Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
Extract from The Monks and the Giants
By John Hookham Frere (1769–1846)
 
AND certainly they say, for fine behaving
King Arthur’s Court has never had its match;
True point of honour, without pride or braving,
Strict etiquette for ever on the watch:
Their manners were refined and perfect—saving        5
Some modern graces, which they could not catch,
As spitting through the teeth, and driving stages,
Accomplishments reserved for distant ages.
 
They looked a manly, generous generation;
Beards, shoulders, eyebrows, broad, and square, and thick,        10
Their accents firm and loud in conversation,
Their eyes and gestures eager, sharp, and quick,
Showed them prepared, on proper provocation,
To give the lie, pull noses, stab and kick;
And for that very reason, it is said,        15
They were so very courteous and well-bred.
 
The ladies looked of an heroic race—
At first a general likeness struck your eye,
Tall figures, open features, oval face,
Large eyes, with ample eyebrows arched and high;        20
Their manners had an odd, peculiar grace,
Neither repulsive, affable, nor shy,
Majestical, reserved, and somewhat sullen;
Their dresses partly silk, and partly woollen.
*        *        *        *        *
Sir Gawain may be painted in a word—        25
He was a perfect loyal Cavalier;
His courteous manners stand upon record,
A stranger to the very thought of fear.
The proverb says, As brave as his own sword;
And like his weapon was that worthy Peer,        30
Of admirable temper, clear and bright,
Polished yet keen, though pliant yet upright.
 
On every point, in earnest or in jest,
His judgment, and his prudence, and his wit,
Were deemed the very touchstone and the test        35
Of what was proper, graceful, just, and fit;
A word from him set everything at rest,
His short decisions never failed to hit;
His silence, his reserve, his inattention,
Were felt as the severest reprehension;        40
 
His memory was the magazine and hoard,
Where claims and grievances, from year to year,
And confidences and complaints were stored
From dame and knight, from damsel, boor, and peer:
Loved by his friends, and trusted by his Lord,        45
A generous courtier, secret and sincere,
Adviser-general to the whole community,
He served his friend, but watched his opportunity.
*        *        *        *        *
Meanwhile the solemn mountains that surrounded
The silent valley where the convent lay,        50
With tintinnabular uproar were astounded,
When the first peal burst forth at break of day:
Feeling their granite ears severely wounded,
They scarce knew what to think, or what to say;
And (though large mountains commonly conceal        55
Their sentiments, dissembling what they feel,
 
Yet) Cader-Gibbrish from his cloudy throne
To huge Loblommon gave an intimation,
Of this strange rumour, with an awful tone,
Thundering his deep surprise and indignation;        60
The lesser hills, in language of their own,
Discussed the topic by reverberation;
Discoursing with their echoes all day long,
Their only conversation was, ‘ding dong.’
 
Those giant-mountains inwardly were moved,        65
But never made an outward change of place:
Not so the mountain-giants—(as behoved
A more alert and locomotive race).
Hearing a clatter which they disapproved,
They ran straight forward to besiege the place        70
With a discordant universal yell,
Like house-dogs howling at a dinner-bell.
*        *        *        *        *
As Bees, that when the skies are calm and fair,
In June, or the beginning of July,
Launch forth colonial settlers in the air,        75
Round, round, and round about, they whiz, they fly,
With eager worry whirling here and there,
They know not whence, nor whither, where, nor why,
In utter hurry-scurry, going, coming,
Maddening the summer air with ceaseless humming;        80
 
Till the strong Frying-pan’s energic jangle
With thrilling thrum their feebler hum doth drown,
Then passive and appeased, they drop and dangle,
Clinging together close, and clustering down,
Linked in a multitudinous living tangle        85
Like an old Tassel of a dingy brown;—
The joyful Farmer sees and spreads his hay,
And reckons on a settled sultry day:—
 
E’en so the Monks, as wild as sparks of fire,
(Or swarms unpacified by pan or kettle),        90
Ran restless round the Cloisters and the Quire,
Till those huge masses of sonorous metal
Attracted them towards the Tower and Spire;
There you might see them cluster, crowd, and settle,
Thronged in the hollow tintinnabular Hive;        95
The Belfry swarmed with Monks; it seemed alive.
 
 
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