The Tea-Table.

’Tis there all meet,


The downright clown, and perfectly wellbred.
Blair’s Grave.
Through all unknown to Greek and Roman song1
The paler Hyson, and the dark Souchong ;2
Though Black nor Green the warbled praises share3
Of knightly Troubadour, or gay Trouvér,4
Yet scorn not thou, as alien quite to numbers,5
That friend to prattle, and that foe to slumbers,6
Which Kien Long, imperial poet, praised7
So high, that cent per cent its price was raised ;8
Which Pope himself would sometimes condescend9
To place, commodious, at a couplet’s end ;10
Which the sweet bard of Olney did not spurn,11
Who sung the music of the “ hissing urn :”12
Let her, who bade me write, enact the Muse,13
Inspire my genius, and my Tea infuse :14
So shall my verse the hovering Sylphs delight,15
And critic Gnomes relinquish half their spite.16
Clear, warm, and flowing as my liquid theme,17
As sweet as sugar, and as soft as cream.18
May it awhile engage the gentle fair,19
Then gambol gaily in the morning air,20
Twined in the tendrils of her nut-brown hair !21
Who has not read in chronicle or fable,22
Of good King Arthur and his famous Table,23
Where Kay and Tristrem talk’d by fits and starts24
Of love and murder, broken heads and hearts ?25
Like this the modern talk at time of tea,26
Of the Round Table and its chivalry,27
Who speak, with even voice and equal zest,28
Of hearts ensnared, and heads absurdly drest.29
Tis true, a softer race the board environ,30
Who corslets wear indeed, but not of iron ;31
Who play—but seldom combat by the card,32
And drink—but drink not through the helmet barr’d,33
The fair alone with Chalybean proof,34
Support their busts, their lovers keep aloof,35
The Muse is female, and may dare reveal36
What I have heard, and some, perhaps, may feel.37
King Arthur kept his court in Camelot,38
But the Round Table graces every cot.39
Palace and farm enjoy the gentle feast40
That blends the products of the West and East.41
Where’er, on British ground, our footsteps roam,42
We find it still, and find it too at home.43
Whether till eight the formal guests delay,44
Or meet at seven in a friendly way :45
Sooner or later, still the board is crown’d46
The lacquer’d tray and argent spoons resound47
The homely delft, or far-sought porcelain,48
In circling ranks are marshall’d on the plain.49
The polish’d chest with curious art inlaid,50
Or quaintly wrought by some ingenious maid,51
Displays the lawful spoils of venturous trade.52
But not alike in a place and time,53
The social banquet that provokes my rhyme ;54
Not social there, where law or logic lours,55
At inns of court, or academic bowers :56
In silence sip the solitary tribes57
Of lank-jaw’d students, and of sallow scribes.58
Pot after pot is drain’d, yet not a word 59
From lady’s lip in those confines is heard :60
Nought save the knell of “ midnight’s dreary noon,”61
And the dull jingle of the circling spoon.62
Hie we from thence, nor shall we long delay63
About the homely meal of every day :64
For the dear comforts of domestic tea65
Are sung too well to stand in need of me,66
By Cowper and the bard of Rimini.67
Besides, I hold it for a species grace68
That such a theme is rather common-place.69
The joyous blazing of the new-stirr’d fire,70
The mother’s summons to the dozing sire ;71
The whispers audible, that oft intrude72
On the forced silence of the younger brood ;73
The blooming daughter’s ever-ready smile,74
So full of meaning, and so void of guile ;75
With all the little, mighty things that cheer76
The closing day from quiet year to year,77
I leave to those whom more benignant fate78
Or merit destines to the wedded state.79
A stranger I, a wanderer upon earth,80
A thriftless prodigal of tears and mirth,81
Must learn, without a cherish’d hope, to see82
The loving looks that look not love to me ;83
Happy, if time at length shall teach me this,84
To find my proper joy in others’ bliss :85
But ne’er be mine the selfish heart forlorn,86
The tear of envy, or the laugh of scorn.87
I grow too grave, and must in haste return88
To the frail China, and resplendent Urn.89
Behold the table spread, the lady set ;90
