Recollections Of A Faded Beauty

written by

« Reload image

AH! I remember when I was a girl
How my hair naturally used to curl,
And how my aunt four yards of net would pucker,
And call the odious thing, 'Diana's tucker.'
I hated it, because although, you see,
It did for her, it didn't do for me.
(Popkins said I should wear a low corsage,
But this I know was merely badinage.)
I recollect the gaieties of old--
Ices when hot, and punch when we were cold!
Race-balls, and county-balls, and balls where you,
For seven shillings, got dance and supper too.
Oh! I remember all the routs and plays--
"But words are idle," as Lord Byron says;
And so am I, and therefore can spare time,
To put my recollections into rhyme.
I recollect the man who did declare
When I was at the fair, myself was fair:
(I had it in my album for three years,
And often looked, and shed delicious tears.)
I didn't fall in love, however, then,
Because I never saw that man again.
And I remember Popkins--ah! too well!
And all who once in love with Chloë fell.
They called me Chloë for they said my grace
Was nymph-like; as was also half my face.
My mouth was wide, but then I had a smile
Which might a demon of its tears beguile.--
As Captain Popkins said, or rather swore,
He liked me, (ah! my Popkins!) all the more.
He couldn't bear a little mouth, for when
It laughed, 'twas like a long slit in a pen;
Or button-hole stretched on too big a button;
Or little cut for gravy in boiled mutton.
(Popkins was clever)--but I must proceed
More regularly, that my friends may read.
I didn't marry, for I couldn't get
A man I liked; I havn't got one yet;
But I had handsome lovers by the score:
Alas! alas! I always sighed for more.

First came young Minton, of the ninth Hussars,
His eyes were bright and twinkling as the stars.
There was, indeed, a little little cast,
But he assured me that it would not last;
And only came, when he, one cold bivouac,
Gazed on the foe, and could not turn it back--
The chill was so intense! Poor Minton, I
Really did think he certainly would die.
He gave me of himself a little print;
The painter did not see or heed the squint.
Squint it was not--but one eye sought the other
With tenderness, as 'twere a young twin brother.
He gave it, and he sighed: oh! often after
The memory of that sigh hath chill'd my laughter.
I'm sure I might have married him, but then
I never did enough encourage men:
And somehow he made love to Anna Budge;
I never owed the ugly minx a grudge,
Though, God knows, she was cross and plain enough.
The things he us'd to say to her--such stuff!

Then came young Frederic Mortimer de Veaux:
A cruel, faithless wretch, that work'd me woe.
But such a man! so tall, so straight--he took
A lady's heart away at every look.
Such a hooked nose, such loads of curly hair--
Such a pale, wild, intense, Byronic air;
And his whole soul, (as he himself has said,)
"Wandering about among the mighty dead."
He had read books, and rather liked to show it,
And always spoke like an inspired poet.
Last time we met, my heart prophetic drew
A mournful omen from his wild adieu:
I wrote it down, when he had closed the door.
All I remembered--would it had been more!--
"Allah hu! shall I ever behold thee again,
Sweet cause of my transport--dear cause of my pain?
Al, hamdu il Illah! what place can be fair,
My Rose of the Desert, if thou art not there?
Yet I go--for stern duty compels me to do so--
From the world where my heart is, like far-banished Crusoe.
Gul's gardens invite me, but Fate says, depart,
Bismillah! farewell, young Haidee of my heart!"
Was it not beautiful? it was--ah, me!--
Who would have thought such lips could traitors be?
Who could have thought, who saw his bright eye burn,
He spoke--intending never to return?

Then Mr. Humley asked aunt's leave to wed,
And winked, and asked if love was in my head,
Or heart; and then proceeding things to settle,
(Helping my aunt the while to lift the kettle,)--
Said, "you shall have a cozy home, my dear,
And fifty pounds (to buy you clothes) a year.
And we must get your aunt, or some kind fairy
To teach you how to churn and mind the dairy."
'A cozy home!' why, did one ever hear
Of such a man? and, to call me "my dear:"
Me--I was Frederick Mortimer's heart's Haidee;
Young Minton's star of hope and gladness--me!
But I refused him; though my aunt did say
"That it was an advantage thrown away;"--
(He an advantage!)--"that she'd make me rue it--
Make me a nun--" I'd like to see her do it!
Down, down, rebellious heart! I am a nun,
At least, the same as if I had been one.
I do repent I thought myself too comely;
I do repent I am not Mrs. Humley!

