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[John Gibson Lockhart]
On the Cockney School of Poetry. No. VIII.
Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine  Vol. 18  No. 102  (July 1825)  155-60.
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No. CII. JULY, 1825. Vol. XVIII.

Bacchus in Tuscany. By Leigh Hunt. London, 1825.

Mr Leigh Hunt and we have been so long separated by cruel time and space, whom the gods will not annihilate so as to make two lovers happy, that our meeting now is of the warmest kind; nor would it be right, if it were possible, to restrain the ardour of our friendship. Heaven knows, that any little disagreements that have ever occurred between us, were attributable solely to his own petulance, and that he has always found us ready to forgive and forget. Mr Hunt is well known to be an amiable man, in spite of his Cockneyisms; and, for a long series of Numbers, we did our best to cure him of that distemper. We purged him—we bled him—we blistered him—we bandaged him—but all would not do—we could not reach the seat of the disease. It was in his blood, his bone, and his brain; and to have cured, it would have been absolutely necessary to have killed him, which our feelings would not permit. We therefore let him alone, and ordered him to Italy. He obeyed our mandate with laudable alacrity; and from the following letter to his brother John, it would seem that our interesting patient is in the way of convalescence:—

My Dear John,—I cannot send you, as I could wish, a pipe of Tuscan wine, or a hamper of Tuscan sunshine, which is much the same thing; so in default of being able to do this, I do what I can, and send you, for a new year’s present, a translation of a Tuscan bacchanal.

“May it give you a hundredth part of the elevation which you have often caused to the heart of

“Your affectionate Brother,
Leigh Hunt.
Florence, January 1, 1825.”

This is written in a pleasant vein; yet, strange to say, it makes us melancholy. We anticipate the most serious consequences to Mr Hunt’s ultimate health, from the sudden and violent change of regimen indicated in this epistle dedicatory.

For many years—indeed during the whole of his youth and prime of manhood—Mr Hunt lived on the poorest diet. When editor of the Examiner, he used to publish a weekly bulletin of the state of his bowels, which, we are sorry to say, were almost always weak and sadly out of order. Contrary to our earnest and urgent entreaties, he would drink nothing stronger than saloop. He absolutely drenched his stomach with that beverage; occasionally, to be sure, he had recourse to the weakest of teas—nor in hottest weather did he not indulge in a limited allowance of lemonade. But it is sufficiently correct for general purposes like ours, to say that he abjured all potent potations—that his liquids were thin and attenuated to a degree—and that nothing generous was suffered to mingle with his daily drink. His solids were equally unsatisfactory. A mere wafer of fatless ham, between the finest shives of bread, constituted a breakfast—of the forenoon abstinences of Lisson Grove, a lunch would have been a ludicrous misnomer—at the sight of a sirloin, he would have immediately fainted away beside the dinner-board—and an ounce of tripe would to him have been a heavy supper. These are all matters of private concern; but our amiable patient endeavoured to create for them a deep public interest. He made frequent appeal to the people of England on his temperance, and often concluded a
156The Cockney School of Poetry. No. VIII.
leading article on the state of Europe, by information concerning the state of his own stomach, which for the present shall be left to the reader’s imagination. Kings knew when he had a cough—the People were summoned to behold the wry face with which he took a purge or a bolus emetic—and both Houses of Parliament were told to suspend their deliberations when he moved an adjournment to the garden. Many, indeed, were the daily, as well as weekly, periodicals, which he at that time edited; and it did not require a person of our perspicacity to see, that the King of Cockney-Land was fast hurrying to an untimely grave. “O for a blast of that dread horn,” to warn him from such deleterious diet! But, Cassandra-like, we prophesied in vain, ruin, shame, expatriation, and death to this great Trojan. What got we for our truly Christian pains, but infatuated disregard, or still more infatuated abuse? Cup after cup of saloop did he continue to swallow in defiance of us—his inspired oracle. With a libation of unmixed water from the New-River did he devote us to the infernal gods—or, with long and loud gulps of thrice-distilled bohea, desecrate us to the Furies. With an air of offended majesty, that was meant to wither us into annihilation, he drew on his yellow breeches till their amplitude embraced his regal seat of honour, and perking up his little finger, that glittered with a crisp brooch containing a lock of
Milton’s hair (congenial spirit), he ever and anon for our poor sakes cast Scotland with all her pines into the sea. Still our affection for our unhappy patient was unabated. We, Z., were called in; and that severe practitioner sent him first to Coventry, then to Pisa, and finally to Florence.