Matrons and spinsters, all are duly met ;91
The younger belles disposed in seatter’d troops,92
In rows demure, or gaily whispering groups ;93
The female elders chat the time away,94
(I often wonder what they find to say,)95
Or sort the pearly fish in painted pools,96
(Their light exchequers,) while their coffee cools.97
What various tones from female organs flow,98
How briskly smooth, or languishingly slow ;99
The pretty creatures laugh, and weep, and rail,100
In all gradations of the vocal scale,101
From fell Xantippe’s emphasis of brass102
To the soft murmur of the melting lass ;103
The smoking board sets all their tongues in motion,104
Like many billows of the voiceful ocean ;105
From note to note the keen remark descends,106
In squalls begins, and in a whisper ends.107
For loud and shrill the bulky bourgeoise108
Accosts the beauty of departed days109
With accents tuned with unavailing skill,110
The Vestal answers to the Matron shrill ;111
With temper’d melody of cautious speech112
The Hostess doubts, and yet accords with each :113
Then round and round the breezy murmurs glide,114
And every absent Miss is named a Bride.115
Yon rosy lassy, just arrived from school,116
Where all must look, and think, and feel by rule,117
Uneasy novice of an order strict,118
That on her tongue has laid an interdict,119
With her small hands the weighty secret spells,120
And weaves her fingers into syllables.121
Of things like these my infant mind took note122
Ere yet my limbs had felt the strait culotte :123
Ill could I else by human wit divine124
What Ladies do, when Gents are at their wine.125
At length the summons of the simpering Maid,126
Or bold-faced footman, tardily obey’d,127
Calls Lords, and Knights, and Squires, and Priests, and Bards,128
From White and Red to Coffee, Tea, and Cards.129
When the rude North comes roaring up the vale,130
To silence sinks the lily-bending gale :131
So sinks the converse of the soft-robed clan132
At the hard step of heavy-tramping man.133
Lost is the tale, adjourn’d the cutting jest,134
The secret kept, the sly charade unguess’d.135
With many a smother’d laugh, and many a flush,136
The buzzing watch-word passes—hush—hush—hush137
’Tis but the Parson—perhaps it is but I138
Then wherefore, Ladies, all this mystery ?139
The Parson, sure, cannot excite your fears,140
And I, you know, have neither eyes nor ears141
Then let the tale, the jest, the laugh revive,142
As if there were not such a quiz alive.143
Oh ! let me hear your sweetness ; and I’m stunn’d144
With thine, Ricardo, and the Sinking Fund.145
As when victorious troops, to pillage bound,146
In scatter’d bands, obey the bugle’s sound,147
So, one by one, the jovial swains repair148
To the soft standard of the muster’d fair.149
First, the prim Dangler, complaisant and sleek,150
With frill that flutters, and with shoes that creak,151
Tells all the news to every aged she,152
And points each slander with a low congee ;153
Pays for each morsel that the Lady gives154
With parasitical superlatives :155
Whate’er he tastes—’tis excellent—divine156
Above the Coffee—as below the Wine.157
Next comes a thing, I know not how to name,158
Of doubtful sex, which neither sex will claim159
So rank with Bergamot and Attargul,160
That every nose will wind him for a fool161
A thing so fine, so exquisitely nice,162
It has no gout for virtue, no—nor vice.163
Its waspish waist, elaborately thin,164
Its heartless leer, and apathetic grin165
That arching eyebrow of inane pretence,166
That eye of unimpassion’d impudence167
Are these permitted at a lady’s side ?168
Forbid it, Modesty, and Maiden pride.169
Shall he your soft embosom’d thoughts engage170
That joins the negatives of youth and age ?171
Boyish in brain, in heart as weak and cold172
As a French Courtier fifty winters old.173
Yet oft the feeling heart, the thinking brain,174
Attempt to ape him, but attempt in vain :175
For, let kind. Nature do the best she can,176
’Tis Woman still that makes or mars the Man. 177
And so it is—the creature can beguile178
The fairest faces of the readiest smile.179
The next that comes the Hyson to inhale,180
If not a Man, at least we own a Male ;181
