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Punch, or the London Charivari, Vol. 98 February 15, 1890   By:

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FEBRUARY 15, 1890



"Très volontiers," repartit le démon. "Vous aimez les tableaux changeans: je veux vous contenter."

Le Diable Boiteux.


Sweet odours, radiant colours, glittering light! How swift a change from the dusk sodden night Of London in mid winter! Titania here might revel as at home; Fair forms are floating soft as Paphian foam, Bright as an iceberg splinter.

Dianas doubtless, yet their frost holds fire; The snowiest bosom covers soft desire, And these are snowy, verily. As blanched and bare as Himalaya's peaks, Light vestured as a troop of dancing Greeks. Waltz measures ripple merrily.

Merrily? Yes; the music throbs with mirth, Feet trip in time to it; yet what strange dearth Of glee midst all these graces! The quickening fire of spirit, passion, will, Seems scarce to move these dancing forms or thrill These irresponsive faces.

The Shadow smiled. "True, yet not true," he said. "Good Form demands that men should look half dead, And women semi frozen. Yet Nature lives beneath these modish masks Somewhere, sometimes, with energy that tasks Caste's rigid rule to cozen.

"Pygmalion's prayer breathed life into the stone, But see yon graceful girl, with straitened zone And statuesque still bearing. You'd say in her the marble must invade The flesh, in so much loveliness arrayed, Such radiant raiment wearing.

"Whirled in the waltz's formal maze by one Who might be a broad cloth'd automaton, For any show of pleasure, She moves with drooping lids, and lips apart, And scarce a flush to show that a young heart Throbs to the pulsing measure."

"Men meet to moon, and women whirl to wed, The cynic says. Is joy in life quite dead. Gladness in concourse banished From the parades of fashionable youth? Have maiden tenderness and manly truth From Vanity Fair quite vanished?"

"Soft!" sneered the Shadow. "Questionings like these Sound gauche and gushing. Better far to freeze To the right social zero, Than stoop to zeal and frank display of zest, Notes of the vulgar glories that invest The housemaid novel's hero.

"Nothing more useful than the surface ice Of stiff stolidity. Vigour, aye, and vice, Therein find ready covert. Wickedness here may lurk, or even wit. Not to name happiness; but naught of it Is obvious and overt.

"How bored they look, the slim stiff collared boys! Energy that is eager and enjoys They may anon make show of In some less honest haunt; here as in pain They creak and crawl, devoid of that sans gêne That virtue seems sworn foe of.

"Languidly circumvolving, lounging lank, In scuffling circle or in mural rank, Of misery mechanic They look the wooden symbols; nought to show That even well starched linen's sheeny snow Veils impulses volcanic.

"That straight limb'd son of Anak circling there Much like a whirling semaphore, strange care His boyish forehead wrinkling? The season's catch! His sire, is great in Soap, His partner's mother yonder sits; with hope Her watchful eyes are twinkling.

"The twirling twain are silent. Silence sits Lord of the revel, incubus of wits Arch palsier of prattle Yet many a girl here mute's a chatterer sweet, And many a youth in circles less discrete Is an 'agreeable rattle.'

"Respectability's austere restraint Rules them relentlessly; smiles forced and faint And joyless facial spasms Their meetings and their mutterings attend. Jerky approximations quickly end In void unvocal chasms.

"Yet still they circle, and yet still they loll. A marionette wooing a wooden doll Would look more animated Than yonder pair, revolving interlaced, Exchanging commonplaces leaden paced, Or repartees belated... Continue reading book >>

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