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"Ode to Joseph Grimaldi, Senior" (1825)

Thomas Hood

from The Works (1862-1863), vol. I

In this tribute to the great comic actor Hood satirically invokes "Joe Frankenstein, who can "compile / The vegetable man complete."
"This fellow's wise enough to play the fool,
And to do that well craves a kind of wit."
Twelfth Night
Joseph! they say thou'st left the stage,
To toddle down the hill of life,
And taste the flannell'd ease of age,
Apart from pantomimic strife --
"Retired -- [for Young would call it so] --
The world shut out" -- in Pleasant Row!

And hast thou really wash'd at last
From each white cheek the red half-moon
And all thy public Clownship cast,
To play the private Pantaloon?
All youth -- all ages yet to be
Shall have a heavy miss of thee!

Thou didst not preach to make us wise --
Thou hadst no finger in our schooling --
Thou didst not "lure us to the skies" --
Thy simple, simple trade was -- Fooling!
And yet, Heav'n knows! we could -- we can
Much "better spare a better man!"

Oh, had it pleased the gout to take
The reverend Croly from the stage,
Or Southey, for our quiet's sake,
Or Mr. Fletcher, Cupid's sage,
Or, damme! namby pamby Pool, --
Or any other clown or fool!

Go, Dibdin -- all that bear the name,
Go Byeway Highway man! go! go!
Go, Skeffy -- man of painted fame,
But leave thy partner, painted Joe!
I could bear Kirby on the wane,
Or Signor Paulo with a sprain!

Had Joseph Wilfred Parkins made
His grey hairs scarce in private peace --
Had Waithman sought a rural shade --
Or Cobbett ta'en a turnpike lease --
Or Lisle Bowles gone to Balaam Hill --
I think I could be cheerful still!

Had Medwin left off, to his praise,
Dead lion kicking, like -- a friend! --
Had long, long Irving gone his ways
To muse on death at Ponder's End --
Or Lady Morgan taken leave
Of Letters -- still I might not grieve!

But, Joseph -- everybody's Jo! --
Is gone -- and grieve I will and must!
As Hamlet did for Yorick, so
Will I for thee (though not yet dust),
And talk as he did when he miss'd
The kissing-crust that he had kiss'd!

Ah, where is now thy rolling head!
Thy winking, reeling, drunken eyes,
(As old Catullus would have said,)
Thy oven-mouth, that swallow'd pies --
Enormous hunger -- monstrous drowth! --
Thy pockets greedy as thy mouth!

Ah, where thy ears, so often cuff'd! --
Thy funny, flapping, filching hands! --
Thy partridge body, always stuff'd
With waifs, and strays, and contrabands! --
Thy foot -- like Berkeley's Foote -- for why?
'Twas often made to wipe an eye!

Ah, where thy legs -- that witty pair!
For "great wits jump" -- and so did they!
Lord! how they leap'd in lamplight air!
Caper'd -- and bounced -- and strode away! --
That years should tame the legs -- alack!
I've seen spring through an Almanack!

But bounds will have their bound -- the shocks
Of Time will cramp the nimblest toes;
And those that frisk'd in silken clocks
May look to limp in fleecy hose --
One only -- (Champion of the ring)
Could ever make his Winter, -- Spring!

And gout, that owns no odds between
The toe of Czar and toe of Clown,
Will visit -- but I did not mean
To moralize, though I am grown
Thus sad, -- Thy going seem'd to beat
A muffled drum for Fun's retreat!

And, may be -- 'tis no time to smother
A sigh, when two prime wags of London
Are gone -- thou, Joseph, one, -- the other,
A Joe! -- "sic transit gloria Munden!"
A third departure some insist on, --
Stage-apoplexy threatens Liston! --

Nay, then, let Sleeping Beauty sleep
With ancient "Dozey" to the dregs --
Let Mother Goose wear mourning deep,
And put a hatchment o'er her eggs!
Let Farley weep -- for Magic's man
Is gone -- his Christmas Caliban!

Let Kemble, Forbes, and Willet rain,
As though they walk'd behind thy bier, --
For since thou wilt not play again,
What matters, -- if in heav'n or here!
Or in thy grave, or in thy bed! --
There's Quick might just as well be dead!

Oh, how will thy departure cloud
The lamplight of the little breast!
The Christmas child will grieve aloud
To miss his broadest friend and best, --
Poor urchin! what avails to him
The cold New Monthly's Ghost of Grimm?

For who like thee could ever stride!
Some dozen paces to the mile! --
The motley, medley coach provide --
Or like Joe Frankenstein compile
The vegetable man complete! --
A proper Covent Garden feat!

Oh, who like thee could ever drink,
Or eat, -- swill -- swallow -- bolt -- and choke!
Nod, weep, and hiccup -- sneeze and wink? --
Thy very yawn was quite a joke!
Though Joseph, Junior, acts not ill,
"There's no Fool like the old Fool" still!

Joseph, farewell! dear funny Joe!
We met with mirth, -- we part in pain!
For many a long, long year must go
Ere Fun can see thy like again --
For Nature does not keep great stores
Of perfect Clowns -- that are not Boors!