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Mrs. Coburg's Palimpsests Unbound Manuscript


Mrs. Coburg’s Palimpsest
Doucement Chèrie  
Leopold of Coburg
B. A. Ramsey
23 February 2015

Pour L’École


According to Mrs. Coburg, her decision to effort these palimpsests was directly influenced by the hegemony of the Kingdom to which she was subject. She may never have taken it upon herself to accomplish her project, had there not been in her childhood the definite dominance of social and ideological influences exacted, both by the parliament of the United Kingdom and the King’s ministers acting on behalf of the crown, in the contest to restore royal supremacy and absolute monarchy to the Kingdom by the end of reign.  Nor was the project undertaken without the popular imagination, and real concern, among the educated classes of the times, that their King was insane. At the heart of the contest between the House of Commons and the Crown, was the accusation of some critics, especially the Whigs, that the King was attempting to reassert the authority of the crown in an unconstitutional manner. In fact, although he had a limited ability and lack of subtlety in dealing with the shifting alliances among the Tories and Whigs of the day, King George III was always careful not to exceed his constitutional powers when assembling his ministers.

  Mrs. Coburg was born in London on 7 January 1796, and received into care by glad and warm open hearts, who undertook to give their fullest regards to her upbringing, in order to encourage a filial affection, bound with honour and duty, that would dignify her father’s interests and concerns, without preventing the child from that modicum of worldly care for comfort and security in a life that was found wanting; in so far as our life ever supports the practicality of living securely in the arms of a spouse who our parents would choose for us, and to whom we would one day like to marry. There was a sense, among the caretakers present, that Mrs. Coburg’s father had hoped for a son rather than a daughter, but in the case of his own father, who was present at the birth, he had the grandson he had hoped was born, in the daughter that smiled up to them.

Mr. Coburg was born a Saxon, on 16 December 1790. His father was an avid reader, and a book merchant in London, where his fascination for taxonomy led him to procure some treasured volumes and periodicals of the day, concerning the vegetative life with which the world favours us. As a young child, Mr. Coburg would visit his father in the store, and take in the pleasant airs of uncultivated flora in London and the surpassing wealds; and, while his father worked, he would pour over illustrations of fauna reported to be in those parts of the world that debuted in the neverending press of certain inexpensive periodicals on hand. With the advent of the steam locomotive that led to great public certainty of travel for those who would only let themselves be taken, Mr. Coburg showed great interest in becoming a railwayman when he was as yet a child. The events of the day interfered with his plans however, and as a boy of twelve years old, he enlisted in the cavalry and shipped off to Paris, with orders to join in the rebellion against the Emperor.

On their wedding day, 2 May 1816, the Coburg’s were the most popular couple in London. He was twenty-five years old and she was younger. The wedding almost didn’t go off, for it was a battle of wills between father and daughter, that finally under no uncertain terms enjoined that Mrs. Coburg nor her father could be persuaded to favour another man. Although Mr. Coburg was impoverished, he promised his wife, during their wedding ceremony, that he would endow her with all his worldly goods. This caused the bride to giggle with delight. The newlyweds honeymooned in Surrey in a dirty house filled with dogs; nevertheless, Mrs. Coburg recorded in her diary, that her husband was “the perfect lover”. After their honeymoon, the couple returned to London, where Mrs. Coburg suffered a miscarriage. In August of that year the Coburg’s took up  residency in Claremont.

Mrs. Coburg had a hot temper, and often spoke in a excitable and voluble way. When this happened, Mr. Coburg would say, “Doucement Chèrie.” This had a profound effect on Mrs. Coburg, and she would come to call her husband, “Doucement” , in lieu of his name.

On 6 November, for Mrs. Coburg’s twenty-first birthday, the couple was invited to a ball at Brighton Pavilion, but they didn’t attend, preferring the quiet of home. In April of the following year, Mrs. Coburg announced she was pregnant again, and there was every prospect for a happy outcome. While pregnant, Mrs. Coburg preferred to sit quietly, and the suggestion was made in the Coburg's household that she wanted exercise. She had a good appetite and would eat what she desired, but her doctor was concerned she was getting too fat. In August, the doctor put Mrs. Coburg on a strict diet, hoping to reduce the size of the child at birth. Mrs. Coburg’s diet and occasional bleeding weakened her, and she was not due to be rid of her burden until 19 October.

That date came and went, and it was not until 3 November that her contractions began, and then two more days passed, and it was doubtful that Mrs. Coburg could deliver her child. At nine o’clock in the evening of 5 November, Mrs. Coburg gave birth to a stillborn son, who could not be resuscitated by the doctor. Mr. and Mrs. Coburg took the news quietly, accepting that all was accomplished by the will of God; and, Mr. Coburg went off to bed.

Around the midnight hour, Mrs. Coburg began vomiting and complaining of pains in her stomach. The doctor was called back to interfere, allowing her breathing with difficulty; however, despite hot compresses, the bleeding that amounted couldn’t be stopped. Mr. Coburg, who had taken an opiate before collapsing into bed, couldn’t be aroused to his wife's fate.

