Puppet Show (The) by Hannah More

 

THE PUPPET-SHOW
A TALE
By Hannah More

A noble earl—the name I spare,
From reverence to the living heir—
Loved pleasure; but, to speak the truth
Not much refinement graced the youth.
The path of pleasure which he trod
Was somewhat new, and rather odd;
For, that he haunted park or play,
His house’s archives do not say;
Or that more modish joys he felt,
And would in opera transports melt;
Or that he spent his morning’s prime
In Bond-street bliss till dinner-time:
No treasured anecdotes record
Such pastimes pleased the youthful lord.


One single taste historians mention,
A fact, unmingled with invention;
It was a taste you’ll think, I fear,
Somewhat peculiar for a peer,
Though the rude democratic pen
Pretends that peers are only men.
Whatever town or country fair
Was advertised, my lord was there.
’Twas not to purchase or to sell—
Why went he then? the muse shall tell.
At fairs he never failed to find
The joy congenial to his mind.
This dear diversion would you know?
What was it? ’twas a puppet-show!
Transported with the mimic art,
The wit of Punch enthralled his heart.
He went, each evening, just at six,
When Punch exhibited his tricks;
And, not contented every night
To view this object of delight,
He gravely made the matter known,
He must and would have Punch his own;
“For if,” exclaims the noble lord,
“Such joys these transient views afford;
If I receive such keen delight
From a short visit every night,
’Tis fair to calculate what pleasure
Will spring from owning such a treasure.
I need not for amusements roam,
I shall have always Punch at home.”
He raved, with this new fancy bit,
Of Punch’s sense and Punch’s wit.
Not more Narcissus longed t’ embrace
The watery mirror’s shadowy face,
Not more Pygmalion longed to claim
Th’ unconscious object of his flame,
Than longed th’ enamored legislator
To purchase this delightful creature.
Each night he regularly sought him,
Nor did he rest till he had bought him.


Soon he accomplishes the measure,
And pays profusely for his treasure:
He bids them pack the precious thing,
So careful not to break a spring!
So anxious not to bruise a feature,
His own new coach must fetch the creature!
He safely brought the idol home,
And lodged beneath his splendid dome;
All obstacles at length surmounted,
My lord on perfect pleasure counted.


If you have feelings, guess you may,
How glad he passed the live-long day.
His eating-room he makes the station
Of his new favorite’s habitation.
“Convivial Punch!” he cried, “today
Thy genius shall have full display!
How shall I laugh to hear thy wit
At supper nightly as I sit!
O how delightful, as I dine,
To hear some sallies, Punch, of thine!”


Next day, at table as he sat,
Impatient to begin the chat,
Punch was produced; but Punch, I trow,
Divested of his puppet-show,
Was nothing, was a thing of wires,
Whose sameness disappoints and tires.
Deprived of all extrinsic aid,
The empty idol was betrayed.
No artful hand to pull the springs,
And Punch no longer squeaks or sings.
Ah, me! what horror seized my lord,
’Twas paint, ’twas show, ’twas pasted-board!
He marvelled why the pleasant thing,
Which could such crowds together bring,
Which charmed him when the show was full,
At home should be so very dull.
He ne’er suspected ’twas the scenery,
He never dreamed ’twas the machinery;
The lights, the noise, the tricks, the distance,
Gave the dumb idol this assistance.
Preposterous peer! far better go
To thy congenial puppet-show,
Than buy, divested of its glare,
The empty thing which charmed thee there
Be still content abroad to roam,
For Punch exhibits not at home.


The moral of the tale I sing
To modern matches home I bring.
Ye youths, in quest of wives, who go
To every crowded puppet-show,
If, from these scenes, you choose for life
A dancing, singing, dressing wife,
O marvel not at home to find
An empty figure void of mind;
Stripped of her scenery and garnish,
A thing of paint, and paste, and varnish.


Ye candidates for earth’s best prize,
Domestic life’s sweet charities!
If long you’ve strayed from reason’s way
Enslaved by fashion’s wizard sway;
If by her witcheries still betrayed,
You wed some vain, fantastic maid;
Snatched, not selected, as you go,
The heroine of the puppet-show;
In every outward grace refined,
And destitute of nought but mind;
If, skilled in every polished art,
She want simplicity of heart;
On her for bliss if you depend,
Without the means you seek the end;
You seek, o’erturning Nature’s laws,
A consequence without a cause;
A downward pyramid you place,
The point inverted for the base.
Blame your own work, not fate; nor rail
If bliss so ill secured should fail.
’Tis after fancied good to roam,
’Tis bringing Punch to live at home.


And you, bright nymphs, who bless our eyes,
With all that art, that taste supplies,
Learn that accomplishments, at best,
Are but the garnish in life’s feast;
And though your transient guests may praise
Your showy board on gala days,
Yet while you treat each frippery sinner
With mere desserts, and call ’em dinner,
Your lord, who lives at home, still feels
The want of more substantial meals;
Of sense and worth, which every hour
Enlarge affection’s growing power;
Of worth, not emulous of praise,
Of sense, not kept for gala days.


O! in the highest, happiest lot,
By woman be it ne’er forgot,
That human life’s no Isthmian game,
Where sports and shows must purchase fame.
Though at the puppet-show he shone,
Punch was poor company alone.
Life is no round of jocund hours,
Of garlands gay, and festive bowers;
E’en to the young, to whom I sing,
Its serious business life will bring.
Though bright the suns which now appear
To gild your cloudless atmosphere,
Oft, unawares, some direful storm
Serenest skies may soon deform;
In dim affliction’s dreary hour,
The flash of mirth must lose its power;
While faith a constant light supplies,
And virtue cheers the darkest skies.


To bless the matrimonial hours,
Must three joint leaders club their powers;
Good-nature, piety, and sense
Must their confederate aids dispense.
As the soft powers of oil assuage
Of ocean’s waves the furious rage;
Lull to repose the boiling tide,
And the rough billows bid subside,
Till every angry motion sleep,
And softest tremblings hush the deep;
Good-nature! thus thy charms control
The tumults of the troubled soul:
By labor worn, by care oppressed,
On thee the wearied head shall rest;
From business and distraction free,
Delighted, shall return to thee;
To thee the aching heart shall cling,
And find that peace it does not bring.


And while the light and empty fair,
Formed for the ball-room’s dazzling glare;
Abroad, of speech so prompt and rapid,
At home, so vacant and so vapid;
Of every puppet-show the life,
At home a dull and tasteless wife;—
The mind with sense and knowledge stored
Can counsel or can soothe its lord;
His varied joys or sorrows feel,
And share the pains it cannot heal.


But, Piety! without thy aid,
Love’s fairest prospects soon must fade.
Blest architect! reared by thy hands,
Connubial Concord’s temple stands.
Though wit, though genius, raise the pile,
Though taste assist, though talents smile,
Though fashion, while her wreaths she twine,
Her light Corinthian columns join,
Still the frail structure fancy rears,
A tottering house of cards appears;
Some sudden gust—nor rare the case—
May shake the building to its base,
Unless, blest Piety! thou join,
Thy key-stone to ensure the shrine;
Unless, to guard against surprises,
On thy broad arch the temple rises.