He put a balance-sheet in—cooked, An honest emmet o'er it looked, And said, "The hoard of grain is low; But the accounts themselves don't show By any vouchers what the stocks are. Really, such documents but mocks are."
"Sir," the controller said, "would you Have us pass everything to view? Divulge all matters to all eyes, Proclaim to winds state mysteries? 'Twould lay us open to our foes; You see all that we dare disclose; And, on my honour, the expense Is lavished on the swarm's defence."
They passed the balance-sheet—again Next year's shewed "deficit of grain;" And thus again controller pleaded: "Much secret service has been needed, For famines threaten: turkey broods Have been most clamorous for foods. Turkey invasions have cost dear, And geese were numerous last year. Really, these secrets told are ruin, And tend much to the realm's undoing."
Again, without examination, They thanked his good administration. A third and fourth time this recurred, An auditor would then be heard: "Are we but tools," he said, "of rogues? Through us corruption disembogues Her mighty flood; for every grain We touch we vouch at least for twain. Where have they vanished? nay, in bribes. They have depoverished our tribes."
Then followed an investigation, And a report unto the nation. The Ant was punished, and his hoard— All that remained of it—restored.
THE BEAR IN A BOAT.
(To a Coxcomb.)
Ah! my dear fellow, write the motto NOSCE TEIPSUM o'er your grotto; For he must daily wiser grow, Determined his own scope to know. He never launches from the shore Without the compass, sail, and oar. He, ere he builds, computes the costs; And, ere he fights, reviews the hosts. He safely walks within the fence, And reason takes from common sense: Pride and presumption standing checked Before some palpable defect.
To aid the search for pride's eviction, A coxcomb claims a high distinction. Not to one age or sex confined Are coxcombs, but of rank and kind; Pervading all ranks, great and small, Who take and never give the wall. By ignorance is pride increased; They who assume most, know the least. Yet coxcombs do not, all alike, Our ridicule and laughter strike. For some are lovers, some are bores, Some rummage in the useless stores Of folios ranged upon the shelf, Another only loves himself. Such coxcombs are of private station: Ambition soars to rule the nation. They flattery swallow: do not fear,— No nonsense will offend their ear: Though you be sycophant professed, You will not put his soul to test. If policy should be his care, Drum MACHIAVELLI in his ear; If commerce or the naval service, Potter of Mazarin and Jervis. Always, with due comparison, By him let all that 's done be done; Troops, levies, and ambassadors, Treaties and taxes, wars and stores; No blunders or crude schemes are tost, Each enterprise repays its cost. He is the pilot at the helm To succour and to save the realm. Spare not your Turkey-poult to cram, He never will suspect you flam.
There was a bear of manners rough, Who could take bee-hives well enough: He lived by plundered honey-comb, And raided the industrial home. Success had puffed him with conceit; He boasted daily of some feat. In arrogance right uncontrolled He grew pragmatic, busy, bold; And beasts, with reverential stare, Thought him a most prodigious bear.
He grew dictator in his mood, And seized on every spoil was good; From chickens, rising by degrees, Until he took the butcher's fees: Then, in his overweening pride, Over the hounds he would preside; And, lastly, visiting the rocks, He took his province from the fox. And so it happened on a day A yawl equipped at anchor lay. He stopped, and thus expressed his mind: "What blundering puppies are mankind! What stupid pedantry in schools, Their compasses and nautic tools! I will assume the helm, and show Vain man a dodge he ought to know."
He gained the vessel, took his stand. The beasts, astonished, lined the strand; He weighed the anchor, slacked the sail, Put her about before the gale, But shipped no rudder: ill then met her; He ran ashore, and there upset her.
The roach and gudgeon, native there, Gathered to quiz the floundering bear. Not so the watermen: the crew Gathered around to thrash him too; And merriment ran on the strand As Bruin, chained, was dragged to land.
SQUIRE AND CUR.
(To a Country Gentleman.)
Man, with integrity of heart, Disdains to play a double part: He bears a moral coat of mail, When envy snarls and slanders rail. From virtue's shield the shafts resound, And his light shines in freedom round.
If in his country's cause he rise, Unbribed, unawed, he will advise; Will fear no ministerial frown, Neither will clamour put him down. But if you play the politician With soul averse to the position, Your lips and teeth must be controlled.
What minister his place could hold Were falsehood banished from the court, Or truth to princes gain resort? The minister would lose his place, If he could not his foes disgrace.
For none is born a politician Who cannot lie by intuition: By which the safety of the throne Is kept—subservient to his own. For monarchs must be kept deluded By falsehood from the lips exuded, And, ministerial schemes pursuing, Care nothing for the public ruin.
Antiochus, lost in a chase, Traversed the wood with mended pace, And reached a cottage, sore distressed. A Parthian fed the regal guest, But knew not whom: the countryman, Warmed by unwonted wine, began To talk of courts and talk of kings:
"We country folk, we see such things. They say the king is good and wise: Ah! we could open both his eyes. They say, God bless him! he means good. Ah! we could open them—we could;— And show him how his courtiers ride us: They rob us, and they then deride us. If King Antiochus could see, Or if he knew as much as we, How servants wound a master's name,— From kings to cobblers 'tis the same,— If King Antiochus, I say, Could see, he'd kick those scamps away."
Both in good time their couches sought; The peasant slept, the monarch thought. At earliest dawn the courtiers found And owned the king by trumpet sound. Unto his rustic host the guest, With due reward, his thanks expressed; And turning to his courtier train: "Since you are bent on private gain, You may your private gain pursue; Henceforth I will be quit of you."
A country squire, by whim directed, The nobler stocks canine neglected; Nor hound nor pointer by him bred. Yap was his cur, and Yap was fed; And Yap brought all his blood relations To fill the posts and eat the rations; And to that end it came about That all the others were turned out. Now Yap, as curs are wont to do— If great men's curs—on tradesmen flew, Unless they bribed him: with a bound He worried all the tenants round. For why? he lived in constant fear Lest they, in hate, should interfere. So Master Yap would snarl and bite, Then clap his tail, and fly with fright; As he, with bay and bristling hair, Assailed each tradesman who came there. He deemed, if truth should get admittance, 'Twould followed be by his demittance.
It chanced that Yap, upon a day, Was by a kins-cur lured to play; And, as Miss Yaps there were, they thought Unto Miss Yaps to pay their court, And had a little hunting bouting, Like Antony, who so went outing With Cleopatra.—So pursuing, Yap and Mark Antony found ruin. A neighbour passing by, then ventured— And, seeing the coast clear, he entered. The squire enjoyed a quiet chat, And said: "Now tell me, neighbour Mat, Why do men shun my hall? Of late, No neighbour enters in my gate; I do not choose thence to infer——"
"Squire, 'tis nothing but the cur," Mat answered him; "with cursed spite, The brute does nought but bark and bite. There is some cause, we all agree: He swears 'tis us—we say 'tis he. Get rid of him, the snarling brute, And these old halls shall not be mute; There nothing is we more desire, Than lose the cur and win the squire."
The truth prevailed, and with disgrace The cur was cudgelled out of place.
THE COUNTRYMAN AND JUPITER.
NOSCE TEIPSUM: look and spy, Have you a friend so fond as I? Have you a fault, to mankind known, Not hidden unto eyes your own? When airy castles you importune, Down falling, by the breath of Fortune, Did I e'er doubt you should inherit, If Fortune's wheel devolved on merit? It was not so; for Fortune's frown Still perseveres to hold you down. Then let us seek the cause, and view What others say and others do. Have we, like those in place, resigned Our independency of mind? Have we had scruples—and therefore Practising morals, are we poor? If such be our forlorn position, Would Fortune mend the lorn condition? On wealth if happiness were built, Villains would compass it by guilt. No: CRESCIT AMOR NUMMI—misers Are not so heartwhole as are sizars. Think, O John Gay!—and that's myself— Should Fortune make you her own elf, Would that augment your happiness? Or haply might she make it less?
Suppose yourself a wealthy heir Of houses, lands, and income clear: Your luxury might break all bounds Of plate and table, steeds, and hounds. Debts—debts of honour—lust of play— Will waste a county's wealth away; And so your income clear may fail, And end in exile or in jail.
Or were you raised to height of power, Would that ameliorate an hour? Would avarice and false applause Weigh in the balance as two straws? Defrauded nations, blinded kings, Would they not, think you, leave their stings? If happiness, then, be your aim (I mean the true, not false of fame), She nor in courts nor camps resides, Nor in the lowly cottage bides; Nor on the soil, nor on the wind; She tenants only in the mind.