The next day, the whole of England was in mourning for the death of Charlotte, Princess of Wales. The loss left King George III without a legitimate grandchild, or heir to the throne.  Immediately Prince Edward, the King’s fourth son, married Victoria, Dowager Princess of Leiningen. Their daughter, Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent, would later become Queen Victoria in 1837, at the conclusion of the reign of his third son, King William IV, and the ultimate collapse of the House of Hannover.

Radical publishers and journalists of the time juxtaposed the death of Princess Charlotte with the public execution of three men: William Turner, Isaac Ludlum, and Jeremy Brandreth.  The latter, a framework knitter, who may have once been a Luddite,  led an armed march from the village of Pentridge towards Nottingham.  Notably, Percy Bysshe Shelley, in his pamphlet entitled, An Address to the People on the Death of the Princess Charlotte, remarked on these men who were found guilty of taking their part in the planned general insurrection of June 1817, but who were goaded into committing  their crimes by government spies and agents provocateurs such as the notorious ‘Oliver’, or W. J. Oliver, a.k.a. W. J. Richards, who was employed by the English Home Office against the Luddites and similar groupings. Therewith Brandreth, and the two other men, were locked up in “a horrible dungeon, for many months, with the fear of a hideous death and of everlasting hell thrust before their eyes; and at last were brought to the scaffold and hung.” Shelley begins the article,

A beautiful princess is dead - she who should have been the Queen of her beloved nation, and whose posterity should have ruled it forever. She loved the domestic affections, and cherished arts which adorn, and valour which defends. She was amiable and would have become wise, but she was young, and in the flower of youth the despoiler came. Liberty is dead!  Slave!  I charge thee disturb not the depth and solemnity of our grief by any meaner sorrow. [O’Neil & Howe, 2013]

Contained in this present volume are palimpsests that have erased several poems written around the reign of King George III, 1760-1820. As there is skeptical debate among specialists, regarding the inclusion of these and other palimpsests, who must objectify their findings by an oblique rule that excludes inauthentic examples from further editions, the following volume is favoured judiciously, and is indebted to Mrs. Coburg’s principles respecting poetry, and the aspects she sheds light upon in regards to la peine être tenu de faire of any palimpsest, and its inevitable expansion of the extant.

In modern English, the word meaning of palimpsest is a copy of a work that has been intentionally erased and subsequently replaced at least once, that endorses the self-evident remains of the erasure. By the mid seventeenth century the word was recorded in English, and understood etymologically as originating from a Latin word derived through Greek, palimpsestos; that is, palin - again + pesto - rubbed smooth. The labour involved in the process to uncover a palimpsest is concerned with  la peine être tenu de faire, and we shall remain indebted to Mrs. Coburg’s voluble style, in drawing our attention to the Gallic virtue of “productive working”, that was a popular idea in 1803, but in both England and France by the 1830’s, had become a target of socialist critique, so that it is not difficult to imagine, from the retrospective view of our own time, that critics might have dismissed the artform as an unproductive activity performed without the virtue of labour.

    Yet this iteming of an idea that Mrs. Coburg wants to express, that is the pain of obligation, wants more detail of the Kingdom of her ancestry, and of our own, respecting a genuine and authentic canon in a list of works that is soon regarded as a question of monetary value. The great difficulty William Wordsworth had with publishing a final version of his poems until after he was poet laureate and just before his death, is a fact that demonstrates the changing meaning that the word “exploitation” had from the turn of the nineteenth century, with respect to the “productive working” of the versificator regis, that represented a level of surpassing achievement, to the 1830’s, when the travail of the versifier might well have been satirized by the highly influential and contemporary thought of the late, Henri de Saint-Simon, in the system of knowledge, termed industrialism. Therein was an “exploitation” which identified a working class who deserved more merit, than those who were formerly praised, and who did not work, and who were rather proven by science, in three decades, to be in their physiognomy, empty and useless idlers; who were nevertheless situated in happy and peaceful rustic homes, in places soon identified as unsustainable or idealized. Five of these idlers are represented in the palimpsests of this volume, endorsed by the self-evident remains of Mrs. Coburg’s painful erasure, and the obligation to produce measurable meritorious results from natural inclination and vocation.

Wherefore unjustly equivocates the merit of the working class with “currency”?  It is such that circulates a social and economic system prevailed upon by industry to process and manufacture on a large scale, for a system concerned socially and economically with the processing of raw materials and manufacture of goods in a factory; that, as a word, was only defined in the 1650’s as a condition of flowing; or, a course; that in 1699 John Locke extended to the ‘circulation of money’; that was by the years of  Mrs. Coburg’s contemporary, the primary sense of the word, that ensured the ‘flowing’ of money for the labour of industrialism; to invest in, and redeem, a working class of men and women, who earned not enough praise for their good work; a good work that was once valued in surfeit before God and one’s Lord, as a bond of faith, as attested by the biblical canon, the decretals of the Roman Catholic Church, the set of ecclesiastical canons, and the law of Church decree.



7 Mar. 2015


Where had I met such a poor noble woman before? Her hair was chestnut brown; her teeth straight and large; her forehead tall; and, her nose aquiline. But her eyes were the wine dark sea, which had seen drowned men and precious cargo sunk; for they had such a hue of darkness that, as she looked into my own eyes as mine met hers, I felt there must be a more important stake in the till for us both.

