Early Poems by Thomas D'Arcy Morris

Early Poems

Bombay Courier, 22 May 1819.

‘To C—B—’ [1] 

Sweet Lady – bid me not retract the vow
In love’s sincerest, purest ardour spoken,
Nor upon other shrines to offer now
The heart they scorn and cold contempt have broken –
Whose was the gentle voice with whisper soft5
That breathed love’s tremulous confessions?
Whose was the laughing eye, in radiance, oft
That beamed delight upon my heart’s professions? –
Oh! Thine, sweet Lady! was the voice, whose tone
Calm’d my soul’s anguish, sooth’d & heal’d it:10
Thine the blue eye where fond affection shone;
And thine the warm red lip that owned & seal’d it.
I was thy first, sole, maiden choice – you said;
And thou wert mine. Such shalt thou ever be.
How bleeds my heart – oh God! how hath it bled15
Wailing thy faithlessness in agony! –
For, thou wert young & beautiful – We met,
And hope’s bright bubble danc’d upon life’s stream.
Oh! Lady – teach me, teach me to forget,
Or prove this cold reality – a dream!20
‘Mid the gay dance – ‘mid pleasures fresh & light
Time brought the hour of parting as he flew;
And thou, the lovely meteor of the night
Sighed thy farewell & whisper’d – “Love be true”. –
Still on my cheek the burning tear I feel,25
That gushed, in spite of manhood’s proud endeavour;
And on my quiv’ring lips the sacred seal
The warm, wild kiss that parted us for ever!
Hope cheer’d each sunrise – gilded too its setting,
Till thou in woman’s fickleness of mood –30
Vow-pledge and every tie of faith forgetting –
Leapt to another’s arms – unsought – unwooed.
Take back the myrtle-bough – the heart’s ease take;
Take back the olive-branch – thy first Love-token
These in thine absence sooth’d my heart’s dull ache,35
That heart which thou in wantonness hath broken.
Mutual our pledges were – tho’ broken thine,
My Vow alone yields me one glimpse of bliss
For oh! this vow in fancy makes thee mine,
Then – Lady! bid me not relinquish this.40
When with the noontide’s fitful breezes blended
The booming of the death-drum from yon glen
Tells that my life’s dull tedious dream is ended,
Then – shall my vow be cancelled – not till then!
For still I love thee – still I’ll keep the vow45
In love’s sincerest, purest ardour spoken,
Nor upon other shrines can offer now
The bleeding heart which thy cold scorn hath broken.
M.E.

Bombay Gazette, 30 June 1819

THE OBSERVER No. XIV [2] 

There are a sort of men whose visages
Do smirk and wrinkle like a China Fan,
And who a vile Antipathy proclaim
Aloud ‘gainst Wedlock, to be thought by women
True Exquisites and Dandies, Swells and Beaux,5
As some do say “I am Sir Bachelor,
And when I shew my Face, let no maid hope.”
— — — I do know of those,
Who therefore only are reputed cold,
For Anti Love-talk; who when they do love,10
Would pine, grow pale and kneel to Girls,
Who, seeing them, would call these Fellows “Fools”! [3] 

A certain Presidency, Mr. Observer, swarms with these unlicensed railers at Matrimony. A lecture from your pen might prove of service to them, by shewing their ill-natured propensity in its true light. I am a married man, and, since my arrival in India, I have seldom mixed in society without having my mind put into a state of irritability from the unvaried and constant allusion to the horrors of Wedlock, which is ever reviled as a state of strife and bondage. You must, I am sure, be well aware of the happiness and respectability of a married life, and will, I trust, point out the ill-nature, aye, and the ill-breeding of making it a handle for pointed ridicule and execrable puns at the expence of other people’s feelings. Matrimony, I know, has ever been a subject for the smart sayings and “devilish good things” of the witlings of the age. No wonder then, that these Scoffers at Love, when they change their minds (for they all do, or long to do so) should, upon experience, after so many repartees and jests find Matrimony no Joke!!

