THE LORD OF THOULOUSE: A LEGEND OF LANGUEDOC.
Veluti in speculum.-- Theatre Royal Cov. Gard.
Count Raymond rules in Languedoc,
O'er the champaign fair and wide,
With town and stronghold many a one,
Wash'd by the wave of the blue Garonne,
And from far Auvergne to Rousillon,
And away to Narbonne,
And the mouths of the Rhone;
And his Lyonnois silks and his Narbonne honey,
Bring in his lordship a great deal of money.
A thousand lances, stout and true,
Attend Count Raymond's call;
And Knights and Nobles, of high degree,
From Guienne, Provence, and Burgundy,
Before Count Raymond bend the knee,
And vail to him one and all.
And Isabel of Arragon
He weds, the Pride of Spain,
You might not find so rich a prize,
A Dame so 'healthy, wealthy, and wise;'
So pious withal -- with such beautiful eyes --
So exactly the Venus de Medicis size --
In all that wide domain.
Then his cellar is stored
As well as his board,
With the choicest of all La Belle France can afford;
Chambertin, Chateau Margaux, La Rose, and Lafitte,
With Moet's Champagne, 'of the Comet year,' 'neat
As imported,'--'fine sparkling,'-- and not over sweet;
While his Chaplain, good man, when call'd in to say grace,
Would groan, and put on an elongated face
At such turtle, such turbot, John Dory, and plaice,
Not without blushing, pronouncing a benison,
Worthy old soul! on such very fat venison,
Sighing to think
Such victuals and drink,
Are precisely the traps by which Satan makes men his own,
And grieving o'er scores
Of huge barbecued Boars,
Which he thinks should not darken a Christian man's doors,
Though 'twas all very well Pagan Poets should rate 'em
As 'Animal propter convivia natum.'
He was right, I must say,
For at this time of day,
When we're not so precise, whether cleric or lay,
With respect to our food, as in time so passé,
We still find our Boars, whether grave ones or gay,
After dinner, at least, very much in the way,
(We spell the word now with an E, not an A;)
And as honest Père Jacques was inclined to spare diet, he
Gave this advice to all grades of society,
'Think less of pudding -- and think more of piety.'
As to his clothes,
Oh! nobody knows
What lots the Count had of cloaks, doublets, and hose,
Pantoufles, with bows
Each as big as a rose,
And such shirts with lace ruffles, such waistcoats, and those
Indescribable garments it is not thought right
To do more than whisper to oreilles polite.
Still in spite of his power, and in spite of his riches,
In spite of his dinners, his dress, and his -- which is
The strangest of all things -- in spite of his Wife,
The Count led a rather hum-drum sort of life.
He grew tired, in fact, of mere eating and drinking,
Grew tired of flirting, and ogling, and winking
At nursery maids
As they walk'd the Parades,
The Crescents, the Squares, and the fine Colonnades,
And the other gay places, which young ladies use
As their promenade through the good town of Thoulouse.
He was tired of hawking, and fishing, and hunting,
Of billiards, short-whist, chicken-hazard, and punting;
Of popping at pheasants,
Quails, woodcocks, and -- peasants:
Of smoking, and joking,
And soaking, provoking
Such headaches next day
As his fine St. Peray,
Though the best of all Rhone wines can never repay,
Till weary of war, women, roast-goose, and glory,
With no great desire to be 'famous in story,'
All the day long,
This was his song,
'Oh, dear! what will become of us?
Oh, dear! what shall we do?
We shall die of blue devils if some of us
Can't hit on something that's new!'
Meanwhile his sweet Countess, so pious and good,
Such pomps and such vanities stoutly eschew'd,
With all fermented liquors and high-seasoned food,
Deviled kidneys, and sweetbreads, and ducks and green peas;
Baked sucking-pig, goose, and all viands like these,
Hash'd calve's-head included, no longer could please,
A curry was sure to elicit a breeze,
So was ale, or a glass of Port wine after cheese.
Indeed, any thing strong,
As to tipple, was wrong;
She stuck to 'fine Hyson,' 'Bohea,' and 'Souchong,'
And similar imports direct from Hong Kong.
In vain does the family doctor exhort her
To take with her chop one poor half-pint of porter;
No!-- she alleges
She's taken the pledges!
