A YORKSHIRE LEGEND
Down the Green Dragon’s darkest stair
Slow comes a lonely lantern’s glare;
Bright as a firefly o’er a swamp,
It glides thro’ cellars dark and damp,
’Midst countless casks with iron bound,
And binns with hoary saw-dust crown’d,
Hid in the hollow lap of earth—
Dark fountains of celestial mirth!
Slow thro’ the vast cylindric throng
An awful stranger stalks along:
His sable beard with rev’rend grace
Floats around the margin of his face,
Like worsted fringe round yellow chintz,
While thro’ his shaggy brow he squints
With red and sunken eye-balls, seeming
Two glow-worms in a thicket gleaming,
Before him, with capacious sides,
The Lord of the Green-Dragon glides—
His face, by purple Bacchus sign’d,
Glows like a flame, in crystal shrined,
Or as a chymist’s window bright
With azure and vermilion light.
First spoke the Jew—“To one alone
The mighty talisman is known,
Which from a cask without a flaw
Pure white, and racy red can draw.
As thou has sworn to burn thy bill,
Landlord! for thee I shew my skill:
For thee alone!—and all I ask
Is here to view thy eldest cask.”
“Deep in the chambers of yon cave,
Known to no vile revenue-slave,
Unwatered stands my oldest pipe,
Neat from Oporto—rough and ripe.
Worthy to make a monarch, frisk, sir,
Or wet immortal Blucher’s whisker.
The Chief whose deeds astound the Gauls
For purer nectar never calls,
And they—the sons of Glory reckon’d—
(The ninety-fifth and forty-second)
Who drank twelve casks a day of wine,
Had only wanted one of mine:
Such nectar as my cups supply,
Man, while he drinks, can never die.”
First from a phial’s potent stores
Ammonia’s salt the Rabbi pours;
And mingles, in a mystic glass hid,
Sulphurous oil with nitrous acid:
Then speaks exulting—“All is done
Well, by the faith of Abraham’s son!
But that thou may’st thy treasure see,
Two holes must in this hogshead be;
From one Madeira’s juice shall flow,
The other shall pure Port bestow:
Here lodge thy left-hand thumb—with care
Thy dexter thumb fix firmly there.
Now for an ample bowl I haste,
The magic beverage to taste—
Then may’st thou own how much a Jew
To serve a Yorkshireman can do.”
Thro’ the arch’d cellar’s gloom profound
The Rabbi’s parting footsteps sound,
While the red minister of wines
Thus musing, on his cask reclines.
“Since we who live to make men merry
Change white to red, and Port to Sherry,
One tun may yield both red and white,
Live lovely cheeks by candle-light.
Howe’er it be, we vintners know
Art has a pow’r divine;
To water honest wine may grow,
And water rise to wine.
If wits who in my bowls delight
Gain from their balm a two-fold sight,
Why may not wine have double hue,
And landlord’s bills be doubled too?”
Still in the cask he rests his thumbs,
He listens, but no Rabbi comes!
Yet yonder gleams a lamp!—it sheds
Red lustre from a hand he dreads—
He stiffens with affright—his eyes
Behold his wife before him rise.
“Robin, awake!—what, always here?
Always thy eldest hogshead near?
In cellars rear’d—by hop-juice nurst,
Nor ale nor wine can quench thy thirst,
See, numskull, how much Port is spilt!
Gone are my cups of silver gilt,
While you sit dozing, deaf and dumb,
Making a spigot of your thumb!”
There is a sound in Robin’s sigh,
A wildfire in his flashing eye:
Dire was her blow—that blow to pay,
He wrests his captive thumbs away:
Forth o’er the cavern’s ample floor
Streams the rich pipe’s nectareous store;
“The Jew has cheated me!” he cries,
Clings to his empty cask, and dies.