Of all the spirits of evil fame,
That hurt the soul or injure the frame,
And poison what’s honest and hearty,
There’s none more needs a Mathew to preach
A cooling, antiphlogistic speech,
To praise and enforce
A temperate course,
Than the Evil Spirit of Party.
Go to the House of Commons, or Lords,
And they seem to be busy with simple words
In their popular sense or pedantic—
But, alas! with their cheers, and sneers, and jeers,
They’re really busy, whatever appears,
Putting peas in each other’s ears,
To drive their enemies frantic!
Thus Tories like to worry the Whigs,
Who treat them in turn like Schwalbach pigs,
Giving them lashes, thrashes, and digs,
With their writhing and pain delighted—
But after all that’s said, and more,
The malice and spite of Party are poor
To the malice and spite of a party next door,
To a party not invited.
On with the cap and out with the light,
Weariness bids the world good night,
At least for the usual season;
But hark! a clatter of horses’ heels;
And Sleep and Silence are broken on wheels,
Like Wilful Murder and Treason!
Another crash—and the carriage goes—
Again poor Weariness seeks the repose
That Nature demands, imperious;
But Echo takes up the burden now,
With a rattling chorus of row-de-dow-dow,
Till Silence herself seems making a row,
Like a Quaker gone delirious!
’Tis night—a winter night—and the stars
Are shining like winkin’—Venus and Mars
Are rolling along in their golden cars
Through the sky’s serene expansion—
But vainly the stars dispense their rays,
Venus and Mars are lost in the blaze
Of the Kilmanseggs’ luminous mansion!
Up jumps Fear in a terrible fright!
His bedchamber windows look so bright,—
With light all the Square is glutted!
Up he jumps, like a sole from the pan,
And a tremor sickens his inward man,
For he feels as only a gentleman can,
Who thinks he’s being “gutted.”
Again Fear settles, all snug and warm;
But only to dream of a dreadful storm
From Autumn’s sulphurous locker;
But the only electrical body that falls
Wears a negative coat, and positive smalls,
And draws the peal that so appals
From the Kilmanseggs’ brazen knocker!
’Tis Curiosity’s Benefit night—
And perchance ’tis the English Second-Sight,
But whatever it be, so be it—
As the friends and guests of Miss Kilmansegg
Crowd in to look at her Golden Leg,
As many more
Mob round the door,
To see them going to see it!
In they go—in jackets and cloaks,
Plumes and bonnets, turbans and toques,
As if to a Congress of Nations:
Greeks and Malays, with daggers and dirks,
Spaniards, Jews, Chinese, and Turks—
Some like original foreign works,
But mostly like bad translations.
In they go, and to work like a pack,
Juan, Moses, and Shacabac,
Tom, and Jerry and Springheel’d Jack,—
For some of low Fancy are lovers—
Skirting, zigzagging, casting about,
Here and there, and in and out,
With a crush, and a rush, for a full-bodied rout
In one of the stiffest of covers.
In they went, and hunted about,
Open-mouth’d like chub and trout,
And some with the upper lip thrust out,
Like that fish for routing, a barbel—
While Sir Jacob stood to welcome the crowd,
And rubb’d his hands, and smiled aloud,
And bow’d, and bow’d, and bow’d, and bow’d,
Like a man who is sawing marble.
For Princes were there, and Noble Peers;
Dukes descended from Norman spears;
Earls that dated from early years;
And lords in vast variety—
Besides the Gentry both new and old—
For people who stand on legs of gold
Are sure to stand well with society.
“But where—where—where?” with one accord,
Cried Moses and Mufti, Jack and my Lord,
Wang-Fong and Il Bondocani—
When slow, and heavy, and dead as a dump,
They heard a foot begin to stump,
Like the Spectre in “Don Giovanni”!
And lo! the Heiress, Miss Kilmansegg,
With her splendid, brilliant, beautiful leg,
In the garb of a Goddess olden—
Like chaste Diana going to hunt,
With a golden spear—which of course was blunt,
And a tunic loop’d up to a gem in front,
To show the Leg that was Golden!
Gold! still gold; her Crescent behold,
That should be silver, but would be gold;
And her robe’s auriferous spangles!
Her golden stomacher—how she would melt!
Her golden quiver, and golden belt,
Where a golden bugle dangles!
And her jewell’d Garter! Oh Sin, oh Shame!
Let Pride and Vanity bear the blame,
That bring such blots on female fame!
But to be a true recorder,
Besides its thin transparent stuff,
The tunic was loop’d quite high enough
To give a glimpse of the Order!
But what have sin or shame to do
With a Golden Leg—and a stout one too?
Away with all Prudery’s panics!
That the precious metal, by thick and thin,
Will cover square acres of land or sin,
Is a fact made plain
Again and again,
In Morals as well as Mechanics.
A few, indeed, of her proper sex,
Who seem’d to feel her foot on their necks,
And fear’d their charms would meet with checks
From so rare and splendid a blazon—
A few cried “fie!”—and “forward”—and “bold!”
And said of the Leg it might be gold,
But to them it look’d like brazen!
’Twas hard they hinted for flesh and blood,
Virtue and Beauty, and all that’s good,
To strike to mere dross their topgallants—
But what were Beauty, or Virtue, or Worth,
Gentle manners, or gentle birth,
Nay, what the most talented head on earth
To a Leg worth fifty Talents!
