Dr. Syntax, Part Five (Cantos 6 and 7)

  Adventures of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque Part 5

Dr. Syntax, frontispiece, by Thomas Rowlandson, 1812

Excerpts from Canto  VI

We left Dr. Syntax, having already survived several misadventures and not having seen anything more picturesque than a bunch of braying donkeys, has suddenly had hot water poured over his feet by accident. The maid at the inn takes care of him and invites him to stay another night, but he declines.

“…The Doctor clos’d the kind debate,
By ordering Grizzle to the gate.
Now, undisturb’d, he took his way,
And traveled till the close of day;
When, to delight his wearied eyes.
Before him Oxford’s tow’rs arise.
O, Alma Mater!” Syntax cried,
My present boast, my early pride;
To whose protecting care I owe
All I’ve forgot, and all I know:
Deign from your nursling to receive
The homage that his heart can give! …”


Dr. Syntax, Entertained at College, by Rowlandson

Dr. Syntax rides through Oxford, admiring the place he loves, and puts up at The Mitre for the night.  Next morning, he gets a shave from the barber:

“…From him he learn’d that Dicky Bend,
His early academic friend,
As a reward for all his knowledge.
Was made the Provost of his College;
And then declared that he had clear
At least twelve hundred pounds a year.
“O ho !” says Syntax, “if that’s true,
I cannot surely better do
Than further progress to delay.
And with Friend Dicky pass a day.”
Away he hied, and soon he found him,
With all his many comforts round him…”

Dr. Syntax and the Provost discuss many things are enjoy their conversation:
“…At length the bell began to call
To dinner, in the college-hall;
Nor did the guests delay to meet,
Lur’d by the bounty of the treat.
The formal salutations over.
Each drew his chair and seized his cover.
The Provost, in collegiate pride,
Plac’d Doctor Syntax by his side;
And soon they heard the hurrying feet
Of those that bore the smoking meat.
Behold the dishes due appear, —
Fish in the van, beef in the rear; ..”

After a friendly evening in college:

“…Next morning, at an early hour.
Syntax proceeded on his Tour;
And, as he saunter’d on his way,
The scene of many a youthful day,
He thought ‘twould give his book an air,
If Oxford were well painted there;
And, as he curious look’d around,
He saw a spot of rising ground.
From whence the turrets of the city
Would make a picture very pretty..”

“…But, as he sought to choose a part.
Where he might best display his art,
A wicked bull no sooner view’d him,
Than loud he roar’d, and straight pursu’d him.
The Doctor, finding danger near,
Hew swiftly on the wings of fear,
And nimbly clamber’d up a tree,
That gave him full security…”

Dr. Syntax Pursued by a Bull, by Rowlandson

Excerpts from Canto VII

While riding onward, Dr. Syntax thinks about his wife, left behind at home…

“…though full many a year was gone.
Since this good dame was twenty-one,
She still retain’d the air and mien
Of the nice girl she once had been.
For these, and other charms beside,
She was indeed the Doctor’s pride;
Nay, he would sometimes on her gaze
With the fond looks of former days. …”

Dr. Syntax Mistakes a Gentleman’s House for an Inn

 He meets a curate and shares a long afternoon of conversations about their mutual poverty, then rides so long that he is exhausted,  As he looks for an Inn, he arrives at a Gentleman’s House and makes free with his guests, servants and accommodations, another error.  He addresses the Gentleman thusly:

… “Landlord! I’m sadly splash’d with mire And chill’d with rain, so light a fire;
And tell the ostler to take care
Of that good beast, my Grizzle mare;
And what your larder can afford,
Pray place it quickly on the board….”

Dr. Syntax becomes quite inebriated and, though he does not realize it, becomes the evening’s entertainment for the squire and his guests, who are quite amused.  The next morning, over breakfast, the good doctor learns of the jest.

“…At length the ‘Squire explained the joke;
When thus the Doctor quaintly spoke: —
” I beg, Sir, no excuse you’ll make,
Your merriment I kindly take;
And only wish the gods would give
Such jesting ev’ry day I live.”
The ladies press’d his longer stay,
But Syntax said — he must away.
So Grizzle soon her master bore,
Some new adventure to explore. “

End of Canto VII


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