Tag Archives: tetrameter couplets

John Bennet, “The Fortune-Teller”


“The Fortune-Teller”


One Whitsuntide, when merry glee
Proclaim’d each blooming rustic free;
When nymphs and swains, in circling bands,
At sound of tabor join’d their hands
In nimble dance, with sprightly mien,                                                                                    5
Beneath the bower on the green:
Methought the golden age reviv’d,
So harmless were the sports contriv’d.

But ah! how soon the scene was chang’d,
When from these rural joys they rang’d.                                                                               10
For at the place th’ Egyptian crew
Came for lucrative interview;
Among the tribe a buxom lass,
Who daily wonders brought to pass.
Yet pedling first was their pretence,                                                                                       15
To learn if any had the sense
Their hocus pocus to elude,
If not to tell the multitude;
One of their tribe, both deaf and dumb,
Reveal’d past, present, and to come.                                                                                      20

The scheme succeeds; such numbers flock,
Made Christian-Faith a laughing stock!
Made it appear that Satan hath
His eye fix’d on implicit faith.
Now to his oracle they press,                                                                                                   25
And hope in vain for happiness.

The Sybil seated in grimace,
Her vot’ries come with anxious-face;
They write the sum of their demand,
And wishing at her alter stand.                                                                                                30
One for a husband gives her fee,
Who’s soon to be the happy she;
Not so another can be blest,
Till two long years have broke her rest;
But still a second fee retains,                                                                                                   35
And years to months a change regains:
She threatens some and some collogues,
And proves too many w—s and r—s.

She to the matrimonial slate
In order reads their certain fate;                                                                                              40
Bids the dull husband straight provide
For th’ issue of his teeming bride:
Assures the barren of success,
That children shall their ages bless.

A brother seeks a brother lost,                                                                                         45
In prison strong confin’d and crost;
But tho’ he roams on foreign strand,
He soon shall see his native land.

Another offers at her shrine,
Who’s promis’d treasures from the mine:                                                                              50
Could but his partner have such bliss,
Her pilfer’d goods she would not miss.

A mother ardently requires
An answer kind to her desires:
A long-lost daughter was the theme,                                                                                       55
And she receives a golden dream.

Good God! that mortals e’er should strive
In hidden secrets thus to dive:
Would they regard thy sacred text,
Impostors could not have pretext                                                                                            60
Unwary people to delude,
Or on thy attributes intrude.

They still kept on their impious trade,
And ev’ry day fresh vot’ries made;
Till vengeance bid Astrea rise:                                                                                                   65
Despair then seiz’d their baleful eyes.
Their utmost skill now at the stake,
The deaf and dumb could hear and speak,
And from her shrine in haste withdrew;
Shame and confusion with her flew.                                                                                        70

Demetrius found his gains were gone;
Diana fled; her witchcrafts done.
He then betray’d one of the crew,
The darling pelf yet still his view.
Virtue rejoic’d to see the stroke,                                                                                               75
That vice itself the charm had broke:
Astrea’s orders were obey’d,
And th’ hag to prison was convey’d.

Th’ infernal tribe now sad distrest,
Detractor’s council was a jest;                                                                                                   80
Who finding that fair virtue’s cause
Was well defended by just laws;
To give such vile adherents play,
His canker’d heart no more could say;
Thus added to lost reason, loss of pay.                                                                                   85


1 Whitsuntide “The church season of Pentecost,” a festival occurring on the seventh Sunday after Easter in the Christian tradition (OED).

2 rustic “A person living in the countryside; a peasant” (OED).

3 nymph “A beautiful young woman” (OED); swain “A country gallant or lover” (OED).

4 tabor A drum (OED).

5 mien “The look … manner, or conduct of a person, as showing character, mood, etc.” (OED).

6 bower “A place closed in or overarched with branches of trees, shrubs, or other plants (OED).

11 place “Woodstock” [Author’s Note].

27 Sybil “A prophetess; a fortune-teller, a witch” (OED).

28 vot’ries “A devout worshipper” (OED).

