Page images



'TIS not that I design to rob
Thee of thy birth-right, gentle Bob,
For thou art born sole heir, and single,
Of dear Mat Prior's easy jingle;
Not that I mean, while thus I knit
My threadbare sentiments together,
To show my genius or my wit,

When God and you know, I have neither;
Or such, as might be better shown

By letting poetry alone.

"Tis not with either of these views,

That I presumed t' address the Muse:
But to divert a fierce banditti,

(Sworn foes to every thing that's witty!)
That, with a black infernal train,
Make cruel inroads in my brain,
And daily threaten to drive thence
My little garrison of sense :

The fierce banditti, which I mean,
Are gloomy thoughts, led on by Spleen.
Then there's another reason yet,
Which is, that I may fairly quit
The debt, which justly became due
The moment when I heard from you:
And you might grumble, crony mine,
If paid in any other coin;

Since twenty sheets of lead, God knows,
(I would say twenty sheets of prose),
Can ne'er be deemed worth half so much
As one of gold, and your's was such.
Thus the preliminaries settled,

I fairly find myself pitch-kettled* ;
And cannot see, though few see better,
How I shall hammer out a letter.

* Pitch-kettled, a favourite phrase at the time when this Epistle was written, expressive of being puzzled, or what in the Spectator's time would have been called bamboozled.

First, for a thought---since all agree---
A thought---I have it---let me see---
'Tis gone again---plague on't! I thought
I had it---but I have it not.

Dame Gurton thus, and Hodge her son,
That useful thing, her needle, gone!
Rake well the cinders :---sweep the floor,
And sift the dust behind the door;
While eager Hodge beholds the prize
In old grimalkin's glaring eyes;
And gammer finds it on her knees
In every shining straw she sees.
This simile were apt enough;
But I've another, critic-proof!
The virtuoso thus, at noon,
Broiling beneath a July sun,
The gilded butterfly pursues,

O'er hedge and ditch, through gaps and mews;
And after many a vain essay,
To captivate the tempting prey,
Gives him at length the lucky pat,
And has him safe beneath his hat:
Then lifts it gently from the ground;
But ah! 'tis lost as soon as found;
Culprit his liberty regains;

Flits out of sight, and mocks his pains.
The sense was dark; 'twas therefore fit

With simile t' illustrate it;

But as too much obscures the sight,

As often as to little light,

We have our similies cut short,

For matters of more grave import.

That Matthew's numbers run with ease
Each man of common sense agrees!

All men of common sense allow,
That Robert's lines are easy too:
Where then the pref'rence shall we place,
Or how do justice in this case?

Matthew (says Fame) with endless pains,
Smoothed and refined the meanest strains;
Nor suffered one ill-chosen rhyme

T'escape him at the idlest time;

And thus o'er all a lustre cast,

That, while the language lives, shall last.
An't please your ladyship (quoth I)
For 'tis my business to reply;
Sure so much labour, so much toil,
Bespeak at least a stubborn soil :
Their's be the laurel-wreath decreed;
Who both write well, and write full speed!
Who throw their Helicon about

As freely as a conduit spout!

Friend Robert, thus like chien scavant,

Let fall a poem en passont,

Nor needs his genuine ore refine!

'Tis ready polished from the mine,



MERCATOR, vigiles occulos ut fallere possit, Nomine sub ficto trans mare mittit opes; Lené sonat liquidumque meis Euphelia chordis, Sed solam exoptant te, mea vota, Chlöe.

Ad speculum ornabat nitidos Euphelia crines, Cum dixit mea lux, heus, cane, sume lyram. Namque lyram juxtà positam cum carmine vidit, Suave quidem carmen dulcisonamque lyram.

Fila lyræ vocemque paro, suspiria surgunt,
Et miscent numeris murmura mæsta meis,
Dumque tuæ memoro laudes, Euphelia, formæ,
Tota anima intereâ pendet a bore Chlöes.

Subrubet illa pudore, et contrahit altera frontem, Me torquet mea mens conscia, psallo, tremo; Atque Cupidineâ dixit Dea cincta corona,

Heu! fallendi artem quam didicere parum,


This tale is founded on an article of intelligence which the author found in the Buckinghamshire Herald, for Saturday, June 1, 1793, in the following words.

Glasgow, May 23.

"In a block, or pulley, near the head of the mast of a gabert, now lying at the Broomielaw, there is a chaffinch's nest and four eggs. The nest was built while the vessel lay at Greenock, and was followed hither by both birds. Though the block is occasionally lowered for the inspection of the curious, the birds have not forsaken the nest. The cock, however, visits the nest but seldom, while the hen never leaves it, but when she descends to the hull for food."

IN Scotland's realms, where trees are few,
Nor even shrubs abound;

But where, however bleak the view,
Some better things are found:

For husband there and wife may boast
Their union undefiled,

And false ones are as rare almost
As hedge-rows in the wild.

In Scotland's realm forlorn and bare
The history chanced of late---

This history of a wedded pair,
A chaffinch and his mate.

The spring drew near, each felt a breast
With genial instinct filled;

They paired, and would have built a nest,
But found not where to build.

The heaths uncovered and the moors,
Except with snow and sleet,
Sea-beaten rocks and naked shores
Could yield them no retreat.

Long time a breeding-place they sought,
Till both grew vex'd and tired;
At length a ship arriving, brought
The good so long desired.

A ship?---could such a restless thing
Afford them place of rest?
Or was the merchant charged to bring
The homeless birds a nest?

Hush---silent hearers profit most---
This racer of the sea

Proved kinder to them than the coast,
It served them with a tree.

But such a tree! 'twas shaven deal,
The tree they call a mast,
And had a hollow, with a wheel
Through which the tackle passed.

Within that cavity aloft

Their roofless home they fixed,
Formed with materials neat and soft,
Bents, wool, and feathers mixed.

Four ivory eggs soon pave its floor,
With russet specks bedight---
The vessel weighs, forsakes the shore,
And lessens to the sight.

The mother bird is gone to sea,
As she had changed her kind;
But goes the male? Far wiser he
Is doubtless left behind?

No---soon as from ashore he saw

The winged mansion move,

He flew to reach it, by a law
Of never-failing love.

Then perching at his consort's side,

Was briskly born along,

The billows and the blast defied,

And cheered her with a song.

« PreviousContinue »