Then, cold and cautious, came young Archy Campbell.
Full many a sunset walk, and pleasant ramble,
I took with him; but I grew weary soon,
Because, instead of turning from the moon
To gaze on me, he bade me look with him,
And wondered when her light would grow more dim,
And the world fade away. I should have tired
Before our honey-moon had half expired.

Oh! loved when first I met thee, and for ever,
Thou, from whom cold caprice hath made me sever--
Where art thou, Popkins?--Captain Popkins! oh!
Dear recollection and delicious woe!
Most generous, most genteel. Oh! thou, alas!
"Of the best class, and better than thy class,"
Where art thou? Ah! it matters not to me;
By Chloë's side thou never more shalt be!
How sweetly didst thou sing "Those Evening Bells"--
Still the dear echo in my bosom swells:
How gaily didst thou dance, how clearly whistle!
How neatly fold each elegant epistle!
How thin thy pumps were, and how bright thy boot,
('Twas that brought "Warren's blacking" in repute.)
How nameless was thy majesty of form,
Making each man look like a wriggling worm,
That dared beside thy shoulders' broad expanse
To venture his lank shape. By what sweet chance
Did all, that would have been defects in others,
(Whom yet you deemed your fellow-men and brothers,)
Turn to perfection when beheld in you;
Tho' short, yet graceful; fat, but active too!

He wrote, adored, proposed--but some curst power
Bade me nip off his young Hope's budding flower:
I did not even answer that sweet letter,
Because I thought, perhaps, I'd get a better.
Oh! Chloë, tear thy hair, and beat thy breast;
How couldst thou get a better than the best?
'Tis over now--the agony, despair,
With which I beat that breast, and tore that hair;
When one unmeaning note of cold adieu,
Mixed with reproach, was all my silence drew.
Gone, and for ever!--I could scarce believe it:
Surely he wrote, and I did not receive it!
Vain hope! he went--he was my heart's one love;
All other men, all other loves, above.
I would have married him without a penny,
Each lover after him was one too many!

There was a certain Irishman, indeed,
Who borrowed Cupid's darts to make me bleed.
My aunt said he was vulgar; he was poor,
And his boots creaked, and dirtied her smooth floor.
She hated him; and when he went away,
He wrote--I have the verses to this day:--

Wirasthru! then, my beautiful jewel,
I'm quite tired out of my life.
I can't fight with Fortune a duel,
I cannot have you for a wife.
The beauties of nature adorning
No longer afford me delight:
In the night, och! I wish it were morning,
In the morning I wish it were night!

For your aunt, she has writ me a letter,
(Och, den, she's a sad dirty rogue!)
Does she think other men love you better,
Becase I've a bit of the brogue?
In regard to the fighting and swearing,
Sure, jewel, it's all for the best;
Just to drown all the grumbling and tearing,
That gives my poor stomach no rest.

Small work I've had late at the carvin',
Less than none I can't have, any how;
And ye wouldn't deny, when he's starvin',
Your Danny a bit of a row?
Then, good night to you, love, or good morrow;
Sure, it's all just the same which I say,
For the differ is small, to my sorrow,
When one gets neither breakfast, nor tay!

Now was this vulgar, which was'said or sung?'
Or but the ling'ring of his native tongue
In ears which thought it music; being such
As he had known in childhood's early years,
What time we suffer little, and hope much;
And oft turn back to gaze upon with tears!
I liked him, and I liked his verses; but
In some vile squabble, as to where he put
His walking-stick, and whether sticks were stronger
For being cut on Irish ground, or longer,
He lost his life; and I my last real love:
For though a few still round me used to rove,
Whether they had not half his sense and merit--
I never have loved since with any spirit!

© Caroline Norton