Wearied by toil, beneath the shade, A rustic rested on his spade. "This load of life, from year to year," He said, "is very hard to bear. The dawning morning bids me up To toil and labour till I sup!"
Jove heard, and answered him: "My friend, Complaints that are unjust offend: Speak out your griefs, if you repine At any act or deed of mine. If you can mend your state, instruct me; I wish but knowledge to conduct me."
So saying, from the mundane crowds He raised the rustic to the clouds.
He showed a miser—said: "Behold His bulky bags that burst with gold! He counts it over, and the store Is every day increased by more."
"O happiness!" the rustic cried: "What can a fellow wish beside?"
"Ah, wait! until I charm your eyes," Said Jupiter, "from fallacies."
He looked again, and saw the breast Like a rough ocean—ne'er at rest: Fear, guilt, and conscience gnawed the heart; Extortion ever made it smart— It seemed as if no sunlit gleam Could brighten it in thought or dream.
"Ah! may the gods," he cried, "reject My prayer for gold, and comfort wreckt: But see yon minister of state, And the gay crowd who proudly wait!"
"A second time I charm your eyes," Said Jove, "from mortal fallacies."
He looked again, and saw a breast Gnawed by corruption, wanting rest: He saw him one time drunk with power, Tottering upon Ambition's tower; Then, seized with giddiness and fear, Seeing his downfall in his rear, "O Jupiter!" the rustic said, "Give me again my plough and spade."
But Jupiter was not contented: The rustic's griefs he still resented. So he deployed before his sight The lawyer's and the soldier's plight; The miseries of war and law, The battle-field and legal flaw.
"O Jupiter!" the rustic said, "Restore me to the plough and spade."
Then Jupiter: "You mortals blunder: There is no happiness in thunder; For happiness, to nought confined, Is found in the contented mind: Go home again, and be contented, Nor grumble more like one demented."
Then Jupiter, to aid the clown, Where he had found him put him down.
MAN, CAT, DOG, AND FLY.
(To my Native Land.)
My native land, whose fertile ground Neptune and Amphitrite bound,— Britain, of trade the chosen mart, The seat of industry and art,— May never luxury or minister Cast over thee a mantle sinister! Still let thy fleet and cannon's roar Affright thy foes and guard thy shore. When Continental States contend, Be thou to them a common friend. Imperial rule may sway their land; Here Commerce only takes her stand, Diffusing good o'er all the world. The flag of Commerce, where unfurled, Stands with fair plenty in her train, And wealth, to bless her bright domain. For where the merchant sails to trade Fair is the face of Nature made. Glad is the king, in regal dome; Glad is the rustic, in his home; The flocks and culture glad the fields, And Peace her boon of plenty yields. For Nature meant that man should share The goods abounding everywhere, And barter corn, and oil, and wine; The iron ore and twisted twine, Cotton and silk, deep-bedded coal, Be interchanged from pole to pole. So each land's superfluities Should bind lands by commercial ties; And carry, from abounding stores, The luxuries of distant shores. The monarch and the rustic eat Of the same harvest, the same wheat; The artizan supplies the vest, The mason builds the roof of rest; The self-same iron-ores afford The coulter of the plough and sword; And all, from cottage to the throne, Their common obligation own For private and for public cause, Protecting property and laws.
The animals were once distressed By bitter famine, and addressed Themselves to man to find them food, And bound themselves in servitude; For, whilst they starved, or whilst they fed, Man had his lasting hoards of bread.
The cat demanded leave to sue, "Well, Puss," says Man, "and what can you do?" "Scatter the rats and mice," said Tib; "And guard your grain in sack or crib. Foe am I of the genus Mus, Absurdly called 'ridiculus;' Dan AEsop called him so, not I; Feed me, and every mouse shall die."
Then to the starving hound, Man said: "Well, sir, and how can you earn bread?"
"My name is Trusty," said the hound; "And ne'er was I untrusty found. I am not used, by self-applause, To pander to my famished jaws; But I am well known; if you please To ask my character of these. My province is to watch, and keep The house and fold the whilst you sleep; And thief and wolf alike shall know I am your friend, and am their foe."
"Ah!" said the Man, "we rarely find Trust uncorrupted with mankind. Such services, indeed, transcend; Pray, be my comrade and my friend."
Then to the drone he turned, and said: "Well, sir; can you, sir, earn your bread?"
"I will explain, sir, if I can; I am," said drone, "a gentleman. Mechanics earn their bread—not I: Where'er there honey is, I fly; But, truly, it would not be fit I should submit to toil for it: I visit peaches, plums, and roses, Where Beauty on a couch reposes; I seldom fail the placid hour, When she takes bohea in the bower; Nor do I gather stores of pelf—, My object is to please myself; And if I lay to aught pretence, It is to ease and elegance."
"So, Mr. Drone; and have you done? Then, from that peach, I pray, begone; If you won't work, you shall not eat,— That is, with me; so quit that seat. If all the world were such as you, We all should starve when north winds blew But he who, with industrious zeal, Contributes to the common weal, Has the true secret understood Of private and of public good. Be off with you!" He raised his hand, Which the vain insect dared withstand; It smote the parasite of pride And there the idler fell, and died.
THE JACKALL, LEOPARD, AND BEASTS.
(To a Modern Politician.)
I grant these facts: corruption sways, Self-interest does pervert man's ways; That bribes do blind; that present crimes Do equal those of former times: Can I against plain facts engage To vindicate the present age? I know that bribes in modern palm Can nobler energies encalm; That where such argument exists There itching is in modern fists. And hence you hold that politicians Should drive their nails on such conditions, So they might penetrate sans bending, And win your way past comprehending.
Premising no reflection's meant, Unto such doctrine I dissent. The barrister is bound to plead Upon the side on which he 's fee'd; And so in every other trade Is duty, by the guinea, paid. Man, we are taught, is prone to evil— That does not vindicate the devil: Besides, man, in his own behoof, Contrives to hide the cloven hoof. Nor is corruption of late date,— 'Twas known in every age and state; And where corruption was employed The public welfare was destroyed.
Next see court minions in disgrace, Stripped of their treasure, stripped of place; What now is all their pride and boast,— The servile slave, the flattering host, The tongues that fed him with applause, The noisy champions of their cause? They press the foremost to accuse His selfish jobs and paltry views. Ah, me! short-sighted were the fools, And false, aye false, the hireling tools. Was it such sycophants to get Corruption swelled the public debt? This motto would not shine amiss— Write, "Point d'argent et point de Suisse."
The lion is the noblest brute, With parts and valour past dispute, And yet it is by all averred His rule to jackalls is transferred.
A rascal jackall once on law And property put down his paw. The forest groaned brute-discontent, And swore its injuries to resent: The jackall heard it, and with fear He saw disgrace approaching near.
He said and thought: "I must defeat Malicious tongues, and guard my seat; Strengthen myself with new allies, And then this clamour may despise." Unto the generous brutes he fawned; The generous brutes the jackall scorned. What must he do? Friends must be made, And proselytes by bribes be paid; For think not a brute's paw withstands The bribe which dirties human hands.
A hog o'er cabbage said his benison; The wolf was won by haunch of venison; A pullet won the fox; a thistle Tickled the donkey's tongue of gristle.
But now the royal leopard rose The tricksy jackall to oppose: And as the rats will leave in lurch The falling walls of house or church, So did each briber cut and run To worship at the rising sun. The hog with warmth expressed his zeal, So did the wolf for public weal,— But claimed their venison and cabbage. The fox the like—without disparage Unto his perquisites of geese. The donkey asked a common's lease.
"Away," the leopard said, "ye crew, Whose conscience honesty ne'er knew! Away, I say, with all the tribe Who dare to ask or take a bribe: Cudgels, and not rewards, are due To such time-serving tools as you!"
THE DEGENERATE BEES.
(To Dean Swift.)
Though courts the practice disallow, I ne'er a friend will disavow: It may be very wrong to know him, And very prudent to forego him; 'Tis said that prudence changes friends Oft as it suits one's private ends. Ah, Dean! and you have many foes, Behind, before, beneath your nose, And fellows very high in station. Of high and low denomination, Who dread you with a deadly spite For what you speak and what you write,— Where, between satire and your wit, They feel themselves most sorely bit. Ah! can a dunce in church or state So overflow with froth and hate? And can a scribbling crew so spurt On Pope and Swift, who stand unhurt?
Ah! can it be, a mighty race (For giants may hold power and place) Can scandals raise and libels pen To prove that they are worthy men? They suffered from your pen, 'tis true, Therefore you have from them your due. You have no friends—be it understood Except myself—and wise and good. To lay the matter on the table, And give it point, I'll tell a fable.