Her eyes were great sails, ample and full; but, ample and full in the shape of two pigskin balls. I don’t usually notice people’s eyes, for I don’t usually seek out others. But she did – and, she still does. It was plain to see, even the first time I noticed her, for she offered every patron in line before me the same full blown expression.

‘Tall Bold, please,’ I ordered.

She rang in my order, and the total was displayed by the register.

She must have fallen off several generations ago. Fallen fathoms deep, undulating with the swelling of the dark drink. Her eyes may once have been her forbearers own sky blue, until they fell off and drowned, depths into depths, deep and dark as the sea, the wine dark sea.

‘My eyes are navy blue, hers the wine dark sea.’ I thought.

She turned her back on me to fill my order – dark roasted coffee in a paper cup – and, as she came about from a yard’s distance, she asked without common respect, ‘Do you want anything else?’

She asked this as she poured coffee from a faucet, which she did not bother to look at. Nor did she look at my cup. But she was looking into my eyes, as her right hip relaxed against the cupboard and her left leg bent slightly at the knee.

I perished at that very moment, because she did not say, would you like? But only, do you want!

Her expression was vulgar, and taking from her that expression made me vulgar. Yet it was how she did express herself to me in front of a long lineup of customers.

I felt almost sorry.

In that transaction I too lost my civility, and dropped the normal expression of gratitude. I feared the force of what a one word answer would make, so I only shook my head.

She returned to the register and announced the total. I forget her exact phrasing. But the total was one-dollar-and-eighty-nine-cents.

I handed her a twenty dollar bill, and I felt very lucky to have one of those on me. She counted back the change.

‘That’s eighteen-dollars-and-eleven-cents.’ She said.

The four different sized coins balanced on the two bills she handed back to me.

Of course one coin dropped but she didn’t notice it fall. The dime dropped, but the rest we secured. I tossed the dime in the very full tip jar, and it made the sound of an important coin being placed in a piggy bank. She darted around to see what I had left, and her eyes fell upon the top layer of the jar. But there was only silver in that deposit, and no gold. The rest of the coins were for my front pocket; and, the two bills, my pocket-wallet.

I walked to the concession stand at the rear of the store. I whitened my coffee, placed a lid on my cup; then, walked gingerly, eyes straight ahead, and passed a group of well-dressed women coming in as I made my way out.

I was outside and anonymous once more, as I fled the street for a sit down in the park across the intersection.

This was my place after all, and I knew it. Alone, a little cold; sitting down, smoking, and drinking my coffee. Not doing anything wrong or illegal, but feeling uncomfortable. For it is unsavory for an esquire who makes his living in letters to be seated in such a place on such a day, but even more so for a common man worth any respect that ill health due to a bad habit had tarnished.

And I thought of her lady serving coffee; or so, it was how I must remember her. Not worth polite English, or common gratitude, but only the jingle-jangle of what each day must wrangle, lowering herself to serve the likes of me.

Where had I met her before? In which century, in recent memory, had our paths crossed? Certainly, not in the wars of the last century, because we were not allies; and, being of the opposite sex our paths would not have crossed. Nor would we have met in the Old Curiosity Shop where I had been brought up. Perhaps I had fallen for none other than some eighteenth century remnant of the noble family of Mazzini.

On the northern side of Queen Street, are still to be seen the magnificent remains of a work of literary merit, which formerly described the noble name, Mazzini. It stands in the centre of a book shop, and upon a bookshelf’s highest eminence, and on one side slopes from the side of the case, and on the other rises to a gentle acclivity stopped by a bookend. The situation is admirably beautiful and picturesque, the books have an air of ancient grandeur, which contrasted with the present state of published materials, impress the sojourner with awe and curiosity. During my browsing in this book I visited a verse or two. As I turned over the loose fragments of pages, which lay scattered through the immense area of the fabric of the work, and surveyed the sublimity and subtlety of the words, I recurred by a natural association of ideas, to the times when this book stood proudly in its original splendor, wherein volumes were the scenes of awe and terror, and when they resounded with the advertisements of those whom death had long swept from the earth. ‘Thus’ said I, ‘shall the present generation – he who now sinks in misery – and he who now swims in pleasure – alike decay and be forgotten.’ My heart swelled with the reflection, and as I turned from the case with a sigh, I fixed my eyes upon the same noblewoman, gently bending toward the opposite shelf, who formed no uninteresting object in the picture. She observed my emotion; and as my eye met hers, shook her head and pointed to the volume. ‘These books,’ said she, ‘were once the seat of luxury and virtue. They exhibited a singular instance of the requital of the sublime, and were from that period forsaken, and abandoned to ruin.’ Her words excited my curiosity, and I enquired further concerning their meaning. ‘Solemn verses belong to this book, which is too long and intricate for me to relate. It is, however, contained in a manuscript in our library, of which I could perhaps, procure you a sight. An editor more recent, a descendant of the noble house of Mazzini, collected and recorded the most striking incidents relating to our family, and the history thus formed, he left as legacy to our collection. If you please, we will walk thither.

I accompanied her to the library, and her lady introduced me to the librarian, a woman of intelligent mind and benevolent heart, with whom I passed some hours in interesting conversation. I believe my sentiments pleased her, for by her indulgence, I was permitted to trace over two verses of the reference volume before me, which I have arraigned in the following page.