37 collogues “To prevail upon or influence … to coax” (OED).

38 w–s and r–s Likely to be understood as “whores and rogues.”

42 teeming “Child-bearing” (OED).

46 crost “Thwarted” (OED).

52 pilfer’d “Stolen” (OED).

65 Astrea Astraea, Greek goddess of justice (Dixon-Kennedy, Encyclopedia of Greco-Roman Mythology, 52).

66 baleful “Unhappy … miserable” (OED).

71 Demetrius A biblical figure who falsely worshipped the Roman goddess Diana, causing him to incite a riot against the Apostle Paul (OCB).

72 Diana Roman goddess of hunting, wilderness, and animals (Dixon-Kennedy, Encyclopedia of Greco-Roman Mythology, 52).

74 pelf “Stolen good[s]” (OED).

84 canker’d “Infected with evil; corrupt, depraved (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1774), pp. 17-22. [Google Books]

Edited by Alex Pittel


[John Norris], “The Rainbow. A Fable”


“The Rainbow. A Fable”

—Nimium ne crede Colori.—Virg.


An age there was, some authors teach,
When all things were endu’d with speech;
Nor plant, nor bird, nor fish, nor brute,
Nor thing inanimate was mute:
Their converse taught—or these men lie—                                      5
Better than books, morality.
One grain more faith afford me now,
I ask but one more grain, I vow,
Speech on mere visions to bestow.
Then you’ll believe, that truth I tell,                                                    10
That what I now relate befell.
Calm was the day, the sky was clear,
Save that a light cloud here and there,
Floating amid the azure plain,
Promis’d some gentle show’rs of rain;                                              15
Tho’ Men are faithless, Clouds are true,
As by the sequel soon I’ll shew.
Sol from the zenith now departed,
Eastward his rays obliquely darted,
The clouds, late glories of the day,                                                     20
By western winds are borne away,
Till to the east each vapour blown,
In lucid show’rs came gently down.
Now full oppos’d to Phoebus’ rays,
Iris her vivid tints displays;                                                                   25
A wat’ry mirror spread below,
To her own eyes her beauties shew.
I scarce can think Narcissus ey’d
Reflected beauty with such pride;
Or modern belle for birth-night dress’d,                                           30
Raptures so exquisite express’d.
Some time enamour’d o’er the lake
She hung, then—thus she spake.
“Say, in Creation’s ample bound,
Where can there such a form be found?                                           35
How fine that curve! how bright those rays!
Oh I could here for ever gaze;
See, see, resplendent circles rise,
Each above each, of various dyes!
Mark that first ring of sanguine light!                                                40
Beam’d ever ruby half so bright?
Or can the flaming topaz vie
With that next stream of golden dye?
Where was that em’rald ever seen
Whose rays could rival yonder green?                                               45
Or where’s that sapphire’s azure hue,
Can emulate it’s neighb’ring blue?
See! purple terminates my bow:
Boast amethysts so bright a glow?”
Thus to each charm she gave its due,                                         50
Nay more—but that is—entre nous,
Exhaustless seem’d the copious theme,
For where’s the end of self-esteem?
She finding still for praise pretence,
From vanity drew eloquence:                                                               55
When in the midst of her career,
Behold her glories disappear.
See her late boasted tints decay,
And vanish into air away,
Like spectres at th’ approach of day.                                                   60
On things too transient hangs their fate,
For them to hope a lasting date,
The fallen rain has clear’d the skies,
And lo! the short-liv’d phantom dies.
My application’s brief and plain,                                                           65
Beauty’s the Rainbow, Youth’s the Rain.


Author  The poem is signed “Eugenio.”  A reviewer of this volume of The Annual Register identifies the author as “John Norris, Esq, who was a student at Temple and fellow at Caius College in Cambridge” (The Critical Review: Or, Annals of Literature, Volume 13. London: 1762, p. 486).

Epigraph Nimium ne crede Colori.—Virg. From the Latin poet’s pastoral poem, Eclogues II. Trans. “Trust not too much to colour, beauteous boy” (classics.mit.edu).

