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1 occurrence of pontoosuce
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1 occurrence of pontoosuce
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He encounters a prepossessing little tatterdemalion Triton, shell in hand, dewy in luminous spray of a rainbowed fountain. With the precocity of his precocious tribe, the juvenile Levantine, knowing that there is nothing the populace everywhere more like to hear than something touching upon themselves, their town and their period, entertains his street-audience accordingly with certain improvisations partaking alike of the sentiment and devil-may-care incident to the Neapolitan.

By marbles where a fountain rose
In jubilant waters scurrying high
To break in sleet against the blue,
I saw a thing as freshly bright—
A boy, who holding up a shell,
Enamelled part, with pinkish valve


New dipped in rainbows of the spray,
By mute appeal, with deference touched,
As if invoking Naples' monarch,
Not her mob, attention craved.
A weed of life, a sea-weed he
From the Levant adventuring out;
A cruiser light, like all his clan
Who, in repletion's lust for more,
And penury's strife for daily bread,
As licensed by compassionate heaven
To privateer it on their wits,
The Mid Sea rove from quay to quay,
At home with Turban, Fez, or Hat;
Ready in French, Italian, Greek—
Linguists at large; alert to serve
As chance interpreters or guides;
Suave in address, with winning ways—
Arch imps of Pandarus, a few;
Others with improvising gift
Of voweled rhyme in antic sort,
Or passionate, spirited by their sun
That ripens them in early teens;
And some with small brown fingers slim
Busier than the jackdaw's bill.
But he, what gravity is his!
Precociously sedate indeed
In beauty sensuously serene.
White-draped, and ranked aloft in choir
A treble clear in rolling laud
Meet would he look on Easter morn.


The muster round him closing more,
How circumspect he plays his part;
His glance intelligent taking in
The motley miscellaneous groups:
Large-chested porters, swarthy dames
In dress provincial that beseems;
Fishermen bronzed, and barbers curled;
Fat monk with paunched umbrella blue;
The quack, magnific in brocade
Chapeau and aigulets; the wight
That cobbles shoes in public way;
Mariners in red Phrygian caps.
But, twinkling brief, his liquid glance
Skims one poor figure limp that leans
Listlessly deaf amid the hum.
A purblind man, too, sly he views
With staff before him, pattering thin;
Informers these, perchance, and spies?
So queries one, a craftsman there,
Nudging his fellow, winking back.
And, verily, rumor long has run
That Bomba's blind men well can see,
His deaf men hear, his dumb men talk.
But never amid the varied throng
The boy a stragging soldier notes
In livery lace declaring him.


Howbeit, some sombre garbs he views:
A Jesuit grave, genteely sleek
In dapper small-clothes and fine hose
Of sable silk, and shovel-hat,
Hard by a doctor of the law,
In sables, too, with parchment cheek;
A useful man to lawless power,
Expert to legalise the wrong.
The twain, brief tarrying there behind,
Went sauntering off ere came the close.
But now the lad, in posture grave,
With sidelong leaning head intent,
The shell's lips to his listening ear,
In modulating tone began:
“Metheglin befuddles this freak o' the sea,
Humming, low humming—in brain a bee!
“Hymns it of Naples her myriads warming?
Involute hive in fever of swarming.
“What Hades of sighs in irruption suppressed,
Suffused with huzzahs that buzz in arrest!
“Neapolitans, ay, 'tis the soul of the shell
Intoning your Naples, Parthenope's bell.
“O, couch of the Siren renowned thro' the sea
That enervates Salerno, seduces Baiæ;
“I attend you, I hear; but how to resolve
The complex of conflux your murmurs involve!”


He paused, as after prelude won;
Abrupt then in recitative, he:
“Hark, the stir
The ear invading:
“Crowds on crowds
All promenading;
“Clatter and clink
Of cavalcading;
From ships unlading;
“Funeral dole,
Thro' arches fading;
“All hands round!
In masquerading;
“Litany low—
High rodomontading;
“Grapes, ripe grapes!
In cheer evading;
“Lazarus' plaint
All vines upbraiding;
Of fusillading!


“Hurly-burly, late and early,
Gossips prating, quacks orating,
Daft debating:
Furious wild reiteration
And incensed expostulation!
“Din condensed,
All hubbub summing:
Larking, laughing,
Chattering, chaffing,
Thrumming, strumming
Singing, jingling
All commingling—
Till the Drum,
Rub-a-dub sounded, doubly pounded,
Redundant in deep din rebounded,
Deafning all this hive of noises
Babel-tongued with myriad voices,
Drubs them dumb!
No more larking,
No more laughing,
No more chattering,
Nay, nor chaffing—
All is glum!
To blab the reason—
Were out of season,
For, look, they come!


Rub-a-dub, rub-a-dub,
Rub-a-double-dub-dub-o' the drum!”
Alert in his young senses five
The lad had caught the wafted roll
Of Bomba's barbarous tom-toms thumped,
And improvised the beat. Anon
The files wheeled into open view.
A second troop a thousand strong
With band and banners, flourished blades,
Launched from second cannoned den
And now in countermarch thereon;
The great drum-major towering up
In aigulets and tinsel tags—
Pagoda glittering in Cathay!
Arch whiskerando and gigantic
A grandiose magnifico antic
Tossing his truncheon in the van.
A hifalutin exaggeration,
Barbaric in his bearskin shako,
Of bullying Bomba's puffed elation
And blood-and-thunder proclamation,
A braggadocio Bourbon-Draco!