The following lines were dropped by one of these “Bachelors for Ever” whilst the Exquisite was taking from his coat-pocket his “Book of Steps” for the Quadrille he was practising. Though written with feeling, there breathes throughout such a spirit of hatred and rancour, that, I trust, with some animadversions from your pen, they will defeat their own end. They evidently formed part of some longer Poem, and I beg you will give them speedy publicity. [4] 

And I have seen her! And the flashful Eye,
Whose witching glance so sweetly sped,
That used, whene’er I linger’d nigh,15
Its warm, wild influence to shed,
And exercised alternate smile and sigh—
Now gazed as lifeless, cold and dead,
As if it looked on vacancy;
As if its living light had fled,20
And Joy and Hope and Love were withered!
But this was all a dream, a trance,
The vision of a fleeting minute;
Tho’ gone the maid’s sly, furtive, glance,
And all the sin that floated in it,25
Still, still there lurked the Magic spell,
That bound my soul within its chain;
Cold, tho’ on me, it seemed to dwell,
On all the High-born, Rich and Vain,
It beamed with Beauty’s proud endeavour, 30
As bright, as flashful, and as wild as Ever,
— — — And such is Woman –
Uncertain, wandering, weak in heart and mind,
Or madly fond, or causelessly unkind!
— — — — — — —
The well-taught Maiden, with bright, laughing Eye,35
Pants for Quadrilles and for a Waltz would die;
Spurns the warm heart unless with Rank it glitter,
And joins the Crowd all frolic, talk and titter;
Till charm’d with modest worth, in spite of Fashion,
She blushes, sighs, and owns a mutual passion,40
Then, like true woman, e’er one month can end,
Casts him aside and marries with his Friend —
And such is woman!
— — — — — — — —
See the gay widow who, when reft by Heaven
Of the first partner to her bosom given,45
Lays him in Earth’s cold lap and tries to shed
One tear in sorrow for the honor’d Dead;
Quits the dull spot majestically slow,
With heaving breast, sunk eye, & head drooped low,
And all the solemn mockery of woe.50
Returned – impatient once again to glide,
Down pleasure’s stream, the meteor of the tide,
Shines in her Silks and Laces, Crapes and Beads
Coquets in tell-tale Black and flirts in Weeds!
Still, while her partner’s death is mourn’d aloud,55
Ere the cold corpse hath fester’d in its shroud,
Ere the dull Grave hath mingled it with clay,
Or the blind worm hath batten’d on its prey—
The pitied Widow, secretly elate,
Sighs for another and a younger mate.60
With every charm exposed to every stare,
Spurns at cold decency’s delay and care,
Dead to each pang that virtuous love disquiets,
Leaps to another’s arms and there she riots!!
Cease then your Love Games, wild, unguarded youth,65
Scorn Maiden’s Vows beware of Wedded Truth,
For such is woman. — — — —
— — — — — — —

There! what do you think of this pretty touch at Matrimony and the fair sex? Oblige me by your early remarks upon it.

Your humble servant,

UXORIUS.

Bombay Gazette, 8 September 1819.

“And in Verses like these,” I was wont to celebrate her Birth-day. And now when thou seest her, tell her that my affection never hath strayed from her, and that thro’ my whole life I have loved her alone. –