17 sequel In reference to “Clouds” at line 16.

18 Sol “The sun (personified)” (OED); zenith “The point of the horizon at which a heavenly body rises” (OED).

24 Phoebus’  The sun personified as Apollo as the god of light or of the sun.

25 Iris “The goddess who acted as the messenger of the gods, and was held to display as her sign, or appear as, the rainbow; hence, allusively, a messenger” (OED).

28 Narcissus “[The name of] a beautiful youth who fell in love with his own reflection in water and pined to death” (OED).

51 entre nous “Between ourselves; in private” (OED).

56 career “The height of a person’s activity” (OED).

Source: The Annual Register (London, 1762), pp. 256-57.

Edited by Karen Peña

Mary Barber, “An Unanswerable Apology for the Rich”


“An Unanswerable Apology for the Rich”


All-bounteous Heav’n, Castalio cries,
With bended Knees, and lifted Eyes,
When shall I have the Pow’r to bless,
And raise up Merit in Distress?

How do our Hearts deceive us here!                                           5
He gets ten thousand Pounds a Year.
With this the pious Youth is able
To build, and plant, and keep a Table.
But then the Poor he must not treat:
Who asks the Wretch, that wants to eat?                                           10
Alas! to ease their Woes he wishes;
But cannot live without Ten Dishes:
Tho’ Six would serve as well, ’tis true;
But one must live, as others do.
He now feels Wants unknown before,                                                15
Wants still increasing with his Store.
The good Castalio must provide
Brocade, and Jewels, for his Bride.
Her Toilet shines with Plate emboss’d;
What Sums her Lace and Linen cost!                                                   20
The Cloaths that must his Person grace,
Shine with Embroidery, and Lace.
The costly Pride of Persian Looms,
And Guido’s Paintings, grace his Rooms.
His Wealth Castalio will not waste;                                                       25
But must have ev’ry thing in Taste.
He’s an OEconomist confest;
But what he buys, must be the best:
For common Use a Set of Plate;
Old China, when he dines in State;                                                      30
A Coach and Six, to take the Air;
Besides a Chariot, and a Chair.
All these important Calls supply’d,
Calls of Necessity, not Pride,
His Income’s regularly spent;                                                                35
He scarcely saves to pay his Rent.
No Man alive would do more Good,
Or give more freely, if he cou’d.
He grieves, whene’er the Wretched sue;
But what can poor Castalio do?                                                             40

Would Heav’n but send ten thousand more,
He’d give –– just as he did before.


1 Castalio Identity untraced; Barber’s pseudonym suggests a male form of “Castilian,” characteristic of the spring Castalia, sacred in antiquity to Apollo and the Muses as a source of poetic inspiration (OED).

10 Wretch “An unfortunate or unhappy person” (OED).

18 Brocade “A rich fabric with a raised pattern, typically with gold or silver thread” (OED).

23 Persian Looms Expensive textiles imported from areas that belonged to the Persian Empire, or modern day Iran

24 Guido’s paintings Probably a reference to Guido Reni (1575-1642), a prolific Italian Baroque painter whose works were popular in eighteenth-century England. Charles I, for example, had more paintings by Reni than any other artist in his collection. (England and the Italian Renaissance).

27 OEconomist Archaic spelling of economist.

30 China “Household tableware or other objects made from China or a similar material” (OED).

31 A Coach and Six “A carriage drawn by six horses” (OED).

 32 Chariot “A stately or triumphal carriage” (OED); Chair “An enclosed chair for conveying one person, carried between horizontal poles by two porters” (OED).

