From Punch, 6 August 1859

Comrades, you may leave me sitting in the mouldy arbour here,
With the chicken-bones before me and the empty punch-bowl near.

'Rack' they called the punch that in it fiercely fumed, and freely flowed:
By the pains that rack my temples, sure the name was well bestowed.

Leave me comrades, to my musings, 'mid the mildewed timber-damps,
While from sooty branches round me splutter out the stinking lamps.

While through rent and rotten canvas sighs the bone-mill laden breeze;
And the drip-damp statues glimmer through the gaunt and ghastly trees.

And the seedy stucco crumbles from the orchestra hard by;
And the firework-frames like gibbets rear their arms athwart the sky.

And the monster platform stretches blank and bare beneath the moon;
And the night wind through the boxes, wanders with an eery croon.

Let me sit and sadly ponder on the glories of Vauxhall;
Sink this mouldy mildewed present; from its grave the past recall.

Is't the punch that stirs my fancy—or the gooseberry champagne,
Sets phantasmal shapes careering through the chambers of my brain?

Dimly, as though clouds a-steaming from a thousand fragrant bowls,
Periwigged, pulvilio-scented, Charles the Second's revel rolls.

In gay doublet, trimmed and broidered, ribboned shoulder, ribboned knee,
Brouncker rants, and Newport roysters, while Sam Pepys stands by to see —

Sounds the Nightingale's sweet twitter from the green trees overhead;
Shrieks below the City Madam with Court gallants sore bestead.

Hark, 'tis pretty Mrs. Mercer, trolling out Tom D'Urfey's song:
Hark, to Castlemaine's loud laughter — brazen'st of the brazen throng.

Saucy Jennings with Count Gramont bandying the mot pour rise;
Nell Gwynne fondling handsome Sydney, spite of Buckhurst frowning near.

Charles himself, his black face hidden in a vizor blacker still,
Laughing, ogling, and oddfishing, light of wit and loose of will.

See the cheesecake blithely broken, and the syllabubs afoam;
Hark at Thames, alive with boat-loads, for Spring Gardens, or for home.

Drugget aproned drawers bearing Claret and Canary-pottles
For wild wits and bona-robas to refresh their thirsty throttles:

And through all, sly, smug Sam Pepys, with a twinkle in his eye,
Taking careful note for entry in his Diary, by-and-bye.

Thicker rise the fumes, and faster, but less furious streams the rout,
As Queen Ann's decorous following bows the merry Monarch's out.

See the long, thin-faced Spectator, elbowing his silent way,
For Sir Roger, close behind him, open-mouthed and eyes astray;

Rapt in wonder at the music, and the movement, and the sights;
Elbowed by the vizored Madams, dazzled by the thousand lights.

This way swaggers Steel, half tipsey, but still kindly in his drink;
There good-humoured little Gay, to loose Mat Prior tips the wink.

Swift stalks, rolling indignation in his blazing deep blue eye;
St John laughs off state blue-devils with Lord Oxford smooth and sly.

They have passed and now the Georges usher in a duller race,
Blank the scene, till sudden lighted by the look of Walpole's face.

There he sits — the wizened watcher — cynical and calm and cool,
Ready to note other's follies, or himself to play the fool.

There the Petersham sits blazing with her rouge and saucy stare;
There the crowd applauds the Gunnings — fairest sisters of the fair.

Here trots Bozzy all in triumph with the Doctor on his arm;
While, not less triumphant, Goldy guards "the Jessamy bride" from harm.

Pass, familiar shadows, trooping to the land of Long-ago;
Let the Regency's hot orgies set more brimming bowls aflow,

Room for rampant Colonel Hanger! Bloods and Bucks of Carlton House,
Box the watch and smash the tables, shiver glass, and wax-lights douse.

Room for Prince Hal redivivus — petticoats and pimps and all —
Down before that wig so curly and that coat so creaseless fall!

Room for Almack's maccaronis — room for Brooks's playmen true,
March and Selwyn, Fox and Carlisle — set the punch-bowls blazing blue!

Masquerade and gay Ridotto blend the cream and scum of town;
Statesman's toils, and senate's glories, with Soho's endearments crown.

While o'erhead the ghost of Simpson lifts the ceremonial hat,
In deportment but inferior unto George the Great (by fat).

With such phantoms for evoking, shall I summon sorrier shades?
Ghosts of gentish generations — stray of shops and waif of trades?

Shaddows of cheap shilling galas, flickerings of a dying flame;
Straws by desperate speculation clutched at, in its drowning game?

No —amid these wretched ruins, trees all black and walks all green —
Be the ghosts of my evoking such as graced the ancient scene.

Be they ghosts girt with glory, somewhat sulphurous thought it be;
Ghosts of the Vauxhall that hath been — not of the Vauxhall we see.









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