In Northern Sicily on a small bay,

The ruins of Mazzini slope away;

And awfully picturesque and grand

Is fabrick for the sentimental hand –

The sea aloft it faces on one side,

Beyond dark forests where Banditti hide;

The traveler who fell upon this spot,

And walked upon loose fragments in sad thought,

Cried, ‘both happy and sad who live today,

‘Alike into oblivion may pass away,

‘As noble halls which brought festivity

‘Have fallen to complete obscurity –

‘Mazzini’s have sunk into their death,

‘Repose inert; retired; without breath.’

A friar also walked upon this rock,

Saw this lone traveler, and stopped to talk:

‘Happy and sad ‘tis true must pass away,

‘But God forbids the just prolonged decay;

‘Ruins which are the moral of our lore

‘That impugns ignominy by its own gore,

‘Have been the burden of this noble name

‘That lives as some forsaken for their shame;

‘While none perish, nor shall a turret fall

‘That buries good and evil, one and all,

‘You must yet tarry for a tale to tell,

‘And trust the contemplation of the cell –

‘A manuscript left in our friary,

‘Would more acquaint you of the heraldry.

I returned to the coffee shop the following day with the verses I had traced from the reference volume. Her lady was there with a long line-up of customers. When it was my turn at the front of the line, instead of ordering, I just stared into her eyes and remained silent. Again I saw in them the wine dark sea and dreamed my eyes were as dark and deep as hers. After looking at each other for some few moments without saying anything, her lady asked, ‘Do you want anything?’ I said nothing but flashed back eyes as swollen and dark as I imagined I could cause them to become. Then I placed the verses in front of her and left.

Immediately afterwards I visited the bookshop, and walked to the case where the decayed book was displayed. I removed the volume which contained the verses I had traced in the library, and turned over the cover to see how much the shop was asking for the work. I had just enough money from the twenty dollars I had started out with the day before for the purchase. So, I bought the book.

I soon walked directly to the park, as I did not need to visit the library that day, and I read each page in that volume, feeling more comfortable among the ruins of Mazzini.

Some weeks later I returned to the coffee shop with a full ream of covered tracing paper to leave for her lady. She looked straight into my eyes, even before I was at the front of the line. She walked right up, stuck out her hand to greet me, and informed me I was hired for a job serving coffee if I could only stand it.

Much her lady and I have found among ruins since then, and one day I think I shall kneel.

The brunt of two hours that took to read,

Howsoever much detail I copied.

The words of that verse I have embellish’d,

To make loss taste sweet, e’en falling cherish’d;

I leave it for the reader to discern,

Or cast it in the fire; so, let it burn.

Helianthus And Hedera

So fair, each morn, so full of grace,

Within their little garden reared,

John Langhorne (1735-1779)

“The Sun-flower And The Ivy”

Fables Of Flora. 1771.

Shall pagan worship lead astray

The duteous sister in the garden?

Shall Mother Science those fears allay,

When Flora falls to specious reason?

“O Helianthus, Pagan flow’r!

“Follow Phoebus’ photo light.

“These matins of thy follower,

“Look east to learn thy god’s true might.”

Each day Phoebus Apollo rose,

As the sister said her prayers:

“O flow’r, strive thee ‘gainst thy foes -

“The Lepidopteran betrayers!”

As westward Pallas made descent:

“O Helianthus, turn thy head!

“For as the awn-like scales are meant,

“Thy pappus falls into thy bed.”

“The polyphagous Larvae suck

“The juice of Erigerons’ pappus,

“But thou Helianthus only fuck

“Sterile rays to be cauducous!”

Such mystery the flow’r display’d,

The holy sister did inquire,

But Mother Science remain’d staid,

“Hot plasma forms the sun, not fire.”

Not far from here Hedera grows,

Creeping upon the priory,

And to the holy nun bestows

A warning ‘gainst idolatry.

And, “Doth!” she cried, “Helianthus,

“Who hath no cause except the sun,

“Thus make thee so obsequious,

“That thy grave devotion is won!”


“Who flatters but for greater growth,

“Doth he attract thy earnest chant,

‘Of pray’r, and deprecating oath.”

“Doth he, sister? In desert heat,

“Deserve a pappus of his own!

“Wet are Lepidopterans’ feet -

“Until caducous - his seed blown!”

“To me thy praise more justly due,

“For Phoebus, I have little need;

“Encircling and embracing, too,

“And Aves spread my fruit and seed.”

“How well,” Helianthus replied,

“Thou hath forgot the Dusty Wave;

“And Shades, and Underwings, denied;

“By night - Lepidopterans rave!”

“Thou hast missed the Willow Beauties,

“With speckl’d wings of whitish grey;

“Yet I shan’t mention thy Aves,

“For I’m devour’d by the Jay!”

“Yet, thou wouldst e’en deny the day!

“Upon thy wall in gloomy shade -

“O Phoebus Apollo, I pray!

“I am not what Diana made.”

“What Diana doth set in night,

“Is what my eye need thus avert;

“Ah me! - Deny her in my sight -

“Till night to day hath made convert.