39 sue “Appeal formally to a person for something” (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1735), pp. 17-19. [Google Books]

 Edited by Nikolas Refanidis


Nathaniel Evans, “A Riddle”


“A Riddle”


Barrcado’d with white bone,
Lab’ring under many a groan,
Curtain’d in my room with red,
And smoothly laid in crimson bed;
‘Tis I dissolve the stony heart,                                                              5
And comfort’s balmy joys impart;
‘Tis I can rule the wav’ring croud,
Or tame the haughty and the proud;
‘Tis I o’er beauty oft prevail,
That queen of life’s capricious vale;                                                   10
‘Tis I can fire the warrior’s soul,
Or passion’s giddy voice control;
Senates have felt my lordly sway,
And kings my magic pow’r obey;
‘Tis I, so garrulously gay,                                                                      15
That rouze the dames whose heads are grey;
Gilded o’er with truth and lies,
Under many a mixt disguise,
I dress to cheat unpractis’d youth,
With falsehood’s garb for honest truth;                                             20
XANTHIPPE bold, in dead of night,
Taught SOCRATES to own my might!

Strange enchantress, motely creature,
Oddest prodigy of nature!
As raging billows, now I’m wild,                                                          25
And now as warbling fountains mild;
Now religion’s laws proclaiming,
And now the good and just defaming;
Now cementing patriotism,
And now in church provoking schism.                                               30
Enough, O muse!– kind reason cries,
The man who has this monster dies!

Expound my riddle, if you’re able,
For ‘twas this confounded BABEL!


6 balmy “Delicately and deliciously fragrant” (OED).

10 capricious “Characterized by play of wit or fancy; humorous, fantastic, ‘conceited’” (OED).

15 garrulously “Given to much talking; fond of indulging in talk or chatter; loquacious, talkative” (OED).

16 rouze “To tussle with (a person) in a sexual or flirtatious manner” (OED).

17 Gilded “To cover entirely or partially with a thin layer of gold, either laid on in the form of gold-leaf or applied by other processes” (OED).

20 Garb-“Grace, elegance, stylishness of manners or appearance” (OED).

21 Xanthippe (435 BCE- ???) “Athenian wife of Socrates whose name, thanks to the philosopher’s disciples, has for centuries been a byword for a sharp-tongued shrew” (Encyclopedia.com).

22 Socrates (469-399 BCE) “Greek philosopher whose way of life, character, and thought exerted a profound influence on ancient and modern philosophy” (Encyclopedia Brittanica).

31 Muse The source of poetic inspiration.

34 Babel Another name for the ancient city of Babylon; a reference here to the Biblical story in Genesis 11:1-9 that describes the human race united under one language building the city and tower, but God intervenes to “confuse their language so they will not understand each other” (11:6), thus destroying the city and dispersing humanity around the world speaking different languages (OCB).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (Philadelphia, 1759), pp. 19-20. [Google Books]

Edited by Ben Niden-Preis

John Gay, “Fable IV: The Eagle, and the Assembly of Animals”


 “Fable IV: The Eagle, and the Assembly of Animals”


As Jupiter’s all-seeing eye
Survey’d the worlds beneath the sky,
From this small speck of earth were sent
Murmurs and sounds of discontent;
For ev’ry thing alive complain’d                                                                               5
That he the hardest life sustain’d.
Jove calls his Eagle. At the word
Before him stands the royal bird.
The bird, obedient, from heav’n’s height
Downward directs his rapid flight;                                                                           10
Then cited ev’ry living thing,
To hear the mandates of his king.
Ungrateful creatures, whence arise
These murmurs which offend the skies;
Why this disorder? say the cause:                                                                             15
For just are Jove’s eternal laws.
Let each his discontent reveal.
To yon sour dog I first appeal.
Hard is my lot, the Hound replies.
On what fleet nerves the greyhound flies!                                                                 20
While I, with weary step and slow,
O’er plains, and vales, and mountains, go;
The morning sees my chase begun,
Nor ends it till the setting sun.
When, says the Greyhound, I pursue,                                                                          25
My game is lost, or caught in view,
Beyond my sight the prey’s secure:
The hound is slow, but always sure.
And, had I his sagacious scent,
Jove ne’er had heard my discontent.                                                                              30
The Lion crav’d the fox’s art;
The Fox, the lion’s force and heart;
The Cock implor’d the pigeon’s flight,
Whose wings were rapid, strong, and light;
The Pigeon strength of wing despis’d,                                                                             35
And the cock’s matchless valour priz’d:
The Fishes wish’d to graze the plain,
The Beasts to skim beneath the main.
Thus, envious of another’s fate,
Each blam’d the partial hand of Fate.                                                                               40
The bird of heav’n then cry’d aloud—
Jove bids disperse the murm’ring crowd:
The God rejects your idle pray’rs.
Would ye, rebellious mutineers,
Entirely change your name and nature,                                                                           45
And be the very envy’d creature?
What, silent all, and none consent!
Be happy then, and learn content.
Nor imitate the restless mind,
And proud ambition, of mankind.                                                                                       50