“In medio tutissimus ibis,” were the last words that Z. addressed to his majesty on his embarkation for Italy. How miserably that wisest advice has been neglected too clearly appears from this volume! Always in extremes, Mr Hunt must needs now tipple all day long. “Wine—wine—generous wine,” is his waking and sleeping war-cry! His slokening slogan! What a change, from a four-cup-o-tea-man into a three-bottle toper o’ strong drink! He that used to sip like a grashopper, now swills like a hippopotamus. Instead of “praying for another dish of saloop,” he calls with an oath for a bumper of “Monte Pulciano, the king of all wine.” Hear, Cockney-land! the Audacious Apostate.

“Cups of chocolate,
Aye, or tea,
Are not medicines
Made for me.
I would sooner take to poison,
Than a single cup set eyes on
Of that bitter and guilty stuff ye
Talk of by the name of coffee!
Let the Arabs and the Turks
Count it ’mongst their cruel works:
Foe of mankind, black and turbid,
Let the throats of slaves absorb it.
Down in Tartarus,
Down in Erebus,
’Twas the detestable Fifty invented it:
The Furies then took it,
To grind and to cook it,
And to Proserpine all three presented it.
If the Mussulman in Asia
Doats on a beverage so unseemly,
I differ with the man extremely.”

Was there, in the whole history of men or angels, ever such another shocking abandonment of principle! Here is a king, who, during a long and prosperous reign, had ruled over Cockney-land according to those principles which seated him on the throne of those realms. And now, hear it, O Heaven! and give ear, thou Earth! He breaks through every tie held most sacred within sound of Bow-Bell, abjures all that he ever gloried in, and, not satisfied with forgetting the objects once dearest to him in life, bids them all go to hell together!
“Down in Tartarus,
Down in Erebus,”
and sends after their descent into those dismal regions a shower of curses, to embitter their final fall and irretrievable ruin. What is the worst conduct of the Holy Alliance to this! What a crash among the crockery! cups and saucers, poories and tea-pots, muffin-plates and sugar-basins, all kicked to the bottomless pit in one undistinguishable overthrow! If there be any public spirit, any patriotism, any independence, any freedom in that Land, the present King’s crown is not worth three weeks’ purchase. Where sleepest thou, O Tims the Avenger? We are willing to pawn our pen that thou wilt not suffer this sacrilegious despot long to trample upon the charities of life.

“I would sooner take to poison,
Than a single cup set eyes on,
Of that bitter and guilty stuff ye
Talk of by the name of coffee!”
Bacchus in Tuscany. 157

Monster of iniquity! are you not afraid that the bolt of heaven will strike you dead in your impiety? Yet mark how, in spite of, and unknown to, himself, he abjures the dearest principles in the choicest language of Cockneydom! He curses the coffee that he drew in with his mother’s milk, in language that proves his lineal descent from King Lud; and avows his preference of poison, in terms redolent of saloop, the most innoxious of liquids that gurgle from the fountains of Cheapside.

