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The Black Mousquetaire: A Legend Of France

Francois Xavier Auguste was a gay Mousquetaire,
The Pride of the Camp, the delight of the Fair:
He'd a mien so distingu and so dbonnaire,
And shrugg'd with a grace so recherch and rare,
And he twirl'd his moustache with so charming an air,
His moustaches I should say, because he'd a pair,
And, in short, show'd so much of the true savoir faire,
All the ladies in Paris were wont to declare,
That could any one draw
Them from Dian's strict law,
Into what Mrs. Ramsbottom calls a 'Fox Paw,'
It would be Francois Xavier Auguste de St. Foix.
 
Now, I'm sorry to say,
At that time of day,
The Court of Versailles was a little too gay;
The Courtiers were all much addicted to Play,
To Bourdeaux, Chambertin, Frontignac, St. Peray,
Lafitte, Chateau Margaux,
And Sillery (a cargo
On which John Bull sensibly (?) lays an embargo),
While Louis Quatorze
Kept about him, in scores,
What the Noblesse, in courtesy, term'd his 'Jane Shores,'
They were call'd by a much coarser name out of doors.
This, we all must admit, in
A King's not befitting!
For such courses, when followed by persons of quality,
Are apt to detract on the score of morality.
 
Francois Xavier Auguste acted much like the rest of them.
Dress'd, drank, and fought, and chasse'd with the best of them;
Took his oeil de perdrix
Till he scarcely could see,
He would then sally out in the streets for a 'spree;'
His rapier he'd draw,
Pink a Bourgeois,
(A word which the English translate 'Johnny Raw,')
For your thorough French Courtier, whenever the fit he's in,
Thinks it prime fun to astonish a citizen;
And perhaps it's no wonder that this kind of scrapes,
In a nation which Voltaire, in one of his japes
Defines 'an amalgam of Tigers and Apes,'
Should be merely considered as 'Little Escapes.'
But I am sorry to add,
Things are almost as bad
A great deal nearer home, and that similar pranks
Amongst young men who move in the very first ranks,
Are by no means confined to the land of the Franks.
 
Be this as it will,
In the general, still,
Though blame him we must,
It is really but just
To our lively young friend, Francois Xavier Auguste,
To say, that howe'er
Well known his faults were,
At his Bacchanal parties he always drank fair,
And, when gambling his worst, always play'd on the square
So that, being much more of pigeon than rook, he
Lost large sums at faro (a game like 'Blind Hookey'),
And continued to lose, And to give I. O. U.'s,
Till he lost e'en the credit he had with the Jews;
And, a parallel if I may venture to draw
Between Francois Xavier Auguste de St. Foix,
And his namesake, a still more distinguished Francois,
Who wrote to his 'soeur'
From Pavia, 'Mon Coeur,
I have lost all I had in the world fors l'honneur.'
So St. Foix might have wrote
No dissimilar note,
'Vive la bagatelle! toujours gai, idem semper
I've lost all I had in the world but, my temper!'
From the very beginning, Indeed of his sinning,
His air was so cheerful, his manners so winning,
That once he prevailed or his friends coin the tale for him,
On the bailiff who 'nabbed' him, himself to 'go bail' for him.
 
Well, we know in these cases
Your 'Crabs' and 'Deuce Aces'
Are wont to promote frequent changes of places;
Town doctors, indeed, are most apt to declare
That there's nothing so good as the pure 'country air,'
Whenever exhaustion of person, or purse, in
An invalid cramps him, and sets him a cursing;
A habit, I'm very much grieved at divulging,
Francois Xavier Auguste was too prone to indulge in.
But what could be done?
It's clear as the sun,
That, though nothing's more easy than say 'Cut and run!'
Yet a Guardsman can't live without some sort of fun
E'en I or you,
If we'd nothing to do,
Should soon find ourselves looking remarkably blue.
And, since no one denies
What's so plain to all eyes,
It won't, I am sure, create any surprise,
That reflections like these half reduced to despair
Francois Xavier Auguste, the gay Black Mousquetaire.
 
Patience par force! He considered, of course,
But in vain, he could hit on no sort of resource,
Love? Liquor?Law?Loo?
They would each of them do,
There's excitement enough in all four, but in none he
Could hope to get on sans l'argent, i.e. money.
Love?no; ladies like little cadeaux from a suitor.
Liquor?no,that won't do, when reduced to 'the Pewter.'
Then Law? ' tis the same;
It's a very fine game,
But the fees and delays of 'the Courts' are a shame,
As Lord Brougham says himself who's a very great name,
Though the Times made it clear he was perfectly lost in his
Classic attempt at translating Demosthenes,
And don't know his 'particles.'
Who wrote the articles,
Showing his Greek up so, is not known very well;
Many thought Barnes, others Mitchell, some Merivale;
But it's scarce worth debate,
Because from the date
Of my tale one conclusion we safely may draw,
Viz.: 'twas not Francois Xavier Auguste de St. Foix!
 
