To trace the Kilmansegg pedigree
To the very root of the family tree
Were a task as rash as ridiculous:
Through antediluvian mists as thick
As London fog such a line to pick
Were enough, in truth, to puzzle old Nick,
Not to name Sir Harris Nicolas.
It wouldn’t require much verbal strain
To trace the Kill-man, perchance, to Cain;
But, waiving all such digressions,
Suffice it, according to family lore,
A Patriarch Kilmansegg lived of yore,
Who was famed for his great possessions.
Tradition said he feather’d his nest
Through an Agricultural Interest
In the Golden Age of Farming;
When golden eggs were laid by the geese,
And Colehian sheep wore a golden fleece,
And golden pippins—the sterling kind
Of Hesperus—now so hard to find—
Made Horticulture quite charming!
A Lord of Land, on his own estate,
He lived at a very lively rate,
But his income would bear carousing;
Such acres he had of pastures and heath,
With herbage so rich from the ore beneath,
The very ewe’s and lambkin’s teeth
Were turn’d into gold by browsing.
He gave, without any extra thrift,
A flock of sheep for a birthday gift
To each son of his loins, or daughter:
And his debts—if debts he had—at will
He liquidated by giving each bill
A dip in Pactolian water.
’Twas said that even his pigs of lead,
By crossing with some by Midas bred,
Made a perfect mine of his piggery.
And as for cattle, one yearling bull
Was worth all Smithfield-market full
Of the Golden Bulls of Pope Gregory.
The high-bred horses within his stud,
Like human creatures of birth and blood,
Had their Golden Cups and flagons:
And as for the common husbandry nags,
Their noses were tied in money-bags,
When they stopp’d with the carts and wagons.
Moreover, he had a Golden Ass,
Sometimes at stall, and sometimes at grass,
That was worth his own weight in money
And a golden hive, on a Golden Bank,
Where golden bees, by alchemical prank,
Gather’d gold instead of honey.
Gold! and gold! and gold without end!
He had gold to lay by, and gold to spend,
Gold to give, and gold to lend,
And reversions of gold in futuro.
In wealth the family revell’d and roll’d,
Himself and wife and sons so bold;—
And his daughters sang to their harps of gold
“O bella eta del’oro!”
Such was the tale of the Kilmansegg Kin,
In golden text on a vellum skin,
Though certain people would wink and grin,
And declare the whole story a parable—
That the Ancestor rich was one Jacob Ghrimes,
Who held a long lease, in prosperous times,
Of acres, pasture and arable.
That as money makes money, his golden bees
Were the Five per Cents, or which you please,
When his cash was more than plenty—
That the golden cups were racing affairs;
And his daughters, who sang Italian airs,
Had their golden harps of Clementi.
That the Golden Ass, or Golden Bull,
Was English John, with his pockets full,
Then at war by land and water:
While beef, and mutton, and other meat,
Were almost as dear as money to eat,
And farmers reaped Golden Harvests of wheat
At the Lord knows what per quarter!
What different dooms our birthdays bring!
For instance, one little manikin thing
Survives to wear many a wrinkle;
While Death forbids another to wake,
And a son that it took nine moons to make
Expires without even a twinkle!
Into this world we come like ships,
Launch’d from the docks, and stocks, and slips,
For fortune fair or fatal;
And one little craft is cast away
In its very first trip in Babbicome Bay,
While another rides safe at Port Natal.
What different lots our stars accord!
This babe to be hail’d and woo’d as a Lord!
And that to be shun’d like a leper!
One, to the world’s wine, honey, and corn,
Another, like Colchester native, born
To its vinegar, only, and pepper.
One is litter’d under a roof
Neither wind nor water proof—
That’s the prose of Love in a Cottage—
A puny, naked, shivering wretch,
The whole of whose birthright would not fetch,
Though Robins himself drew up the sketch,
The bid of “a mess of pottage.”
Born of Fortunatus’s kin
Another comes tenderly ushered in
To a prospect all bright and burnish’d:
No tenant he for life’s back slums—
He comes to the world, as a gentleman comes
To a lodging ready furnish’d.
And the other sex—the tender—the fair—
What wide reverses of fate are there!
Whilst Margaret, charm’d by the Bulbul rare,
In a garden of Gul reposes—
Poor Peggy hawks nosegays from street to street
Till—think of that, who find life so sweet!—
She hates the smell of roses!