A bee, who greedy was of gain, But wanted parts him to maintain, Seeing small rogues by great ones thrive, Corruption sowed throughout the hive. And as he rose in power and place Importance settled on his face; All conscience found with him discredit, But impudence the loudest—merit: Wealth claimed distinction and found grace, But poverty was ever base. Right, law, and industry gave way Where'er his selfish rule had sway; And so corruption seized the swarm, Who plundered underneath his arm. Thus he harangued: "Whilst vulgar souls Waste life in low mechanic holes, Let us scorn drudgery: the drone And wasp, whose elegance we own, Like gentlemen sport in the rays Of sunbeams on all summer days; It were not fitting they should moil,— They live upon their neighbour's toil."
A bee, with indignation warm, Stepped forth from the applauding swarm:
"The laws our native hives protect, And for the laws bees hold respect. I do not mind your frown; I cry— Bees live by honest industry. 'Twas toil and honest gain to thrive, Which gave us an ancestral hive, Which gave us our time-honoured dome, Bequeathed with store of honeycomb. Pursue the self-same road to fame By which your fathers won their name: But know the road you are pursuing Will lead you to the brink of ruin."
He spoke; but he was only hissed, And from his cell forthwith dismissed. With him* two other friends resigned, Indignant at the Apian mind. "These drones, who now oppress the State, Proclaim our virtue by their hate," The exile said; "our honest zeal Will serve again the common weal; And we, be sure, shall be replaced, When they shall from this hive be chased."
——————————- * Lords Oxford and Bolingbroke, in 1714, are intended.
THE PACK-HORSE AND THE CARRIER.
(To a Young Nobleman.)
Begin, my lord, in early youth, To bear with, nay encourage, truth. And blame me not, for disrespect, That I the flatterer's style reject.
Let Virtue be your first pursuit; Is not the tree known by its fruit? Set your great ancestry in view; Honour the title from them due. Assert that you are nobly born, Viewing ignoble things with scorn.
My lord, your ancestry had not The wealth and heirlooms you have got; Yet was their conscience aye their own, Nor ever pandered to the throne. With hands by no corruption stained They ministerial bribes disdained; They served the Crown, upheld the laws, And bore at heart their country's cause: So did your sires adorn their name, And raised the title unto fame.
My lord, 'tis not permitted you To do what humbler men may do. You may not be a dunce: your post Is foremost, and before the host. You may not serve a private end; To jobs you may not condescend; As from obscurity exempt, So are you open to contempt. Your name alone descends by birth, Your fame is consequent on worth; Nor deem a coronet can hide Folly or overweening pride: Learning, by toil and study won, Was ne'er entailed from sire to son. If you degenerate from your race, Its merit heightens your disgrace.
A carrier, at night and morn, Watched while his horses ate their corn: It sunk the ostler's vales, 'tis true; But then his horses got their due. It were as well, in some like cases, If Ministers watched over places.
And as he stood, the manger minding, And heard the teeth continue grinding, There was a racket; for a pack-horse Foamed at the mouth, and was in rack hoarse.
"Why, zounds!" he cried; "where have I got? Is, then, my high descent forgot? Must I endure the vile attacks Of carriers' drudges—common hacks? May Roan and Dobbin poke their noses In cribs where my great nose reposes? Good gracious me! why, here's old Ball!— No longer sacred is the stall. I see Democracy and Devil Will soon put all upon one level. We have not been of race of Could-would, At Epsom, Newmarket, and Goodwood; Nor, by Dame Truth! I vow and pledge her, Are we unknown at the St. Leger. Unnumbered are our triumphs, told; Unnumbered are the cups we hold; Unnumbered are our laurels won; And am I to be put upon By carrier-nags of low degree? O Fortune, do not let it be!"
"You stupid blockhead!" said the carrier; "'Twixt you and us there is no barrier. Your headstrong youth and wilful heart Reduced you to a servile part; And every carrier on the road Avers your oats are ill-bestowed. But, know that you do not inherit From dam or sire any merit. We give your ancestors their due, But any ass is good as you. As you are asinine and crass, So do we treat you—as an ass."
PAN AND FORTUNE.
(To a Young Heir.)
No sooner was thy father's death Proclaimed to some, with bated breath, Than every gambler was agog To win your rents and gorge your prog.
One counted how much income clear You had in "ready"—by the year.
Another cast his eyelid dark Over the mansion and the park. Some weighed the jewels and the plate, And all the unentailed estate: So much in land from mortgage free, So much in personality.
Would you to highwaymen abroad Display your treasures on the road? Would you abet their raid of stealth By the display of hoarded wealth? And are you yet with blacklegs fain With loaded dice to throw a main? It is not charity—for shame! The rascals look on you as game. And you—you feed the rogues with bread— By you rascality is fed. Nay, more, you of the gallows cheat The scoundrels who would be its meat. The risks of the highway they shun, Having your rents to prey upon.
Consider, ere you lose the bet, That you might pay your duns and debt. Consider, as the dice-box rattles, Your honour and unpaid for chattels. Think of to-morrow and its duns; Usurious interest, how it runs; And scoundrel sharpers, how they cheat you. Think of your honour, I entreat you.
Look round, and see the wreck of play,— Estate and honour thrown away: Their one time owner, unconfined, Wanders in equal wreck of mind, Or tries to learn the trade by which He ruined fell, and so grow rich: But failing there, for want of cunning, Subsists on charity by dunning. Ah! you will find this maxim true:— "Fools are the game which knaves pursue."
And now the sylvans groan: the wood Must make the gamester's losses good. The antique oaks, the stately elms, One common ruin overwhelms. The brawny arms of boor and clown Cast with the axe their honours down, With Echo's repetitive sounds Complaining of the raided bounds.
Pan dropt a tear, he hung his head, To see such desolation spread. He said: "To slugs I hatred bear, To locusts that devour the ear, To caterpillars, fly, and lice; But what are they to cursed dice? Or what to cards? A bet is made, Which ruin is to mount or glade; My glory and my realm defaced, And my best regions run to waste. It is that hag's—that Fortune's—doing: She ever meditates my ruin. False, fickle jade! who more devours Than frost, in merry May, eats flowers."
But Fortune heard Pan railing thus. "Old Pan," said Fortune, "what's this fuss? Am I the patroness of dice? Is not she our fair cousin, Vice? Do I cog dice or mark the cards? Do gamesters offer me regards? They trust to their own fingers' ends: On Vice, not me, the game depends. So would I save the fools, if they Would not defy my rule by play. They worship Folly, and the knaves Own all her votaries for slaves. They cast their elm and oak trees low: 'Tis Folly,—Folly is thy foe. Dear Pan, then do not rail on me: I would have saved him every tree."
PLUTUS, CUPID, AND TIME.
Of all the burthens mortals bear Time is most galling and severe; Beneath his grievous load oppressed We daily meet a man distressed: "I've breakfasted, and what to do I do not know; we dine at two." He takes a pamphlet or the papers, But neither can dispel his vapours; He raps his snuff-box, hums an air, He lolls, or changes now his chair, He sips his tea, or bites his nails, Then finds a chum, and then bewails Unto his sympathising ear The burthen they have both to bear.
"I wish all hours were post meridiem," Said Tom; "so that I were well rid of 'm. Why won't men play piquet and ombre Before the evening hour grows sombre? The women do it,—play quadrille Morning and evening when they will. They cast away the spleen and vapours By daylight as by midnight tapers."
"My case is different," said Will; "I have the means, but lack the skill: I am a courtier, in attendance, And sleep the time out in dependence. I should have been until the dark, But for this rain now, in the park, And then at court, till coming night Puts court and all my cares to flight. Then comes my dinner: then away From wine unto the stupid play Till ten o'clock; and then assemblies. And so my time, which you contemn, flies. I like to ramble midst the fair, And nothing I find vexes there,— Save that time flies: and then the club Gives men their supper and their rub. And there we all enjoy ourselves, Till slumber lays us on her shelves."
My worthy friends, Time which devours, Eats up the demons—passing hours: Were you to books or business bred, Too fleetly, then, would they be sped; For time is fugitive as air. Now lay aside your spleen or care, And listen unto me and fable— That is to say, if you are able.
Plutus, one morn, met Master Cupid; They stood a moment, as though stupid, Until they recognised each other. They complimented with some pother, When Time overtook them in his walk, And then all three fell into talk Of what each one had done for man. And Plutus, purse-proud, he began:
"Let kings or cobblers, for that matter, Tell of the gifts which we bespatter; Deem ye, that loyalty encumbers The congregated courtly numbers? Be undeceived: the strongest hold Man has on fellow-man is gold! Knaves have led senates, swayed debates, Enriched themselves, and beggared states Flatter yourselves no more: 'tis riches— The depth of pocket of the breeches That rules the roast. Unhappy wight Is the poor soul with pocket light; His solitary day descends, Quite unencumbered by his friends."