Chronicle of the Cid. [5] 
‘T was Noon – the myrtle-buds had blown
Thy soft blue eye upon me shone
(Lady! I sing of moments flown
When I was blest – most blest
When ev’ry sigh and ev’ry tear5
And all my pangs of doubt and fear
Lay pillow’d on thy breast.)
That dewy eve! – that hour of madness
That hour of wild delirious gladness
Undimmed by Years of Grief and Sadness!10
its very dream shall be
Pledged in the sparkling red wine-cup
And like a Halo brighten up
each night of Agony!
The Dance had ceas’d and friends to part15
Rose, (each with anxious, fluttering heart
With eyes whence teardrops seemed to start)
to bid a long “Adieu”
And Oaths were made, and vows were given
In loud rude mockery of Heaven20
Cold fickle and untrue!
And Thou, the Meteor of the night
In Beauty’s loveliness and light
All purely mild and mildly bright
murmur'd – “Farewell to thee”25
And thus, thus coldly did we sever?
Oh God! I could recount for ever
Thy parting witchery!
Yet it were madness to retrace
The dreay hour, the stilly place30
The warm wild kiss, the fond embrace
The Heaven’s cloudless splendour
The deep blue Eye, the cheeks pale hue
The ripe red lip that breathed Adieu
So solemnly, so tender!35
(And oh!) – when struggling, from my breast, you fled,
More ruby gleamed thy lips pure red,
Thine Eye so deeply azure – shed
A softer, holier light
(Thus, trembling Moonbeams fitful break40
Upon the rippling of the Lake
In loveliness more bright!)
Spell-bound I stood! And thou’rt a Bride!
False faithless – nay I may not chide
For still thou’rt dear – would I had died45
Or never known thy worth
Still, still my Love-fire burns for thee
Yet tideless passionless and free
from every taint of Earth –
And to the World I’ll own that thou50
Art my Beloved one – even now
Tho’ stood the Death-damp on my brow
Tho’ ‘twere my latest breath
Tho’ trembling on the cold grave’s brink
Or drop by drop condemned to drink55
the Bitterness of Death!

M.E.

Bombay Gazette, 17 November 1819.

I pine for her
In crowded halls my spirit is with her,
Thro’ the long sleepless night I think on her,
And happiness is gone and health is lost,
I pine away for her yet pity her,
That she should spurn a love so true as mine!
Southey’s Madoc. [6] 
Yes I have passed an hour of madness,
An hour of such delirious joy,
That not an age of grief and sadness,
The fond remembrance can destroy.
’Twas holy midnight calm and still,5
The Moonbeam slept upon the hill,
Beneath the shade of the Cypress tree,
I couched in wild expectancy.
She came all doubting, trembling, o’er the path she flew,
With paly lip and cheek and bosom glistening with dew.10
And to my arms she sprung and panted,
Quick as the new-caught Cushat Dove,
And, o’er her as I hung enchanted,
I whisper’d – “Fly with me my love:
With me to live with me to die,15
In Love’s unshackled Liberty”!
Her bosom rose with hastier swell,
As if in agony it rose and fell,
Like the waves of stormy ocean!
Trembling she gasped in wild emotion.20
And “Cease,” she said “is this thy faith, could you ensnare me.
“Not thus, clasp me not thus, Oh God! in pity, spare me!!”
Alone she stood her tears fast falling,
In Joy’s wild flow, bedew’d the sod.
For from a trial so appalling,25
Spotless she stood! I thank my God!!
There was but one cloud in the sky,
And it was white as maidens breast,
On the Cold Moon! she raised her eye,
And whilst her soft warm lip I press’d,30
“Yon solitary cloud” she said.
(And as she spoke, my bosom bled),
Yon snowy cloud pure tho’ it be,
Emblems my fault my frailty,
My ev’ry act and thought ‘till this clandestine meeting given.35
Were holy, calm and passionless and pure as cloudless heaven!
She speaks not now – again she spoke not,
But prone to Earth in Death she fell,
My heart’s throb ceased but yet it broke not!
Without a groan I gazed – A spell,40
Bound every sense, save sight alone,
I was a bloodless, tearless stone!
The cloud sailed past the Moon, whose ray,
Fell on her bosom as she lay.
Methought it heav’d! it heav’d by Heaven! could Fate such bosoms sever.45
She rose! – One kiss! one last embrace!! we parted then for ever!!!
‘T was in this very path I met her,
‘T was on this very spot we stood,
And oh! if ever I forget her,
May ev’ry hope of future good,50
Of Bliss hereafter – Fortune, Fame,
And ev’ry joy mankind can claim,
Fade from my grasp, as shadows flee;
May Life’s dull cup be filled by thee.
Thou loved one of my soul! and let each deeper draught contain.55
The bitterest Dregs of Misery and agonizing pain!

M.E.

