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Collins 'Hassan — or the Camel Driver'

In dreary silence down the bustling road
The Lears — with all their goods and chattels rode;
Ten carts of moveables went on before,
And in the rear came half-a-dozen more;
A Hackney-coach the Lears themselves enshrouds
To guard them from the gaze of vulgar crowds.
The vehicle has reached the turnpike gate,—
Where wond'ring toll-men, — throngs of people wait;—
The loaded carts their dusty way pursue,—
Shrill squeak the wheels, — dark London was in view.
With grief heart-rending then, those mournful folk
Thrice sighed — thrice wiped their eyes — as thus they spoke:
'Sad was the hour — and luckless was the day
When first from Bowman's Lodge we bent our way!—

'How little half the woes can we foresee,
Of that thrice odious New Street where we flee!—
Bethink thee Mother! — can we ever find
Half room enough for all those goods behind?—
Soon must those carts their precious loads resign,—
Then, what but noise and trouble shall be thine!—
Ye banished furnitures, that once did bear
In our last Halls a more than equal share,
Here, where no dark rooms shew their craving door,
Or mildewed lumberrooms make place for more,
In vain ye hope the comfort — space — to know,
Which dark rooms large or lumberrooms bestow,—
Here closets only — dwarfish rooms are found,
And scanty inconvenience rules around.
Sad was the hour and luckless was the day
When first from Bowman's Lodge we bent our way!
'What noisome thought could urge our parents so—
To leave the country and to London go!
The rural scene to change for houses, brown,
And barter health for the thick smoke of town!
What demon tempts him from our home to go
In horrid New Street to pour forth our woe?—
Oft — oft we've hoped this hour we ne'er might see,
Yet London — now at last we come to thee!
Oh! why was New Street so attractive made,—
Or why our Dad so easily btrayed?
Why heed we not as swift we ride along
The farewell peal of Highgate bells ding dong,—
Or wherefore think the flowery hedges hide,—
The grunting pigs, and fowls in speckled pride?
Why think we these less pleasing to behold
Than dirty streets which lead to houses old!
Sad was the hour and luckless was the day
When first from Bowman's Lodge we bent our way!

'Oh! cease our fears! all grumblings as we go,
While thought creates unnumbered scenes of woe,—
What if the mobs in all their ire we meet!
Oft in the dust we trace their crowded feet,—
And fearful — oft when day's November light
Yields up her yellow reign to gas-light night,
By mischief roused they scour the street, and fly,
While radical reform is all they cry:
Before them Death with fire directs their way,
Fills the loud yell and guides them to their prey.
Sad was the hour and luckless was the day
When first from Bowman's Lodge we bent our way.

'At that dread hour the noise of fire shall sweep—
If aught of rest we find, upon our sleep,
Or some rude thief bounce through the window — smash—
And wake our dozings with a hideous crash,
Thrice happy they — the Catharine Street poor —
From wish of town — from dread of fire secure!
They tempt no New Street, and no thieves they find!—
No carts of goods have they — before — behind!—
Sad was the hour and luckless was the day
When first from Bowman's Lodge we bent our way!

'Oh! Hapless Lears! — for that your care hath won,—
The large sidegarden will be most undone!—
Big swelled our hearts, on this same mournful day
When low the plants drooped down — as thus they seemed to say;—
"Farewell! ye Lears whom fruits could not detain!—
Yet as ye go may every blow fall down,
Weak as those buds on each receiving crown,—
So may ye see no care — nor grievous fuss,—
Nore e're be cast to earth — to die like us!—"
Ah! might we safely to our home return—
Say to our garden — "Cease — no longer mourn!—"
Ah! might we teach our hearts to lose their fears,
And linger there our yet remaining years!'
They said — and ceased: lamenting o'er the day,
When first from Bowman's Lodge they bent their way.


Written on 23 August, 1825 (aged 13), the Eclogue tells the story of the Lears leaving their house in Highgate, Bowman's Lodge. EL does not mention financial problems as the reason for the move, and rather faults his father with being 'tempted' or 'attracted' by New Street. Although this reference to 'Dad' (and 'Mother') might seem quite interesting, I don't remember any place in his published poetry where he mentions a father or a mother, it seems to be due mainly to Lear's source poem.

William Collins' 'Hassan; or, the Camel Driver', from Persian Eclogues (1742), is followed closely; so closely, in fact, as to make parts of the poem difficult to understand without a previous knowledge of Collins' eclogue. Lear, unlike Carroll, never published direct parodies of others' poems, though he wrote some (e.g. the dubious 'Excelsior', Tennyson's 'In love...' and 'On EL...'); he usually parodies poems by providing them with nonsense illustrations (e.g. St Kiven...).

Lear's very first poem is similar to his later, famous ones in that it tends to exorcise a negative event or feeling, or sometimes simply an emotionally charged one (e.g. the parodies of Tennyson), by making fun of it.

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