Determined to aid
In a gen'ral Crusade
Against publicans, vintners, and all of that trade,
And to bring in sherbet, ginger-pop, lemonade,
Eau sucrée, and drinkables mild and home made;
So she claims her friends' efforts, and vows to devote all hers
Solely to found 'The Thoulousian Teetotallers.'
Large sums she employs
In dressing small boys
In long duffle jackets, and short corduroys,
And she boxes their ears when they make too much noise;
In short, she turns out a complete Lady Bountiful,
Filling with drugs and brown Holland the county full.
Now just at the time when our story commences,
It seems that a case
Past the common took place,
To entail on her ladyship further expenses,
In greeting with honour befitting his station
The Prior of Arles, with a Temperance Legation,
Despatched by Pope Urban, who seized this occasion
To aid in diluting that part of the nation,
An excellent man,
One who stuck to his can
Of cold water 'without'-- and he'd take such a lot of it!
None of your sips
That just moistens the lips;
At one single draught he'd toss off a whole pot of it,
No such bad thing
By the way, if they bring
It you iced, as at Verey's, or fresh from the spring,
When the Dog Star compels folks in town to take wing,
Though I own even then I should see no great sin in it,
Were there three drops of Sir Felix's gin in it.
Well, leaving the lady to follow her pleasure,
And finish the pump with the Prior at leisure,
Let's go back to Raymond, still bored beyond measure,
And harping away,
On the same dismal lay,
'Oh dear! what will become of us?
Oh dear! what can we do?
We shall die of blue devils if some of us,
Can't find out something that's new!'
At length in despair of obtaining his ends
By his own mother wit, he takes courage, and sends,
Like a sensible man as he is, for his friends,
Not his Lyndhursts or Eldons, or any such high sirs,
But only a few of his 'backstairs' advisers;
'Come hither,' says he,
'My gallants so free,
My bold Rigmarole, and my brave Rigmaree,
And my grave Baron Proser, now listen to me!
You three can't but see I'm half dead with ennui.
What's to be done?
I must have some fun,
And I will too, that's flat -- ay, as sure as a gun,
So find me out 'something new under the sun,'
Or I'll knock your three jobbernowls all into one;--
Come, what shall it be?
Resolve me -- propound in three skips of a flea!'
Rigmarole gave a 'Ha!' Rigmaree gave a 'Hem!'
They look'd at Count Raymond -- Count Raymond at them
As much us to say 'Have you nihil ad rem?'
At length Baron Proser
Responded, 'You know, sir,
That question's some time been a regular poser;
Dear me!-- Let me see,--
In the way of a 'spree'
Something new?-- Eh!-- No!-- Yes!-- No!--' tis really no go, sir.'
Says the Count, 'Rigmarole
You're as jolly a soul,
On the whole, as King Cole, with his pipe and his bowl;
Come, I'm sure you'll devise something novel and droll'--
In vain -- Rigmarole with a look most profound,
With his hand to his heart and his eye to the ground,
Shakes his head as if nothing was there to be found.
'I can only remark,
That as touching a 'lark'
I'm as much as your Highness can be, in the dark;
I can hit on no novelty -- none on my life,
Unless, peradventure you'd 'tea' with your wife!'
Quoth Raymond, 'Enough!
Nonsense!-- humbug!-- fudge!-- stuff!
Rigmarole, you're an ass,-- you're a regular Muff!
Drink tea with her ladyship?-- I?-- not a bit of it!
Call you that fun?-- faith I can't see the wit of it;
Mort de ma vie!
My dear Rigmaree,
You're the man, after all,-- come, by way of a fee,
If you will but be bright, from the simple degree
Of a knight I'll create you at once a Mar-quis!
Put your conjuring cap on -- consider and see,
If you can't beat that stupid old 'Sumph' with his 'tea!
'That's the thing! that will do!
Ay, marry, that's new!'
Cries Rigmaree, rubbing his hands, 'that will please --
My 'Conjuring cap'-- it's the thing;-- it's 'the cheese!'
It was only this morning I picked up the news;
Please your Highness a Conjuror's come to Thoulouse;
I'll defy you to name us,
A man half so famous
For devildoms,-- Sir, it's the great Nostradamus!
Cornelius Agrippa 'tis said went to school to him,
Gyngell's an ass, and old Faustus a fool to him,
Talk of Lilly, Albertus, Jack Dee!-- pooh! all six
He'd soon put in a pretty particular fix;
Why he'd beat, at digesting a sword, or 'Gun tricks'
The great Northern Wizard himself all to sticks!
