Punch and Judy.

For England's ancient pastimes vanish fast,
In this political prosaic age;
For them, 'twould seem, oblivion's die is cast,
Because we moderns are so very sage
As to despise, abhor, whate'er, when past,
Leaves not its profits in the ledger's page.
We scorn the gay, the playful, and the comical,
Commercial all, and grave, and economical.*

The rustic morris-dancers, where are they?
How few the merry May-games which we see!
E'en Christmas sports fade one by one away,
And fairs our moral statesmen deem too free;
Or hold it in their hearts the wiser way
To measure all things by the rule of three;
And thus enact, no pleasure shall have birth,
That leads to nothing save immediate mirth.

Yet pause awhile, ye Senators, before
Ye block the avenues of present joy.
What else of certainty has life ? What door
To change may not gape wide, if ye destroy
These innocent amusements of the poor;
And every mind in sterner thoughts employ?
To added ingots sacrificing health,
And quitting happiness to search for wealth!

Ye say, new years new destinies unfold,
And mightier for mankind: new furnished arts
Start, like young giants, forth to shame the old;
And mental darkness, like a ghost, departs
Before the dawn, which bids us now behold
One spirit kindled in a million hearts.
Ye say, that Truth must trample under foot
All Error's brood, all prejudice uproot.

If true, 'tis well! —and the excited mind
Would gladly, fervently, believe it so;
For he, methinks, is traitor to his kind,
Who seeks such proud aspirings to lay low.
Yet though the nations may their chains unbind,
And though the world with onward march may go,
Still for the sport, the pastime, earth has room,
And genuine wisdom these would not entomb;

But rather loves. She loves to leave her school,
And taste the merriment that pleased our sires;
She loves at proper times to play the fool;
And, when the mind's protracted tension tires,
Courts e'en the good old Genius of Misrule,
And laughingly repairs her nobler fires :
While Folly with severe and rigid look,
Punch and his harmless frolics would rebuke.


* The author's picture seems to me grotesque
And wrong: two modes of life he ought to see,
The one poetical and picturesque,
Which Goldsmith drew, and more as well as he;
The other, such as merchants at their desk
Praise and prefer—and I with them agree,
Which nor on bard nor beauty casts a glance,
But steadily looks on to the main chance.

Bougersdickius.

 

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