Loo?No; that he had tried; 'Twas, in fact, his weak side,
But required more than any a purse well supplied.
'Love?Liquor?Law?Loo? No! 'tis all the same story.
Stay! I have it, Ma foi! (that's 'Odds Bobs!') there is GLORY!
Away with dull care!
Vive le Roi! Vive la Guerre!
Peste! I'd almost forgot I'm a Black Mousquetaire!
When a man is like me,
Sans six sous, sans souci,
A bankrupt in purse,
And in character worse,
With a shocking bad hat, and his credit at zero,
What on earth can he hope to become,but a Hero?
What a famous thought this is!
I'll go as Ulysses
Of old did, like him I'll see manners and know countries;
Cut Paris,and gaming,and throats in the Low Countries,'
 
So said, and so done, he arranged his affairs,
And was off like a shot to his Black Mousquetaires.
 
Now it happen'd just then
That Field-Marshal Turenne
Was a good deal in want of 'some active young men,'
To fill up the gaps
Which through sundry mishaps,
Had been made in his ranks by a certain 'Great Cond,'
A General unrivall'd, at least in his own day,
Whose valour was such,
That he did not care much
If he fought with the French,or the Spaniards,or Dutch,
A fact which has stamped him a rather 'Cool hand,'
Being nearly related to Louis le Grand.
It had been all the same had that King been his brother;
He fought sometimes with one, and sometimes with another;
For war, so exciting, He took such delight in,
He did not care whom he fought, so he was fighting.
And, as I've just said, had amused himself then
By tickling the tail of Field-Marshal Turenne;
Since which, the Field-Marshal's most pressing concern
Was to tickle some other Chief's tail in his turn.
 
What a fine thing a battle is!not one of those
Which one saw at the late Mr. Andrew Ducrow's,
Where a dozen of scene-shifters, drawn up in rows,
Would a dozen more scene-shifters boldly oppose,
Taking great care their blows Did not injure their foes,
And alike, save in colour and cut of their clothes,
Which were varied, to give more effect to 'Tableaux,'
While Stickney the Great
Flung the gauntlet to Fate,
And made us all tremble, so gallantly did he come
On to encounter bold General Widdicombe,
But a real good fight, like Pultowa, or Ltzen,
(Which Gustavus the Great ended all his disputes in,)
Or that which Suwarrow engaged without boots in,
Or Dettingen, Fontenoy, Blenheim, or Minden,
Or the one Mr. Campbell describes, Hohenlinden,
Where 'the sun was low,'
The ground all over snow,
And dark as mid-winter the swift Iser's flow,
Till its colour was altered by General Moreau:
While the big drum was heard in the dead of the night,
Which rattled the Bard out of bed in a fright,
And he ran up the steeple to look at the fight,
'Twas in just such another one,
(Names only bother one,
Dutch ones indeed are sufficient to smother one,)
In the Netherlands somewhere, I cannot say where,
Suffice it that there
La Fortune de guerre
Gave a cast of her calling to our Mousquetaire.
One fine morning, in short, Francois Xavier Auguste,
After making some scores of his foes 'bite the dust,'
Got a mouthful himself of the very same crust:
And though, as the Bard says, 'No law is more just
Than for Necis artifices,' so they call'd fiery
Soldados at Rome, ' arte sua perire,'
Yet Fate did not draw
This poetical law
To its fullest extent in the case of St. Foix.
His Good Genius most probably found out some flaw,
And diverted the shot
From some deadlier spot
To a bone which, I think, to the best of my memory,'s
Call'd by Professional men the 'os femoris;'
And the ball being one of those named from its shape,
And some fancied resemblance it bears to the grape,
St. Foix went down, With a groan and a frown,
And a hole in his small-clothes the size of a crown.
Stagger'd a bit
By this 'palpable hit,'
He turn'd on his face, and went off in a fit.
 
Yes! a Battle's a very fine thing while you're fighting
These same Ups-and-Downs are so very exciting.
But a sombre sight is a Battle-field
To the sad survivor's sorrowing eye,
Where those, who scorn'd to fly or yield,
In one promiscuous carnage lie;
When the cannon's roar
Is heard no more,
And the thick dun smoke has roll'd away,
And the victor comes for a last survey
Of the well-fought field of yesterday!
 