"Of human hearts, and of their yearnings," Said Cupid, "I have some discernings; And own the power of gold. Its power, Added to beauty as its dower, Has oftentimes—there's no disputing— Added a charm, was passed confuting. Ay—marriage, as has been professed, Is but a money-job at best; But not so hearts, and not so love,— They are the power of gold above. Those who have true love known and tried, Have every pettier want defied; They nestle, and, beneath the storm, In their own love lie snug and warm. They every selfish feeling smother, And one lives only for the other."
Then Time, who pulled his forelock, said: "To love and money man is wed, And very apt are both to flout me; And, if they could, would do without me. Fools! I supply the vital space In which they move, and run their race; Without me they would be a dream. Behold the miser! does he deem Those hoards are his? So long—no more— Than I am with him, is the store. Soon from him as I pass away, His heir will lavish them with play. To arts and learning, matins' chime, Vespers and midnight, seizing time, I never know an idle hour Love not more fugitive in bower. But I have heard coquettes complain That they have let the seasons wane, Nor caught me in my flight; and sorrowed To see the springtide was but borrowed— Not permanent—and so had wasted The tide of joy they never tasted. But myriads have their time employed, And myriads have their time enjoyed. Why then are mortals heedless grown, Nor care to make each hour their own? They should beware how we may sever, At unawares, once and for ever!"
Cupid and Plutus understood Old Time was man's supremest good: To him they yielded, and confessed Time is of godlike blessings—best.
OWL, SWAN, COCK, SPIDER, ASS, AND FARMER.
(To a Mother.)
Yes, I have seen your eyes maternal Beam, as beam forth the stars eternal, Intercommuning of your joys— Sayings and doings of your boys. Nature, in body and in mind, Has been to them profusely kind; It now remains to do your part, To sow good morals in the heart. None other, as a mother can, Can form and educate the man. Perhaps now you anticipate In youth unknown each future state. The Church, the Navy, and the Bar, I censure not: such choices are Precarious truly in the event; Yet ere we give a last assent, We should remember nor destroy The latent genius in the boy.
Martial relates—a father once Wrote thus about his boy, a dunce: "You know I've stuck at no expense To train the lad, and rouse his sense; To me it seems he backward goes Like to a crab—for aught he knows. My friend, advise me what to do." And Martial thus replied in few: "Make him a grazier or a drover, And let him dwell in rural clover." 'Tis doubtful if the father heard This answer—he returned no word.
The urchin, wanting wit, is sent To school to grow impertinent; To college next; which left, he blunders In law, or military thunders; Or, if by medical degree, The sexton shares the doctor's fee, Or, if for orders passed, as full fit, He only potters from the pulpit, We see that Nature has been foiled Of her intent—a tradesman spoiled. And even so do Ministers Reward with places human burrs; For it is very meet and fit They should reward their kinsman's wit. Are such times past? Does merit now In a due course and channel flow? Distinguished in their posts, do we Worth and desert rewarded see? Survey the reverend bench, and spy If patrons choose by piety? Is honesty, disgraced and poor, Distinct from what it was of yore? And are all offices no longer Granted unto the rich and stronger? And are they never held by sparks, With all the business done by clerks? Do we, now, never contemplate Appointments such, in Church and State? And is there in no post a hobbler, Who should have been, by right, a cobbler? Patrons, consider such creations Expose yourselves and your relations; You should, as parents to the nation, Ponder upon such nomination— And know, whene'er you wield a trust, Your judgment ever should be just.
An owl of magisterial air, Of solemn aspect, filled the chair; And, with the port of human race, Wore wisdom written on his face. He from the flippant world retired, And in a barn himself admired; And, like an ancient sage, concealed The follies foppish life revealed. He pondered o'er black-lettered pages Of old philosophers and sages— Of Xenophon, and of the feat Of the ten thousand in retreat; Pondered o'er Plutarch and o'er Plato, On Scipio, Socrates, and Cato. But what most roused the bird's conceit, Was Athens—academic seat— From which he thought himself descended. He an academy attended, And learnt by rote dogmatic rules; And, with trite sentences for tools, He opened an academy— Himself the Magister to be: And it won fame. The stately swan There sent her son and heir; her son Dame Partlet sent; and Mister Spider, Who in mechanics levelled wider; And Sir John Asinus, with hopes On music, metaphors, and tropes. With years, their education done And life before them to be run, The mothers Dr. Owl consulted On their career—and this resulted: The swan was to the army sent; The cock unto the navy went; The spider went to Court; and Neddy For Handel's music was made ready. They played their parts, the public railed: They, spite of education, failed.
"You blockhead!" said an honest farmer, Who grew with indignation warmer, "You are an owl: and are as blind, As parents, to the youthful mind. Had you with judgment judged, the swan Had his career in nautics ran; The cock had played the soldier's part. The spider plied the weaver's art; And for the donkey, dull and crass, You should have let him be an ass."
COOKMAID, TURNSPIT, AND OX.
(To a Poor Man.)
Consider man in every sphere, Then answer,—Is your lot severe? Is God unjust? You would be fed: I grant you have to toil for bread. Your wants are plainly to you known, So every mortal feels his own; Nor would I dare to say I knew, 'Midst men, one happier man than you.
Adam in Paradise was lone; With Eve was first transgression known; And thus they fell, and thus disgrace Entailed the curse on human race.
When Philip's son, by glory fired, The empire of the world desired, He wept to find the course he ran— Despite of altars—was of man. So avaricious hopes are checked, And so proud man may lack respect; And so ambition may be foiled Of the reward for which it moiled. The wealthy surfeit of their wealth, Grudging the ploughman's strength and health. The man, who weds the loveliest wife, Weds, with her loveliness, much strife. One wants an heir: another rails Upon his heirs and the entails. Another—but can'st thou discern Envies and jealousies that burn? Bid them avaunt! and say you have Blessings unknown, which others crave.
"Where is the turnspit? Bob is gone, And dinner must be drest by one: Where is that cur—(and I am loth To say that Betty swore an oath)— The sirloin's spoiled: I'll give it him!"— And Betty did look fierce and grim. Bob, who saw mischief in her eye, Avoided her—approaching nigh: He feared the broomstick, too, with physics As dread as Betty's metaphysics.
"What star did at my birth preside, That I should be born-slave?" he sighed: "To tread that spit, of horrid sound— Inglorious task—to which no hound, That ever I knew, was abased. Whence is my line and lineage traced? I would that I had been professed A lap-dog, by some dame caressed: I would I had been born a spaniel, Sagacious nostrilled, and called Daniel: I would I had been born a lion, Although I scorn a feline scion: I would I had been born of woman, And free from servitude—as human; My lot had then been, I discern, fit, And not, as now, a wretched turnspit."
An ox replied, who heard this whine: "Dare you at partial fate repine? Behold me, now beneath the goad. And now beneath the waggon's load; Now ploughing the tenacious plain, And housing now the yellow grain. Yet I without a murmur bear These various labours of the year. Yet come it will, the day decreed By fates, when I am doomed to bleed: And you, by duties of your post, Must turn the spit when I must roast; And to repay your currish moans Will have the pickings of my bones."
The turnspit answered: "Superficial Has been my gaze on poor and rich, all. What, do the mighty ones then bear Their load of carking grief and care? And man perhaps—ah, goodness knows!— May have his share of pains and woes."
So saying, with contented look. Bob wagged his tail, and followed cook.
THE RAVEN, SEXTON, AND WORM.
My Laura, your rebukes are prudish; For although flattery is rudish, Yet deference, not more than just, May be received without disgust. Am I a privilege denied Assumed by every tongue beside? And are you, fair and feminine, Prone to reject a verse benign? And is it an offence to tell A fact which all mankind knows well? Or with a poet's hand to trace The beaming lustre of your face? Nor tell in metaphor my tale, How the moon makes the planets pale? I check my song; and only gaze, Admiring what I may not praise.
If you reject my tribute due, I'll moralise—despite of you. To moralise a theme is duty: My muse shall moralise of beauty.
