An artist—'tis not fair to tell his name;
But one whom Fortune, in her freakish tricks,
Saluted with less smiles than kicks,
More to the painter's honour, and her shame,—
Was one day deep engaged on his chef d'œuvre,
(A painting worthy of the Louvre,)
Dives and Lazarus the theme,—
The subject was his earliest boyish dream!
And, with an eye to colour, breadth, and tone,
He painted, skilfully as he was able,
The good things on the rich man's table,—
Wishing they were, no doubt, upon his own;
When suddenly his hostess—best of creatures!—
Made visible her features,
And to this world our artist did awaken:
"A gentleman," she said, "from the next street,
Had sent a special message in a heat,
Wanting a likeness taken."
The artist, with a calmness oft the effect
Of tidings which we don't expect,
Wip'd all his brushes carefully and clean,
Button'd his coat—a coat which once had been,—
Put on his hat, and with uncommon stress
On the address,
Went forth, revolving in his nob
How his kind hostess, when he'd got the job,—
Even before they paid him for his skill,—
Would let him add a little to the bill.
He found a family of six or seven,
All grown-up people, seated in a row;
There might be seen upon each face a leaven
Of recent, and of decent woe,
But that the artist, whose chief cares
Were fix'd upon his own affairs,
Gazed, with a business eye, to be acquainted
Which of the seven wanted to be painted.
But a young lady soon our artist greeted,
Saying, in words of gentlest music, "Ah!—
Pray, Mr. Thingo'me, be seated,—
We want a likeness of our grandpapa."
Such chances Fortune seldom deigns to bring:
The very thing!
How he should like
To emulate Vandyke!
Or, rather—still more glorious ambition—
To paint the head like Titian,
A fine old head, with silver sprinkled:
A face all seam'd and wrinkled:—
The painter's heart 'gan inwardly rejoice;
But, as he pondered on that "fine old head,"
Another utter'd, in a mournful voice,
"But, sir, he's dead!"
The artist was perplex'd—the case was alter'd:
Distrust, stirr'd up by doubt, his bosom warps;
"God bless my soul!" he falter'd;
"But, surely, you can let me see the corpse?
An artist but requires a hint:
There are the features—give the cheeks a tint—
Paint in the eyes—and, though the task's a hard 'un,
You'll find the thing, I'll swear,
As like as he can,—no, I beg your pardon,—
As like as he could stare!"
"Alas! alas!" the eldest sister sigh'd,
And then she sobb'd and cried,
So that 'twas long ere she again could speak,—
"We buried him last week!"
The painter heaved a groan: "But, surely, madam,
You have a likeness of the dear deceased;
Some youthful face, whose age might be increased?"
"No, no,—we haven't, sir, no more than Adam;
Not in the least!"
This was the strangest thing that e'er occurr'd;—
"You'll pardon me," the baffled painter cried;
"But, really, I must say, upon my word,
You might have sent for me before he died."
And then he turn'd to the surviving tribe,—
"Can you describe
But a few items, features, shape, and hue?
I'll warrant, I'll still paint the likeness true!"
"Why, yes, we could do that," said one: "let's see;
He had a rather longish nose, like me."
"No," said a second; "there you're wrong,
His nose was not so very long."
"Well, well," pursued the first; "his eyes
Were rather smaller than the common size."
"How?" cried a third, "how?—not at all;
Not small—not small!"
"Well, then, an oval face, extremely fine."
"Yes," said the eldest son, "like mine."
The painter gazed upon him in despair,—
The fellow's face was square!
"I have it," cried another, and arose;
"But wait a moment, sir," and out she goes.
With curiosity the artist burn'd—
"What was she gone for?" but she soon return'd.
"I knew from what they said, to expect to gain
A likeness of grandpa was quite in vain;
But, not upon that point to dwell,
I have got something here will do as well
As though alive he for his portrait sat!"
So, saying, with a curtsey low,
She from behind, with much parade and show,
Presented an old hat!