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The Ladies of the Lea

Fun, X - 30th October 1869

Illustration by Gilbert  

There was flutter in the bosoms of the Ladies of the Lea,
When occurred a change of curates in their village by the sea;
For appointed to a living was the old BARTHOLOMEW,
And coming down to take his place, was JAMES, the curate new!

BARTHOLOMEW was reverend, but elderly and stout,
And — a martyr to lumbago — he could scarcely get about;
But JAMES DE VYSE was young and fair, and comfortably off,
With the gentlest indication of a sweet comsumptive cough.

His linen would have suited ALBERT EDWARD PRINCE OF WALES,
He was properly particular about his fingernails.
His legs were straight as arrows (as the picture of him shows),
His feet were little toddlekins, with tiddy-iddy toes.


Though anything but foppish, he was careful in his dress,
His trousers were perfection, his boots were nothing less.
I think he wore the smallest gloves of any man alive
(His hand was barely seven, and his fingers only five).

'Twas no unseemly vanity, but admiration meet,
Of Nature's skill as shown in abstract, hands, and legs, and feet.
He loved them for they proved that Nature only can combine,
Simplicity of outline with perfection of design.

It sprung from abstract reverence for Nature's Wondrous Touch:
Any feature in the Kosmos he'd have reverenced as much,
If any other feature had appeared to him as neat
As his pretty little legs, and little hands, and little feet.

And JESSIE, JANE, and MARGARET, the Ladies of the Lea,
When they heard that JAMES DE VYSE their future curate was to be,
Resolved to do whatever well-intentioned girls should do,
To atone for having slighted poor old fat BARTHOLOMEW.

Illustration by Gilbert

Illustration by Gilbert

Illustration by Gilbert


Then JESSIE (little JESSIE!) thought, "How heedless have I been
Of all religious duties, and in charity how mean!
I will mortify the body with fatiguing exercise,
I will work a pair of slippers for the REVEREND DE VYSE."

And JENNY, who for many months her parish work had shirked,
Exclaimed, "How have I slumbered, while devouter people worked!
Of penances and pains it's fit that I should suffer some,
I'll embroider pretty braces for the curate that's to come!"

And MAGGIE said, "Oh, sluggish one!" (alluding to herself)
"How long shall works of piety lie idle on the shelf?
Lest REVEREND DE VYSE should think my toil a hollow form,
I will knit a pair of gloves to keep his jack-a-dandies warm!"

But JESSIE, who at needlework was rivalled once by few,
Had grown quite out of practise during old BARTHOLOMEW:
And when the High Church slippers were delivered to DE VYSE,
They were very well intended but preposterous in size.

And JENNY, who for old BARTHOLOMEW had never toiled,
Found her schemes for decorating young DE VYSE were nearly foiled;
Want of practical experience with braces sent her wrong.
It was very kind Of JANE, but they were very much too long.

And MAGGIE'S want of practise told upon her efforts, too;
She had never knitted anything for old BARTHOLOMEW.
The gloves were kindly meant, but they were clumsy as could be.
Poor MAGGIE did her best-but they were big enough for me!

And did DE VYSE reject these gifts because misfitting? No.
He wore them conscientiously, determining to show
That curates should endeavour (though with awkward presents curst)
To conciliate parishioners — at all events at first.

And JESSIE, JANE, and MARGARET, the Ladies of the Lea,
Were eager all their presents on the curate for to see;
So they clambered up his garden wall, in three successive lifts,
And there was JAMES a-gardening in all his little gifts.

Illustration by Gilbert

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