“That god who gave this life to me,

“My love, my heart, my life are due,

“To thee, thou eye of day, to thee,

“Thy vision makes each day anew.”

Thus spoke the flow’r, and droop’d his head,

And chanced to shed a pollen tear,

The sister in a wonder led

To ev’ning mass - and, then just here -

Confess’d unto the Abbess next.

“Behold!” cries out Mother Science,

“The plants hath thee enthrall’d and vex’d,

“Thou shouldst take heed in thy silence.”

“Our hearts once seiz’d are full of fears,

“Once harm’d, hath much harm to remove,

“Our tears are shed as heartfelt tears,

“And must make inquiry of love.”

“See here - Helianthus expels

“Carrion for mobile Larvae,

“And in Diana’s nights there dwells

“A Common Wood Pigeon close by.”

“Yet, not for Larvae, nor the Thrush,

“Nor Diana, nor Apollo,

“God gave us for the wheat to thresh,

“For His Namesake, we must swallow.”

“Hot plasma forms our solar star,

“The moon hath its crustal highland,

“O child, thee hath not travell’d far,

“To make thyself a prize garland.”

As one so duteous, one so fair,

Flora felt her Mother reaching,

So they join’d in silent pray’r,

Upon the Lord’s holy teaching.

“O flow’r, thou face east at morn,

“And turn away to find thy bed,

“O Helianthus, we are sworn,

“That thereby each of us are fed.”

“O Hedera in gloomy shade,

“Thy evergreen gives ripe berries,

“As good thy fruit as any made

“That cause us fewer worries.”

Portentous was the ev’ning now,

In  Flora’s cell, forebodings mild,

And all was dark, except the glow,

Of  Leto’s lovely second child!

And thus as happy as the Day,

Those Shepherds wear the time away

William Wordsworth, 1800

The Idle Corner-Boys:

Or Dundas Square an Urban Idyll


The City has thrown off its coat,

Among the hemlines ladies play

That ever, ever rising song

That flourishes each May.

The year-end has its deadline met;

The working parents` youngling brood

Have two more months within the nest,

Till they go flying east and west

In search of rustic food;

Or thro` the crackling campfires dart,

In very homesickness of heart.


Before a shop, upon a step,

Two boys are sitting in the street,

And no nice girls sent out to play

Those corner-boys should meet.

For Old Port taste they do their best,

And chew upon the plastic nibs,

Or for Jack Daniel`s on the make,

They say done deal for that man`s sake,

And drunk still in their bibs:

And thus if age was always prime,

Corner-boys never waste no time.


Along the busy City street,

The sounds of engines raise a din;

And high above the rushing sound

Are sirens moving in.

A thousand women take a dive,

All innocence! But for a guy

Go the distance, and more by far,

Those boys with their own pipe-cigar,

They always hear the cry,

That plaintive cry! By thoroughfare

Comes all the way from Dundas Square.


Said Walter, leaping from the ground,

“Down to Atrium on the Bay”

“I`ll run with you a race.” - No more –

The two boys flew away.

They leapt, they ran, and when they came

Right opposite to Dundas Square,

Seeing, that he should lose the race,

“Stop!” said Walter, by saving face –

And soon James stopped right there:

Said Walter then, “I have a plan,”

“Twill show each other who`s the man.”


“Till you have nabbed some lady`s ass,”

“Say that you'd never come to nought.”

James proudly took him at his word,

But did not like the thought.

They are the type, which you may see,

If ever you to luncheons go:

For such charm, the very devil

Would sin less and forgo evil;

And corner-boys should know

That always at their beckon call,

An honest man would give his all.


With focused sight across the Square,

The Challenger then fixed his eyes;

And now his nerves as fleet as steel,

He walks toward a prize.

When hold! He sees her turn away,

As if she feared his quick approach;

His pulse is stopped, his breath is lost,

The lady he would soon accost

Has lost her diamond brooch;

A brooch once worn against her chest,

Unclos'd the cov’ring of her breast.


The brooch had fallen to the ground,

And rolled off into the gutter;

The sight the open blouse did make,

Sent James in a flutter.

The dam then quickly came about,

And held her damaged silk in place;

And for her loss let out a cry,

In plea of every passerby,

As tears streamed down her face;

The brooch, a sentimental gift,

From one who cherished her, adrift.


When he had learnt what thing it was

That caused this lady fear, I trow,

The boy recovered heart, and told

All his keen friend would know.

Both gladly now deferred their task;

Nor was there wanting other care –

A Poet, one who loves downtown,

More than sages` volumes known,

Had wandered in the Square;

And there the diamond brooch he found,

By busy streets encompass'd round.


He drew it gently from the street,

And brought it forth into the light;

The corner-boys confronted him,

An unexpected sight.

Pried from his hand the brooch they took,

Said they, ''Tis neither scratched nor mar'd`-

Then in the busy Square they wend,

So that the dam her blouse could mend;

And gently did the Bard

Those idle corner-boys reproach,

And bade them let her tie the brooch.


