Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 8/A celibate consoled




Paint me no joys of wedlock born;
Sing me no songs of Hymen;
Its brightest roses hide a thorn,
Or faces oft belie men.


Befooled that maidens may be wives—
Beggared that wives may dress well—
Such the sad tale of husbands’ lives
I’ve gleaned beneath Sir Cresswell.


No: since with feelings frail as ours
Love is but life’s bare duty,
In fancy let me cull the flowers
Before the shrine of beauty!


Be but, beside my lonely hearth,
A bowl of choice Virginian
To lift the senses far from earth,
And lull on dreamiest pinion;—


Lured by its weird and witching charms
No damosel so rude is,
But nestles to my happy arms
With the last batch from Mudie’s.


I dream the poet’s dream of bliss,
The cream of prose I sip too;
The sweetest cheeks are mine to kiss
That lover e’er put lip to.


Unknown belovëd of my heart,
Fair queen of my ideal!
I thank thine author for the art
That frames thee warm and real.


That suffers, without let or blame,
A poor unclaimed affection
To flirt round some fictitious flame
Some model of perfection.


So years ago an evening breeze
Would bid soft thoughts waylay me,
And set me by the twilight seas
With faithless cousin Amy:


I seemed to feel the whispering air
That came with briny gushes,
Uncurling locks of starry hair
And fanning tell-tale blushes.


Or face to face I worshipped Maud,
The beautiful, the peerless;
I won her from her “babefaced lord,”
All willing and all tearless.


The grace of pure Evangeline,
By heart I used to know it;
Woo’d Browning’s gentle Geraldine,
And every pet of poet.


And still, though age asserts its need
Of more prosaic Circes,
And craves a fuller-flavoured weed,
And don’t care much for verses,


Still Ethel, Laura, Charlotte touch
My cup with honied breathings,
’Tis mine to quaff my fill from such
Sweet W. M. T. things.


The great Antonio makes me free
Of all his pen produces;
Grahams and Luftons win for me
Their Madelines and Lucies.


Each new sensationist I skim,
Whose thrilling plots prevent your
Forgetting life’s a wayward whim,
And love a risky venture.


The fastest heroine daren’t deny
My right to lord it o’er her,
From Melville’s wild Kate Coventry
To Braddon’s quaint Aurora.


And so the sum runs up: and so
Not if I sang for ages
Could I pay half the debt I owe
My favourites for their pages.


Yet dull their portraiture had seemed,
The visions so delicious
Had never but for thee been dreamed,
My pipe, my pride, my precious!


Beneath thy subtle alchemy
Glow thought and scene and diction,
And blossoms of reality
Burst from the buds of fiction.


Who never fondled to his own
Thine amber lip for kisses,
Thine incense who has never known
Has never known what this is,


To feel the goddess of a book,
The darling of a fable
Make sunshine with a loving look
Around a loveless table.


But I have royal Harry’s choice
Without his ugly axes,
Unvexed by sound of jealous voice,
Or temper-trying taxes;


And, while I am the happy man
Such vivid fancies figure me,
I need not tremble at the ban
That disallows polygamy.


No bills I dread at Christmas-tides,
No fees that croup or coughs bring,
For fancy dresses all my brides,
And nurses all my offspring;


And on my free unruffled brow
No harsh prophetic sorrow,
Amid the careless calm of Now
Writes the dire word To-morrow.


Could I but teach some friends of mine,
Whom o’er their fates I’ve heard sigh,
How bright the star of love can shine
From out a cloud of “bird’s-eye!”

R. A. B.