1 Jupiter “The supreme deity of the ancient Romans, corresponding to the Greek Zeus; the ruler of gods and men, and the god of the heavens, whose weapon was the thunderbolt” (OED).

 7 Jove “A poetical equivalent of Jupiter, name of the highest deity of the ancient Romans” (OED); Eagle “It is said that the Eagle only is never smitten with Lightning; and therefore it is judged that she serveth Jupiter as his Armour-bearer” (Pliny’s Natural History, Book X, Chapter III).

8 the royal bird A reference to the eagle which “served as Jupiter’s personal messenger” (Asuni, Michele. “Jupiter and Eagle.” Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum).

29 sagacious “Acute in perception, esp. by the sense of smell” (OED).

38 skim To move “lightly along or close to a surface” (OED); main “The open sea” (OED).

41 bird of heav’n Another reference to Jupiter’s eagle.

44 mutineers People “who [revolt] against or openly [resist] the authority of a superior or a governing body” (OED).

Source: Fables (London, 1793), pg. 21-24.

Edited by Sara Contreras

Matthew Prior, “The Cameleon”


“The Cameleon”

As the Cameleon, who is known
To have no Colours of his own;
But borrows from his Neighbour’s Hue
His White, or Black; his Green, or Blue;
And struts as much in ready Light,                                             5
Which Credit gives him upon Sight,
As if the Rain-bow were in Tail
Settl’d on him, and his Heirs Male.
So the young Squire, when first he comes
From Country School to Will’s or Tom’s;                                     10
And equally (G–d knows) is fit
To be a Statesman, or a Wit:
Without one Notion of his own,
He saunters wildly up and down,
‘Till some Acquaintance, good or bad,                                       15
Takes notice of a staring Lad;
Admits him in amongst the Gang:
They jest, reply, dispute, harangue;
He acts and talks, as they befriend him:
Smear’d with the Colours, which they lend him.                       20

Thus, meerly as his Fortune chances,
His Merit or his Vice advances.

If haply he the Sect pursues,
That read and comment upon News;
He takes up their mysterious Face;                                              25
He drinks his Coffee without Lace:
This Week his mimic Tongue runs o’er
What they have said the Week before;
His Wisdom sets all Europe right,
And teaches Marlb’rough when to fight.                                      30

Or, if it be his Fate to meet
With Folks who have more Wealth than Wit:
He loves cheap Port, and double Bub,
And settles in the Hum Drum Club.
He learns how stocks with fall or rise;                                         35
Holds Poverty the greatest Vice:
Thinks Wit the Bane of Conversation;
And says that Learning spoils a Nation.

But, if at first he minds his Hits,
And drinks Champaine among the Wits:                                      40
Five deep he toasts the tow’ring Lasses;
Repeats you Verses writ on Glasses:
Is in the Chair; prescribes the Law;
And lyes with Those he never saw.


1 Cameleon An inconstant or variable person” (OED).

9 Squire “A young man of good birth attendant upon a knight” (OED).

10 Will’s or Tom’s Most likely common names of local pubs or coffeehouses.

18 jest “To tell a tale, to recite a romance” (OED); harangue “To make an address or speech to an assembly” (OED).

