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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 98, March 1, 1890   By:

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MARCH 1, 1890.


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

Le Diable Boiteux.



"Though cold the coxcomb, and though coarse the boor, Though dulness haunts the rich and pain the poor, In this colossal city, Yet London is not Rome, O Shade!" I said. "A later JUVENAL should not find her dead To purity and pity."

"Satire, of shames and follies in sole quest, Is a one eyed divinity at best," My guide responded, slowly. "The tale of ZOÏLUS hath its moral still. Such critics are but blowflies, their small skill To carrion given wholly.

"Not all the Romans of DOMITIAN's days Were such as live in JUVENAL's savage lays; Not all the Latian ladies Were HIPPIAS or COLLATIAS. Neither here May all be gauged by satire's rule severe, Or earth would be a Hades.

"The scalpel hath no terrors for the sound, Nor is the hand that wields it harshly bound To ceaseless vivisection. The Cynic sharply sees, but sees not far; The eye that hunts the mote may miss the star Too great for scorn's detection.

"Dream not, oh friend, because I let the light On lurid London through the cloak of night (As was my undertaking.) That I've a spirit wholly given to scorn, Or blind to all, save sin, that with the morn Will see a bright awaking.

"Yet could the freedman's son but wield his flail In London, there are those might shrink and pale As did DOMITIAN'S minion. PARIS lives yet, pander and parasite Still flaunt in bold impunity, despite A custom freed opinion.

"Dull in the drawing room, our beardless boys Can sparkle in the haunts of coarser joys, Coldness and muteness vanish When TULLIA dances or when POLLIO sings. With riotous applause the precinct rings, There chill restraint they banish.

"Behold Lord LIMPET in his gilded Box, His well gloved palms and scarlet silken socks Actively agitated; He who erewhile about the ball room stood A solemn, weary, whispering thing of wood, And sneered, and yawned, and waited."

"Wondrous!" I cried. "The youngster's cheeks flush red, Wide laugh his lips, and swiftly wags his head, He cheers, he claps, he chuckles. Can he, the languid lounger limp and faint Give way to mirth with the mad unrestraint Of boys with ribs and knuckles?

"Frankly canaille is that dancing chit Slang and suggestiveness serve her for wit, And impudence for beauty. Yet frigid 'Form' melts at her cockney spell, 'Form,' which votes valsing with the reigning belle An undelightful duty.

"Bounds on the arch buffoon, with flexile face, With bagman smartness and batrachian grace. Is he not sweet and winning? Mime of the gutter, mimic of the slum, Muse of the haunts unspeakable, else dumb, A satyr gross and grinning?

"LIMPET smiled," he said. "SHAKSPEARE'S boldest wit Leaves LIMPET listless, but each feature lit At that last comic chorus. London is full of LIMPETS; clownings please The well groom'd mob, though ARISTOPHANES Would miserably bore us.

"Untile the Town entirely? Nay, good friend, That were to affright the timid, and offend The tender and the trustful. Unlifted yet must lie the dusky screen That veils the viler features of the scene, The dread and the disgustful."

"Shadow!" I said, "Civilisation fails, While surfeits Idleness, and Labour pales. For all its spread and glitter, The Titan City lacks its crowning grace And glory, whilst its pleasure is so base, Its bondage is so bitter."

"True!" sighed the Shadow, and a softened smile Seemed to illume the coldness, void of guile, Of those phantasmal features. "When from the City's gloom shall flash to light This truth: The sleek and selfish sybarite Is meanest of God's creatures?"

"Shadow!" I cried... Continue reading book >>

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