Now teach me, maid composed,

To breathe some softened strain,

Whose numbers stealing through thy darkening vale

May not unseemly with its stillness suit

William Collins, 1747

Ode: To a Lady of the Evening

If aught for remedy of urban song

May hope, Lady, to reach thy waking ear,

By thy own blight'd springs,

Thy bulbs bit'n by the gales;

O nymph involved, while now the stirring sun

Creeps in yon eastern tent, whose dirty skirts

With last night’s vapors wove,

O’erhang thy rigid bed,

Then here is calm, save where the mean old bat

With short shrill shriek fits came to break a wing,

Or where the hairpin winds

On a backing made of horn,

As he has come unto his early path,

Amidst the stale perfume with careless hum:

Now teach me, maid provok’d,

To breathe some softer strain,

Whose theme that seeks to earn a freshn’d vale

May not with violence, but with kindness suit;

As musing light, I hail

The bleary ey’d return!

For when yon shrouded evening-star won’t show

His compass magnet for thy guiding lamp,

In darkest hours, where elves

Who gather’d hemlock the day,

And desperate nymphs, who wove a lace of sedge

That drips in sickly dew, and deadlier still,

The Dark Seducer sweet,

Prepare thy private car,

Don’t lead poor vot'ress, where some frigid lake

Hides the lone pier, or some rocky pile,

Or downtown port of grey,

Reflect the steel’s cold gleam;

But when depart’d Zephyr and North’s rain

Proscribe thy sure steps, be mine the last hut

That from the other side,

Prospects the treach’rous floods,

And concrete vaultings, and hidden spires,

And heeds the mission bell, and cedes to all,

My grateful fingers draw

Thy midnight bridal veil!

While Spring shall force its ice baths, as he may wont,

And drown your tresses, Lady of the Eve!

While summer jests with sport

Beneath thy districts red light!

While blust'ry autumn gives you dead'nd leaves!

Or winter, storming thro’ the upset air,

Defeats thy weakn’d train

And meanly flays thy robes!

Instead thro’ the small gateway by the shed,

Shall Freedom, Kindness, Peace, and Happiness,

Be yours and mine to own,

And quest thy maiden name!

Lines Left Near A Wall Filled With Graffiti




On visionary views would fancy feed,

Till his eye streamed with tears.

William Wordsworth

Nay, Street Urchin! Rest – the dirty wall that stands

Not distant from crack alley: what if here

The graffiti marks the dirty spot;

What if these poor hovels collapse about:

Yet, if no footfalls come, this sheltered place

Would serve you a night's respite, and the lamp

Beyond this valley, might be your night light,

Whose gentle glow could thy slumbers diffuse.

-  Who he was

That first tagged here, and with the canister

First covered o'er, and taught the lonely wall,

Now safe, to be a haven anchorage,

I well remember. - He was one who owned

No common soul. In youth, he was told off,

And told he wants too much, he with the hand

Was faced, was lawless because twas law

Of foul magistracy, 'gainst arrogance,

And pomp, against all corruption prepared,

But not the scythe: and so, his spirit fell

At once, in bitterness he turned away,

And in his inner life, darkened his soul

In solitude. - Urchin! these bright colours

Had charms for him; and here he loved to tag,

His only enemies the drug pushers,

The quick fix, and all the friendly strangers;

And on this barren wall, with a spray can,

And chalk, and a cloth, he vandalized o'er;

Fixing his inner eye, he rightly one day

Acquired a fuller prospect, humouring

The enmity of the cosmic temper,

And throwing down his brush, he then could gaze

On the more distant scene; how lonely 'tis

Thou seest, and he then gazed till it became

Less heartbreaking, and his heart could then endure

The cruelty of the cruel. Nor, in his time,

Would he forget these beings, to whose hunt,

Fraught with the fear of being caught and killed,

The world, and this city, appeared a scene

Of sheer oblivion: then he would cry

Remorsefully, to think that others felt

What he never wanted: and so, poor man!

On hallucinogenic drugs would feed,

Till his eye was visionary. And here

He died, this wall was all that he bequeathed.

If thou be one whose heart by the decay

Of lawlessness is not defiled or scathed,

Urchin! henceforth be warned; and know, that birth

And honours displayed to do injustice,

Is unlawful; that he, who then defends

O'er a peer shall find content, for justice

Shall be remorseless and deny offence

In all his faculties. The man who craves

Is deemed insatiable of appetite,

But let not pleasures encourage the wise

To scorn the sensations of this man,

For wisdom seeks acceptance. O wilt thou!

Instructed that the righteous persevere,

True faith and law abides in him alone

Who, in the whole proportion of this wall,

Can still revere, and still instruct himself,

In purity of heart.

A falling water swoln with snows

Thus spake to a poor Briar-rose.

William Wordsworth, 1800

The Sewer and the Leaf

“Begone, thou rude mischievous Imp,”

Exclaimed a stuffy Voice,

“Nor dare thee at my foot to limp,”

“As if you had no choice!”

A Sewer-Grate without relief,

Thus spake to a poor Maple Leaf,

That had survived the winter thaw,

And first to fall, and last to go,

Was swimming in the melting snow,

Despite all former law.

“Dost thou presume my drain to clog?”

“Off, off! Or little Scamp!”

“I’ll hurl thee headlong with the bog”

“Thy fibres cold and damp.”

The Sewer was beset with rage,

The Maple Leaf clung to his cage,

Nor did he lose in all that waste,

His iron grip upon the Grate,

But fearing what would seal his fate,

He rebutted posthaste.