Bombay Gazette, 2 February 1820.

It was a strong possession, strong and strange
I feel the evil, yet desire not change,
Years now have flown nor is the passion cured,
For hope hath life and thus is life endured,
The mind’s desire, with all its strength steals on,
Till youth and health and all but Love are gone;
And there are seasons! horrid, dreadful hours
Of mental suffering, they overthrow my powers,
And make my mind unsteady.
Crabbe’s Tales of the Hall. [7] 
A FRAGMENT
And Daric left in grief the Western Isles,
Where erst he sunn’d himself in Ladies eyes,
In whose gay beams lurk Woman’s dangerous wiles,
Her weakness, wanderings and frailties!
He deemed it bliss to gaze on lips so red,5
Teeth of the pearl, locks of the raven’s jet,
Blue laughing eyes, that magic lustre shed,
Bright as pure Sapphires round with diamonds set.
Yet Daric laughed to scorn weak woman’s power,
On youth’s wild wing, roved free as heavens’ breath10
Guileless and gay until the luckless hour,
He saw and knew and loved young Carineth!
* * * * *
It was the Evening! and a stilly shower,
Spangled with dewy beads each emerald leaf,
With water drops gleam’d every opening flower,15
Like infant beauty smiling thro’ its grief!
In sullen pride, the cypress gloomy shade,
Lay o’er the path where strayed the youthful pair,
All was so calm, so still Love seem’d afraid;
To breath his wild wish, hope and passion there!20
A liquid pearl upon her bosom fell!
Fell it from heaven? or from that cheek so cold?
He asks not, heeds not, kissed the tell-tale spell,
Told his heart’s wish and wished for what he told.
Within her eye to see affection glow,25
And her white bosom heave in sweet disorder,
And her slow foot fall noiseless as the snow,
Scarce seen beyond her floating garments border.
To hear the Love she blushes to reveal,
In accents soft as zephyr’s gentlest sigh,30
To seal it with a silent kiss and feel,
Her ripe red lip pulsate in sympathy.
To be her first her maiden choice and touch
A heart with Love that every love defied,
Was bliss unearthly – Daric felt it such!35
Death at that moment why wert thou denied?
War’s slogan chang’d as Daric breathed his Vow,
And with her parting kiss, she gave the youth,
In token of his hope a myrtle bough,
Heart’s-ease for Love, an Olive branch for Truth!!40
* * * * *
* * * * *
Upon the walls the foes proud standards fly,
And Daric burned to flesh his maiden steel.
Famine assails the miserable town,
Man yields his strength, Woman her love-fed fire,
Twined in their fleshless arms they lay them down,45
And with one last cold feeble kiss expire!
There in the pangs of Death – the gasping steed,
Some hungry goaded being seizes on,
In wolfish butchery completes the deed,
Then gnaws his bones himself a skeleton!50
From the starved baby’s locks, the death dew drips,
While cold and shivering, o’er his dying brother,
He crawls and presses with his thin blue lips,
The clay cold nipple of his lifeless mother!!
Yet hark! what thunders float along the gale,55
What yells of agony, what shrieks of woe,
Ye, who can dwell upon the well-told tale,
Of war-scenes, go, to th’ sack of cities. Go.
Now fear-clad battle bares his blood-red arm,
And Spoil stands rampant eager for his deed;60
Murder and sacrilege await the alarm,
And Death himself bestrides his paly steed.
Up to the breach, the foe with fury rush,
Beauty and Gold and Blood their influence pour,
The wall they win, in Victory’s wild flush,65
Shout with Hell-joy, and wallow in the gore.
Beyond Imagination’s gloomiest stretch,
Famine and Slaughter work friends sink and rise
In thy own heart’s red flood and lo! a wretch,
Stoops to the bloody tide and drinks and dies!!70
Pale Beauty, (from Brutality her senses flown)
Screams for her virtue, screams without a tear,
And Age lies featureless, and to the stone,
That dashed his brains out, the grey hairs adhere!!
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
Peace spread her pinion to the passing Gale,75
Scarce two short months had flown by heaven, not two,
White with foam bubbles came a steed, and pale,
The Horseman seem’d. To Carineth he flew!
* * * * *
Wedded! he cried, and shriek’d with wild alarm,
Wedded to him, my best, my bosom friend,80
Wedded! Oh God, Oh God! * *
* * * * *
M.E.