Amidst the galaxy of fair, Who do not moralise, the ear Might be offended to be told That beauty ever can grow old. Though you by age must lose much more Than ever beauty lost before, You will regard it, when 'tis flown, As if it ne'er had been your own. Were you by Antoninus taught? Or is it native strength of thought, To view with such an equal mind The fleeting bloom to doom consigned. Those eyes, in truth, are only clay: As diamonds, e'en so are they. And what is beauty in her power? The tyrant of the passing hour. How baseless is all human pride? Naught have we whereon to confide. Why lose we life in anxious cares, And lay up hoards for future years? Or can they cheer the sick, or buy One hour of breath to those who die? For what is beauty but a flower, Grass of the field, which lives its hour? And what of lordly man the sway, The tyrant of the passing day?
The laws of nature hold their reign O'er man throughout her whole domain. The monarch of long regal line Possesses dust as frail as mine: Nor can he any more than I Fever or restless pains defy. Nor can he, more than I, delay The mortal period of his day.
Then let my muse remember aye Beauty and grandeur still are clay. The king and beggar in the tomb Commingling in the dust and doom.
Upon a venerable yew, Which in the village churchyard grew, Two ravens sat. With solemn croak Thus to his mate a raven spoke:—
"Ah! ah! I scent upon the blast The odour of some flesh at last. Huzza! it is old Dobbin's steed, On which we daintily shall feed. I know the scent of divers courses, And own the present as a horse's."
A sexton, busy at his trade, Paused, to hear more, upon his spade; For death was puzzled in his brain With sexton fees and sexton gain.
He spoke, and said: "You blundering fowls, Nought better in your scent than owls: It is the squire of Hawthorn Hall, Who now is lying under pall. I dig his grave;—a pretty bit Of work it is—though I say it. A horse's! Ah! come out of that; Yet needs must own that squire was fat. What then? Do you birds make pretence To smelling—which is a fifth sense— And yet your sense of smell so coarse is You can't distinguish man and horse's?"
"I," said the bird, "did not intend To do you disrespect, my friend: Indeed, we no reflection meant By such similitude of scent. The Arabs—epicures—will feed, Preferring it to all, on steed; As Britons, of your proper brood. Think venison to be mighty good."
The sexton roared with indignation, And spoke, methinks, about salvation; At any rate, his rage to carry on, He called the ravens brutes and carrion! The situation of the foes Prevented they should come to blows: But for revilings vile, as friends— They banded words, to gain their ends.
"Hold!" said the raven, "human pride Cannot by reason be defied. The point is knotty; tastes may err: Refer it to some connoisseur."
And, as he spoke, a worn unrolled His monstrous volumes from the mould; They chose him for the referee, And on the pleadings they agree.
The earthworm, with a solemn face, Reviewed the features of the case: "For I," said he, "have doubtless dined On carcases of every kind; Have fed on man, fowl, beast, and fish, And know the flavour of each dish. A glutton is the worst: for the rest 'Tis difficult to tell the best. If I were man, I would not strive Upon this question,—man alive! With other points to win applause: The King who gives his people laws Unto the people, who obey them; And, though at last Death comes to slay them, Yet were the noble souls and good Never resigned to worms for food. Virtue distinguishes mankind,— Immortal is the soul and mind; And that, which is not buried here, Mounts somewhere; but I know not where! So good man sexton, since the case Appears with such a dubious face, Excuse me, if I can't determine What different tastes suit different vermin!"
THE TOWN MOUSE AND THE COUNTRY MOUSE.
AEsop, Babrius, Horace, Prior, and Pope.
Our friend Dan Prior had, you know, A tale exactly a propos; Name a town life—and, in a trice, He had a story of two mice.
Once on a time (so runs the fable) A country mouse—right hospitable— Received a town mouse at his board, Just as a farmer might a lord. A frugal mouse upon the whole, Yet loved his friend, and had a soul; Know what was handsome, and would do 't. On just occasion coute qui coute. He brought him bacon nothing lean, Pudding that might have pleased a Dean; Cheese, such as men of Suffolk make, But wished it Stilton for his sake. Yet to his guest by no means sparing, He munched himself the rind and paring. Our courtier scarce could touch a bit, But showed his breeding and his wit, And did his best to seem to eat— And said: "I vow you're mighty neat; But, my dear friend, this savage scene!— I pray you come and live with men. Consider mice, like men, must die; Then crop the rosy hours that fly."
The veriest hermit in the nation May yield, all know, to strong temptation: Away they went, through thick and thin, To a tall house near Lincoln's Inn. The moonbeam fell upon the wall, And tipped with silver roof and all,— Palladian walls, Venetian doors, Grotesco roofs and stucco floors; And, let it in one word be said, The moon was up—the men abed— The guests withdrawn had left, though late, When down the mice sat tete a tete.
Our courtier walks from dish to dish, And tastes of flesh, and fowl, and fish; Tells all their names, lays down the law, "Que ca est bon! Ah, goutez ca! That jelly's rich, this malmsey's healing, Pray dip your whiskers and your tail in!" Was ever such a happy swain— He stuffs, and sips, and stuffs again!
"I'm quite ashamed—'tis mighty rude To eat so much—all is so good." But as he spoke, bounce from the hall Rushed chaplain, butler, dogs, and all. Oh! for the heart of Homer's mice Or gods, to save them in a trice; It was by miracle they think, For Roman stucco has no chink.
"But, please your honour," said the peasant, "This same dessert is not so pleasant: Give me again my hollow tree, A crust of bread, and liberty!"
THE MAGPIE AND HER BROOD.
From the Tales of Bonaventura des Periers, Servant to Marguerite of Valois, Queen of Navarre. By HORACE LORD ORFORD.
How anxious is the pensive parents' thought, How blest the lot of fondlings, early taught; Joy strings her hours on pleasure's golden twine, And fancy forms it to an endless line. But ah! the charm must cease, or soon or late, When chicks and misses rise to woman's state; The little tyrant grows in turn a slave, And feels the soft anxiety she gave. This truth, my pretty friend, an ancient sage, Who wrote in tale and legend many a page, Couch'd in that age's unaffected guise, When fables were the wisdom of the wise. To careless notes I've tuned his Gothic style, Content, if you approve, and LAURA smile.
Once on a time a magpie led Her little family from home, To teach them how to win their bread, When she afar would roam: She pointed to each worm and fly, Inhabitants of earth and sky, Or where the beetle buzzed, she called; But indications all were vain,— They would not budge—the urchin train, But cawed, and cried, and squalled; They wanted to return to nest, To nestle to mamma's warm breast, And thought that she should seek the meat Which they were only born to eat— But Madge knew better things: "My loves," said she, "behold the plains, Where stores of food, where plenty reigns; I was not half so big as you, When me my honoured mother drew Forth to the groves and springs— She flew away, before aright I knew to read or knew to write, Yet I made shift to live: So must you too—come, hop away— Get what you can—steal what you may, For industry will thrive." "But, bless us!" cried the peevish chits, "Can babes like us live by our wits? With perils compassed round, can we Preserve our lives and liberty? Ah! how escape the fowler's snare, And gard'ner with his gun in air, Who, if we pilfer plums or pears, Will scatter lead about our ears? And you would drop a mournful head To see your little pies lie dead!" "My dears," she said, and kissed their bills, "The wise by foresight baffle ills, A wise descent you claim; To bang a gun off takes some time,— A man must load, a man must prime, A man must take an aim— He lifts the tube, he shuts one eye,— 'Twill then be time enough to fly; You, out of reach, may laugh and chatter: To cheat a man is no great matter." "Ay, but"—"But what?" "Why, if the clown Should take a stone to knock us down?" "Why, if he do—you flats! Must he not stoop to raise the stone? The stooping warns you to be gone; Birds are not killed like cats." "But, dear mamma, we yet are scared, The rogue, you know, may come prepared A big stone in his fist!" "Indeed, my darlings," Madge replies, "If you already are so wise: Go, cater where you list."