Not so with the infant Kilmansegg!
She was not born to steal or beg,
Or gather cresses in ditches;
To plait the straw, or bind the shoe,
Or sit all day to hem and sew,
As females must—and not a few—
To fill their insides with stitches!
She was not doom’d, for bread to eat,
To be put to her hands as well as her feet—
To carry home linen from mangles—
Or heavy-hearted, and weary-limb’d,
To dance on a rope in a jacket trimm’d
With as many blows as spangles.
She was one of those who by Fortune’s boon
Are born, as they say, with a silver spoon
In her mouth, not a wooden ladle:
To speak according to poet’s wont,
Plutus as sponsor stood at her font,
And Midas rocked the cradle.
At her first début she found her head
On a pillow of down, in a downy bed,
With a damask canopy over.
For although, by the vulgar popular saw,
All mothers are said to be “in the straw,”
Some children are born in clover.
Her very first draught of vital air,
It was not the common chameleon fare
Of plebeian lungs and noses,—
No—her earliest sniff
Of this world was a whiff
Of the genuine Otto of Roses!
When she saw the light, it was no mere ray
Of that light so common—so everyday—
That the sun each morning launches—
But six wax tapers dazzled her eyes,
From a thing—a gooseberry bush for size—
With a golden stem and branches.
She was born exactly at half-past two,
As witness’d a timepiece in ormolu
That stood on a marble table—
Showing at once the time of day,
And a team of Gildings running away
As fast as they were able,
With a golden God, with a golden Star,
And a golden Spear, in a golden Car,
According to Grecian fable.
Like other babes, at her birth she cried;
Which made a sensation far and wide—
Ay, for twenty miles around her:
For though to the ear ’twas nothing more
Than an infant’s squall, it was really the roar
Of a Fifty-thousand Pounder!
It shook the next heir
In his library chair,
And made him cry, “Confound her!”
Of signs and omens there was no dearth,
Any more than at Owen Glendower’s birth,
Or the advent of other great people
Two bullocks dropp’d dead,
As if knock’d on the head,
And barrels of stout
And ale ran about,
And the village bells such a peal rang out,
That they crack’d the village steeple.
In no time at all, like mushroom spawn,
Tables sprang up all over the lawn;
Not furnish’d scantly or shabbily,
But on scale as vast
As that huge repast,
With its loads and cargoes
Of drink and botargoes,
At the Birth of the Babe in Rabelais.
Hundreds of men were turn’d into beasts,
Like the guests at Circe’s horrible feasts,
By the magic of ale and cider:
And each country lass, and each country lad
Began to caper and dance like mad,
And ev’n some old ones appear’d to have had
A bite from the Naples Spider.
Then as night came on,
It had scared King John
Who considered such signs not risible,
To have seen the maroons,
And the whirling moons,
And the serpents of flame,
And wheels of the same,
That according to some were “whizzable.”
Oh, happy Hope of the Kilmanseggs!
Thrice happy in head, and body, and legs,
That her parents had such full pockets!
For had she been born of Want and Thrift,
For care and nursing all adrift,
It’s ten to one she had had to make shift
With rickets instead of rockets!
And how was the precious baby drest?
In a robe of the East, with lace of the West,
Like one of Croesus’s issue—
Her best bibs were made
Of rich gold brocade,
And the others of silver tissue.
And when the baby inclined to nap,
She was lull’d on a Gros de Naples lap,
By a nurse in a modish Paris cap,
Of notions so exalted,
She drank nothing lower than Curaçoa
Maraschino, or pink Noyau,
And on principle never malted.
From a golden boat, with a golden spoon,
The babe was fed night, morning, and noon;
And altho’ the tale seems fabulous,
’Tis said her tops and bottoms were gilt,
Like the oats in that Stable-yard Palace built
For the horse of Heliogabalus.
And when she took to squall and kick—
For pain will wring, and pins will prick,
E’en the wealthiest nabob’s daughter—
They gave her no vulgar Dalby or gin,
But a liquor with leaf of gold therein,
In short she was born, and bred, and nurst,
And drest in the best from the very first,
To please the genteelest censor—
And then, as soon as strength would allow,
Was vaccinated, as babes are now,
With virus ta’en from the best-bred cow
Of Lord Althorpe’s—now Earl Spencer.