No triumphs flush that haughty brow,
No proud exulting look is there,
His eagle glance is humbled now,
As, earthward bent, in anxious care
It seeks the form whose stalwart pride
But yester-morn was by his side!
 
And there it lies!on yonder bank
Of corses, which themselves had breath
But yester-morn, now cold and dank,
With other dews than those of death!
Powerless as it had ne'er been born
The hand that clasp'd his, yester-morn!
 
And there are widows wand'ring there,
That roam the blood besprinkled plain,
And listen in their dumb despair
For sounds they ne'er may hear again!
One word, however faint and low,
Ay, e'en a groan,were music now!
 
And this is Glory!Fame!
But, pshaw!
Miss Muse, you're growing sentimental;
Besides, such things we never saw;
In fact they're merely Continental.
And then your Ladyship forgets
Some widows came for epaulettes.
 
So go back to your canter; for one, I declare,
Is now fumbling about our capsized Mousquetaire,
A beetle-browed hag,
With a knife and a bag,
And an old tatter'd bonnet which, thrown back, discloses
The ginger complexion, and one of those noses
Peculiar to females named Levy and Moses,
Such as nervous folks still, when they come in their way, shun,
Old vixen-faced tramps of the Hebrew persuasion.
 
You remember, I trust, Francois Xavier Auguste,
Had uncommon fine limbs, and a very fine bust.
Now there's something, I cannot tell what it may be,
About good-looking gentlemen turn'd twenty-three,
Above all when laid up with a wound in the knee,
Which affects female hearts in no common degree,
With emotions in which many feelings combine,
Very easy to fancy, though hard to define;
Ugly or pretty
Stupid or witty,
Young or old, they experience in country or city,
What's clearly not Love, yet it's warmer than Pity,
And some such a feeling, no doubt, 'tis that stays
The hand you may see that old Jezebel raise,
Arm'd with the blade,
So oft used in her trade
The horrible calling e'en now she is plying,
Despoiling the dead, and dispatching the dying!
For these 'nimble Conveyancers,' after such battles,
Regarding as treasure trove all goods and chattels,
Think nought, in 'perusing and settling' the titles,
So safe as six inches of steel in the vitals.
 
Now don't make a joke of
That feeling I spoke of;
For, as sure as you're born, that same feeling,whate'er
It may be, saves the life of the young Mousquetaire!
The knife, that was levell'd erewhile at his throat,
Is employ'd now in ripping the lace from his coat,
And from what, I suppose, I must call his culotte;
And his pockets, no doubt,
Being turned inside out,
That his mouchoir and gloves may be put 'up the spout,
(For of coin, you may well conceive, all she can do
Fails to ferret out even a single cu;)
As a muscular Giant would handle an elf,
The virago at last lifts the soldier himself,
And, like a She-Samson, at length lays him down
In a hospital form'd in the neighbouring town!
I am not very sure,
But I think 'twas Namur;
And there she now leaves him, expecting a cure.
 

 
Canto II.
 
I abominate physic, I care not who knows
That there's nothing on earth I detest like 'a dose'
That yellowish-green-looking fluid, whose hue
I consider extremely unpleasant to view,
With its sickly appearance, that trenches so near
On what Homer defines the complexion of Fear;
Chloron deos, I mean,
A nasty pale green,
Though for want of some word that may better avail,
I presume, our translators have rendered it 'pale;'
For consider the cheeks
Of those 'well-booted Greeks,'
Their Egyptian descent was a question of weeks;
Their complexion, of course, like a half-decayed leek's;
And you'll see in an instant the thing that I mean in it,
A Greek face in a funk had a good deal of green in it.
 
I repeat, I abominate physic; but then,
If folks will go campaigning about with such men
As the Great Prince de Cond and Marshal Turenne,
They may fairly expect
To be now and then check'd
By a bullet, or sabre-cut. Then their best solace is
Found, I admit, in green potions and boluses;
So, of course, I don't blame
St. Foix wounded and lame,
If he swallowed a decent quant. suff. of the same;
Though I'm told, in such cases, it's not the French plan
To pour in their drastics as fast as they can,
The practice of many an English Savan,
But to let off a man With a little ptisanne,
And gently to chafe the patella (knee-pan).
 