THE THREE WARNINGS:
The tree of deepest root is bound With most tenacity to earth; 'Twas therefore thought by ancient sages, That with the ills of life's last stages The love of life increased, with dearth Of fibres rooting it to ground. It was young Dobson's wedding-day, Death summoned him, the happy groom, Into a sombre private room, From marriage revelries away; And, looking very grave, said he: "Young Dobson, you must go with me." "Not if I know it," Dobson cried; "What! leave my Susan,—quit my bride? I shan't do any such a thing: Besides I'm not at all prepared,— My thoughts are all upon the wing. I'm not the fellow to be scared, Old Death, by you and those pale awnings: I have a right to my three warnings." And Death, who saw that of the jobs on His hand, just then, tough was this Dobson, Agreed to go and come again; So, as he re-adjusted awnings About his brows, agreed three warnings Should be allowed; and Dobson, fain To go back to the feast, agreed Next time to do as was decreed: And so they parted, with by-byes, And "humble servants," "sirs," and "I's." And years ran by right cheerily: Susan was good, and children three,— All comforts of his days—they reared; So Dobson tumbled, unawares, Upon the bourn of fourscore years, And Death then reappeared— And Dobson said, with look of wonder, "Holloa, old Death—another blunder! You may go back again: you see You promised me three warnings—three; Keep word of honour, Death!" "Ay, ay," said Death, and raised his veil, "I'm joyed to see you stout and hale; I'm glad to see you so well able To stump about from farm to stable, All right in limb and breath." "So, so—so, so!"—old Dobson sighed— "A little lame though." Death replied: "Ay, lame; but then you have your sight?" But Dobson said—"Not quite, not quite." "Not quite; but still you have your hearing?" But Dobson said, "Past all repairing, Ears gone downright!" Death on his brow then dropped the awnings, And said—"Friend you can't stay behind: If you are lame, and deaf, and blind, You have had your three sufficient warnings."
The moralist, my dear niece, has said that—
"The man of sense will read a work of note In the like humour as the author wrote."
To which end we must try to identify the reign of King George I. and the manners of that era with these fables; for manners change with every age, and every age has its transitions of political and social manners:
"Manners with fortunes, humours turn with climes, Tenets with books, and principles with times."
It was in the era of the two first Georges that Gay wrote and applied these fables, filled with diatribes against ministers, courtiers, and misers, and inveighing against court corruption and bribery.
It was a period of transition, such as had before occurred, from feudal to monarchial, and now from monarchial to ministerial rule. We had entered into another phase—one of civil and religious liberty; but, at the same time, the royal court was a scene devoid of any graces: the kings could not speak our language, and their feminine favourites were the reverse of fair or virtuous; whilst domestic hate ruled in the palace. Power then ran into a new groove of corruption and bribery; and the scene, vile in itself, was made viler by exaggeration and the retaliations of one political party on the other, whilst either side was equally lauded by its own party. Therefore we may reasonably conclude that matters were not so bad as they were painted, and moreover that it was but a change and transition of evils, to play a part and disappear. The advent of the third George to the throne, and the rigid integrity of the first and second Pitt, reversed the story as read in these fables; the court became pure, the king true, the ministers honest, and the nation progressed from the miserable peace of Utrecht, in 1714, to the proud position we held on its centenary at Vienna, in 1814. We may grant, then, that Gay had reason on his side when he inveighed so bitterly against courts and kings; and, granting that, we may recognise the amelioration of the court of the present day, wholly free from corruption and presenting a school to be followed rather than contemned.
In the fable of the 'Degenerate Bees,' Gay takes the part of the Tory ministry,—Oxford, Bolingbroke, Dean Swift, and Mat. Prior; and in the 'Ant in Office' he alludes to a Whig minister of that day. We must not be too hard on ministers. Kings and the nation have been open to bribes and assenting to French diplomacy,—
"When policy regained what arms had lost."
Louis XI. purchased the retreat of Edward IV. in 1475, when he seized on the domains of King Rene—Provence, Anjou, Maine, Touraine, and Lorraine, and Burgundy from the domains of Charles the Bold; when we abandoned our blood allies for bribes. Again, in 1681, Charles II. was the pensioner of Louis XIV., when Louis seized on Strasbourg. William III. reluctantly let it pass at the peace and treaty of Ryswick, which Louis dictated; and it was very basely abandoned by us at the peace of Utrecht, in 1714, when we abandoned our ally the emperor, and the degenerate Bees of the fable suffered exile and the Tower, barely escaping death from the indignant nation. Again, in the treaty of Vienna, 1814, we sacrificed the interests of Austria to France, in ceding to the latter the pillaged counties of the Messin and of Alsace. Finding, therefore, like results from wholly different causes, we must not be extreme to judge, but, with Gay, admit the ministers of 1714 to grace, for they only then did what we sanctioned in 1814, and which 1870 sees righted, and the German towns restored to Germany.
I am now rounding off half a century in which I have wandered in this wilderness of a world, and in all that time I have never known, or heard of, corruption in a minister of state. I have seen and known many fall untimely to ministerial labours and responsibility. Walking through the streets and squares we may behold the noble brows of Pitt, Canning, Lord George Bentinck, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Palmerston—men "on whose brows shame is ashamed to sit"—and, we might add, another Canning, a Follett, Sir George Lewis, and a hecatomb of Colonial rulers, who have died, overtasked by toil and responsibility; but in all that time we have never heard a minister accused of corruption, or building palaces, or making a fortune from public treasure. Corruption, if so it may still be termed, has taken another phase; it has bowed its head and courted democracy, like to the Roman king, Ancus Martius, "nimium gaudens popularibus auris"—cringing to popular suffrage—to ride into place and power, by granting measures momentarily floating uppermost, and suffering the tail to guide the head, as did the snake in AEsop's fable. We attained the height of grandeur of 1814 under the guidance of the head, and we are now upon our trial of democratical government, and whether it be equal to the old. Under such auspices commerce has been the petted minion of the last thirty years. Not the native forest tree of Pitt, Huskisson, and Canning, but the hot-bed plant of the advocates of a predominant trade. No British statesman ever dreamt of restricting commerce,—which ever was the bond of unity of nations; but we have sunk every interest at home to swell the exports and imports, to make Britain what Egypt was in the days of the patriarch—the storehouse of the world. Egypt and England both put their agriculturists to pain, and the rural population to serfdom; but they only exchange the stable basis of well-being for an unstable one, for commerce is proverbially of a fleeting nature.
The age in which Gay wrote was eminently what we now designate as conservative. Excise was hateful then; as customs are denounced now, so home taxation was denounced then. So wonderfully do systems change, that in the monthly table of the revenue of this period (December, 1870), the customs do not raise one-third of the revenue, of which the other two-thirds are raised by home taxation.
From ministers proceed we to the misers. I doubt whether any domestic changes have wrought so great an amelioration in our well-being as banks and banking. It has saved us from burglars; it has, by cheques, redeemed us from the tyranny of tradesmen's books. It has put personal property on a stronger foundation than it held, and the banker keeps an excellent private account, gratuitously, of your receipts and expenditure. The trouble that the possession of gold gave to its possessor before this wonderful institution was brought to bear, may be told by a few instances of divers epochs. There is a tale of a man who was supposed to have discovered the treasures of Croesus, in the treasury—such as is shown now at Mycenae and Orchomenos as the treasuries of old. The hero of the tale having discovered the crypt and its hoard, built another, and spent half of his life in secretly removing the treasures of Croesus to his new treasury; which was no sooner a deed accomplished than he perceived the original treasury was superior to the new, and he spent an equal amount of years in secretly restoring the treasures to their original crypt, where doubtless they are now, for he died whilst he was the slave to the gold. Herodotus has stories quite as marvellous as this, of the fortunate finder of the treasures of Croesus. But our friend Mr. Pepys—who, I believe, has given us more amusement than any other Englishman, be he whom he may—is more amusing and instructive. His story is written in 1667, the year after the fire of London, and whilst the invasion of the Dutch was apprehended, and we will see how Mr. Pepys fulfilled the adage of "as much trouble as all my money." On 30th March, 1666, we find him write:—"I to Lombard St., and there received 2200l., and brought it home, and, contrary to expectation, received 35l. for the use of 2000l. of it for a quarter of a year, where it hath produced me this profit, and hath been a conveniency to me as to care and security at my house, and demandable at two days' warning, as this has been."
On 12th November: "This day I received 450 pieces of gold, which cost me 22-1/2d. change. But I am well contented with it, I having now nearly 2800l. in gold, and will not rest till I get full 3000l." But on the 13th June, 1667, on the sad news of the taking of the 'Royal Charles,' and sinking ships at Barking Creek, "put me into such a fear, that I presently resolved of my father's and wife's going into the country; and at two hours' warning they did go by the coach this day with 1300l. in gold in their night-bag. Pray God give them good passage, and good care to hide it when they come home! But my heart is full of fear. They gone, I continued in frights and fear what to do with the rest."