Bombay Gazette, 12 July 1820.

THE DANDY'S DIARY

1
With the cooling sea-breeze! when my Gauze curtains rustle,
I awake, leave my pillows all tumbled and hot,
I fly to the Mirror and languish and fustle,
And curse every freckle and pimple and spot,
Drink of my potions,5
Use all my lotions,
The teapot I handle,
Hear news and talk scandal,
Sport double entendre’s applauses to win,
Tell comical stories the Griffs to take in,10
And I Grin.
2
To practise my attitudes polish my dancing,
Genteely to trip in the next new Quadrilles,
I the Master attend in the midst of my prancing,
He cries, Ah, begar, here is plenty of pee-pils,15
All pour in,
Loud roaring,
For capers, coupee’s,
And slides and chaussee’s,
When, Jomp! cries the fiddler & gives me a thump,20
On my head with his fiddlestick raises a bump,
And I jump.
3.
’Tis bus’ness time when we have finished our hops,
But writing’s a bore to a buck of my blood,
So I visit the Ladies or lounge in the shops,25
And call at the Bomb proof to add to my stud,
Push for the stable,
As well as I’m able,
Thro’ poultry and pigs,
To Daddy or H—gs,30
Who finding that I at economy scoff,
Immediately order each horse to show off,
And I cough.
4.
Then purchase an Arab his price without asking.
Praise his wide Nostril and tapering head,35
The depth of his brisket his Quarter and Gaskin,
A fine Corky mover, Sir, devilish high bred,
His tail how he cocks,
Large whacking hocks,
Lavish of paces,40
Tit for the races,
Then address a by stander while jingling the chink,
That’s rather a cool dirty bargain I think,
And I wink.
5.
These technical phrases I learnt in the Deccan,45
(That School for young Nimrods, [8]  that field of true sport,
Where your worth as a Man by your riding they reckon,)
Where once on a party where wild Hogs resort,
See the old hunters throw off,
Determined to shew off,50
The Ground being good,
Riding hard as I could,
To my horror and dread on a Monster I popped,
Rode bold till my clean cambric handkerchief dropped,
And I stopped.55
6.
But as I dismounted the hunters caught sight,
And dashed at the Boar in most beautiful style,
Who soon doubling back to my terror and fright,
Made at me – It galloping off all the while,
Came very near,60
Close to my rear,
And I dropped my spear,
Solely from fear,
And the sportsmen all d–—d me and told me to ride,
And passing by, quizzed and abused me beside,65
And I cried.
7.
With a Lady I tiff then to business I go,
But scribbling and counting leave off very soon,
Draw Caricatures of the Big-Wigs I know,
Then take up a Novel or hum a New tune,70
Soon I get fidgetty,
Mount my Nigetty,
Dash a la mode,
Down the Byculla road,
Ogle young Ladies, quiz all on the staff,75
Find I’m too clever and knowing by half,
And I laugh.
8.
Dinner ended as if by Tarantula bitten,
I waltz and expose my steps, capers and flings,
Talk nonsense to Maidens pretend to be smitten,80
And Egad they believe me the poor little things!
Mothers quite glad,
Eligible lad,
Do it to vex,
Hate all the sex,85
Get tipsy and noisy laugh talk saucy and roar,
Jump into my bed in the morning at four,
And I snore.

M.E.