'Oh, woman!' Sir Walter observes, 'when the brow
's wrung with pain, what a minist'ring Angel art thou!'
Thou'rt a 'minist'ring Angel' in no less degree,
I can boldly assert, when the pain's in the knee:
And medical friction
Is, past contradiction,
Much better performed by a She than a He.
A fact which, indeed, comes within my own knowledge,
For I well recollect, when a youngster at College,
And, therefore, can quote
A surgeon of note,
Mr. Grosvenor of Oxford, who not only wrote
On the subject a very fine treatise, but, still as his
Patients came in, certain soft-handed Phyllises
Were at once set to work on their legs, arms, and backs,
And rubbed out their complaints in a couple of cracks.
Now, they say,
To this day,
When sick people can't pay
On the Continent, many of this kind of nurses
Attend, without any demand on their purses;
And these females, some old, others still in their teens,
Some call 'Sisters of Charity,' others 'Beguines.'
They don't take the vows; but, half-Nun and half-Lay,
Attend you: and when you've got better, they say,
'You're exceedingly welcome! There's nothing to pay.
Our task is now done;
You are able to run.
We never take money; we cure you for fun!'
Then they drop you a court'sy, and wish you good day,
And go off to cure somebody else the same way.
A great many of these, at the date of my tale,
In Namur walk'd the hospitals, workhouse and jail.
 
Among them was one,
A most sweet Demi-nun,
Her cheek pensive and pale; tresses bright as the Sun,
Not carrotty, no; though you'd fancy you saw burn
Such locks as the Greeks lov'd, which moderns call auburn.
These were partially seen through the veil which they wore all,
Her teeth were of pearl, and her lips were of coral;
Her eye-lashes silken; her eyes, fine large blue ones,
Were sapphires (I don't call these similes new ones;
But, in metaphors, freely confess I've a leaning
To such, new or old, as convey best one's meaning).
Then, for figure? In faith it was downright barbarity
To muffle a form
Might an anchorite warm
In the fusty stuff gown of a Soeur de la Charit;
And no poet could fancy, no painter could draw
One more perfect in all points, more free from a flaw,
Than her's who now sits by the couch of St. Foix,
Chafing there,
With such care,
And so dove-like an air,
His leg, till her delicate fingers are charr'd
With the Steer's opodeldoc, joint-oil, and goulard;
Their Dutch appellations are really too hard
To be brought into verse by a transmarine Bard.
 
Now you'll see,
And agree,
I am certain, with me,
When a young man's laid up with a wound in his knee;
And a lady sits there,
On a rush-bottom'd chair
To hand him the mixtures his doctors prepare,
And a bit of lump-sugar to make matters square;
Above all, when the Lady's remarkably fair,
And the wounded young man is a gay Mousquetaire,
It's a ticklish affair, you may swear, for the pair,
And may lead on to mischief before they're aware.
 
I really don't think, spite of what friends would call his
'Penchant for liaisons,' and graver men 'follies,'
(For my own part, I think planting thorns on their pillows,
And leaving poor maidens to weep and wear willows,
Is not to be classed among mere peccadillos),
His 'faults,' I should say, I don't think Francois Xavier
Entertain'd any thoughts of improper behaviour
Tow'rds his nurse, or that once to induce her to sin he meant
While superintending his draughts and his liniment.
But, as he grew stout,
And was getting about,
Thoughts came into his head that had better been out;
While Cupid's an urchin,
We know deserves birching,
He's so prone to delude folks, and leave them the lurch in.
'Twas doubtless his doing
That absolute ruin
Was the end of all poor dear Therese's shampooing.
'Tis a subject I don't like to dwell on; but such
Things will happen, ay, e'en 'mongst the phlegmatic Dutch.
 
'When Woman,' as Goldsmith declares, 'stoops to folly,
And finds out too late that false man can betray,'
She is apt to look dismal, and grow 'melan-choly,'
And, in short, to be anything rather than gay.
 
He goes on to remark that 'to punish her lover,
Wring his bosom, and draw the tear into his eye,
There is but one method' which he can discover
That's likely to answer, that one is 'to die!'
 
He's wrong, the wan and withering cheek;
The thin lips, pale, and drawn apart;
The dim yet tearless eyes, that speak
The misery of the breaking heart;
 
The wasted form, th' enfeebled tone
That whispering mocks the pitying ear:
Th' imploring glances heaven-ward thrown
As heedless, helpless, hopeless here;
 
These wring the false one's heart enough,
'If made of penetrable stuff.'
And poor Therese
Thus pines and decays,
Till, stung with remorse, St. Foix takes a post-chaise
With, for 'wheelers,' two bays,
And, for 'leaders,' two greys,
And soon reaches France, by the help of relays.
Flying shabbily off from the sight of his victim,
And driving as fast as if Old Nick had kick'd him.
 
She, poor sinner,
Grows thinner and thinner,
Leaves off eating breakfast, and luncheon, and dinner,
Till you'd really suppose she could have nothing in her.
One evening,'twas just as the clock struck eleven,
They saw she'd been sinking fast ever since se
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

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Richard Harris Barham

Richard Harris Barham was an English cleric of the Church of England, novelist, and humorous poet. more…

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