And on the 10th October, when the Dutch were gone, we read:—"Up, and to walk up and down in the garden with my father, to talk of all our concernments: about a husband for my sister, whereof there is at present no appearance; but we must endeavour to find her one now, for she grows old and ugly. My father and I with a dark lantern, it being now light, into the garden with my wife, and there went about our great work to dig up my gold. But, Lord, what a tosse I was for some time in, that they could not justly tell where it was: but by-and-bye, poking with a spit, we found it, and then began with a spudd. But, good God! to see how sillily they did it, not half a foot under ground, and in the sight of the world from a hundred places, and within sight of a neighbour's window. Only my father says that he saw them all gone to church before he began the work when he laid the money. But I was out of my wits almost, and the more from that, upon my lifting the earth with my spudd, I did discern that I had scattered the pieces of gold in the loose earth, and, taking up the iron head-pieces whereon they were put, I perceived the earth had gotten among the gold, and wet, so that the bags were all rotten and notes; so that I could not tell what in the world to say to it, not knowing how to judge what was wanting, or what had been lost by Gibson in his journey down, which, all put together, did make me mad. And at last I was obliged to take up the pieces, dirt and all, by candle-light, and carry them into my brother's chamber, and there lock them up, whilst I eat a little supper; and then, all people going to bed, William Hewer and I did, all alone, with pails of water and besoms, wash the dirt off the pieces, and then began to tell them, by a note which I had of the value of the whole in my pocket, and do find that there was short above a hundred pieces, which did make me mad.... So William Hewer and I out again about midnight, and there by candle-light did make shift to gather forty pieces more; and so to bed, and there lay in some disquiet until daylight. 11th.—And then William Hewer and I, with pails and a sieve, did lock ourselves into the garden, and did gather the earth and then sift those pails in one of the summer-houses (just as they do for diamonds in other parts), and there, to our great content did, by nine o'clock, make the last night's forty-five up to seventy-nine; so that we are come to some twenty or thirty of what I think the true number should be. So do leave my father to make a second examination of the dirt, and my mind at rest on it, being but an accident; and so give me some kind of content to remember how painful it is sometimes to keep money as well as to get it, and how doubtful I was to keep it all night, and how to secure it to London.
"About ten o'clock, took coach, my wife and I, and Willett and W. Hewer, and Mumford and Bowles (whom my lady sent me to go along with me my journey, not telling her the reason, but it was only to secure my gold), and my brother John on horseback; and with these four I thought myself pretty safe. My gold I put into a basket, and set it under one of the seats; and so my work every quarter of an hour was to look to see whether all was well; and I did ride in great fear all the day. 12th.—By five o'clock got home, and did bring my gold to my heart's content very safe, having not this day carried it in a basket, but in our hands; the girl took care of one, and my wife of another bag, and I the rest, I being afraid of the bottom of the coach lest it should break." Such is Mr. Pepys' story.
"Nor light nor darkness brings his pains relief: One shows the plunder, and one hides the thief."
Mr. Crabbe has portrayed the marvel of an honest inhabitant of Aldborough, when first he learnt, in his graphic phrase, "that money would breed,"—that it could afford to pay yearly interest. Shakespeare has several references to the fact. Shylock, and a clown in 'Twelfth Night' making very quaint allusions. I shall only add one more tale from Mr. S. Trench's late stories of 'Realities of Irish Life.' A neighbour, who had saved two hundred pounds in gold, kept it in the thatch of his roof. One day he appeared before Mr. Trench bearing his gold, and requesting him to be his depositee, expressing the comfort it would afford him. Mr. Trench declined the unprofitable duty, and pointed out to him the bank, which would accept his deposit and give him interest. The eye of Patrick flashed with intelligence and foresight as he warned Mr. Trench from the delusion of banks, which every year wasted the original sum by paying the stipend, and when you wished to reclaim the original, lo, it had disappeared. No, no, he would have no dividend, forsooth, to eat away his capital; which he bore back again (about five pounds' weight) and replaced it in his thatch. It was neither lost nor wasted there; it became the inheritance of his only daughter, a woman of extreme energy, who had from childhood loved—more, methinks, as a mother loves a helpless child—a good-hearted, unvicious piece of indolence and sloth. She followed him to New York and married him, nolens volens; and Providence assigned to him an energetic woman, to make his castle of indolence a bed of roses to the satisfaction of them both,—supplying for each the energy and the repose, both constitutional, both unvicious, which the other lacked.
Highwaymen beset the highways, as burglars invaded the residences; and Macaulay chuckles over the fact that his bete noire—the noble Marlborough—was eased of 5000l. in gold in one of his trips between London and St. Alban's.
From the regions of ministers and misers we may descend to the equally disputed realms of the muses. Horace terms it "the peevish and inhuman muse," which those who drink of Aganippe's fountain woo; whilst others are apt to equal their Castalian spring and Parnassus with the height of the empyreal, regarding with pity the toilers on the land and deep. But herein, as in aught else, it is the mind, and not the outward circumstances, which makes the happiness suited to its strength and position; for it must be confessed it is from the weak in bodily frame, the lame, and the blind, that we draw our poets: and when we find a rare bodily exception to the rule, we find too often a mind insatiate of applause, and pining for more appreciation of their productions. The votaries of the muse cannot be set down as so happy and contented as many a ploughman, nor does the smoothness of the lines gratify the eye more than the smoothness of the furrow. But these rhymes of Gay hardly aspire to the height of poesy, nor do they possess the banter and raciness, such as we find in Butler's 'Hudibras':—
"When oyster-women lock their fish up, And trudge away to bawl, 'No bishop!'"
Neither has it the deep pathos of the Spenserian stanza, which perhaps strives at the deepest vein of poetry. Take two of Thomson's, for example:—
"O mortal man, who livest here by toil, Do not complain of this thy hard estate; That like an emmet thou must ever moil, Is a hard sentence of an ancient date: And, certes, there is for it reason great; For though sometimes it makes thee weep and wail, And curse thy star, and early drudge and late, Withouten that would come a heavier bale,— Loose life, unruly passions, and diseases pale."
And another stanza runs thus:—
"I care not, Fortune, what you me deny: You cannot rob me of free Nature's grace; You cannot shut the windows of the sky, Through which Aurora shows her brightening face; You cannot bar my constant feet to trace The woods and lawns by living stream at eve. Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace, And I their toys to the great children leave; Of fancy, reason, virtue, nought can me bereave."
Such is the stanza in which are written Spenser's 'Faerie Queen,' Thomson's 'Castle of Indolence,' and Byron's 'Childe Harold,' and it is the highest flight of poetry: after which comes the heroic verse, in which we lap the heavy poems we call epic—their Latin appellation; of these the Iliads of Homer and the AEneids of Virgil are the ever recurring aspirations of poets doomed to fall untimely. The charm of Homer is that it is not only a poem, but it instructs us in the history—all that we know of it—of those prehistoric days. It is full of ballads, which are the ground-work by which we trace the manners and the tenets of the pagan tribes. The truth involved in 'Homer' is the charm of his epic poem, while the falsehood involved in the 'Henriade' of Voltaire is amply sufficient to condemn it utterly. For a specimen let us take Pope's 'Homer,' where Hector answers Andromache's appeal to stay and guard the walls of Troy:—
"The chief replied, 'That post shall be my care; Nor that alone, but all the works of war; Still foremost let me stand to guard the throne, To save my father's honours and my own: Yet come it will, the day decreed by Fates— How my heart trembles whilst my tongue relates— That day when thou, imperial Troy, must bend, Must see thy warriors fall, thy glories end. And yet no presage dire so wounds my mind— My mother's death, the ruin of my kind— As thine, Andromache, thy griefs I dread. I see thee weeping, trembling, captive led. In Argive looms our battles to design, Woes—of which woes so large a part was thine; To bear the victor's hard commands, or bring The waters from the Hypereian spring. There, whilst you groan beneath the load of life, They cry "Behold the Trojan Hector's wife!" Some Argive, who shall live thy griefs to see, Embitters thy great woe by naming me: The thoughts of glory past and present shame, A thousand griefs, shall waken at the name. May I lie cold before that dreadful day, Pressed by a load of monumental clay Thy Hector, wrapped in everlasting sleep, Shall neither hear thee sigh nor see thee weep.'"
Next in pathos is the mournful elegy; of which none can surpass Gray's elegy:—
"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Alike await the inevitable hour; The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Can storied urn or animated bust Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath? Can honour's voice provoke the silent dust, Or flattery soothe the dull cold ear of death?
Full many a gem of purest ray serene The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear; Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Let not ambition mock our useful toil, Our homely joys and destiny obscure, Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile The short and simple annals of the poor:
Their names, their years spelt by the untaught Muse, The place of fame and elegy supply, And many a holy text around she strews, To teach the rustic moralist to die."
