FROM THE LATIN OF VINCENT BOURNE.
* * * * *
THE BALLAD SINGERS.
Where seven fair Streets to one tall Column
Two Nymphs have ta’en their stand, in hats of straw;
Their yellower necks huge beads of amber grace,
And by their trade they’re of the Sirens’ race:
With cloak loose-pinn’d on each, that has been red,
But long with dust and dirt discolored
Belies its hue; in mud behind, before,
From heel to middle leg becrusted o’er.
One a small infant at the breast does bear;
And one in her right hand her tuneful ware,
Which she would vend. Their station scarce is taken,
When youths and maids flock round. His stall forsaken,
Forth comes a Son of Crispin, leathern-capt,
Prepared to buy a ballad, if one apt
To move his fancy offers. Crispin’s sons
Have, from uncounted time, with ale and buns,
Cherish’d the gift of Song, which sorrow quells;
And, working single in their low-rooft cells,
Oft cheat the tedium of a winter’s night
With anthems warbled in the Muses’ spight.—
Who now hath caught the alarm? the Servant Maid,
Hath heard a buzz at distance; and, afraid
To miss a note, with elbows red comes out.
Leaving his forge to cool, Pyracmon stout
Thrusts in his unwash’d visage. He stands by,
Who the hard trade of Porterage does ply
With stooping shoulders. What cares he? he sees
The assembled ring, nor heeds his tottering knees,
But pricks his ears up with the hopes of song.
So, while the Bard of Rhodope his wrong
Bewail’d to Proserpine on Thracian strings,
The tasks of gloomy Orcus lost their stings,
And stone-vext Sysiphus forgets his load.
Hither and thither from the sevenfold road
Some cart or wagon crosses, which divides
The close-wedged audience; but, as when the tides
To ploughing ships give way, the ship being past,
They reunite, so these unite as fast.
The older Songstress hitherto hath spent
Her elocution in the argument
Of their great Song in prose; to wit, the woes
Which Maiden true to faithless Sailor owes—
Ah! “Wandering He!”—which now in loftier verse
Pathetic they alternately rehearse.
All gaping wait the event. This Critic opes
His right ear to the strain. The other hopes
To catch it better with his left. Long trade
It were to tell, how the deluded maid
A victim fell. And now right greedily
All hands are stretching forth the songs to buy,
That are so tragical; which She, and She,
Deals out, and sings the while; nor can there be
A breast so obdurate here, that will hold back