The world is full of orphans: firstly, those
Who are so in the strict sense of the phrase;
But many a lonely tree the loftier grows
Than others crowded in the Forest’s maze.-
The next are such as are not doomed to lose
Their tender parents in their budding days,
But, merely, their parental tenderness,
Which leaves them orphans of the heart no less.
The next are ’only Children,’ as they are styled,
Who grow up Children only, since th’ old saw
Pronounces that an ’only ’s’ a spoilt child-
But not to go too far, I hold it law,
That where their education, harsh or mild,
Transgresses the great bounds of love or awe,
The sufferers- be ’t in heart or intellect-
Whate’er the cause, are orphans in effect.
But to return unto the stricter rule-
As far as words make rules- our common notion
Of orphan paints at once a parish school,
A half-starved babe, a wreck upon Life’s ocean,
A human (what the Italians nickname) ’Mule’!
A theme for Pity or some worse emotion;
Yet, if examined, it might be admitted
The wealthiest orphans are to be more pitied.
Too soon they are Parents to themselves: for what
Are Tutors, Guardians, and so forth, compared
With Nature’s genial Genitors? so that
A child of Chancery, that Star-Chamber ward
(I ’ll take the likeness I can first come at),
Is like- a duckling by Dame Partlett rear’d,
And frights- especially if ’t is a daughter,
Th’ old Hen- by running headlong to the water.
There is a common-place book argument,
Which glibly glides from every tongue;
When any dare a new light to present,
’If you are right, then everybody ’s wrong’!
Suppose the converse of this precedent
So often urged, so loudly and so long;
’If you are wrong, then everybody ’s right’!
Was ever everybody yet so quite?
Therefore I would solicit free discussion
Upon all points- no matter what, or whose-
Because as Ages upon Ages push on,
The last is apt the former to accuse
Of pillowing its head on a pin-cushion,
Heedless of pricks because it was obtuse:
What was a paradox becomes a truth or
A something like it- witness Luther!
The Sacraments have been reduced to two,
And Witches unto none, though somewhat late
Since burning aged women (save a few-
Mischief in families, as some know or knew,
Should still be singed, but lightly, let me state)
Has been declared an act of inurbanity
Malgre Sir Matthew Hales’s great humanity.
Great Galileo was debarr’d the Sun,
Because he fix’d it; and, to stop his talking,
How Earth could round the solar orbit run,
Found his own legs embargo’d from mere walking:
The man was well-nigh dead, ere men begun
To think his skull had not some need of caulking;
But now, it seems, he ’s right- his notion just:
No doubt a consolation to his dust
Pythagoras, Locke, Socrates- but pages
Might be fill’d up, as vainly as before,
With the sad usage of all sorts of sages,
Who, in his life-time, each, was deem’d a Bore!
The loftiest minds outrun their tardy ages:
This they must bear with and, perhaps, much more;
The wise man ’s sure when he no more can share it, he
Will have a firm Post Obit on posterity.
If such doom waits each Intellectual Giant,
We little people in our lesser way,
In Life’s small rubs should surely be more pliant,
And so for one will I- as well I may-
Would that I were less bilious- but, oh, fie on ’t!
Just as I make my mind up every day,
To be a ’totus, teres,’ Stoic, Sage,
The wind shifts and I fly into a rage.
Temperate I am- yet never had a temper;
Modest I am- yet with some slight assurance;
Changeable too- yet somehow ’Idem semper;’
Patient- but not enamour’d of endurance;
Cheerful- but, sometimes, rather apt to whimper;
Mild- but at times a sort of ’Hercules furens;’
So that I almost think that the same skin
For one without- has two or three within.
Our Hero was, in Canto the Sixteenth,
Left in a tender moonlight situation,
Such as enables Man to show his strength
Moral or physical: on this occasion
Whether his virtue triumph’d- or, at length,
His vice- for he was of a kindling nation-
Is more than I shall venture to describe;-
Unless some Beauty with a kiss should bribe.
I leave the thing a problem, like all things:-
The morning came- and breakfast, tea and toast,
Of which most men partake, but no one sings.
The company whose birth, wealth, worth, has cost
My trembling Lyre already several strings,
Assembled with our hostess, and mine host;
The guests dropp’d in- the last but one, Her Grace,
The latest, Juan, with his virgin face.
Which best it is to encounter- Ghost, or none,
’T were difficult to say; but Juan look’d
As if he had combated with more than one,
Being wan and worn, with eyes that hardly brook’d
The light that through the Gothic window shone:
Her Grace, too, had a sort of air rebuked-
Seem’d pale and shiver’d, as if she had kept
A vigil, or dreamt rather more than slept.