Richard Harris Barham Poems >>
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 five pounds in the house.
But, no matter for that,
Let me just get my hat,
And my new silk umbrella that stands on the mat,
And we'll go forth at once to the market -- we two,--
And try what my credit in Venice can do;
I stand well on 'Change, and, when all's said and done, I
Don't doubt I shall get it for love or for money.'

They were going to go,
When, lo! down below,
In the street, they heard somebody crying, 'Old Clo'!'
--'By the Pope, there's the man for our purpose!-- I knew
We should not have to search long. Salanio, run you,
-- Salarino,-- quick!-- haste! ere he get out of view,
And call in that scoundrel, old Shylock the Jew!'

With a pack,
Like a sack
Of old clothes at his back,
And three hats on his head, Shylock came in a crack,
Saying, 'Rest you fair, Signior Antonio!-- vat, pray,
Might your vorship be pleashed for to vant in ma vay!'

--'Why, Shylock, although, As you very well know,
I am what they call 'warm,'-- pay my way as I go,
And, as to myself, neither borrow nor lend,
I can break through a rule to oblige an old friend;
And that's the case now -- Lord Bassanio would raise
Some three thousand ducats -- well,-- knowing your ways,
And that nought's to be got from you, say what one will,
Unless you've a couple of names to the bill,
Why, for once, I'll put mine to it,
Yea, seal and sign to it --
Now, then, old Sinner, let's hear what you'll say
As to 'doing' a bill at three months from to-day?
Three thousand gold ducats, mind -- all in good bags
Of hard money -- no sealing-wax, slippers, or rags?'

'-- Vell, ma tear,' says the Jew, 'I'll see vat I can do!
But Mishter Antonio, hark you, 'tish funny
You say to me, 'Shylock, ma tear, ve'd have money!'
Ven you very vell knows, How you shpit on ma clothes,
And use naughty vords -- call me Dog -- and avouch
Dat I put too much int'resht py half in ma pouch,
And vhile I, like de resht of ma tribe, shrug and crouch,
You find fault mit ma pargains, and say I'm a Smouch.
-- Vell!--n o matters, ma tear,-- Von vord in your ear!
I'd be friends mit you bote -- and to make dat appear,
Vy, I'll find you de monies as soon as you vill,
Only von littel joke musht be put in de pill;
Ma tear, you musht say,
If on such and such day
Such sum or such sums, you shall fail to repay,
I shall cut vere I like, as de pargain is proke,
A fair pound of your flesh -- chest by vay of a joke.'

So novel a clause Caused Bassanio to pause;
But Antonio, like most of those sage 'Johnny Raws'
Who care not three straws
About Lawyers or Laws,
And think cheaply of 'Old Father Antic,' because
They have never experienced a gripe from his claws,
'Pooh pooh'd' the whole thing.--'Let the Smouch have his way,
Why, what care I, pray,
For his penalty?-- Nay,
It's a forfeit he'd never expect me to pay:
And, come what come may, I hardly need say
My ships will be back a full month ere the day.'
So, anxious to see his friend off on his journey,
And thinking the whole but a paltry concern, he
Affixed with all speed
His name to a deed,
Duly stamp'd and drawn up by a sharp Jew attorney.
Thus again furnish'd forth, Lord Bassanio, instead
Of squandering the cash, after giving one spread,
With fiddling and masques, at the Saracen's Head,
In the morning 'made play,' And without more delay,
Started off in the steam-boat for Belmont next day.
But scarcely had he
From the harbour got free,
And left the Lagunes for the broad open sea,
Ere the 'Change and Rialto both rung with the news
That he'd carried off more than mere cash from the Jew's.

Though Shylock was old,
And, if rolling in gold,
Was as ugly a dog as you' wish to behold,
For few in his tribe 'mongst their Levis and Moseses,
Sported so Jewish an eye, beard, and nose as his,
Still, whate'er the opinion of Horace and some be,
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