The Dance At The Phoenix

TO Jenny came a gentle youth
  From inland leazes lone;
  His love was fresh as apple-blooth
  By Parrett, Yeo, or Tone.
  And duly he entreated her
  To be his tender minister,
  And call him aye her own.

  Fair Jenny's life had hardly been
  A life of modesty;
  At Casterbridge experience keen
  Of many loves had she
  From scarcely sixteen years above:
  Among them sundry troopers of
  The King's-Own Cavalry.

  But each with charger, sword, and gun,
  Had bluffed the Biscay wave;
  And Jenny prized her gentle one
  For all the love he gave.
  She vowed to be, if they were wed,
  His honest wife in heart and head
  From bride-ale hour to grave.

  Wedded they were. Her husband's trust
  In Jenny knew no bound,
  And Jenny kept her pure and just,
  Till even malice found
  No sin or sign of ill to be
  In one who walked so decently
  The duteous helpmate's round.

  Two sons were born, and bloomed to men,
  And roamed, and were as not:
  Alone was Jenny left again
  As ere her mind had sought
  A solace in domestic joys,
  And ere the vanished pair of boys
  Were sent to sun her cot.

  She numbered near on sixty years,
  And passed as elderly,
  When, in the street, with flush of fears,
  On day discovered she,
  From shine of swords and thump of drum,
  Her early loves from war had come,
  The King's Own Cavalry.

  She turned aside, and bowed her head
  Anigh Saint Peter's door;
  "Alas for chastened thoughts!" she said;
  "I'm faded now, and hoar,
  And yet those notes--they thrill me through,
  And those gay forms move me anew
  As in the years of yore!"...

  --'Twas Christmas, and the Phoenix Inn
  Was lit with tapers tall,
  For thirty of the trooper men
  Had vowed to give a ball
  As "Theirs" had done (fame handed down)
  When lying in the self-same town
  Ere Buonaparté's fall.

  That night the throbbing "Soldier's Joy,"
  The measured tread and sway
  Of "Fancy-Lad" and "Maiden Coy,"
  Reached Jenny as she lay
  Beside her spouse; till springtide blood
  Seemed scouring through her like a flood
  That whisked the years away.

  She rose, and rayed, and decked her head
  To hide her ringlets thin;
  Upon her cap two bows of red
  She fixed with hasty pin;
  Unheard descending to the street,
  She trod the flags with tune-led feet,
  And stood before the Inn.

  Save for the dancers', not a sound
  Disturbed the icy air;
  No watchman on his midnight round
  Or traveller was there;
  But over All-Saints', high and bright,
  Pulsed to the music Sirius white,
  The Wain by Bullstake Square.

  She knocked, but found her further stride
  Checked by a sergeant tall:
  "Gay Granny, whence come you?" he cried;
  "This is a private ball."
  --"No one has more right here than me!
  Ere you were born, man," answered she,
  "I knew the regiment all!"

  "Take not the lady's visit ill!"
  Upspoke the steward free;
  "We lack sufficient partners still,
  So, prithee let her be!"
  They seized and whirled her 'mid the maze,
  And Jenny felt as in the days
  Of her immodesty.

  Hour chased each hour, and night advanced;
  She sped as shod with wings;
  Each time and every time she danced--
  Reels, jigs, poussettes, and flings:
  They cheered her as she soared and swooped
  (She'd learnt ere art in dancing drooped
  From hops to slothful swings).

  The favorite Quick-step "Speed the Plough"--
  (Cross hands, cast off, and wheel)--
  "The Triumph," "Sylph," "The Row-dow dow,"
  Famed "Major Malley's Reel,"
  "The Duke of York's," "The Fairy Dance,"
  "The Bridge of Lodi" (brought from France),
  She beat out, toe and heel.

  The "Fall of Paris" clanged its close,
  And Peter's chime told four,
  When Jenny, bosom-beating, rose
  To seek her
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Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy, was a Scottish Minister, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and Professor of Eccesiastical History at Edinburgh University. more…

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