Dr. Syntax Part Three

Poem by William Combe; illustrated by Thomas Rowlandson; published in 1812 by Rudolph Ackermann, London

We left Dr. Syntax in a dire situation, tied to a tree, robbed of his money and his horse Grizzle;

Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque 
excepts from Canto III

Dr. Syntax bound to a Tree by Highwaymen

By the road side, within the wood,
In this sad state poor Syntax stood;
His bosom heav’d with many a sigh,
And the tears stood in either eye.
What could he do?-—he durst not bawl;
His noise the robbers might recall;
The villains might again surround him.
And hang him up where they had bound him. …

(After bemoaning his fate and wishing himself back at home…)

It now appear’d an angel’s shape.
That promis’d him a quick escape :
Nor did La Mancha’s val’rous Knight
Feel greater pleasure at the sight.
When, overwhelm’d with love and awe.
His Dulcinea first he saw :
For on two trotting palfreys came.
And each one bore a comely dame :

They started as his form.they view ;
The horses also started too :
The dog with insult seem’d to treat him,
And look’d as if he long’d to eat him.
In piteous tones he humbly pray’d
They’d turn aside, and give him aid ;
When each leap’d quickly from her steed,
To join in charitable deed.
They drew their knives to cut the noose.
And let the mounful pris’ner loose ;
With kindest words his fate bewail,
While grateful Syntax tells his tale.
The rustic matrons sooth his grief,
Nor offer, but afford relief; …

(Eventually, they free him, and he is pleased to remember that much of his money was sewn into his clothes, so he is not entirely without funds.)

“… And, thanks to Spousy, ev’ry note
Was well sew’d up within my coat.
But where is Grizzle ? — Never mind her ;
I’ll have her cried, and soon shall find her.”

Thus he pursued the winding way.
Big with the evils of the day
Though the good Doctor kept in view
The favour of its blessings too.
Nor had he pac’d it half an hour,
Before he saw a parish tow’r.
And soon, with sore fatigue opprest,
An inn receiv’d him as its guest.
But still his mind, with anxious care,
Ponder’d upon his wand’ring mare;
He, therefore, sent the bellman round.
To see if Grizzle might be found. …

(Meanwhile, Grizzle is having her own adventures, but they are eventually reunited…)

…Lo ! Grizzle’s alter’d form appears.
With half its tail, and half its ears!
“Is there no law?” the Doctor cries: —
” Plenty,” a lawyer straight replies:
” Employ me, and those thieves shall swing
On gallows-tree, in hempen-string: …

(More conversation follows, but nothing is decided…)

…So to the ostler’s faithfull care
He gave his mutilated mare:
And while poor Grizzle, free from danger,
Cropp’d the full rack and clean’d the manger,
Syntax, to ease his aching head,
Smok’d out his pipe, and went to bed.

End of Canto III — story to be continued

King’s Bench Prison, from Microcosm of London,
by Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Pugin,
published by Rudolph Ackermann, 1809

As we told you in a previous post, Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque — and many other books and articles — was written by William Combe, who lodged in the King’s Bench Prison for many years.  This prison, for debtors, lodged many other famous personages at various times.  The famoius engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel spent some time there, as did Emma, Lady Hamilton.  Mary Robinson, an actress and poet, sometimes known as Perdita, and famed actor John Wilkes also were at King’s Bench.  Dickens set parts of several of his most famous novels in King’s Bench: David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickleby and Little Dorrit.

Leave a Reply