His worst offences are against your ears,182
For, though he laughs too loud, he seldom sneers.183
He knows the Coachman’s craft, the Hunter’s hollo,184
The Fancy phrase, that might confound Apollo.185
Right well he loves, in Row, or Lark, or Spree,186
To “ sound the base string of humility.”187
His rural friends are Nimrod’s genuine seed,188
The best among them are his Dog and Steed.189
His town acquaintance, form’d on midnight bulks,190
Adorn the Nubbing Cheat, or man the Hulks.191
With iron grasp—with face and voice of Brass,192
He shouts loud greeting to each bonny lass.—193
Then bolts his tea—and straight begins a story194
Of Hunter’s perils, or of Bruiser’s glory.195
Talks in an unknown tongue of Max and Milling,196
And doubtless fancies he is mighty killing.197
Now up the stairs, disputing all the way,198
Two keen logicians urge their wordy fray :199
Abrupt they enter, voluble and loud,200
But soon remember that they have not bow’d ;201
That error mended, both at once relate202
To some fair Maid the subject of debate :203
To her kind judgment both at once refer204
For each expects a judgment kind from her.205
But she, too meek, too witty, and too wise,206
To judge between the vassals of her eyes,207
To each Polemic seeming to incline208
Allots to each the happy chance—to shine.209
Through four full cups their nice distinctions run,210
And all suppose them just where they begun :211
Till a gruff senior, and his as nose,212
Arrive to part the Dialectic Foes.213
Young Men,” says he, “ be sure you both are wrong,214
And all your Theories are not worth a song :215
The point is one that elder heads has puzzled ;216
Presumptuous boys like you should all be muzzled.”217
Then to the maid he turns his solemn pace,218
And gravely tells her he has judged the case.219
But now the lingering votaries of port220
Make to the fair—their long-delay’d resort.221
What bulky forms around the table press ! 222
D. D. and LL. D. and A. S. S.223
The china rings—the urn is nigh o’erset,224
By such a Bacchanalian Alphabet.225
With glowing faces, and with watery eyes,226
They pass about their pursy gallantries.227
What beauties they in every dame behold228
Inspired adorers of the plain and old :229
If men were still so happy and so blind,230
Could men or women call their fate unkind ?231
They not remark the glance—the laugh supprest232
In the pert virgin’s newly-budded breast ;233
Nor see their wives’ contracted brow severe,234
Their daughter’s blush, that moves the Dandy’s sneer ;235
Nay, scarce young Nimrod’s merry roar can hear.236
Hark—like the rumble of a coming storm,237
Without we hear the dreadful word, Reform238
Last of the rout, and dogg’d with public cares,239
The politician stumbles up the stairs ;240
Whose dusky soul not beauty can illume,241
Nor wine dispel his patriotic gloom.242
From guest to guest in turbid ire he goes,243
And ranks us all among our country’s foes.244
Says ’tis a shame that we should take our tea245
Till wrongs are righted, and the nation free ;246
That priests and poets are a venal race,247
Who preach for patronage, and rhyme for place ;248
That boys and girls are crazy to be cooing,249
When England’s a is bankruptey and ruin ;250
That wiser ’twere the coming wrath to fly,251
And that old women should make haste to die.252
As froward infants cry themselves to sleep,253
If unregarded they are left to weep,254
So patriot zeal, if unopposed, destroys255
Its strength with fervour, and its breath with noise.256
Allow’d resistless as the Son of Ammon,257
Behold the great Reformer at Backgammon :258
Debt, taxes, boroughs, and decline of price,259
Forgotten all, he only damns the dice.260
But pause—the urn that sweetly sung before,261
Like a crack’d lute, is vocal now no more ;262
Dry as the footsteps of the ebbing sea,263
Effete and flaccid lie the leaves of tea.264
And I, who always keep the golden mean,265
Have just declined a seventh cup of green.266
The noise, the tumult of that hour is flown ;267
Lost in quadrille, whist, commerce, or Pope Joan,268
With eager haste my theme is clear’d away ;269
And, Tea concluded, shall conclude my lay.270