The Three Revellers ; or Impiety Punished.
In the bleak, noxious fens which to Lincoln pertain,
Where agues exert their fell sway,
Where the bittern hoarse moans, and the sea- mew complains
As she fits o'er the watery way ;
While in strains thus discordant the natives of air
With shrieks and with screams the ear strike,
The toad and the frog, croaking notes of despair,
Join the din from the bog and the dyke.
Midst scenes which the senses annoy and appal,
Sad and sullen old Holbeach appears,
As if doom'd to lament her hard fate from the Fall,
Like a Niobe wash'd with her tears.
From fogs pestilential that hover around,
Fraught with gloom and with pain and disease,
The juice of the grape best repellant was found,
Source of comfort, of joy, and of ease.
At the Chequers, far fam'd, to quaff their delight,
The burghers, both ancient and young,
With smoking and cards pass'd the long winter's night,
They laugh'd, and they joked, and they sung.
Three revellers left when the midnight was come,
Unable their game to pursue,
Repair'd, most unhallow'd , to visit the tomb
Where enshrinèd lay one of their crew.
For, he, late departed, renown'd was at whist The marshmen still tell of his fame Till death struck the spade and the cards from his fist, And spoil'd both his hand and his game. Dark and damp was the night; through the churchyard they prowled Like wolves by fierce hunger subdued. ' Gainst the doors they huge gravestones impetuous hurl’d, Which recoil'd at such violence rude. From the sepulchre's jaws their old comrade uncas'd How dreadful the tale to relate ! Uprear'd ’gainst the wall, on a table was placed The corpse, in funereal state. By a taper's faint blaze and Luna's pale light, That would sometimes einit them a ray, The cards were produced, and they cut with delight To know who with Dummy should play. Exalted on basses, the bravoes kneel'd round , Exulting and proud of the deed. To Dummy they bent with respect most profound, And said : " ' Tis your turn , sir, to lead. ' The game was commenc'd, when one offer'd his aid, And affected to guide his cold hand ; Another cried out : ‘ Brave Dummy, well play'd ! I see you've your cards at command. ' Thus, thoughtless, they jeer'd, devoid of all grace ; Loud sounds shook the walls of the church ; When Dummy sank down, and a Fiend in his place Shrick'd dismal : ‘ Haste, haste, save your lurch ! '
Astounded they star'd ; the Fiend disappear'd, And Dummy again took his seat. They deem'd ' twas but fancy, nor longer they fear'd , But swore that old Dum should be beat. Eight to nine was the game, Dummy's partner call’d loud, " Speak once, my old friend, or we're done. Remember our stake—' tis my coat and your shroud. Now answer and win-Can you one. ' " What, silent, my Dummy, when most I you need ! Dame Fortune our wishes has cross'd—' When a voice from beneath howlid : Your fate is decreed ! The game and the gamesters are lost-' When , strange, most terrific, and horrid to view, Three spectres through earth burst their way. Each one seized his partner, his arms round him threw, And vanish'd in smoke with his prey. No wretch sacrilegious, since that fatal hour, The chancel has dar'd to draw near, Lest the spectres again should exert their fell power, And drag him to punishment drear. Ofttimes, it is said , at the dead of the night, When gamesters and drunkards reel home, The Revellers three with old Dummy unite To beckon the sots to the tomb. Then busy they seem as, intent on their game, While the gazers affrighted stand by, On a sudden the spectres appear clad in flame, And , shrieking, away they all fly.