23 Sect A class “or kind of persons” (OED).

26 Coffee without Lace The epithet applied to tea or coffee that has not been mixed with some kind of spirit; “Mr. Nisby is of opinion that laced coffee is bad for the head” –Spectator No. 317 (Dinsdale, A Glossary of Provincial Words Used in Teesdale, 76).

30 Marlb’rough John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722). He is considered one of England’s greatest generals after leading the British and allied armies to key victories over Louis XIV of France at Blenheim (1704), Ramillies (1706), and Oudenaarde (1708) (Konstam, Marlborough, 4).

33 double Bub “A slang word for drink, esp. strong beer” (OED).

34 Hum Drum “Lacking variety; of a routine character” (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London 1718) pp. 177-179. [Google Books]

Edited by Jane Matchak

Mary Barber, “Written from Dublin to a Lady in the Country”


Written from Dublin to a Lady in the Country


A Wretch in smoaky Dublin pent,
Who rarely sees the Firmament,
You graciously invite, to view
The Sun’s enliv’ning Rays with you;
To change the Town for flow’ry Meads,                                             5
And sing beneath the sylvan Shades.

YOU’RE kind in vain —It will not be —
Retirement was deny’d to me;
Doom’d by inexorable Fate,
To pass thro’ crouded Scenes I hate.                                                   10
O with what Joy could I survey
The rising, glorious source of Day!
Attend the Shepherd’s fleecy Care
Transported with the vernal Air;
Behold the Meadow’s painted Pride,                                                   15
Or see the limped Waters glide;
Survey the distant, shaded Hills,
And, penfive, hear the murm’ring Rills,

THRO’ your Versailles with Pleasure rove,
Admire the Gardens, and the Grove;                                                    20
See Nature’s bounteous Hand adorn
The blushing Peach, and the blooming Thorn;
Beheld the Birds distend their Throats,
And hear their wild, melodious Notes,

DELIGHTED, thro’ your Pastures roam,                                                25
Or see the Kine come lowing home;
Whose od’rous Breaths a Joy impart,
That sooths the Sense, and glads the Heart;
With pleasure view the frothing Pails
And silent hear the creaking Rails;                                                         30
See whistling Hinds attend their Ploughs,
Who never hear of broken Vows;
Where no Ambition to be great,
E’er taught the Nymph, or Swain, Deceit.

THUS thro’ the Day, delighted run;                                                        35
Then raptur’d view the setting Sun;
The rich, diffusive God behold,
On distant Mountains pouring Gold,
Gilding the beauteous, rising Spire,
While Crystal Windows glow with Fire;                                                  40
Gaze, till he quit the Western Skies,
And long to see his Sister rise;
Prefer the silent, Silver moon
To the too radiant, noisy Noon.

OR Northward turn, with new Delight,                                                   45
To mark what Triumphs wait the Night;
When Shepherds think the Heav’ns foreshow
Some dire Commotions here below;
When Light the human Form assumes,
And Champions meet with nodding Plumes,                                       50
With Silver Streamers, wide unfurl’d
And gleaming Spears amaze the World.

THENCE to the higher Heav’ns I soar,
And the great Architect adore ;
Behold what Worlds are hung in Air,                                                     55
And view ten thousand Empires there;
Then prostate to Jehovah fall,
Who into Being spake them all.


 1 pent “Another term for ‘pent-up’” (OED).

2 Firmament “The heavens or the sky” (OED).

6 Sylvan “Consisting of or associated with woods; wooded” (OED).

9 inexorable “Impossible to stop or prevent” (OED).

14 vernal “Of, in, or appropriate to spring” (OED).

19 Versailles A royal palace that began construction in 1661 and completed in 1715. It was the palace of the French monarch Louis XIV and it was a symbol of absolute monarchy.

 26 Kine “Cows collectively” (OED).

31 Hinds Farm laborers.

34 Swain “A country youth” (OED).

51 unfurl’d “Make or become spread out from a rolled or folded state, especially in order to be open to the wind.” (OED)

57 Jehovah “A form of the Hebrew name of God used in some translations of the Bible” (OED).

 Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1735), pp. 101-104.