I should like to see you,
Try to sauter le coup
With this chap at short whist, or unlimited loo,
By the Pope you'd soon find it a regular 'Do:'
Why he does as he likes with the cards,-- when he's got 'em,
There's always an Ace or a King at the bottom;
Then for casting Nativities!-- only you look
At the volume he's published,-- that wonderful book!
In all France not another, to swear I dare venture, is
Like, by long chalks, his 'Prophetical Centuries'--
Don't you remember how, early last summer, he
Warned the late King 'gainst the Tournament mummery?
Didn't his Majesty call it all flummery,
And get the next morning
His poke in the eye from that clumsy Montgomery?
Why he'll tell you, before
You're well inside his door,
All your Highness may wish to be up to, and more!'
'Bravo!-- capital!-- come, let's disguise ourselves -- quick!
-- Fortune's sent him on purpose here, just in the nick;
We'll see if old Hocus will smell out the trick;
Let's start off at once -- Rigmaree, you're a Brick!'
The moon in gentle radiance shone
O'er lowly roof and lordly bower,
O'er holy pile and armed tower,
And danced upon the blue Garonne;
Through all that silver'd city fair,
No sound disturbed the calm, cool air,
Save the lover's sigh alone!
Or where, perchance, some slumberer's nose
Proclaim'd the depth of his repose,
Provoking from connubial toes
A hint -- or elbow bone;
It might, with such trifling exceptions, be said,
That Thoulouse was as still as if Thoulouse were dead
And her 'oldest inhabitant' buried in lead.
But hark! a sound invades the ear,
Of horses' hoofs advancing near!
They gain the bridge -- they pass -- they're here!
Side by side
Two strangers ride,
For the streets in Thoulouse are sufficiently wide,
That is I'm assured they are -- not having tried.
-- See, now they stop
Near an odd looking shop,
And they knock, and they ring, and they won't be denied.
At length the command
Of some unseen hand
Chains, and bolts, and bars obey,
And the thick-ribbed oaken door, old and gray,
In the pale moonlight gives, slowly, way.
They leave their steeds to a page's care,
Who comes mounted behind on a Flanders mare,
And they enter the house, that resolute pair,
With a blundering step but a dare-devil air,
And ascend a long, darksome, and rickety stair;
While, armed with a lamp that just helps you to see
How uncommonly dark a place can be,
The grimmest of lads with the grimmest of grins,
Says, 'Gentlemen, please to take care of your shins!
Who ventures this road need be firm on his pins!
Now turn to the left -- now turn to the right --
Now a step -- now stoop -- now again upright --
Now turn once again, and directly before ye
's the door of the great Doctor's Labora-tory.'
A word! a blow!
And in they go!
No time to prepare, or to get up a show,
Yet every thing there they find quite comme il faut;
Such as queer-looking bottles and jars in a row,
Retorts, crucibles, such as all conjurors stow,
In the rooms they inhabit, huge bellows to blow
The fire burning blue with its sulphur and tow;
From the roof a huge crocodile hangs rather low,
With a tail, such as that, which, we all of us know,
Mr. Waterton managed to tie in a bow:
Pickled snakes, potted lizards, in bottles and basins
Like those at Morel's, or at Fortnum and Mason's,
All articles found, you're aware without telling,
In every respectable conjuror's dwelling.
Looking solemn and wise,
Without turning his eyes,
Or betraying the slightest degree of surprise,
In the midst sits the doctor -- his hair is white,
And his cheek is wan -- but his glance is bright,
And his long black roquelaure, not over tight,
Is marked with strange characters much, if not quite,
Like those on the bottles of green and blue light
Which you see in a chymist's shop-window at night.
His figure is tall and erect -- rather spare about
Ribs,-- and no wonder -- such folks never care about
Eating or drinking,
While reading and thinking,
Don't fatten -- his age might be sixty or thereabout.
Raising his eye so grave and so sage,
From some manuscript work of a bygone age,
The seer very composedly turns down the page,
Then shading his sight,
With his hand from the light,
Says, 'Well, Sirs, what would you at this time of night?
What brings you abroad these lone chambers to tread,
When all sober folks are at home and abed?'
