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The Banker’s Secret
by [?]


THE Banker’s dinner is the stateliest feast
The town has heard of for a year, at least;
The sparry lustres shed their broadest blaze,
Damask and silver catch and spread the rays;
The florist’s triumphs crown the daintier spoil
Won from the sea, the forest, or the soil;
The steaming hot-house yields its largest pines,
The sunless vaults unearth their oldest wines;
With one admiring look the scene survey,
And turn a moment from the bright display.

Of all the joys of earthly pride or power,
What gives most life, worth living, in an hour?
When Victory settles on the doubtful fight
And the last foeman wheels in panting flight,
No thrill like this is felt beneath the sun;
Life’s sovereign moment is a battle won.
But say what next? To shape a Senate’s choice,
By the strong magic of the master’s voice;
To ride the stormy tempest of debate
That whirls the wavering fortunes of the state.
Third in the list, the happy lover’s prize
Is won by honeyed words from women’s eyes.
If some would have it first instead of third,
So let it be,–I answer not a word.
The fourth,–sweet readers, let the thoughtless half
Have its small shrug and inoffensive laugh;
Let the grave quarter wear its virtuous frown,
The stern half-quarter try to scowl us down;
But the last eighth, the choice and sifted few,
Will hear my words, and, pleased, confess them true.

Among the great whom Heaven has made to shine,
How few have learned the art of arts,–to dine!
Nature, indulgent to our daily need,
Kind-hearted mother! taught us all to feed;
But the chief art,–how rarely Nature flings
This choicest gift among her social kings
Say, man of truth, has life a brighter hour
Than waits the chosen guest who knows his power?
He moves with ease, itself an angel charm,–
Lifts with light touch my lady’s jewelled arm,
Slides to his seat, half leading and half led,
Smiling but quiet till the grace is said,
Then gently kindles, while by slow degrees
Creep softly out the little arts that please;
Bright looks, the cheerful language of the eye,
The neat, crisp question and the gay reply,–
Talk light and airy, such as well may pass
Between the rested fork and lifted glass;–
With play like this the earlier evening flies,
Till rustling silks proclaim the ladies rise.
His hour has come,–he looks along the chairs,
As the Great Duke surveyed his iron squares.
That’s the young traveller,–is n’t much to show,–
Fast on the road, but at the table slow.
Next him,–you see the author in his look,–
His forehead lined with wrinkles like a book,–
Wrote the great history of the ancient Huns,–
Holds back to fire among the heavy guns.
Oh, there’s our poet seated at his side,
Beloved of ladies, soft, cerulean-eyed.
Poets are prosy in their common talk,
As the fast trotters, for the most part, walk.
And there’s our well-dressed gentleman, who sits,
By right divine, no doubt, among the wits,
Who airs his tailor’s patterns when he walks,
The man that often speaks, but never talks.
Why should he talk, whose presence lends a grace
To every table where he shows his face?
He knows the manual of the silver fork,
Can name his claret–if he sees the cork,–
Remark that “White-top” was considered fine,
But swear the “Juno” is the better wine;–
Is not this talking? Ask Quintilian’s rules;
If they say No, the town has many fools.
Pause for a moment,–for our eyes behold
The plain unsceptred king, the man of gold,
The thrice illustrious threefold millionnaire;
Mark his slow-creeping, dead, metallic stare;
His eyes, dull glimmering, like the balance-pan
That weighs its guinea as he weighs his man.
Who’s next? An artist in a satin tie
Whose ample folds defeat the curious eye.
And there ‘s the cousin,–must be asked, you know,–
Looks like a spinster at a baby-show.
Hope he is cool,–they set him next the door,–
And likes his place, between the gap and bore.
Next comes a Congressman, distinguished guest
We don’t count him,–they asked him with the rest;
And then some white cravats, with well-shaped ties,
And heads above them which their owners prize.