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Anna Jane Vardill

An Unexpected Heir’s Legacy

Merry Titania said to me,
“Of my fairies three,
Chuse which thou wilt for company,
Moth with her gilded coat is trim,
And Peasblossom’s shape is soft and slim,
But Cobweb stays by the sick man’s bed,
Though the deathwatch clicks behind his head.
If thou wilt chuse her for thy mate,
Hie away to the chancel-gate,
Or where the tombs and tablets tell
Of those who in the churchyard dwell;
Cobweb stays untroubled near
A holy house, or a dead friend’s bier.”

Leila!—if this was a fairy’s gift
 It is the fitter, Love! for thee;
And now in metaphor, not in thrift,
 This Cobweb shall be my legacy.—

It was not found in the summer air
 Floating from garden-bower to bower,
Nor hid among myrtle leaves to snare
 The flies that play’d in the noontide hour:

It clung like thee to a lonely gate,
 Where guest or reveller never came;
Its place was a chamber desolate,
 Scorn’d or unseen by courtly dame.

But Leila!—if there are fairies yet
 That make the lovely and good their care,
This film shall change to a tissue fit
 For the queen of Faery land to wear.

They shall spin the threads in a golden loom,
 They shall braid it with pearls from the purest sea,
They shall dip it in Araby’s best perfume,
 Yet it shall grow richer by touching thee.

Thus, as exquisite Bards give laws,
 I leave a legacy first to love;
And now my testament’s second clause,
 My one honest friend, thy faith shall prove.

Ere to dust I am safely gone,
 Take this grass to my kinsmen dear,
Tell them it grew on my threshold-stone,
 Fresh and green while they revell’d near.
Bid them not send their cards to-morrow,
 Bid them nor grouse nor grapes supply,
But one thick sheet of new foolscap borrow
 To keep my legacy smooth and dry.

Tip one tuft in your wine-cup brimming,
 Hang it high in my grandsire’s hall,
While the bells for his heir are chiming,
 And goldlaced flatterers come to call:
When to my health the glass is flowing,
 Plait this grass round its sparkling stem;
Tell them while at my gate ’twas growing,
 There it never was trod by them.

Take one sprig while ’tis yet unfaded,
 Plant it nearest an old friend’s door,
If his bounty his kinsmen aided,—
 If he can aid them now no more;
Soon it shall spread his gateway over—
 But on thine own bestow no care;
Grass thy gate and thy grave shall cover,
 Sons and Brothers shall leave it there.


The European Magazine, Vol. 79, March 1821, pp. 228-229