Charles Lamb (1775-1834)

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To My Friend, the Indicator

Your easy Essays indicate a flow,
Dear friend, of brain which we may elsewhere seek;
And to their pages I and hundreds owe,
That Wednesday is the sweetest of the week.
Such observation, wit, and sense, are shown,
We think the days of Bickerstaff return'd;
And that a portion of that oil you own,
In his undying midnight lamp which burn'd.
I would not lightly bruise old Priscian's head
Or wronog the rules of grammar understood;
But, with the leave of Priscian be it said,
The Indicative is your Potential Mood.
Wit, poet, prose-man, party-man, translator--
H, your best title yet is Indicator.

Saint Crispin to Mr. Gifford

All unadvised and in an evil hour,
Lured by aspiring thoughts, my son, you doft
The lowly labours of the "Gentle Craft"
For lowly toils, which blood and spirits sour.
All things, dear pledge, are not in all men's power;
The wiser sort of shrub affects the ground;
The sweet content of mind is oftener found
In cobbler's parlour than in critic's bower.
The sorest work is what doth cross the grain;
And better to this hour you had been plying
The obsequious awl, with well-wax'd finger flying,
Than ceaseless thus to till a thankless vein:
Still teasing muses, which are still denying;
Making a stretching-leather of your brain.

"A timid grace sits trembling in her eye"

A timid grace sits trembling in her eye,
As loth to meet the rudeness of men's sight,
Yet shedding a delicious lunar light
That steeps in kind oblivious ecstasy
The care-crazed mind, like some still melody:
Speaking most plain the thoughts which do possess
Her gentle sprite: peace, and meek quietness,
And innocent loves, and maiden purity:
A look whereof might heal the cruel smart
Of changed friends, or fortune's wrongs unkind:
Might to sweet deeds of mercy move the heart
Of him who hates his brethren of mankind.
Turned are those lights from me, who fondly yet
Past joys, vain loves, and buried hopes regret.

"As when a child..."

As when a child on some long winter's night
Affrighted clinging to its Grandam's knees
With eager wond'ring and perturbed delight
Listens strange tales of fearful dark decrees
Muttered to wretch by necromantic spell;
Or of those hags, who at the witching time
Of murky midnight ride the air sublime,
And mingle foul embrace with fiends of Hell:
Cold Horror drinks its blood! Anon the tear
More gentle starts, to hear the Beldame tell
Of pretty babes, that loved each other dear,
Murdered by cruel Uncle's mandate fell:
Ev'n such the shiv'ring joys thy tones impart,
Ev'n so thou, Siddons! meltest my sad heart!

On the Sight of Swans in Kensington Garden

Queen-bird, that sittest on thy shining nest
And thy young cygnets without sorrow hatchest,
And thou, thou other royal bird, that watchest
Lest the white mother wandering feet molest:
Shrined are your offspring in a crystal cradle,
Brighter than Helen's ere she yet had burst
Her shelly prison. They shall be born at first
Strong, active, graceful, perfect, swan-like, able
To tread the land or waters with security,
Unlike poor human births, conceived in sin,
In grief brought forth, both outwardly and in
Confessing weakness, error, and impurity.
Did heavenly creatures own succession's line,
The births of heaven like to yours would shine.

Glossed Words (Click on title to return to poem.)

To My Friend, the Indicator

H, Leigh Hunt.

"As when a child..."

Siddons, Mrs. Sarah Siddons (1755-1831), a well known actress.