Captain Morris's Songs





Alas! poor Morris--writes one--we knew him well. Who that has once read

or heard his songs, can forget their rich and graceful imagery; the

fertile fancy, the touching sentiment, and the "soul reviving" melody,

which characterize every line of these delightful lyrics? Well do we

remember, too, his "old buff waistcoat," his courteous manner, and his

gentlemanly pleasantry, long after this Nestor of song had retired to

enjoy the delights of rural life, despite the prayer of his racy verse:



"In town let me live, then, in town let me die;

For in truth I can't relish the country, not I.

If one must have a villa in summer to dwell;

Oh! give me the sweet, shady side of Pall Mall."



Captain Morris was born about the middle of the last century, and

outlived the majority of the bon vivant society which he gladdened

with his genius, and lit up with his brilliant humour.



Yet, many readers of the present generation may ask, "Who was Captain

Morris?" He was born of good family, in the celebrated year 1745, and

appears to have inherited a taste for literary composition; for his

father composed the popular song of Kitty Crowder.



For more than half a century, Captain Morris moved in the first circles.

He was the "sun of the table" at Carlton House, as well as at Norfolk

House; and attaching himself politically, as well as convivially, to his

dinner companions, he composed the celebrated ballads of "Billy's too

young to drive us," and "Billy Pitt and the Farmer," which continued

long in fashion, as brilliant satires upon the ascendant politics of

their day. His humorous ridicule of the Tories was, however, but ill

repaid by the Whigs upon their accession to office; at least, if we may

trust the beautiful ode of "The Old Whig Poet to his Old Buff Waistcoat."

We are not aware of this piece being included in any edition of the

"Songs." It bears date "G. R., August 1, 1815;" six years subsequent to

which we saw it among the papers of the late Alexander Stephens.



Captain Morris's "Songs" were very popular. In 1830, we possessed a copy

of the 24th edition; we remember one of the ditties to have been "sung

by the Prince of Wales to a certain lady," to the air of "There's a

difference between a beggar and a queen." Morris's finest Anacreontic,

is the song Ad Poculum, for which he received the gold cup of the

Harmonic Society:



"Come thou soul-reviving cup!

Try thy healing art;

Stir the fancy's visions up,

And warm my wasted heart.



Touch with freshening tints of bliss

Memory's fading dream;

Give me, while thy lip I kiss,

The heaven that's in thy stream."



Of the famous Beefsteak Club, (at first limited to twenty-four members,

but increased to twenty-five, to admit the Prince of Wales,) Captain

Morris was the laureat; of this "Jovial System" he was the intellectual

centre. In the year 1831, he bade adieu to the club, in some spirited

stanzas, though penned at "an age far beyond mortal lot." In 1835, he

was permitted to revisit the club, when they presented him with a large

silver bowl, appropriately inscribed.



It would not be difficult to string together gems from the Captain's

Lyrics. In "The Toper's Apology," one of his most sparkling songs,

occurs this brilliant version of Addison's comparison of wits with

flying fish:--



"My Muse, too, when her wings are dry,

No frolic flight will take;

But round a bowl she'll dip and fly,

Like swallows round a lake.

Then, if the nymph will have her share

Before she'll bless her swain,

Why that I think's a reason fair

To fill my glass again."



Many years since, Captain Morris retired to a villa at Brockham,

near the foot of Box Hill, in Surrey. This property, it is said, was

presented to him by his old friend, the Duke of Norfolk. Here the

Captain "drank the pure pleasures of the rural life" long after many

a bright light of his own time had flickered out, and become almost

forgotten; even "the sweet, shady side of Pall Mall" had almost

disappeared, and with it the princely house whereat he was wont to

shine. He died July 11, 1835, in his ninety-third year, of internal

inflammation of only four days.



Morris presented a rare combination of mirth and prudence, such as human

conduct seldom offers for our imitation. He retained his gaiete de

coeur to the last; so that, with equal truth and spirit, he

remonstrated:



"When life charms my heart, must I kindly be told,

I'm too gay and too happy for one that's so old."



Captain Morris left his autobiography to his family; but it has not been

published.



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