Nothing is so tiresome in criticism as dwelling too long on one key. Let us therefore change the key, and strike a different note. What think you, gentle reader, of Leigh Hunt, who so long enacted the character of “Apollar in Cockaigne,” undertaking that of “Bacchus in Tuscany?” Must he not be a perfect Jack of all trades? In good truth, Leigh Hunt is never in is proper element, unless he be a Heathen God. We remember he once performed Jupiter Tonans, but his thunder was so poor that it would not have soured small beer. As he shook his locks, his wig fell off, a disaster which convulsed Olympus. His mode of handling the eagle betrayed a most ungodlike timidity of his talons, and his behaviour to Hebe, “with such an air,” was about as celestial as that of a natty Bagman to the barmaid of the Hen and Chickens. As he swore by Styx, his face was as prim as that of an apprentice to a button-maker making an affidavy, and in the character of Cloud-compeller, he could not have been backed against ODoherty with a cigar. In Bacchus he is equally droll. Instead of rolling on in a car drawn by tigers, or lions, or panthers, Leigh makes his entrée in a sort of shandry-dan, lugged along by a brace of donkeys. What a conqueror of India! Lord have mercy upon him, he could with difficulty cross the kennel. As well might the poor starved apothecary assert himself to be Sir John Falstaff. Why, he cannot even look rosy about the gills. He cannot show an “honest face.” That is a most ineffectual stagger. But, hear! hear!

“God’s my life, what glorious claret!
Blessed be the ground that bare it!
’Tis Avignon. Don’t say ‘a flask of it,’
Into my soul I pour ‘a cask of it!’
Artiminos finer still,
Under a tun there’s no having one’s fill:
A tun!—a tun!
The deed is done.”

We much fear that Mr Hunt never was drunk; and if we are right in our apprehension, pray what right has he to enact Bacchus in Tuscany? Is he not, Adjutant, shamming Abraham, pretending to be bouzy, in the following dismal chaunt of merriment?

Ciccio d’Andrea himself one day,
’Mid his thunders of eloquence bursting away,
Sweet in his gravity,
Fierce in his suavity,
Dared in my own proper presence to talk,
Of that stuff of Aversa, half acid and chalk.
Which, whether it’s verjuice, or whether it’s wine,
Far surpasses, I own, any science of mine.
Let him indulge in his strange tipples
With his proud friend, Fasano there, at Naples,
Who with a horrible impiety
Swore he could judge of wines as well as I.
So daring has that bold blasphemer grown,
He now pretends to ride my golden throne,
And taking up my triumphs, rolls along
The fair Sebetus with a fiery song;
Pampering, besides, those laurels that he wears
With vines that fatten in those genial airs;
And then he maddens, and against e’en me
A Thyrsus shakes on high, and threats his deity:
But I withhold at present, and endure him:
Phœbus and Pallas from mine ire secure him.
One day, perhaps, on the Sebetus, I
Will elevate a throne of luxury;
And then he will be humbled, and will come,
Offering devoutly, to avert his doom,
Ischia’s and Posilippo’s noble Greek:
And then perhaps I shall not scorn to make
Peace with him, and will booze like Hans and Herman
After the usage German:
And ’midst our bellying bottles and vast flasks
There shall be present at our tasks
For lofty arbiter (and witness gay too)
My gentle Marquis there of Oliveto.”

Thou pimpled spirit of Drunken Barnaby! What thinkest thou of this Bacchanal, nay, of this Bacchus? Is he not enough to set the table in a snore? However, let him drivel on, and then sconce him in a tumbler of salt and water.

“Let me purify my mouth
In an holy cup o’ the south;
In a golden pitcher let me
Head and ears for comfort get me,
158 The Cockney School of Poetry. No. VIII.
And drink of the wine of the vine benign,
That sparkles warm in Sansovine;
Or of that vermilion charmer
And heart warmer,
Which brought up in Tregonzano
An old stony giggiano,
Blooms so bright and lifts the head so
Of the toasters of Arezzo.
’Twill be haply still more up,
Sparkling, piquant, quick i’ the cup,
If, O page, adroit and steady,
In thy tuck’d-up choral surplice,
Thou infusest that Albano,
That Vaiano,
Which engoldens and empurples
In the grounds there of my Redi.”

