Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Giuseppino
By William H. Bradley (1802–1825)
 
TO 1 tell good stories is extremely pleasant;
  To hear or read them, too, is quite agreeable;
And, from the courtier downward to the peasant,
  Tales are retail’d by all.—You ’ll even see a belle
Or dandy thus employ’d: so I, at present,        5
  If Dan Apollo will but render me able,
Am much inclined to give you a short specimen
Of what occurr’d to one of the most dressy men.
 
Authorship now is an improving business;
  If one can strike out matters that are novel.        10
Though authors’ brains will often get a dizziness,
  From too much labor, or be forced to grovel
In plagiarisms, undoubtedly it is an ease
  To knock out rhyme or prose, whether a hovel
Or palace be the scene of the disturbance        15
Which we describe, among hats, caps, or turbans.
 
Yet wonderful it is, I sing and say,
  Most marvellous, what ever-varied-changes
Of narrative are dealt out, every day,
  As fancy, in her drunken frolics, ranges        20
Throughout invention’s heaven and hell!—Delay
  Is dangerous, however wild and strange is
What I ’m about to write, so I must write it
For fear some other person should indite it.
 
I sate me down, good folk, to tell a story,        25
  Of which, I own, the truth might be suspected,
Even by credulous people; and, what’s more, I
  Freely confess, I cannot recollect it:
But yet it was a vision of such glory
  I scarcely can suppose ye would reject it.        30
’T was all about a lady and a knight,
Who said and did—what I ’ve forgotten quite
 
In search of scenes and incidents I read
  Near half the old romances, through and through,
Which Southey has brought forward from the dead,        35
  With most Galvanic labor, and anew,
With steel clad wights, in peril was I led,
  Till weary of their toils and mine I grew:
So the chief knowledge gather’d from my reading
Is what I ’ll mention as we are proceeding.        40
 
I found that many a literary chieftain,
  Had cull’d the gems from out this antique treasure;
That what they left was by each humbler thief ta’en,
  To put in some new fiction at his leisure;
I found—but guess!—no, you can’t guess my grief ta’en        45
  At finding—Oh, presumption beyond measure!—
That collar-makers—I can scarce get farther
Had actually collar’d poor king Arthur.
 
I next discover’d, that the folk of quality
  Had not, of yore, such numerous expedients        50
To kill time and themselves, as the plurality
  Of modern genteel people. The ingredients
With which they sweeten’d up the cold reality
  Were tourneys and such savage kind of pageants,
Wherein legs, arms, and necks oft got a fracture,        55
Although of the most giant manufacture.
 
Sad was the situation of the fair,
  Long, while a Bolingbroke, or a Plantagenet
Was king in London, (a great lord elsewhere)
  When one short week had stupor for an age in it,        60
To “ladies gay,” who spent the livelong year,
  Remote from town, and truly would imagine it
Extravagant to give, in their own halls,
During that livelong year, one dozen balls.
 
Then was the ton, indeed a weighty matter,        65
  Which fancy moved but every hundred years
To a new pressure! Then a lady, at her
  First coming out, wore the same woman’s gears
Which she wore on, (unless she grew much fatter)
  Till she was going out; when lo, appears        70
Her daughter, deck’d in the same antique millinery,
With much manslaughter and intent to kill in her eye.
 
’T was better with them, as historians tell us,
  In bluff King Hal’s reign, and some time before him,
Though wives dared seldom flirt with civil fellows,        75
  In presence of their husbands, just to bore ’em.
They fear’d to make the horrid creatures jealous,
  And females were taught notions of decorum,
Stiff as their stomacher’s tight elongation,
Or neck cloths of this stiff-neck’d generation.        80
 
Oh, could they have made books like lady M——n,
  What patchwork had we seen of feudal foolery!
Each lady’s head, like that of lady Gorgon,
  Had left us hard examples of their drollery,
And we had known the centuries afore-gone,        85
  From banquet-hall quite downward to the scullery!
Would that our dear ancestresses had been crazy,
With some diverting kind of idiosyncrasy.
 
I bit my nails and pens, and then besprent all
  My paper o’er with ink, in thought oppress’d;        90
Next, I resolved to write an Oriental
  Tale, and set out in ‘Travels to the East,’
Driving away all notions Occidental.—
  I form’d a plot, and laid the scene, at last,
Somewhere between Calcutta and Aleppo,        95
When I bethought me of my old friend Beppo.
 
Then,—as I opened wide the window-shutter,—
  A light broke in on me, as bright as sudden.
Invention’s wings began, at once, to flutter,
  (They had been once a goose’s,) so, by Woden,        100
I sate down, to soar far from dust or gutter,
  While my good Genius said: “Pray where ’s the good in
Your knack at rhyming, if its versatility
Can’t afford matter for our risibility?
 
The Beppo has outdone the Epic style.—        105
  Most modern Epics really are provoking
To sleep—and therefore, in a little while,
  The pack hight servum pecus shall have broken
Into full cry;—leave your heroic toil,
  And start before them, till you have your book in        110
The gripe of printer’s demon’s!”—on this hint,
I wrote,—and having written, came to print.
 
But how to make a story?—There’s the puzzle!
  Foregad, we have such multitudes to tell us
Stories on stories, both of those that guzzle        115
  At Helicon, and plain prosaic fellows,
That no one soon shall find a nook to nuzzle
  In fiction’s storehouse:—Fate will yet compel us
To be mere readers. O ye geese and ganders,
Your wings shall cease to soar where Fancy wanders.        120
 
And here I humbly hint to Dr Brewster,
  That if he’d make us a kaleidoscope
To strike new subjects out, at every new stir,
  ’T would give poor authors a consoling hope;
For though the muses, when we call them, do stir,        125
  They ’re monstrous indolent, and apt to mope.
The three times three, of late, are growing slatterns,
As I suppose, for want of good new patterns.
 
I ’ll try to coax one of them now a little
  For something queer, good people to revive you.        130
Some tale of luckless love will not befit ill
  Your present taste, and this which now I give you
Will, without question, suit you to a tittle,
  If ye are young men and intend to wive you.
Hear then the history, both sad and funny,        135
Of one who fell to much in love—with money.
 
This is the love which first inflames the bosom,
  When for a penny some dear infant screeches.
This is the love which constantly pursues ’em,
  When fellows have got into coat and breeches,        140
And sigh for guineas,—then sigh for a new sum.—
  This lasting passion to all bosoms reaches,
Strengthen’d by age’s weakness:—all love sham is,
Compared with this same ‘auri sacra fames.’
 
But hold:—I feel myself too serious now,        145
  And must betake me once more to my bantering,
Telling a tale, according to my vow,
  In brisk ottava rima, freely sauntering
After sweet speculations, high and low;
  Or, if I may, in a fine frenzy cantering        150
On reinless Pegasus, athwart whose saddle,
So many Gilpins have now got a straddle.
 
Note 1. Bradley was born we believe in Providence, Rhode Island, where he was educated as a physician. He died in the island of Cuba in 1825. He wrote Giuseppino, an Occidental Story, published in 1822, besides many fugitive pieces. [back]
 
 
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