Bibo di Montefiesco
The Eighth Tradition of Tabby-Hall
No Bard has liv’d since Homer’s days
Without a song in Cupid’s praise;
But never yet could Bard or Sage
Agree about his equipage.—
He rides a dove in heathen story;
In Hindostan, a prating lory;
In Mexico a fox——and here
An animal with length of ear.
Whate’er his equipage may be,
His sting and venom all can see:
All know the symptoms of the fever,
But none the patient can deliver.—
A Tuscan learn’d as Magliabechi
Can with an apt example deck me:
The truant once forgot his duty,
And left his book to gaze on beauty;
Pangs he had never felt before
Shot from his caput to his core;—
He look’d o’er Boerhaave, mus’d on Galen,
Thought old Hippocrates unfailing,
Compar’d his case, and hop’d to prove it
A tertian ague or a love-fit.
Physicians!—where shall mortals seek
A recipe for love in Greek?
One sage prescribes a hemlock-sallad,
Another bids us write a ballad;
Leander swam o’er Hellespont,
Our caught the cramp by thinking on’t—
But Venus is old Ocean’s daughter,
And love is seldom drown’d in water.
Whence modern wits and bards opine
The elf is soonest sunk in wine.
Our student mus’d with aching head,
Then call’d his page, and gravely said,
“My faithful Marco, ’tis most fit
From Beauty’s spells to guard my wit;
For all men know, tho’ some disguise it,
The less we have, the more we prize it.
Peripatetic sages say
A man in love should walk away;
But modern commentators think
They meant that he should walk to drink:
Both text and comment may be right,
I’ll try the recipe to-night;
But, Marco!—where the wine is best,
Write on the tavern-portal—Est.”
This page rode off—the heart-burnt swain
Sigh’d as he looked—and look’d again
Where frozen spires and columns rise,
And Alpine ice-rocks pierce the skies.
“Ah! thus,”—the wailing lover cried,
“Thus beauty spreads her frozen pride,
As vainly and as coldly bright
As spangled spar or chrysolite.
The sun unheeded looks between
Those icy hills’ eternal screen;
Like maiden pride, in cold repose
They smile, but melt not when he glows:
The wretch who trusts that vestal snow
May find a joyless grave below;—
A grave unpitied and unblest….
No matter now—I see an Est.”
The wine was old—the waiters spruce;
It seem’d the true Falernian juice;
But wits and lovers have a notion
That wisdom is perpetual motion.
Again he walks—but by his side
He sees a beauteous phantom glide;
The moonbeams sparkle like the glance
Of blue-ey’d Rosa in the dance:—
“And must I lose—(the lover cries)—
That beaming glance, those sapphire eyes?
No;—wherefore should I go beyond
This willow, or this standing pond?
A cool transparent tomb is best—
Not yet—I see another Est.”
No tavern on the Appian way
Boasts purer Sherry or Tokay—
Our Bibo tastes, and finds it fit,
But who knows quantum sufficit?
He thinks again of Rosa’s smile,
And strives to walk another mile.
“Relentless nymph!—thy tyrant reign
Consumes my heart, and wastes my brain!
My sight grows dim;—a hollow sound
Floats in mysterious murmurs round—
Come, Death! thy leaden fingers spread
Soft poppies o’er my sinking head—
I faint—I fall—I breathe no more—
What, are no waiters at the door?
This tavern well deserves a guest—
I see a treble Est—est—est.”
They come with bowls of purple balm
His deathful agony to calm:
Again he lifts his closing eyes,
And sighs and sips; and sips and sighs;
But he who walks and sips too fast
Must fall (asleep or dead) at last.
Our hero strove as heroes should,
And stood erect—or thought he stood,
But fell—let all the muses weep,—
And, shame to Cupid!—fell asleep.
He slept—historians cannot tell
How soon he woke, or where he fell;
But maidens say his spirit glides
By Montefiesco’s cellar-sides,
Whene’er with deep and foaming flask
The vintner seeks his eldest cask.
Not seldom on Adydas’ coast
He sits with Selim’s headless ghost;
Or oft—mistaken for a crow,
Upon that wondrous stone below,
Which would not in the church-yard stay,
But chose like him to walk away:
While on his grave this attic rhyme
Tells modern swains his fate sublime—
“My walk was long, my love was dry,
The wine was strong—and here am I!” *
* The hero of this tale lies in the church-yard of Montefiescone.