Notes

[1] EDITOR'S NOTE: The initials C.B. may stand for Catharine Billamore, the birth name of Frederick Hickes’s newly married wife. Hickes, a fellow officer of Morris’s, was to quarrel with him following publication of The Griffin, resulting in Morris’s court martial. See Introduction. BACK

[2] EDITOR'S NOTE: Columns headed ‘The Observer’ and signed by ‘J.’ appear occasionally in the Bombay Gazette in 1818-1819: a full list is given in the Bibliography. While the first seems to be a serious discussion of religious faith among the British in India, the column quickly took on a knowing tone and a satiric approach to subjects including the Bombay theatre (IX and XI), the qualities required for success in India (VI, XIII), the means necessary for those returning to Britain to live adequately (III, V), ladies’ fashions (IV), and letters from correspondents speculating on the identity and circumstances of the ‘Observer’ himself. Numbers IV and X are of particular interest in the context of The Griffin’s anti-feminism, as both introduce letters from supposed female correspondents preoccupied with appearance and with the prospect of a lucrative marriage. Eliza Scanty comes out to India ‘with an entire new Wardrobe of the latest fashions’, thinking ‘of nothing else on the voyage but the pleasure of exhibiting my person (which by the bye I think a very tolerable one) to the greatest advantage’; and targets the ‘Observer’ with flirtatious remarks: ‘I am sure you are a Civilian, and I would lay a bet you are young and handsome’ (IV). The letter from ‘Curvilia’ reinforces The Griffin’s focus on sexualized female bodies: ‘I have been three years in India, and when I first arrived, what with tight lacing, the stocks, and the backboard I landed as upright as possible. Though I had lots of fishes at my hook, and plenty of nibbles, yet my erect manner gained me but one bite and that was from an elderly Cadet whom I civilly rejected[.] The Civilians said I was as stiff as a poker, and the military swore I had swallowed a ramrod, how vulgar! I was rather pretty, rather genteel, rather accomplished and rather amiable, yet still somehow I was rather single, and time threatened to leave me withering on the Virgin thorn, but taking example from several Girls, who by greater pliability of back and greater exposure to squinting eyes & nightly colds, most surprisingly soon enjoyed the sweets of wedlock. I resolved to bend to circumstances and shall still continue in spite of Mr. Observer, or his Dandy friend “to stoop to Conquer”’ (X). BACK

[3] EDITOR'S NOTE: These lines are modelled on Gratiano’s speech in The Merchant of Venice (Act 1, Scene 1). BACK

[4] EDITOR'S NOTE: Lines 23-26 and 32-52 appear in revised form in The Griffin, Canto 6 (ll.44-66). BACK

[5] EDITOR'S NOTE: The source-text for this epigraph is Walter Scott’s anonymous review of Robert Southey’s Chronicle of the Cid (1808): Scott suggests a parallel between the Cid and Cú Chulainn, hero of the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology, and has the latter send a dying message to his wife, Emer: ‘And now Laogh, when thou seest Eirir [sic], tell her that my affection never hath strayed from her, that through my whole life I have loved her alone, nor ever saw that woman I would have exchanged for her’ (‘Chronicle of the Cid’, Quarterly Review, February 1809, p. 130). BACK

[6] EDITOR'S NOTE: Robert Southey, Madoc (1805). The lines are taken from a song sung by the eponymous hero, described as ‘Prince Hoel’s lay of love’; they omit one couplet, given in italics below:

…health is lost,
And fled the flush of youth, and I am pale
As the pale ocean on a sunless morn.
I pine away for her…
(Robert Southey: Poetical Works, 1793-1910, vol. 2, ed. Lynda Pratt (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2004), p. 97. BACK

[7] EDITOR'S NOTE: Adapted from Book VII of Crabbe’s work:

‘It was a strong possession’ – ‘Strong and strange,
I felt the evil, yet desired not change:
Years now had flown, nor was the passion cured,
But hope had life, and so was life endured;
The mind’s disease, with all its strength, stole one,
Till youth, and health, and all but love were gone.
And there were seasons, Richard, horrid hours
Of mental suffering! they o’erthrew my powers,
And made my mind unsteady…’
(George Crabbe, Tales of the Hall, vol. 1 (London, 1819), pp. 150-151). BACK

[8] EDITOR'S NOTE: Nimrod, ‘the mighty hunter before the Lord’ (Genesis 10: 9). BACK

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