Nursery rhymes, old ballads, odes, sonnets, epigrams, travesties, fables, satires, and eclogues, and, most of all, songs, provide daily pleasure for us from our cradle to the grave. Every language has its nursery rhymes, which are a sort of Delphian lot, sung in enigma from 'King Pittacus of Mytilene' and 'Le bon Roi Dagobert,' to the lullaby of 'Four-and-twenty Blackbirds.' There is as much sarcasm in nursery rhymes as there is of pride and boast in the songs of bards at the feast of heroes, and as there is of humble confession in the funeral psalm. Song tends alike to evaporate exuberant spirits, and to soothe the soul in an affliction—as Desdemona informs us so sweetly in her misery:—
"My mother had a maid called Barbara; She was in love: and he she loved proved mad, And did forsake her. She had a song of willow, An old thing 'twas; but it expressed her fortune, And she died singing it. That song to-night Will not go from my mind: I have much to do, But to go hang my head all of one side, And sing it like poor Barbara."
Ophelia chanted as she floated down the brook, Arion tamed the flood, and Orpheus the trees and rocks. It is a marvellous power which soothes alike the babe in the arms and the hero at the feast, the lover and the forsaken maiden, which leads to battle and returns from conquest; therefore let us see the ODE, in 'Eton Revisited':—
"Ah, happy hills! ah, pleasing shade! Ah, fields beloved in vain! Where once my careless boyhood strayed A stranger yet to pain. I feel the gales that from ye blow A momentary bliss bestow, As waving fresh their gladsome wing My weary soul they seem to soothe, And redolent of joy and youth, To breathe a second spring.
Whilst some on earnest labour bent Their business, murmuring, ply 'Gainst graver hours that bring constraint To sweeten liberty; Some bold adventurers disdain The limits of the little reign And unknown regions dare descry; Still as they run they look behind, And hear a voice in every wind, And snatch a fearful joy.
To each his sufferings, all are men Condemned alike to groan; The tender, for another's pain— The unfeeling, for his own. Yet, ah! why should they know their fate, Since sorrow never comes too late; And happiness too swiftly flies? Thought would destroy their paradise. No more: 'where ignorance is bliss, 'Tis folly to be wise.'"
Let me add four lines from Denham's poem, 'On Cooper's Hill,' addressing the River Thames:—
"O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream My great example, as it is my theme! Though deep yet clear, though gentle yet not dull, Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full."
Our old ballads are very fine: the opening of 'Chevy Chase' is equal to 'Wrath, Goddess sing the Wrath of Achilles,' or 'Arms and the Man:'—
"The Perse owt of Northumberland, And a vowe to Godde made he, That he would hunt in the mountains Of Cheviot within days three. In maugre of doughty Douglas And all that ever with him be, The fattest hartes in all Cheviot, He said, to kill and bear away. 'By my faith!' quoth the doughty Douglas then, 'I will lette that hunting, gif I may.'
Worde is commen to Eddenburrowe To James, the Scottish King, That doughty Douglas, Lyfftenant of Marches, Lay slain Chevyot hills within. His handdes did James weal and wryng, Sighing, 'Alas! and woe is me— Such another captain Scotland within I trow there will never be!' Worde is commen to lovely Londone Till the fourth Harry, our King, That Lord Perse, Lyfftenant of Marches, Lay slain Cheviot hills within. 'God have mercy on his soul!' said Kyng Harry, 'Good Lord, if thy will it be. I have a hondrith Captains in Englonde As good as ever was he; But Perse, and I brook my lyffe Thy death well quit shall be.' This was the honting off the Cheviot 'That tear beganne this spurn:' Old men that known the ground well enough Call it the battle of Otterburn. At Otterburn began this spurn Upon a Monnynday; There was the doughtie Douglas slain, The Perse went captive away."
But of every species of poetry none are so rife with life and beauty as the song. It conjoins music with words, and brevity with sweetness. There is no position in which man does not sing,—in joy to express it, and in woe to relieve it: in company in chorus, and alone for companionship. Sir Walter Scott has imagined the minstrel to sing:—
"I have song of war for knight, Lay of love for ladye bright, Fairie tale to lull the heir, Goblin grim the maid to scare. If you pity kith or kin, Take the wandering harper in."
But songs are like the flowers of the field: each age hath its own, which fade and perish and make way for another crop, and every age claims its own. For melody, terseness, and beauty of words, the song excels more than any other form of poetry; and they are wise who have a private collection of the songs which, like swallows, come and disappear.
It may appear strange to print the Fables of Gay, and say no word of our author; but the truth is that it is unkind to withdraw the veil of privacy from any man's life. Doctor Johnson did an unkind deed when he wrote the 'Lives of the Poets;' for which he was fully repaid when Boswell flayed him bare as ever Apollo flayed Marsyas, and exposed all the quivering nerves to the light of day. Of all classes of men, the class of poets most need the concealing veil: the greatest have been blind; the next greatest halt, and the remainder weak or deformed of frame. Debarred the healthier paths of life, man rushes for employment to the refuging muse; and rightly so, for he finds an employment ornamental and useful still. But solitude does not nurture the virtues of the soul more than physical defect does that of the body, and the withdrawal of the curtain divulges a very sad sight of discontent and envy. Homer himself is recorded to have ejaculated his aspiration to be the favourite of the Greek girls and boys. A poet seer loves no brother near his throne, and is but too apt to complain of non-appreciation of his muse on the part of the world. The fault rather is in their own too sensitive souls; and it is a fact that there is scarcely a name in the roll of poets, whose fame is not harmed by divulging his exotic life. The rural labourer's fate—
"Where to be born and die, Of rich and poor, make all the history"—
is far better than to be paraded from the disobedience of youth, the rebellion of manhood, and the disappointment of age, divulged in the storied lives of the few hundred names admitted to be British poets; and the reading of whose works is, as a rule, a task of weariness. The career of Gay is a very fair one as an average of the poetic. He mainly avoided the enumerated ills—enumerated by Dr. Johnson—
"Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail."
The poetic element in Britain was very strong in the days of Gay. Pope, Swift, Prior, Addison were the petted servants of the Ministers. They were all far more successful in their careers than was Gay, who from his boyhood refused to labour for his bread. Very early he found a patroness in the Duchess of Monmouth, who had
"Wept over Monmouth's bloody tomb,"
with whom he enjoyed a sort of honorary post—secretary to the shadow of a princess; next he became a real secretary to the Earl of Clarendon, Ambassador at Hanover, as Prior had been to the Ambassador at Paris. We easily trace in Gay's career the unsatisfied overweening poetic soul, like a Charybdis, insatiable of adulation. In 1716, the Earl of Burlington cheered him at his seat in Devon; in 1717, he accompanied Mr. Pulteney to Aix; in 1718, Lord Harcourt soothed his spirits. Then he made money, which burnt holes in his pockets. He called his friends together, to ask how he should invest. His poetic friends Pope and Swift advised him to sink it in an annuity. But fate or fortune cast him in with Secretary Craggs and the South Sea scheme, and, from the possessor of 20,000l., his capital collapsed to nil. In vain he had been bidden to sell and to realize. He had visions of wealth, and held on to be accidentally an honester man than if he had enriched himself by that delusive scheme; but he nearly sunk beneath his disappointment, and his health was endangered. Hope and the Muse restored him to more life and to more disappointment. He then wrote 'The Captive,' obtained an appointment to read it to the Princess of Wales, stumbled, like Caesar, over a stool; the princess screamed, the omen was a true one—'The Captive' pined and died.
In 1726 he wrote these Fables, dedicating them to the Duke of Cumberland, and in 1727 his royal patron succeeded to the crown; when he was offered the post of Gentleman Usher to the Princess Louisa. Gay was hurt and indignant, and made court to Mrs. Howard (afterwards Countess of Suffolk), one of the anomalous favourites alluded to in page 131, but in vain.
Then came the great success of his 'Beggars' Opera,' which was followed by 'Polly,' its sequel. 'Polly' was forbidden by the Lord Chamberlain, and a private subscription raised 1200l. to recompense Gay for not being suffered to please the mob with his immorality. And, lastly, the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry took this child of nature by the hand—the duke to manage his worldly substance, and the duchess to soothe his insatiable vanity—and so he died at the early age of 45, and has a very pretty tomb, with "Queensberry weeping o'er his urn," in Poets' Corner. Pope's epitaph runs thus:—
"Blest be the gods for those they took away, And those they left me, for they left me Gay. Left me to see deserted genius bloom, Neglected die, and tell it on his tomb; Of all his blameless life the sole return My verse and Queensberry weeping o'er his urn."
Peace with his dust! Another couplet of Pope's, methinks, has more of moral truth and justice:—
"A wit's a feather, and a chief's a rod; An honest man's the noblest work of God."
Transcriber's Note: Inconsistencies in the use of hyphens and accents, as well as in the title of fables in the table of contents and in the body of the text, have been retained as in the original book.