In our degree,
All strange sights we fain would see,
And hither we come in company;
We have far to go, and we come from far,
Through Spain and Portingale, France and Navarre;
We have heard of your name,
And your fame, and our aim,
Great Sir, is to witness, ere yet we depart
From Thoulouse,-- and to-morrow at cock-crow we start --
Your skill -- we would fain crave a touch of your art!'
'Now naye, now naye -- no trav'lers ye!
Nobles ye be
Of high degree!
With half an eye that one may easily see,--
Count Raymond, your servant!-- Yours, Lord Rigmaree!
I must call you so now since you're made a Mar-quis;
Faith, clever boys both, but you can't humbug me!
No matter for that!
I see what you'd be at --
Well -- pray no delay,
For it's late, and ere day
I myself must be hundreds of miles on my way;
So tell me at once what you want with me -- say!
Shall I call up the dead
From their mouldering bed?--
Shall I send you yourselves down to Hades instead?--
Shall I summon old Harry himself to this spot?'--
--'Ten thousand thanks, No! we had much rather not.
We really can't say
That we're curious that way;
But, in brief, if you'll pardon the trouble we're giving,
We'd much rather take a sly peep at the living?
Rigmaree, what say you, in
This case, as to viewing
Our spouses, and just ascertain what they're doing?'
'Just what pleases your Highness -- I don't care a sous in
The matter -- but don't let old Nick and his crew in!'
--'Agreed!-- pray proceed then, most sage Nostradamus,
And show us our wives -- I dare swear they won't shame us!'
A change comes o'er the wizard's face,
And his solemn look by degrees gives place
To a half grave, half comical, kind of grimace.
'For good or for ill,
I work your will!
Yours be the risk and mine the skill;
Blame not my art if unpleasant the pill!'
He takes from a shelf, and he pops on his head,
A square sort of cap, black, and turned up with red,
And desires not a syllable more may be said;
He goes on to mutter,
And stutter, and sputter
Hard words, such as no men but wizards dare utter.
'Dies mies!-- Hocus pocus --
Adsis Demon! non est jokus!
Hi Cocolorum!-- don't provoke us!--
Put forth your best toe!'
And many more words, to repeat which would choke us,--
Such a sniff then of brimstone!-- it did not last long,
Or they could not have borne it, the smell was so strong.
A mirror is near,
So large and so clear,
If you priced such a one in a drawing room here,
And was ask'd fifty pounds, you'd not say it was dear;
But a mist gather'd round at the words of the seer,
Till at length as the gloom
Was subsiding, a room
On its broad polish'd surface began to appear.
And the Count and his comrade saw plainly before 'em,
The room Lady Isabel called her 'Sanctorum.'
They start, well they might,
With surprise at the sight,
Methinks I hear some lady say, 'Serve 'em right!'
For on one side the fire
Is seated the Prior,
At the opposite corner a fat little Friar;
By the side of each gentleman, easy and free,
Sits a lady, as close as close well may be,
She might almost as well have been perch'd on his knee.
Dear me! dear me!
Why one's Isabel -- she
On the opposite side's La Marquise Rigmaree!--
To judge from the spread
On the board, you'd have said
That the partie quarrée had like aldermen fed,
And now from long flasks, with necks covered with lead,
They were helping themselves to champagne, white and red.
Hobbing and nobbing,
And nodding and bobbing,
With many a sip
Both from cup and from lip,
And with many a toast followed up by a 'Hip!--
Hip!-- hip!-- huzzay!'
-- The Count, by the way,
Though he sees all their doing, can't hear what they say,
Notwithstanding both he
And Mar-quis Rigmaree
Are so vex'd and excited at what they can see,
That each utters a sad word beginning with D.
That word once spoke,
The silence broke,
In an instant the vision is cover'd with smoke!
But enough has been seen. 'Horse! horse! and away!'
They have, neither, the least inclination to stay,
E'en to thank Nostradamus, or ask what's to pay.--
They rush down the stair,
How, they know not, nor care,
The next moment the Count is astride on his bay,
And my Lord Rigmaree on his mettlesome grey;
They dash through the town,
Now up, and now down;
And the stones rattle under their hoofs as they ride,
As if poor Thoulouse were as mad as Cheapside; <1>
But now, with a kick from his iron-heel'd boot,
Which, applied to a brick wall, at once had gone through't,
He dash'd open the lock;
It gave way at the shock!
(-- Dear ladies, don't think in recording the fact,
That your bard's for one moment defending the act,
No -- it is not a gentleman's -- none but a low body
Now could perform it) -- and there he saw -- NOBODY!!
