The Improvisatore - Or, `john Anderson, My Jo, John' Poem Rhyme Scheme and Analysis


Scene A spacious drawing room with music room adjoiningA
Katharine What are the wordsB
Eliza Ask our friend the Improvisatore here he comes Kate has a favour to ask of you Sir it is that you will repeat the ballad Believe me if all those endearing young charms EHC's note that Mr sang so sweetlyC
Friend It is in Moore's Irish Melodies but I do not recollect the words distinctly The moral of them however I take to be thisD
Love would remain the same if trueE
When we were neither young nor newE
Yea and in all within the will that cameF
By the same proofs would show itself the sameF
Eliza What are the lines you repeated from Beaumont and Fletcher which my mother admired so much It begins with something about two vines so close that their tendrils intermingleG
Friend You mean Charles' speech to Angelina in The Elder BrotherH
We'll live together like two neighbour vinesI
Circling our souls and loves in one anotherH
We'll spring together and we'll bear one fruitJ
One joy shall make us smile and one grief mournK
One age go with us and one hour of deathL
Shall close our eyes and one grave make us happyC
Katharine A precious boon that would go far to reconcile one to old age this love if true But is there any such true loveM
Friend I hope soN
Katharine But do you believe itO
Eliza eagerly I am sure he doesP
Friend From a man turned of fifty Katharine I imagine expects a less confident answerH
Katharine A more sincere one perhapsQ
Friend Even though he should have obtained the nick name of Improvisatore by perpetrating charades and extempore verses at Christmas timesR
Eliza Nay but be seriousS
Friend Serious Doubtless A grave personage of my years giving a Love lecture to two young ladies cannot well be otherwise The difficulty I suspect would be for them to remain so It will be asked whether I am not the elderly gentleman' who sate despairing beside a clear stream' with a willow for his wig blockT
Eliza Say another word and we will call it downright affectationU
Katharine No we will be affronted drop a courtesy and ask pardon for our presumption in expecting that Mr would waste his sense on two insignificant girlsV
Friend Well well I will be serious Hem Now then commences the discourse Mr Moore's song being the text Love as distinguished from Friendship on the one hand and from the passion that too often usurps its name on the otherH
Lucius Eliza's brother who had just joined the trio in a whisper to the Friend But is not Love the union of bothW
Friend aside to Lucius He never loved who thinks soN
Eliza Brother we don't want you There Mrs H cannot arrange the flower vase without you Thank you Mrs HartmanU
Lucius I'll have my revenge I know what I will sayX
Eliza Off Off Now dear Sir Love you were sayingA
Friend Hush Preaching you mean ElizaY
Eliza impatiently PshawZ
Friend Well then I was saying that Love truly such is itself not the most common thing in the world and that mutual love still less so But that enduring personal attachment so beautifully delineated by Erin's sweet melodist and still more touchingly perhaps in the well known ballad John Anderson my Jo John ' in addition to a depth and constancy of character of no every day occurrence supposes a peculiar sensibility and tenderness of nature a constitutional communicativeness and utterancy of heart and soul a delight in the detail of sympathy in the outward and visible signs of the sacrament within to count as it were the pulses of the life of love But above all it supposes a soul which even in the pride and summer tide of life even in the lustihood of health and strength had felt oftenest and prized highest that which age cannot take away and which in all our lovings is the LoveM
Eliza There is something here pointing to her heart that seems to understand you but wants the word that would make it understand itselfA2
Katharine I too seem to feel what you mean Interpret the feeling for usS
Friend I mean that willing sense of the insufficingness of the self for itself which predisposes a generous nature to see in the total being of another the supplement and completion of its own that quiet perpetual seeking which the presence of the beloved object modulates not suspends where the heart momently finds and finding again seeks on lastly when life's changeful orb has pass'd the full' a confirmed faith in the nobleness of humanity thus brought home and pressed as it were to the very bosom of hourly experience it supposes I say a heartfelt reverence for worth not the less deep because divested of its solemnity by habit by familiarity by mutual infirmities and even by a feeling of modesty which will arise in delicate minds when they are conscious of possessing the same or the correspondent excellence in their own characters In short there must be a mind which while it feels the beautiful and the excellent in the beloved as its own and by right of love appropriates it can call Goodness its Playfellow and dares make sport of time and infirmity while in the person of a thousand foldly endeared partner we feel for aged Virtue the caressing fondness that belongs to the Innocence of childhood and repeat the same attentions and tender courtesies which had been dictated by the same affection to the same object when attired in feminine loveliness or in manly beautyC
Eliza What a soothing what an elevating ideaY
Katharine If it be not only an ideaY