`“Ah!” said the Leaf, “Punish me not!”

“Why should we argue thus?”

“We who have met as if by lot,”

“By chance, the two of us!”

“I come aloft from yonder tree –“

“What pleasure there to live so free!”

“High above the dirty gutter,”

“My fibres welcoming each dew –“

“Nor ever thought I’d live to rue,”

“In this city clutter.”

“When Spring came on in the first shoot,”

“Among those limbs did I”

“Stretch out my stem where I took root,”

“And there no passerby!”

“In the summer thundershower,”

“Paid no heed beneath my bower,”

“And cared not what went down the drain,”

“The litter, or the gathered dust,”

“That went to you in each quick gust,”

“Nor did I mind the rain.”

“Then came a wind, and with it cold,”

“Not even I withstood;”

“Try as I might, I could not hold,”

“But entered in the flood!”

“And missed the rake, and came the snow”

“And trodden down in ice below;”

“Frozen solid, could not revive”

“The former strength I knew so well,”

“And you, Sewer – I need not tell –“

“Despite you I survive.”

What more he said, I cannot say.

The waste carried along its way

And gathered at the Grate;

I stood fixed, nor aught else could think,

Than of this Leaf at the very brink,

And how that sealed his fate.

I sate within an undergrove,

Of tallest hollies, tall and green,

A fairer bower was never seen.

William Wordsworth, 1798

The Bus Shelter

A whirl-blast came in from the lake,

Rushed through the quay with deadly force:

Then all at once the wind forsake,

And steady snowflakes made their course.

Where skyscrapers seemed to welter,

I sate within a bus shelter,

Of Plexiglas and yellow steel,

And quite at home it made me feel.

From year to year the concrete floor,

With heavy boots is trampled o’er,

You could not with five men abreast,

Close shut the lid upon this chest.

But see! Where’er the snowflakes fly,

This shelter proves to keep you dry;

There’s still a breeze – a breath of air –

Yet here, and there, I’ve huddled where,

Against one wall, upon a seat,

To face my eyes into the street,

Amid the Lakeshore and the snow,

Then turned my collar to the cold,

Then stuck my arms within the fold –

However much the storm doth grow,

Is pleasure found in lying low.

Oh! Heaven grant when out of doors,

That pleasure does not truly part,

And even as the whirl-blast soars,

Herein is fine sentiment for my heart.

Among the fairest, ere the stress,

Of exile, death and injury

Thus withering and deforming thee

Had made a mournful type of thee-

Percy Bysshe Shelley

To the Small Celandine

Small Celandine, in summer’s glen,

With morning dew, all thy leaves wet,

Thou wert dear as the briar-rose,

Midst woodland brook and violet;

Midst the water, bloat’d with snows,

Tho’ the Eglantine drown’d with reason,

You liv’d by equity of season.

One so small and so very fair,

Like other flow’rs against the rain

That shrink in close-shelter, at rest,

As the sun shines, come out again –

Small Celandine, thou wert blest –

The very moment the sun cast light,

Thy youthful bloom was first before sight.

And when the blast came thro’ the field,

Or when the hail fell in a swarm,

Yes, gentle flow’r, in your recess,

Thou wert muffl’d up, safe from harm;

Tho’ the green field was in distress,

In hooded mantle, you safely dwelt:

Thus the day’s tempest was never felt.

Then Celandine, an age had passed,

When thou wert alter’d in your form,

You could not in your mantle lie,

But stood forth, offer'd to the storm;

It made a bard think very high,

How to his age, midst all its fervour,

Change came, and with thy change of colour!

‘Twas neither by courage or choice

That you had faced the hail and cold,

Thou wert alter’d in thy decay,

‘Twas the effect of being old:

An age must change or pass away –

Thou wert an emblem for Mankind’s lot –

Old forms must part and that youth need not.

The poet, Shelley, filled with treason,

Valued not that Laureate's flow’r,

For that old Bard was passed his prime,

Fallen on a cold and evil hour;

Immortal youth was more his time,

For none might a sweeter aspect wear,

Than Celandine, when so young and fair.

Yet Shelley was in Charlottetown,

When he receiv’d you, Celandine;

Tho’ yellow, thought ye aery blue –

Must’ve died wither’d on the vine

Without a chance to change your hue –

For Celandine, you came pale and dead –

Pale and dead – and, in the Post, instead.

Thy own soul still is true to thee,

But changed to a foul fiend through misery

Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1814

Coleridge Sends Well To Shelley

O! There are many spirits fair,

And genii in the city street,

And daemons, guardians of care,

Who bring missives from Pluto’s seat –

Such welcome councilmen to see

Who have enter’d and brought comfort to me.

Behind closed doors, below the stair,

In silent places where they live,

I come alone to seek out there

The quiet counsels they would give,

As they have answer’d me. But how

Light vanishes! No more shall light allow.

For when I see in others eyes,

Beams that were never meant for mine,

The luminous – too hard a prize

To e’en attain. - I must resign,

As one who has no more to give,

Than ways I cannot now but choose to live.

Yes, the luminous leads astray,

Goes and leaves one introvert’d,

Alone to live, alone each day,

Until day to nighttime has convert’d;

The changeless spirit brings me here,

In solitude, to watch the changeless year.

