fair a joke
To all the merry stable-folk.
As the good Doctor's self had been
To the kind gentry of the inn.
True to his consistently inconsistent mind, Dr. Syntax wastes away half the day in contemplation and eventually asks a shepherd boy for direction to an inn:
“Keep onward by the church-yard wall.
When you will see a house of call;
The sign's a Dragon — there you'll find
Eating and drinking to your mind."
Across the Down the Doctor went,
And towards the church his way he bent.
"Thus," Syntax said, "when man is hurl'd
Upwards and downwards in the world;
When some strong impulse makes him stray.
And he, perhaps, has lost his way —
The Church — Religion's holy seat,
Will guide to peace his wand'ring feet!
But, hark! the death-bell's solemn toll
Tells the departure of a soul;
The Sexton too, I see, prepares
The place where end all human cares.
And, lo, a crowd of tombs appear!
I may find something curious here;
For oft poetic flowers are found
To flourish in sepulchral ground,
I just walk in to take a look,
And pick up matter for my book.”
Dr. Syntax looks through the tombstones in the churchyard and reads a few:
|Dr. Syntax Meditating on the Tombs|
Here lies poor Thomas and his wife,
Who led a pretty jarring life;
But all is ended, do you see?
He holds his tongue, and so does she."
"If drugs and physic could but save
Us mortals from the dreary grave,
'Tis known that I took full enough
Of the apothecary's stuff.
To have prolong'd life's busy feast
To a full century at least;
But, spite of all the doctor's skill,
Of daily draught and nightly pill,
Egad, as sure as you're alive,
I was sent here at twenty-five."
"Within this tomb a lover lies,
Who fell an early sacrifice
To Dolly's unrelenting eyes;
For Dolly's charms poor Damon burn'd;
Disdain the cruel maid return'd :
But, as she danc'd in May-day pride,
Dolly fell down, and Dolly died.
And now she lays by Damon's side.
Be not hard-hearted, then, ye fair!
Of Dolly's hapless fate beware!
For sure, you'd better go to bed
To one alive than one who's dead."
" Beneath the sod the soldier sleeps,
Whom cruel War refuis'd to spare:
Beside his grave the maiden weeps,
And Glory plants the laurel there.
Honour is the warrior's need,
Or spar'd to live, or doom'd to die ;
Whether it is his lot to bleed.
Or join the shout of victory;
Alike the laurel to the truly brave,
That binds the brow, or consecrates the grave.”
"Beneath this stone her ashes rest.
Whose memory fills my aching breast!
She sleeps unconscious of the tear
That tells the tale of sorrow here;
But still the hope allays my pain
That we may live and love again:
Love, with a pure seraphic fire,
That never, never, shall expire."
After a long chat with the sexton at the church, Dr. Syntax continues on his way:
“Syntax along the village pass'd.
And to the Dragon came at last;
Where, as the shepherd-boy had said.
There seem'd to be a busy trade;
And, seated in an easy chair.
He found that all he wish'd was there.
Excerpts from CANTO IX.
Having spent the night at the inn safe from a raging storm outside, Dr. Syntax decides to write to his wife:
"Nor can I pass the morning better,
Than to indite this wife a letter."
He paus'd and sigh'd ere he began.
When thus the fond epistle ran: —
"My dearest Doll, — Full many a day
From you and home I've been away;
But, though we thus are doom'd to part.
You're ever present in my heart…
And know the truth which I impart,
The offspring of my honest heart,
That wheresoe'er I'm doom'd to roam,
I still shall find that Home is home:
That, true to Love and nuptial vows,
I shall remain your loving spouse.
Such are the tender truths I tell;
Conjux carissima — farewell! "
Thus he his kindest thoughts reveal'd —
But scarce had he the letter seal'd,
When straight appeared the trembling host,
Looking as pale as any ghost: —
" A man's just come into the town.
Who says the castle's tumbled down,
And that, with one tremendous blow.
The lightning's force has laid it low*"
" What castle, friend?" the Doctor cried.
" The castle by the river side ;
A famous place, where, as folk say,
Some great king liv'd in former day:
But this fine building long has been
A sad and ruinated scene.
Where owls, and bats, and starlings dwell,—
And where, alas ! as people tell.
At the dark hour, when midnight reigns,
Ghosts walk, all arm'd, and rattle chains."
"Peace, peace!" said Syntax, "peace, my friend.
Nor to such tales attention lend. —
But this new thought I must pursue:
A castle, and a ruin too!
I'll hasten there, and take a view."
...Around the moss-clad walls he walk'd.
Then through the inner chambers stalk'd,
And thus exclaim'd, with look profound.
The echoes giving back the sound …
I'll try to take the view,
As well as my best art can do."
"A heap of stones the Doctor found,
Which loosely lay upon the ground.
To form a seat, where he might trace
The antique beauty of the place:
But, while his eye observ'd the line
That was to limit the design. "
Dr. Syntax Tumbling into the Water
"The stones gave way, and, — sad to tell! —
Down from the bank he headlong fell.
The slush, collected for an age,
Receiv'd the venerable Sage;
For, at the time, the ebbing flood
Was just retreating from the mud:
But, after floundering about.
Syntax contriv'd to waddle out,
Half-stunn'd, amaz'd, and cover'd o'er
As seldom wight had been before.
O’erwhelm'd with filth, and stink, and grief,
He saw no house to give relief;
And thus, amid the village din,
He ran the gauntlet to the inn.
… Glad in the inn to find retreat
From the rude insults of the street.
Undress'd, well wash'd, and put to bed,
With mind disturb'd, and aching head.
In vain poor Syntax sought repose,
But lay and counted all his woes.
The friendly host, with anxious care.
Now hastes the posset to prepare: —
The cordial draught he kindly gives;
Which Syntax with a smile receives:
Then seeks, in sleep, a pause from sorrow,
In hopes of better fate to-morrow. "
Poor Dr. Syntax has yet to create his picturesque views...and more adventurs await. To be continued