In a glass fronted cabinet there lived a first edition of ‘Dr Syntax’s Tour in Search of the Picturesque’, illustrated by Rowlandson.
In imitation of this verse saga about a nineteenth century clergyman, which described three tours in all, I wrote a fourth tour, as one of our breakfast offerings, in which Dr Syntax and his horse Grizzle went on a tour that brought them to Eye.
‘Hail holt and heath,’ the doctor cries,
‘Hail hills whereon the rain cloud lies.
Hail lusty youth and bent age (both)
And amorous swain and maiden lothe.
Hail sultry LUG, seductive stream,
Hail wand’ring WYE and bubbling TEME.
Hail lofty CLEE, High Vinnals too
Hail other HILLS which frame the view’.
Thus, with such fervour and such zest
The doctor to himself address’d
These moving thoughts; while GRIZZLE munched
A faded thistle for his lunch,
While hedgerows bloom’d and cowslips sprang
And overhead the wild birds sang
And parsley bloom’d on either side.
‘HAIL MOTHER NATURE’ SYNTAX cried,
‘And now beside this verdant style
Methinks I’ll moralise a while,
Strike a similitude or two,
Pluck the odd bloom, admire the view
And thus the afternoon beguile’.
But hardly had he sat there long,
(Gladding th’attentive breeze with song)
When not far distant through the trees
A mansion’s stately bulk he sees
‘Ah, noble bulk,’ he fervent cries,
‘Whose rooftops smile neath rural skies;
Whose HALLS and BOUDOIRS smile below;
Who lives therein I fain would know.’
‘That, sir, is squire SANDFORD’s seat,
Where guests shall never want for meat.
Nearby the church, with cloistered gloom
Summons our thoughts towards the tomb
With storied urn and boscaged tower.
An honest man and upright squire,
Long since he left the city’s hum
And here to country peace is come
Where cares nor cark nor sorrows press.
He runs the GOLDEN COCKEREL PRESS.’
‘The Cockerell Press? I’ll drop a hint.
My next tour, (sure) he’ll want to print.’
‘Ah no sir, TOURS are not his line,
But DAMSELS feat, and love and wine
And fauns and frolics, capricorns,
And revelries and wreathed horns.
Oft I have seen, at break of day
Athwart the glade him thread his way,
Peeping what time Cylene wakes
Or Neptune his proud trident shakes’.
‘With such my TOUR’s full to the brim
Haste, haste! Methinks I’ll visit him!’
‘Yet listen, carefully what I say,
For there are dangers on the way.’
Among the dangers that the rustic now lists are the three ferocious corgi dogs that my parents had at this time. Lettice will also soon appear in the poem, who at this time was president of the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Women’s Institutes. So now Dr Syntax,
‘... his toilsome journey past
Reaches the gates of EYE at last.
Admires the ASH, by tempests scarred,
The noble porch, the fine façade
Whose cornice balmy breezes woo,
The swelling sward and verdant yew.
‘HAIL NOBLE MANSION,’ Syntax cries,
‘Hail homestead set ‘neath kindly skies!’
But what is this? A headlong form
Comes fast to meet him o’er the lawn,
Another too, and yet a third,
And yet one more, unlike the rest,
Her flanks in deepest sable dress’d.
Good GRIZZLE rears, and then (alas)
He hasty leaps upon the grass
And fast across the lawn doth shoot
With four wild mastiffs in pursuit.
Round and round the ASH they go
While SYNTAX cries out ‘Woe horse, woe!’
And GRIZZLE ever faster sprints,
Filling the lawn with muddy dints.
Squire SANDFORD now the babel hears
And furious at the door appears,
Cries ‘Kindly spare my precious turf!’
And joins the chase for all he’s worth.
Now others join the clam’rous throng
The rustic too, with pitchfork long,
And shouts ‘The moment we met in the wood
I could see, good sir, you were up to no good’.
Now at the gates appears a car,
A tough and stalwart Jaguar,
‘Tis squire’s wife, (back from the Institute),
And hastily she joins pursuit.
And now the folk for miles around
Have heard the sound of horse and hound
And run towards the curious noise,
Both dogs and cats and men and boys
Cry ‘tally ho!’ and join the chase
Some cry ‘Stop thief!’ and some ‘Well raced!’
While ever more around the trees
And ha-ha frantic SYNTAX flees.
The son and daughters of the squire
Now join the chase, ‘What strange attire
the huntsman wears!’ cries Juliet;
And now the sun begins to set,
And darkness deepens o’er the vale
And in the ever rising gale
What frantic cries, what fearsome hounds,
What gruesome and macabre sounds!
Now from the meadows stalwart steeds
With pointed feet invade the meads,
Now gardenwards they lead the way
And cabbage beds with hoof essay.
But all good things must sometime cease.
A special detachment of the police
Now reach the scene, and all aghast,
Fair PEACE sees TURMOIL yield at last.
Only the dogs continued to howl,
Standing round SYNTAX tooth to jowl.’
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
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