Richard Harris Barham

Here you will find the Long Poem The Merchant of Venice,: A Legend of Italy of poet Richard Harris Barham

The Merchant of Venice,: A Legend of Italy

I believe there are few 
But have heard of a Jew, 
Named Shylock, of Venice, as arrant a 'screw' 
In money transactions as ever you knew; 
An exorbitant miser, who never yet lent 
A ducat at less than three hundred per cent., 
Insomuch that the veriest spendthrift in Venice, 
Who'd take no more care of his pounds than his pennies, 
When press'd for a loan, at the very first sight 
Of his terms, would back out, and take refuge in Flight. 
It is not my purpose to pause and inquire 
If he might not, in managing thus to retire, 
Jump out of the frying-pan into the fire; 
Suffice it, that folks would have nothing to do, 
Who could possibly help it, with Shylock the Jew. 

But, however discreetly one cuts and contrives, 
We've been most of us taught in the course of our lives, 
That 'Needs must when the Elderly Gentleman drives!' 
In proof of this rule, 
A thoughtless young fool, 
Bassanio, a Lord of the Tomnoddy school, 
Who, by showing at Operas, Balls, Plays, and Court, 
A 'swelling' (Payne Collier would read 'swilling') 'port,' 
And inviting his friends to dine, breakfast, and sup, 
Had shrunk his 'weak means,' and was 'stump'd,' and 'hard up,' 
Took occasion to send 
To his very good friend 
Antonio, a merchant whose wealth had no end, 
And who'd often before had the kindness to lend 
Him large sums, on his note, which he'd managed to spend. 

'Antonio,' said he, 'Now listen to me; 
I've just hit on a scheme which, I think you'll agree, 
All matters consider'd, is no bad design, 
And which, if it succeeds, will suit your book and mine. 
'In the first place, you know all the money I've got, 
Time and often, from you has been long gone to pot, 
And in making those loans you have made a bad shot; 
Now do as the boys do when, shooting at sparrows 
And tom-tits, they chance to lose one of their arrows, 
-- Shoot another the same way -- I'll watch well its track, 
And, turtle to tripe, I'll bring both of them back! 
So list to my plan, 
And do what you can, 
To attend to and second it, that's a good man! 

'There's a Lady, young, handsome, beyond all compare, at 
A place they call Belmont, whom, when I was there, at 
The suppers and parties my friend Lord Mountferrat 
Was giving last season, we all used to stare at, 
Then, as to her wealth, her solicitor told mine, 
Besides vast estates, a pearl fishery, and gold mine, 
Her iron strong box 
Seems bursting its locks, 
It's stuffed so with shares in 'Grand Junctions,' and 'Docks,' 
Not to speak of the money's she's got in the stocks, 
French, Dutch, and Brazilian, Columbian, and Chilian, 
In English Exchequer-bills full half a million, 
Not 'kites,' manufactured to cheat and inveigle, 
But the right sort of 'flimsy,' all signed by Monteagle. 
Then I know not how much in Canal-shares and Railways 
And more speculations I need not detail, ways 
Of vesting which, if not so safe as some think'em, 
Contribute a deal to improving one's income; 
In short, she's a Mint! 
-- Now I say, deuce is in't 
If with all my experience, I can't take a hint, 
And her 'eye's speechless messages,' plainer than print 
At the time that I told you of, know from a squint, 
In short, my dear Tony, 
My trusty old crony, 
Do stump up three thousand once more as a loan -- I 
Am sure of my game -- though, of course there are brutes, 
Of all sorts and sizes, preferring their suits 
To her you may call the Italian Miss Coutts, 
Yet Portia -- she's named from that daughter of Cato's-- 
Is not to be snapp'd up like little potatoes, 
And I have not a doubt I shall rout every lout 
Ere you'll whisper Jack Robinson -- cut them all out -- 
Surmount every barrier, Carry her, marry her! 
-- Then hey! my old Tony, when once fairly noosed, 
For her Three-and-a-half per cents -- New and Reduced!' 

With a wink of his eye His friend made reply 
In his jocular manner, sly, caustic, and dry. 
'Still the same boy, Bassanio -- never say 'die'! 
-- Well -- I hardly know how I shall do't, but I'll try.-- 
Don't suppose my affairs are at all in a hash, 
But the fact is, at present I'm quite out of cash; 
The bulk of my property, merged in rich cargoes, is 
Tossing about, as you know, in my Argosies, 
Tending, of course, my resources to cripple,-- I 
've one bound to England,-- another to Tripoli-- 
Cyprus -- Masulipatam -- and Bombay;-- 
A sixth, by the way, I consigned t'other day 
To Sir Gregor M'Gregor, Cacique of Poyais, 
A country where silver's as common as clay. 
Meantime, till they tack, And come, some of them, back, 
What with Custom-house duties, and bills falling due, 
My account with Jones Loyd and Co. looks rather blue; 
While, as for the 'ready,' I'm like a Church-mouse,-- 
I really don't think there's