All the faithless smiles have fled,

And you remind me of their falsehood;

Say you, the very moon is dead,

Night’s ghosts and haunts bring no more good;

By the dark of night hope has flown

To misery; as for my soul, my own.

Elements I have discover’d

That you account for my own loss –

Never mind what you’ve uncover’d,

Alchemy would bring us dross;

I do not welcome change of state –

Dark as it is, more light would aggravate.

Faint sound, that, for the gayest of the gay,

Might give to serious thought a moment`s sway,

As a last token of Man`s toilsome day.

William Wordsworth, 1832

The Shepherd's Blues

Fast is the city night, and loath to fuse

Day's hectic pace with the Shepherd's blues;

Look for the stars, you'd say that there are none;

Look up a second time, for even one,

One, or maybe two, casting their dim light

Above the city haze, eluding sight;

But starlets peddling the latest rage

Are out, and sales clerks for minimum wage

Close shop, eager for society's page.

Nor does Old City Hall clock`s dull tone

The time and age’s influence disown:

Nine strikes which sound the closing of the store,

An evening and the day beginning o’er,

That, in latter hours, then invites the cheer

Of young revellers sounding out the year.

A Shepherd, bent on rising with the sun,

Once closed his door before the day was done,

And now with thankful heart to bed doth creep,

To join his latest mistress in her sleep;

And dark the lonely journey down the hill,

And long the night without a sleeping pill;

Once young, but never to have even met,

Nor much content with what they each could get,

But years of happy life still as of yet.

Wheels and the tread of hoofs are heard no more,

One time they were, but that has faded o’er

With the modern need for the modern ore;

He’s yawning to relieve his idle brain,

And gives this moment’s thought to dull ache’s pain,

But must rise early for the morning train.

Some respite to its turbulence unresting ocean knows,

Whatever moves, or toils, or grieves, hath its appointed sleep.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Stanzas – February, 2013

Away! The setting sun reveals the moon,

Company has made the last good cheer of even;

Away! The thickening clouds will make it darker soon,

And the deep night will cover the multitude of heaven.

Tarry not! The hour’s late! Each voice cries, ‘Away!’

O’erstay not thy welcome of such a gracious mood:

Thy lover’s eye, yet regretful, does not ask thee to stay,

And necessary evil sends you seeking solitude.

Away, away! to thy poor and humble home;

Cry unheard tears on the unaffected hearth,

Watch the days and weeks pointlessly go and come,

And make a string of months occasion without mirth.

The news of world dilemmas shall float around thy head,

And the fortunes of the stars promptly land before thy feet;

All of life’s most noteworthy in memorandum of the dead,

And columns upon columns pressed well after thy press meet.

The stars beyond the bright glare themselves may not repose,

And the moon whilst hidden by the clouds must still affect the deep;

In the densely peopl’d city no certain rest one knows,

Thy company, but present, in the peopl’d dreams of sleep.

Thou in death shalt rest – yet until those spirits flee,

That graciously made company within that home erewhile;

By remembrance and acceptance of that time thou art not free,

For thy deep repose is haunted by the way she forc’d a smile.

The little hedge-row birds,

That peck along the road, regard him not.

William Wordsworth

Old Man Walking


The people in the street,

That haste along their way, regard him not.

He ambles on, and in his look, his tread,

His gait is one suggestion; every step,

His old slow-moving figure, all bespeak

A man who does not hurry forth, but moves

With leisure – He has finally resigned

To settled quiet, he is one by whom

All ambition seems revoked, one to whom

Long toiling has such retirement given

That toiling now does seem a thing of which

He has no care; he is by hard life led

To the fifth element, that some behold

With envy, what the old man rarely feels.

- I asked him where he was going and

The purpose of his journey; he replied,

“Sir! I am out on this fine day to cash

“My pension cheque, nigh six hundred dollars,

“At MoneyMart by New Broadview Hotel,

“Then I'll have a pint or two at that pub.”

And freedom shall awhile repair,

To dwell a weeping hermit there

William Collins, 1746

Ode: How Sleep the Poor

How sleep the poor, who sink to rest,

By all that Eve allows , God Blest!

While such a subtle creature creeps,

Thro’ the toll this country steeps,

To tempt us to forbidden fruit,

That God would not deny the brute.

In paradise no knell is rung;

In our dreams no dirge is sung,

There Labor rests, and Courtly gay,

In their appointed chambers lay,

And light shall e’en awhile go there,

To put our thankless work elsewhere.




Dame Gardner, Helen, ed. The New Oxford Book Of English Verse, 1250-1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972. Print.

Dr. Langhorne, John. Fables Of Flora: To Which Is Prefixed A Life Of The Author By F. Blagdon, Esq.. London: B. Crosby And Co., 1804. Print.

Eds. Michael O’Neil, Anthony Howe, asst. by Madeleine Callaghan. The Oxford Handbook of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2013. Print.

Radcliffe, Ann. A Sicilian Romance. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.

Shelley, Percy Bysshe. The Major Works Including Poetry, Prose, and Drama. New York; Oxford University Press Inc., 2009. Print.

Wordsworth, William. The Major Works Including The Prelude. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2008. Print.


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