Friend At all events these qualities which I have enumerated are rarely found united in a single individual How much more rare must it be that two such individuals should meet together in this wide world under circumstances that admit of their union as Husband and Wife A person may be highly estimable on the whole nay amiable as a neighbour friend housemate in short in all the concentric circles of attachment save only the last and inmost and yet from how many causes be estranged from the highest perfection in this Pride coldness or fastidiousness of nature worldly cares an anxious or ambitious disposition a passion for display a sullen temper one or the other too often proves the dead fly in the compost of spices' and any one is enough to unfit it for the precious balm of unction For some mighty good sort of people too there is not seldom a sort of solemn saturnine or if you will ursine vanity that keeps itself alive by sucking the paws of its own self importance And as this high sense or rather sensation of their own value is for the most part grounded on negative qualities so they have no better means of preserving the same but by negatives that is but not doing or saying any thing that might be put down for fond silly or nonsensical or to use their own phrase by never forgetting themselves which some of their acquaintance are uncharitable enough to think the most worthless object they could be employed in rememberingA
Eliza in answer to a whisper from Katharine To a hair He must have sate for it himself Save me from such folks But they are out of the questionU
Friend True but the same effect is produced in thousands by the too general insensibility to a very important truth this namely that the MISERY of human life is made up of large masses each separated from the other by certain intervals One year the death of a child years after a failure in trade after another longer or shorter interval a daughter may have married unhappily in all but the singularly unfortunate the integral parts that compose the sum total of the unhappiness of a man's life are easily counted and distinctly remembered The HAPPINESS of life on the contrary is made up of minute fractions the little soon forgotten charities of a kiss a smile a kind look a heartfelt compliment in the disguise of a playful raillery and the countless other infinitesimals of pleasurable thought and genial feelingA
Katharine Well Sir you have said quite enough to make me despair of finding a John Anderson my Jo John' with whom to totter down the hill of lifeB2
Friend Not so Good men are not I trust so much scarcer than good women but that what another would find in you you may hope to find in another But well however may that boon be rare the possession of which would be more than an adequate reward for the rarest virtueE
Eliza Surely he who has described it so well must have possessed itO
Friend If he were worthy to have possessed it and had believingly anticipated and not found it how bitter the disappointmentC2
Then after a pause of a few minutesD2
ANSWER ex improvisoD2
Yes yes that boon life's richest treatE2
He had or fancied that he hadF2
Say 'twas but in his own conceitE2
The fancy made him gladF2
Crown of his cup and garnish of his dishZ
The boon prefigured in his earliest wishZ
The fair fulfilment of his poesyD2
When his young heart first yearn'd for sympathyC
But e'en the meteor offspring of the brainG2
Unnourished waneG2
Faith asks her daily breadH2
And Fancy must be fedH2
Now so it chanced from wet or dryI2
It boots not how I know not whyI2
She missed her wonted food and quicklyC
Poor Fancy stagger'd and grew sicklyC
Then came a restless state 'twixt yea and nayX
His faith was fix'd his heart all ebb and flowN
Or like a bark in some half shelter'd bayX
Above its anchor driving to and froN
That boon which but to have possess'dJ2
In a belief gave life a zestJ2
Uncertain both what it had beenK2
And if by error lost or luckL2
And what is was an evergreenM2
Which some insidious blight had struckL2
Or annual flower which past its blowN
No vernal spell shall e'er reviveN2
Uncertain and afraid to knowN
Doubts toss'd him to and froN
Hope keeping Love Love Hope aliveN2
Like babes bewildered in a snowN
That cling and huddle from the coldO2
In hollow tree or ruin'd foldO2
Those sparkling colours once his boastP2
Fading one by one awayX
Thin and hueless as a ghostP2
Poor Fancy on her sick bed layX
Ill at distance worse when nearQ2
Telling her dreams to jealous FearQ2
Where was it then the sociable spriteR2
That crown'd the Poet's cup and deck'd his dishZ
Poor shadow cast from an unsteady wishZ
Itself a substance by no other rightR2
But that it intercepted Reason's lightR2
It dimm'd his eye it darken'd on his browS2
A peevish mood a tedious time I trowN
Thank Heaven 'tis not so nowS2
O bliss of blissful hoursD2
The boon of Heaven's decreeingL2
While yet in Eden's bowersD2
Dwelt the first husband and his sinless mateT2
The one sweet plant which piteous Heaven agreeingL2
They bore with them thro' Eden's closing gateT2
Of life's gay summer tide the sovran RoseD2
Late autumn's Amaranth that more fragrant blowsD2
When Passion's flowers all fall or fadeU2
If this were ever his in outward beingL2
Or but his own true love's projected shadeU2
Now that at length by certain proof he knowsD2
That whether real or a magic showN
Whate'er it was it is no longer soN
Though heart be lonesome Hope laid lowN
Yet Lady deem him not unblestU2
The certainty that struck Hope deadU2
Hath left Contentment in her steadU2
And that is next to BestU2

Samuel Taylor Coleridge


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