Come now, Hunt, off with your salt and water.—What! will you rebel against the chair? you have been sconced for an hour’s consummate and unprovoked drivelling, which you are pleased to call drunkenness; but that won’t go down in such a company as this—so—that’s a good boy—a little wider—that will do!

See how it runs down his gizzern,
His gizzern, his gizzern,
See how it runs down his gizzern,
Ye ho, ye ho, ye ho!!

Now that you have submitted your self with a tolerably good grace to lawful authority, O Bacchus in Tuscany, another strain!

“What wine is that I see? Ah,
Bright as a John Dory:
It should be Malvagia,
Trebbia’s praise and glory.
It is, i’faith, it is:
Push it nearer, pri’thee;
And let me, thou fair bliss,
Fill this magnum with thee.
I’ faith, it’s a good wine,
And much agrees with me.
Here’s a health to thee and thy line,
Prince of Tuscany.”

Bravo! Bravissimo! Encore! Encore! still a small smell of saloop—but very fair—very fair for a novice. Go on, my dear Leigh. Never mind the Aspirates. Come, be classical.

“To the sound of the cymbal,
And sound of the crotalus,
Girt with your Nebrides,
Ho, ye Bassarides,
Up, up, and mingle me
Cups of that purple grape,
Which, when ye grapple, ye
Bless Monterappoli.
Then, while I irrigate
These my dry viscera,
For they burn inwardly,
Let my Fauns cleverly
Cool my hot head with their
Garlands of pampinus.
Then to the crash of your
Pipes and your kettle-drums,
Let me have sung to me,
Roar’d to me, rung to me,
Catches and love-songs
Of wonderful mystery;
While the drunk Mænades,
And glad Egipani,
To the rude rapture and mystical wording
Bear a loud burden.
From the hill before us
Let the villagers raise o’er us
Clappings to our chorus;
And all around resound
Talabalacs, tamburins, and horns,
And pipes, and bagpipes, and the things you know, boys,
That cry out Ho-boys!”

Bacchus! my worthy fellow, have you forgot Ariadne?

“The ruby dew that stills
Upon Valdarno’s hills,
Touches the sense with odour so divine,
That not the violet,
With lips with morning wet,
Utters such sweetness from her little shrine.
When I drink of it, I rise
Over the hill that makes poets wise,
And in my voice and in my song,
Grow so sweet and grow so strong,
I challenge Phœbus with his delphic eyes.
Give me then, from a golden measure,
The ruby that is my treasure, my treasure;
And like to the lark that goes maddening above,
I’ll sing songs of love!
Songs will I sing more moving and fine,
Than the bubbling and quaffing of Gersole wine.
Then the rote shall go round,
And the cymbals kiss,
And I’ll praise Ariadne,
My beauty, my bliss!
I’ll sing of her tresses,
I’ll sing of her kisses;
Now, now it increases,
The fervour increases,
The fervour, the boiling and venemous bliss.”

Hush—halt. You are bringing the blush into the virgin cheek of ODoherty. Change the measure into something more chaste.