 Edited by Natasha Forsberg

Ann Yearsley, “To a Friend, on Valentine’s Day”


“To a Friend, on Valentine’s Day”


Tho’ blooming shepherds hail this day
With love, the subject of each lay,
Yet friendship tunes my artless song,
To thee the grateful themes belong.

STREPHON, I never will repine,                                                5
Tho’ desin’d not thy Valentine;
O’er friendship’s nobler heights we’ll rove,
Nor heed the soft’ning voice of love.

Strangers to Passion’s tyrant reign,
Careless, we’ll range the happier plain,                                  10
Where all those calmer joys we’ll prove,
Which wait sublime platonic love.

Yet I’ll allow a future day,
When friendship must at last give way;
When thou, forgetful, shalt resign                                             15
The maid who wrote this Valentine.

Think not, my friend, I dream of love ,
That with some happier maid thou’lt prove;
Friendship alone is my design
In this officious Valentine.                                                            20

Yet, when that victor God shall reign,
And conquer’d Friendship quits the plain,
This gentle whisperer captive take,
‘T will all they former kindness wake.

But if its pleadings you deny,                                                        25
And fain wou’d have remembrance die,
Then to devouring flames consign
My too ill-fated Valentine.


1 blooming “In the bloom of health and beauty, in the prime of youth” (OED).

5 STREPHON A typical male name used in pastoral poetry (Oxford Reference); repine “To feel or express discontent or dissatisfaction; to grumble, complain” (OED).

12 sublime “ perfect, consummate; supreme” (OED); platonic “ Of love, affection, or friendship: intimate and affectionate but not sexual; spiritual rather than physical” (OED).

26 fain “Gladly, willingly, with pleasure” (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1786), p. 21.  [Google Books]

Edited by Katherine Lowden

John Gay, “Fable XXXI: The Universal Apparition”


 “Fable XXXI: The Universal Apparition”


A RAKE, by ev’ry passion rul’d,
With ev’ry vice his youth had cool’d;
Disease his tainted blood assails,
His spirits droop, his vigour fails;
With secret ills at home he pines,                                                                               5
And, like infirm old age, declines.
As twing’d with pain, he pensive sits,
And raves, and prays, and swears, by fits,
A ghastly phantom, lean and wan,
Before him rose, and thus began—                                                                             10
My name perhaps hath reach’d your ear;
Attend, and be advis’d by care.
Nor love, nor honour, wealth, nor pow’r,
Can give the heart a cheerful hour,
When health is lost.— Be timely wise:                                                                         15
With health all taste of pleasure flies.
Thus said, the phantom disappears.
The wary counsel wak’d his fears.
He now from all excess abstains,
With physic purifies his veins;                                                                                       20
And, to procure a sober life,
Resolves to venture on a wife.
But now again the sprite ascends,
Where’er he walks his ear attends;
Insinuates that beauty’s frail,                                                                                        25
That perseverance must prevail;
With jealousies his brain inflames,
And whispers all her lovers’ names.
In other hours she represents
His household charge, his annual rents,                                                                      30
Increasing debts, perplexing duns,
And nothing for his younger sons.
Straight all his thought to gain he turns,
And with the thirst of lucre burns.
But, when possest of fortune’s store,                                                                            35
The spectre haunts him more and more;
Sets want and misery in view,
Bold thieves, and all the murd’ring crew,
Alarms him with eternal frights,
Infests his dream, or wakes his nights.                                                                         40
How shall he chase this hideous guest?
Pow’r may perhaps protect his rest;
To pow’r he rose. Again the sprite
Besets him morning, noon, and night;
Talks of ambition’s tott’ring seat,                                                                                    45
How envy persecutes the great,
Of rival hate, of treach’rous friends,
And what disgrace his fall attends.
The court he quits to fly from Care,
And seeks the peace of rural air.                                                                                     50
His groves, his fields, amus’d his hours;
He prun’d his trees, he rais’d his flow’rs:
But Care again his steps pursues;
Warns him of blasts, of blighting dews,
Of plund’ring insects, snails, and rains,                                                                           55
And droughts, that starve the labour’d plains.
Abroad, at home, the spectre’s there;
In vain we seek to fly from Care.
At length he thus the ghost addrest—
Since thou must be my constant guest,                                                                           60
Be kind, and follow me no more,
For Care by right should go before.


