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A First Year in Canterbury Settlement With Other Early Essays

The Two Deans

page 258

The Two Deans


Williams, I like thee, amiable divine!
No milk-and-water character is thine.
A lay more lovely should thy worth attend
Than my poor muse, alas! hath power to lend.
Shall I describe thee as thou late didst sit,
The gater gated and the biter bit,
When impious hands at the dead hour of night
Forbade the way and made the barriers tight?
Next morn I heard their impious voices sing;
All up the stairs their blasphemies did ring:
“Come forth, O Williams, wherefore thus supine
Remain within thy chambers after nine?
Come forth, suffer thyself to be admired,
And blush not so, coy dean, to be desired.”
The captive churchman chafes with empty rage,
Till some knight-errant free him from his cage.
Pale fear and anger sit upon yon face
Erst full of love and piety and grace,
But not pale fear nor anger will undo
The iron might of gimlet and of screw.
Grin at the window, Williams, all is vain;
The carpenter will come and let thee out again.
 Contrast with him the countenance serene
And sweet remonstrance of the junior dean;
page 259 The plural number and the accents mild,
The language of a parent to a child.
With plaintive voice the worthy man doth state,
We’ve not been very regular of late.
It should more carefully its chapels keep,
And not make noises to disturb our sleep
By having suppers and at early hours
Raising its lungs unto their utmost powers.
We’ll put it, if it makes a noise again,
On gatesey patsems at the hour of ten;
And leafy peafy it will turn I’m sure,
And never vex its own dear Sharpey more.


Scene.The Court of St. John’s College, Cambridge. Enter the two Deans on their way to morning chapel.

 Junior Dean. Brother, I am much pleased with
  Samuel Butler,
I have observed him mightily of late;
Methinks that in his melancholy walk
And air subdued whene’er he meeteth me
Lurks something more than in most other men.
 Senior Dean. It is a good young man. I do be-
  think me
That once I walked behind him in the cloister;
He saw me not, but whispered to his fellow:
“Of all men who do dwell beneath the moon
I love and reverence most the senior Dean.”
 Junior Dean. One thing is passing strange, and
  yet I know not
How to condemn it, but in one plain brief word
He never comes to Sunday morning chapel.
page 260 Methinks he teacheth in some Sunday-school,
Feeding the poor and starveling intellect
With wholesome knowledge, or on the Sabbath morn
He loves the country and the neighbouring spire
Of Madingley or Coton, or perchance
Amid some humble poor he spends the day,
Conversing with them, learning all their cares,
Comforting them and easing them in sickness.
 Senior Dean. I will advance him to some public
He shall be chapel clerk, some day a Fellow,
Some day perhaps a Dean, but as thou say’st
He is indeed an excellent young man—

Enter Butler suddenly, without a coat or anything on his head, rushing through the cloisters, bearing a cup, a bottle of cider, four lemons, two nutmegs, half a pound of sugar and a nutmeg grater.

Curtain falls on the confusion of Butler and the horror-stricken dismay of the two Deans.