But the men sang quite another hymn
Of glory and praise to the precious Limb—
Age, sordid Age, admired the whim
And its indecorum pardon’d—
While half of the young—ay, more than half—
Bow’d down and worshipp’d the Golden Calf,
Like the Jews when their hearts were harden’d.
A Golden Leg!—what fancies it fired!
What golden wishes and hopes inspired!
To give but a mere abridgment—
What a leg to leg-bail Embarrassment’s serf!
What a leg for a Leg to take on the turf!
What a leg for a marching regiment!
A Golden Leg!—whatever Love sings,
’Twas worth a bushel of “Plain Gold Rings”
With which the Romantic wheedles.
’Twas worth all the legs in stockings and socks—
’Twas a leg that might be put in the Stocks,
N.B.—Not the parish beadle’s!
And Lady K. nid-nodded her head,
Lapp’d in a turban fancy-bred,
Just like a love-apple huge and red,
Some Mussul-womanish mystery;
But whatever she meant
She talked like the Muse of History.
She told how the filial leg was lost;
And then how much the gold one cost;
With its weight to a Trojan fraction:
And how it took off, and how it put on;
And call’d on Devil, Duke, and Don,
Mahomet, Moses, and Prester John,
To notice its beautiful action.
And then of the Leg she went in quest;
And led it where the light was best;
And made it lay itself up to rest
In postures for painter’s studies:
It cost more tricks and trouble by half,
Than it takes to exhibit a six-legg’d Calf
To a boothful of country Cuddies.
Nor yet did the Heiress herself omit
The arts that help to make a hit,
And preserve a prominent station.
She talk’d and laugh’d far more than her share;
And took a part in “Rich and Rare
Were the gems she wore”—and the gems were there,
Like a Song with an Illustration.
She even stood up with a Count of France
To dance—alas! the measures we dance
When Vanity plays the piper!
Vanity, Vanity, apt to betray,
And lead all sorts of legs astray,
Wood, or metal, or human clay,—
Since Satan first play’d the Viper!
But first she doff’d her hunting gear,
And favor’d Tom Tug with her golden spear
To row with down the river—
A Bonz had her golden bow to hold;
A Hermit her belt and bugle of gold;
And an Abbot her golden quiver.
And then a space was clear’d on the floor,
And she walk’d the Minuet de la Cour,
With all the pomp of a Pompadour,
But although she began andante,
Conceive the faces of all the Rout,
When she finished off with a whirligig bout,
And the Precious Leg stuck stiffly out
Like the leg of a Figuranté.
So the courtly dance was goldenly done,
And golden opinions, of course, it won
From all different sorts of people—
Chiming, ding-dong, with flattering phrase,
In one vociferous peal of praise,
Like the peal that rings on Royal days
From Loyalty’s parish steeple.
And yet, had the leg been one of those
That danced for bread in flesh-color’d hose,
With Rosina’s pastora bevy,
The jeers it had met,—the shouts! the scoff!
The cutting advice to “take itself off”
For sounding but half so heavy.
Had it been a leg like those, perchance,
That teach little girls and boys to dance,
To set, poussette, recede, and advance,
With the steps and figures most proper,—
Had it hopp’d for a weekly or quarterly sum,
How little of praise or grist would have come
To a mill with such a hopper!
But the Leg was none of those limbs forlorn—
Bartering capers and hops for corn—
That meet with public hisses and scorn,
Or the morning journal denounces—
Had it pleased to caper from morning till dusk,
There was all the music of “Money Musk”
In its ponderous bangs and bounces.
But hark;—as slow as the strokes of a pump,
As the Giant of Castle Otranto might stump,
To a lower room from an upper—
Down she goes with a noisy dint,
For, taking the crimson turban’s hint,
A noble Lord at the Head of the Mint
Is leading the Leg to supper!
But the supper, alas! must rest untold,
With its blaze of light and its glitter of gold,
For to paint that scene of glamour,
It would need the Great Enchanter’s charm,
Who waves over Palace, and Cot, and Farm,
An arm like the Goldbeater’s Golden Arm
That wields a Golden Hammer.
He—only HE—could fitly state
THE MASSIVE SERVICE OF GOLDEN PLATE,
With the proper phrase and expansion—
The Rare Selection of FOREIGN WINES—
The ALPS OF ICE and MOUNTAINS OF PINES,
The punch in OCEANS and sugary shrines,
The TEMPLE OF TASTE from GUNTER’S DESIGNS—
In short, all that WEALTH with A FEAST combines,
In a SPLENDID FAMILY MANSION.
Suffice it each mask’d outlandish guest
Ate and drank of the very best,
According to critical conners—
And then they pledged the Hostess and Host,
But the Golden Leg was the standing toast,
And as somebody swore,
Walk’d off with more
Than its share of the “Hips!” and honors!
Full-glasses I beg!—
Miss Kilmansegg and her Precious Leg!”
And away went the bottle careering!
Wine in bumpers! and shouts in peals!
Till the Clown didn’t know his head from his heels,
The Mussulman’s eyes danced two-some reels,
And the Quaker was hoarse from cheering!