1 Rake “Fashionable or stylish man of promiscuous habits” (OED).

4 spirits “The animating or vital principle in man which gives life” (OED).

9 wan “gloomy” (OED).

20 physic “A medical substance or purgative” (OED).

22 venture “An occasion of trying ones chance” (OED).

23 sprite “Incorporeal being” (OED); ascend “To rise” (OED).

24 attends “To turn one’s ear to listen to” (OED).

27 inflames “The Showing of anger, passion, or zeal” (OED).

31 duns “Persistent demands for money” (OED).

34 lucre “Acquisition of something profitable” (OED).

44 besets “To assail on all sides” (OED).

54 blasts “Strong gusts of wind” (OED).

Source: Fables, volume 1 (London, 1793), pp. 138 – 141.

Edited by Jihane Abdelhadi

John Gay, “Fable XXXIII: The Courtier and Proteus”


“Fable XXXIII: The Courtier and Proteus”


Whene’re a Courtier’s out of place,
The country shelters his disgrace;
Where, doom’d to exercise and health,
His house and gardens own his wealth.
He builds new schemes, in hopes to gain                                   5
The plunder of another reign;
Like Philip’s son, would fain be doing,
And sighs for other realms to ruin.
As one of these, (without his wand)
Pensive, along the winding strand                                               10
Employ’d the solitary hour
In projects to regain his pow’r,
The waves in spreading circles ran,
Proteus arose, and thus began—
Came you from court? For in your mien                                      15
A self-important air is seen.
He frankly own’d his friends had trick’d him,
And how he fell his party’s victim.
Know, says the god, by matchless skill
I change to ev’ry shape at will;                                                        20
But yet, I’m told, at court you see
Those who presume to rival me.
Thus said— a snake, with hideous trail,
Proteus extends his scaly mail.
Know, says the Man, though proud in place,                               25
All courtiers are of reptile race.
Like you, they take that dreadful form,
Bask in the sun, and fly the storm;
With malice hiss, with envy gloat,
And for convenience change their coat;                                       30
With new-got lustre rear their head,
Though on a dunghill born and bred.
Sudden the god a lion stands,
He shakes his mane, he spurns the sands;
Now a fierce lynx, with fiery glare,                                                 35
A wolf, an ass, a fox, a bear!
Had I ne’er liv’d at court, he cries,
Such transformation might surprise;
But there, in quest of daily game,
Each able courtier acts the same.                                                   40
Wolves, lions, lynxes, while in place,
Their friends and fellows are their chase;
They play the bear’s and fox’s part;
Now rob by force, now steal with art;
They sometimes in the senate bray;                                               45
Or, chang’d again to beasts of prey,
Down from the lion to the ape,
Practise the frauds of ev’ry shape.
So said, upon the god he flies;
In cords the struggling captive ties.                                                  50
Now, Proteus, now (to truth compell’d)
Speak, and confess, or what you will,
Use strength, surprise, or what you will,
The courtier finds evasion still;
Not to be bound by any ties,                                                              55
And never forc’d to leave his lies.


1 Courtier “An attendant at court” (OED).

7 Philip’s son  Alexander the Great (356BC-323BC), son of Philip II of Macedon, known for his military exploits; fain “Gladly, willingly, with pleasure” (OED).

9 wand “Straight slender stick made from young tree bark” (OED).

14 Proteus “Sea god, son of Oceanus and Tethys;” capable of changing shape (OED).

15 mein “The look, bearing, manner, or conduct of a person” (OED).

24 mail The snake’s skin, figured as armor.

32 Dunghill “Heap or pile of dung” (OED).

 Source:  Fables (London 1727), pp. 147-150.

Edited by Sarah Aubin