‘THE PICKWICK PAPERS’
I.—THE IVY GREEN
THE IVY GREEN
This famous ballad of three verses, from the sixth chapter of Pickwick, is perhaps the most acceptable of all Dickens’s poetical efforts. It was originally set to music, at Dickens’s request, by his brother-in-law, Henry Burnett, a professional vocalist, who, by the way, was the admitted prototype of Nicholas Nickleby. Mr. Burnett sang the ballad scores of times in the presence of literary men and artists, and it proved an especial favourite with Landor. ‘The Ivy Green’ was not written for Pickwick, Mr. Burnett assured me; but on its being so much admired the author said it should go into a monthly number, and it did. The most popular setting is undoubtedly that of Henry Russell, who has recorded that he received, as his fee, the magnificent sum of ten shillings! The ballad, in this form, went into many editions, and the sales must have amounted to tens of thousands.
THE IVY GREEN
Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green, That creepeth o’er ruins old! Of right choice food are his meals, I ween, In his cell so lone and cold. The wall must be crumbled, the stone decayed, To pleasure his dainty whim: And the mouldering dust that years have made Is a merry meal for him. Creeping where no life is seen, A rare old plant is the Ivy green. Fast he stealeth on, though he wears no wings, And a staunch old heart has he. How closely he twineth, how tight he clings, To his friend the huge Oak Tree! And slily he traileth along the ground, And his leaves he gently waves, As he joyously hugs and crawleth round The rich mould of dead men’s graves. Creeping where grim death hath been, A rare old plant is the Ivy green. Whole ages have fled and their works decayed, And nations have scattered been; But the stout old Ivy shall never fade, From its hale and hearty green. The brave old plant, in its lonely days, Shall fatten upon the past: For the stateliest building man can raise Is the Ivy’s food at last. Creeping on, where time has been, A rare old plant is the Ivy green.
II.—A CHRISTMAS CAROL
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
The five stanzas bearing the above title will be found in the twenty-eighth chapter of Pickwick, where they are introduced as the song which that hospitable old soul, Mr. Wardle, sung appropriately, ‘in a good, round, sturdy voice,’ before the Pickwickians and others assembled on Christmas Eve at Manor Farm. The ‘Carol,’ shortly after its appearance in Pickwick, was set to music to the air of ‘Old King Cole,’ and published in The Book of British Song (New Edition), with an illustration drawn by ‘Alfred Crowquill’—i.e., A. H. Forrester.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
I care not for Spring; on his fickle wing Let the blossoms and buds be borne: He woos them amain with his treacherous rain, And he scatters them ere the morn. An inconstant elf, he knows not himself Nor his own changing mind an hour, He’ll smile in your face, and, with wry grimace, He’ll wither your youngest flower. Let the Summer sun to his bright home run, He shall never be sought by me; When he’s dimmed by a cloud I can laugh aloud, And care not how sulky he be! For his darling child is the madness wild That sports in fierce fever’s train; And when love is too strong, it don’t last long, As many have found to their pain. A mild harvest night, by the tranquil light Of the modest and gentle moon, Has a far sweeter sheen, for me, I ween, Than the broad and unblushing noon. But every leaf awakens my grief, As it lieth beneath the tree; So let Autumn air be never so fair, It by no means agrees with me. But my song I troll out, for Christmas stout, The hearty, the true, and the bold; A bumper I drain, and with might and main Give three cheers for this Christmas old! We’ll usher him in with a merry din That shall gladden his joyous heart, And we’ll keep him up, while there’s bite or sup, And in fellowship good, we’ll part. In his fine honest pride, he scorns to hide One jot of his hard-weather scars; They’re no disgrace, for there’s much the same trace On the cheeks of our bravest tars. Then again I sing ’till the roof doth ring, And it echoes from wall to wall— To the stout old wight, fair welcome to-night, As the King of the Seasons all!
