A Merchant, who by generous pains
Prospered in honorable gains,
Could boast, his wealth and fame to share,
Three manly Sons, three Daughters fair;
With these he felt supremely blest.-
His latest born surpass’d the rest:
She was so gentle, good and kind,
So fair in feature, form, and mind,
So constant too in filial duty,
The neighbors called her Little Beauty!
And when fair childhood’s days were run,
That title still she wore and won;
Lovelier as older still she grew,
Improv’d in grace and goodness too.-
Her elder Sisters, gay and vain,
View’d her with envy and disdain,
Toss’d up their heads with haughty air;
Dress, Fashion, Pleasure, all their care.
‘Twas thus, improving and improv’d;
Loving, and worthy to be lov’d,
Sprightly, yet grave, each circling day
Saw Beauty innocently gay.
Thus smooth the May-like moments past;
Blest times! but soon by clouds o’ercast!
Sudden as winds that madd’ning sweep
The foaming surface of the deep,
Vast treasures, trusted to the wave,
Were buried in the billowy grave!
Our Merchant, late of boundless store,
Saw Famine hasting to his door.
With willing hand and ready grace,
Mild Beauty takes the Servant’s place;
Rose with the sun to household cares,
And morn’s repast with zeal prepares,
The wholesome meal, the cheerful fire:
What cannot filial love inspire?
And when the task of day was done,
Suspended till the rising sun,
Music and song the hours employ’d,
As more deserv’d, the more enjoy’d;
Till Industry, with Pastime join’d,
Refresh’d the body and the mind;
And when the groupe retir’d to rest,
Father and Brothers Beauty blest.
Not so the Sisters; as before
‘Twas rich and idle, now ’twas poor.
In shabby finery array’d,
They still affected a parade:
While both insulted gentle Beauty,
Unwearied in the housewife’s duty;
They mock’d her robe of modest brown,
And view’d her with a taunting frown;
Yet scarce could hold their rage to see
The blithe effects of Industry.
In this retreat a year had past,
When happier tidings came at last,
And in the Merchant’s smile appear’d
Prospects that all the Cotters cheer’d:
A letter came; its purport good;
Part of his ventures brav’d the flood:
‘With speed,’ said he, ‘I must to town,
‘And what, my girls, must I bring down?’
The envious Sisters, all confusion,
Commissions gave in wild profusion;
Caps, hats, and bonnets, bracelets, broaches,
To cram the pockets of the coaches,
With laces, linens, to complete
The order, and to fill the seat.
Such wants and wishes now appear’d,
To make them larger Beauty fear’d;
Yet lest her silence might produce
From jealous Sisters more abuse,
Considerately good, she chose,
The emblem of herself,-a Rose.
The good man on his journey went,
His thoughts on generous Beauty bent.
‘If Heav’n,’ he said, and breath’d a prayer,
‘If Heav’n that tender child should spare,
‘Whate’er my lot, I must be bless’d,
‘I must be rich:’-he wept the rest.
Timely such feelings!-Fortune still,
Unkind and niggard, crost his will.
Of all his hopes, alas, the gains
Were far o’erbalanc’d by the pains;
For after a long tedious round,
He had to measure back his ground.
A short day’s travel from his Cot,
New misadventures were his lot;
Dark grew the air, the wind blew high,
And spoke the gathering tempest nigh;
Hail, snow, and night-fog join’d their force,
Bewildering rider and his horse.
Dismay’d, perplext, the road they crost,
And in the dubious maze were lost.
When glimmering through the vapours drear,
A taper shew’d a dwelling near.
And guess our Merchant’s glad surprise,
When a rich palace seemed to rise
As on he mov’d! The knee be bent,
Thankful to Heaven; then nearer went.
But, O! how much his wonder grew,
When nothing living met his view!-
Entering a splendid hall, he found,
With every luxury around,
A blazing fire, a plenteous board,
A costly cellaret, well stor’d,
All open’d wide, as if to say,
‘Stranger, refresh thee on thy way!’
The Merchant to the fire drew near,
Deeming the owner would appear,
And pardon one who, drench’d in rain,
Unask’d, had ventured to remain.
The court-yard clock had number’d seven,
When first he came; but when eleven
Struck on his ear as mute he sate,
It sounded like the knoll of Fate.