Oh, ho!-- Oh, ho!
There was not a table -- there was not a chair
Of all that Count Raymond had ever seen there
(They'd maroon-leather bottoms well stuff'd with horse-hair),
That was out of its place!--
There was not a trace
Of a party -- there was not a dish or a plate --
No sign of a tablecloth -- nothing to prate
Of a supper, symposium, or sitting up late;
There was not a spark of fire left in the grate,
It had all been poked out, and remained in that state.
If there was not a fire,
Still less was there Friar,
Marquise, or long glasses, or Countess, or Prior!
And the Count, who rush'd in open mouth'd, was struck dumb,
And could only ejaculate, 'Well!-- this is rum!'
He rang for the maids -- had them into the room
With the butler, the footman, the coachman, the groom.
He examined them all very strictly -- but no!
Notwithstanding he cross-and re-question'd them so,
'Twas in vain -- it was clearly a case of 'No Go!'
'Their Lady,' they said,
'Had gone early to bed,
Having rather complain'd of a cold in her head --
The stout little Friar, as round as an apple,
Had pass'd the whole night in a vigil in chapel,
While the Prior himself, as he'd usually done,
Had rung in the morning, at half-after one,
For his jug of cold water and twopenny bun,
And been visible, since they were brought him, to none.
But,' the servants averr'd,
'From the sounds that were heard
To proceed now and then from the father's sacellum,
They thought he was purging
His sins with a scourging,
And making good use of his knotted flagellum.'
For Madame Rigmaree,
They all testified, she
Had gone up to her bed-chamber soon after tea,
And they really supposed that there still she must be,
Which her spouse, the Mar-quis,
Found at once to agree
With the rest of their tale, when he ran up to see.
Alack for Count Raymond! he could not conceive
How the case really stood, or know what to believe;
Nor could Rigmaree settle to laugh or to grieve.
There was clearly a hoax,
But which of the folks
Had managed to make them the butt of their jokes,
Wife or wizard, they both knew no more than Jack Nokes;
That glass of the wizard's
Stuck much in their gizzards,
His cap, and his queer cloak all X's and Izzards;
Then they found, when they came to examine again,
Some slight falling off in the stock of champagne,
Small, but more than the butler could fairly explain.
However, since nothing could make the truth known,
Why,-- they thought it was best to let matters alone.
The Count in the garden
Begg'd Isabel's pardon
Next morning for waking her up in a fright,
By the racket he'd kicked up at that time of night;
And gave her his word he had ne'er misbehaved so,
Had he not come home as tipsy as David's sow.
Still, to give no occasion for family snarls,
The friar was pack'd back to his convent at Arles,
While as for the prior,
At Raymond's desire,
The Pope raised his rev'rence a step or two higher,
And made him a bishop in partibus -- where
His see was I cannot exactly declare,
Or describe his cathedral, not having been there,
But I dare say you'll all be prepared for the news,
When I say 'twas a good many miles from Thoulouse,
Where the prelate, in order to set a good precedent,
Was enjoin'd, as a sine quâ non, to be resident.
You will fancy with me,
That Count Raymond was free,
For the rest of his life, from his former ennui;
Still it somehow occurr'd that as often as he
Chanced to look in the face of my Lord Rigmaree,
There was something or other -- a trifling degree
Of constraint -- or embarrassment -- easy to see,
And which seem'd to be shared by the noble Mar-quis,
While the ladies -- the queerest of all things, by half in
My tale, never met from that hour without laughing!
Good gentlemen all, who are subjects of Hymen,
Don't make new acquaintances rashly, but try men,
Avoid above all things your cunning (that's sly) men!
Don't go out o' nights
To see conjuring sleights,
But shun all such people, delusion whose trade is;
Be wise!-- stay at home and take tea with the ladies.
If you chance to be out,
At a 'regular bout,'
And get too much of 'Abbot's Pale Ale' or 'Brown Stout,'
Don't be cross when you come home at night to your spouse,
Nor be noisy, nor kick up a dust in the house!
Be careful yourself, and admonish your sons,
To beware of all folks who love twopenny buns!
And don't introduce to your wife or your daughter,
A sleek, meek, weak gent -- who subsists on cold water!
1. 'The stones did rattle underneath,
As if Cheapside were mad.'
-- Gilpin's Tour in Middlesex and Herts . Back.