III.—GABRIEL GRUB’S SONG
GABRIEL GRUB’S SONG
The Sexton’s melancholy dirge, in the twenty-ninth chapter of Pickwick, seems a little incongruous in a humorous work. The sentiment, however, thoroughly accords with the philosophic gravedigger’s gruesome occupation. ‘The Story of the Goblins who Stole a Sexton’ is one of several short tales (chiefly of a dismal character) introduced into Pickwick; they were doubtless written prior to the conception of Pickwick, each being probably intended for independent publication, and in a manner similar to the ‘Boz’ Sketches. For some reason these stories were not so published, and Dickens evidently saw a favourable opportunity of utilising his unused manuscripts by inserting them in The Pickwick Papers.
GABRIEL GRUB’S SONG
Brave lodgings for one, brave lodgings for one, A few feet of cold earth, when life is done; A stone at the head, a stone at the feet, A rich, juicy meal for the worms to eat; Rank grass over head, and damp clay around, Brave lodgings for one, these, in holy ground!
It will be remembered that while Sam Weller and his coaching-friends refreshed themselves at the little public-house opposite the Insolvent Court in Portugal Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, prior to Sam joining Mr. Pickwick in the Fleet, that faithful body-servant was persuaded to ‘oblige the company’ with a song. ‘Raly, gentlemen,’ said Sam, ‘I’m not wery much in the habit o’ singin’ vithout the instrument; but anythin’ for a quiet life, as the man said ven he took the sitivation at the light-house.’
‘With this prelude, Mr. Samuel Weller burst at once into the following wild and beautiful legend, which, under the impression that it is not generally known, we take the liberty of quoting. We would beg to call particular attention to the monosyllable at the end of the second and fourth lines, which not only enables the singer to take breath at those points, but greatly assists the metre.’-The Pickwick Papers, chapter xliii.
At the conclusion of the performance the mottled-faced gentleman contended that the song was ‘personal to the cloth,’ and demanded the name of the bishop’s coachman, whose cowardice he regarded as a reflection upon coachmen in general. Sam replied that his name was not known, as ‘he hadn’t got his card in his pocket’; whereupon the mottled-faced gentleman declared the statement to be untrue, stoutly maintaining that the said coachman did not run away, but ‘died game—game as pheasants,’ and he would ‘hear nothin’ said to the contrairey.’
Even in the vernacular (observes Mr. Percy Fitzgerald), ‘this master of words [Charles Dickens] could be artistic; and it may fairly be asserted that Mr. Weller’s song to the coachmen is superior to anything of the kind that has appeared since.’ The two stanzas have been set to music, as a humorous part-song, by Sir Frederick Bridge, Mus. Doc., M.V.O., the organist of Westminster Abbey, who informs me that it was written some years since, to celebrate a festive gathering in honour of Dr. Turpin (!), Secretary of the College of Organists. ‘It has had a very great success,’ says Sir Frederick, ‘and is sung much in the North of England at competitions of choirs. It is for men’s voices. The humour of the words never fails to make a great hit, and I hope the music does no harm. “The Bishop’s Coach” is set to a bit of old Plain-Chant, and I introduce a Fugue at the words “Sure as eggs is eggs.”’
I Bold Turpin vunce, on Hounslow Heath, His bold mare Bess bestrode—er; Ven there he see’d the Bishop’s coach A-comin’ along the road—er. So he gallops close to the ’orse’s legs, And he claps his head vithin; And the Bishop says, ‘Sure as eggs is eggs, This here’s the bold Turpin!’
Chorus—And the Bishop says, ‘Sure as eggs is eggs, This here’s the bold Turpin!’
II Says Turpin, ‘You shall eat your words, With a sarse of leaden bul-let’; So he puts a pistol to his mouth, And he fires it down his gul-let. The coachman, he not likin’ the job, Set off at a full gal-lop, But Dick put a couple of balls in his nob, And perwailed on him to stop.
Chorus (sarcastically)—But Dick put a couple of balls in his nob, And perwailed on him to stop.