And yet so hungry was he grown,
He pick’d a capon to the bone;
And as choice wines before him stood,
He needs must taste if they were good:
So much he felt his spirits cheer’d-
The more he drank, the less he fear’d.
Now bolder grown, he pac’d along,
(Still hoping he might do no wrong),
When, entering at a gilded door,
High-rais’d upon a sumptuous floor,
A sofa shew’d all Persia’s pride,
And each magnificence beside:
So down at once the Merchant lay,
Tir’d with the wonders of the day.
But had it been a rushy bed,
Tuck’d in the corner of a shed,
With no less joy had it been press’d:
The good man pray’d, and sank to rest.
Nor woke he till the noon of day;
And as he thus enchanted lay,
‘Now for my storm-sopp’d clothes,’ he cries:
When lo! a suit complete he spies;
‘Yes, ’tis all fairy-work, no doubt,
‘By gentle Pity brought about!’
Tenfold, when risen, amazement grew;
For bursting on his gazing view,
Instead of snow, he saw fair bowers
In all the pride of summer flowers.
Entering again the hall, behold,
Serv’d up in silver, pearl, and gold,
A breakfast, form’d of all things rare,
As if Queen Mab herself were there.
As now he past, with spirits gay,
A shower of Roses strew’d the way,
E’en to his hand the branches bent:
‘One of these boughs-I go content!
‘Beauty, dear Beauty-thy request
‘If I may bear away, I’m blest.’
The Merchant pull’d-the branches broke!-
A hideous growling while he spoke,
Assail’d his startled ears; and then
A frightful Beast, as from a den,
Rushing to view, exclaimed, ‘Ingrate!
‘That stolen branch has seal’d thy fate.
‘All that my castle own’d was thine,
‘My food, my fire, my bed, my wine:
‘Thou robb’st my Rose-trees in return,
‘For this, base Plunderer, thou shalt mourn!’
‘My Lord, I swear upon my knees,
‘I did not mean to harm your trees;
‘But a lov’d Daughter, fair as spring,
‘Intreated me a Rose to bring;
‘O didst thou know, my lord, the Maid!’-
‘I am no Lord,’ Beast angry said,
‘And so no flattery!-but know,
‘If, on your oath before you go,
‘Within three wasted Moons you here
‘Cause that lov’d Daughter to appear,
‘And visit Beast a volunteer
‘To suffer for thee, thou mayest live:-
‘Speak not!-do this!-and I forgive.’
Mute and deprest the Merchant fled,
Unhappy traveller, evil sped!
Beauty was first her sire to meet,
Springing impatient from her seat;
Her Brothers next assembled round;
Her straying Sisters soon were found.
While yet the Father fondly press’d
The Child of Duty to his Breast,-
‘Accept these Roses, ill-starr’d Maid!
‘For thee thy Father’s life is paid.’
The Merchant told the tale of Beast;
And loud lamentings, when he ceas’d,
From both the jealous Sisters broke,
As thus with taunting rage they spoke:
‘And so thou kill’st thy Father, Miss,
‘Proud, sinful creature, heardst thou this?
‘We only wish’d a few new clothes;
‘Beauty, forsooth, must have her Rose!
‘Yet, harden’d Wretch, her eyes are dry,
‘Tho’ for her Pride our Sire must die!’
‘Die! Not for worlds!’ exclaim’d the Maid;
‘Beast kindly will take me instead:
‘And O, a thousand deaths I’d prove
‘To shew my Father how I love!’
The Brothers cried, ‘Let us away,
‘We’ll perish, or the Monster slay.’
‘Vain hope, my gen’rous Sons, his power
‘Can troops of men and horse devour:
‘Your offer, Beauty, moves my soul;
‘But no man can his fate controul:
‘Mine was the fault; you, Love, are free;
‘And mine the punishment shall be.’
Beauty was firm! the Sire caress’d
Again his Darling to his breast;
With blended love and awe survey’d,
And each good Brother blest the Maid!
Three months elaps’d, her Father’s heart
Heav’d high, as she prepar’d to part;
The Sisters try’d a tear to force,
While Beauty smil’d as she took horse;
Yet smil’d thro’ many a generous tear,
To find the parting moment near!
And just as evening’s shades came on,
The splendid Palace cour.
by Charles Lamb
Enjoy the rest of your day and I will see you back here next week!