“He who drinks water,
I wish to observe,
Gets nothing from me;
He may eat it and starve,
Whether it’s well, or whether it’s fountain,
Or whether it comes foaming white from the mountain,
I cannot admire it,
Nor ever desire it:
Bacchus in Tuscany. 159
’Tis a fool, and a madman, and impudent wretch,
Who now will live in a nasty ditch,
And then grow proud, and full of his whims,
Comes playing the devil and cursing his brims,
And swells, and tumbles, and bothers his margins,
And ruins the flowers, although they be virgins.
Moles and piers, were it not for him,
Would last for ever,
If they’re built clever;
But no—it’s all one with him—sink or swim.
Let the people yclept Mameluke
Praise the Nile without any rebuke;
Let the Spaniards praise the Tagus;
I cannot like either, even for negus.
If any follower of mine
Dares so far forget his wine,
As to drink an atom of water,
Here’s the hand should devote him to slaughter.
Let your meagre doctorlings
Gather herbs and such like things;
Fellows, that with streams and stills
Think to cure all sorts of ills.
I’ve no faith in their washery,
Nor think it worth a glance of my eye:
Yes, I laugh at them for that matter,
To think how they, with their heaps of water,
Petrify their sculls profound,
And make ’em all so thick and so round,
That Viviani, with all his mathematics,
Would fail to square the circle of their attics.
Away with all water,
Wherever I come;
I forbid it ye, gentlemen,
All and some;
Lemonade water,
Jessamine water,
Our tavem knows none of ’em,
Water’s a hum.
Jessamine makes a pretty crown;
But as a drink, ’twill never go down.
All your hydromels and flips
Come not near these prudent lips.
All your sippings and sherbets.
And a thousand such pretty sweets,
Let your mincing ladies take ’em,
And fops whose little fingers ache ’em.
Wine! Wine! is your only drink;
Grief never dares to look at the brink;’
Six times a-year to be mad with wine,
I hold it no shame, but a very good sign.
I, for my part, take my can,
Solely to act like a gentleman.”

Why, Bacchus, your enemy Somnus has been in the room all the time you were singing. He has this moment gone to the door; but give us another stave, and there can be no doubt of his speedy return.

“Hallo! What phenomenon’s this,
That makes my head turn round?
I’faith I think it is
A turning of the ground!
Ho, ho, earth,
If that’s your mirth,
It may not, I think, be amiss for me
To leave the earth, and take to the sea.
Hallo there, a boat! a boat!
As large as can float,
As large as can float, and stock’d plenteously;
For that’s the ballast, boys, for the salt sea.
Here, here, here,—here’s one of glass;
Yet through a storm it can dance with a lass.
I’ll embark, I will, For my gentle sport,
And drink as I’m used
’Till I settle in Port—
Rock, rock,—wine is my stock,
Wine is my stock, and will bring us to Port.
Row, brothers, row,
We’ll sail and we’ll go,
We’ll all go sailing and rowing to Port—
Ariadne, to Por—to Port.
Oh what a thing
’Tis for you and for me,
On an evening in spring,
To sail in the sea!
The little fresh airs
Spread their silver wings,
And o’er the blue pavement
Dance love-makings.
To the tune of the waters, and tremulous glee,
They strike up a dance to people at sea.
Row, brothers, row,
We’ll sail and we’ll go,
We’ll sail and we’ll go, till we settle in Port—
Ariadne, in Por—in Port.
Pull away, pull away,
Without drag or delay;
No gallants grow tired, but think it a sport,
To feather their oars till they settle in Port.
Ariadne, in Por—in Port.
I’ll give you a toast,
And then, you know, you,
Arianeeny, my beauty, my queeny,
Shall sing me a little, and play to me too
On the mandòla, the coocooroocoo,
The coocooroocoo,
The coocooroocoo,
On the mandòla, the coocooroocoo.
A long pu—
A strong pu—
160 The Cockney School of Poetry. No. VIII.
A long pull, and strong pull, and pull altogether!
Gallants and boasters, who know how to feather,
Never get tired, but think it a sport,
To feather their oars, till they settle in port—
Ariadne, in Por—Port;
I’ll give thee a toas—
I’ll give thee a toast—and then, you know, you
Shall give me one too.
Arianeey, my quainty, my queeny,
Sing me, you ro—
Sing me, you ro—
Sing me, you rogue, and play me, do,
On the viò—
On the viòla, the coocooroocoo,
The coocooroocoo,
The coocooroocoo,
On the viòla, the coocooroocoo.”
Enter Mr Ambrose.

Mr Ambrose. I beg pardon, sir,—didn’t you ring the bell?

North. Yes, Ambrose. Take Bacchus in Tuscany to the Cherry Chamber. You see that he has reached an era of the highest civilization.

Bac. On the viola, the coocooroocoo!

The coocooroocoo,
The coocooroocoo,
On the viòla, the coocooroocoo!

ODoherty. Damn the ninny—more oysters.