David Mallet, “The Discovery”


“The Discovery”

Upon reading some Verses, written by a young
Lady at a Boarding-School.  Sept. 1760.


Apollo lately sent to know,
If he had any sons below;
For, by the trash he long has seen
In male and female Magazine,
A hundred quires not worth a groat,                                     5
The race must be extinct, he thought.

His messenger to court repairs;
Walks softly with the croud up stairs:
But when he had his errand told,
The courtiers sneer’d, both young and old.                         10
Augustus knit his royal brow,
And bade him let Apollo know it,
That from his infancy till now,
He lov’d nor poetry nor poet.

His next adventure was the park,                                    15
When it grew fashionably dark:
There beauties, boobies, strumpets, rakes,
Talk’d much of commerce, whist and stakes;
Who tips the wink, who drops the card:
But not one word of verse or bard.                                          20

The stage, APOLLO’s old domain,
Where his true sons were wont to reign,
His courier now past frowning by:
Ye modern DURFEYS tell us why.

Slow, to the city last he went:                                              25
There, all was prose, of cent per cent.
There, alley-omnium, script, and bonus,
(Latin, for which a Muse would stone us,
Yet honest GIDEON’s classic stile)
Made our poor Nuntio stare and smile.                                   30

And now the clock had struck eleven:
The messenger must back to Heaven;
But, just as he his wings had ty’d,
Look’d up Queen-Square, the North-east side.
A blooming Creature there he found,                                       35
With pen and ink and books around,
Alone and writing by a taper:
He read unseen, then stole her paper.
It much amus’d him on his way;
And reaching Heaven by break of day,                                      40
He shew’d APOLLO what he stole.
The God perus’d, and lik’d the whole:
Then, calling for his pocket-book,
Some right celestial vellum took;
And what he with a sun-beam there                                          45
Writ down, the Muse thus copies fair:
“If I no men my sons must call,
Here’s one fair Daughter worth ’em all:
Mark then the sacred words that follow,
SOPHIA’S mine” –– so sign’d                                                          50



Apollo God of light, poetry and music” (OED).

5 quires “A small book or pamphlet consisting of a set of four sheets folded in two to form eight leaves;” also “a short poem, treatise” (OED); groat “The English groat coined in 1351–2 was made equal to four pence” (OED).

8 croud Variant of “crowd.”

11 Augustus Founder of the Roman Empire; here a reference to King George II (reigned 1727-1760).

17 boobies “A childish, foolish, inept, or blundering person” (OED); strumpet A female prostitute; (also) a mistress, a concubine (OED); rake “A fashionable or stylish man of dissolute or promiscuous habits” (OED).

23 frowning “Disapproving” (OED).

24 DURFEYS Alluding to Thomas d’Urfey (1653–1723), a Restoration-era playwright, best known for his songs and contributions to the ballad opera as a theatrical form.

26 cent per cent That is, “totally, completely” (OED).

27 alley-omnium Possibly figurative for “all the marbles.”

29 GIDEON Military leader, judge, and prophet in the Hebrew Bible; see Judges 6-8.

30 Nuntio Variant of “nuncio,” “a papal ambassador to a foreign court or government” (OED).

34 Queen-Square A fashionable neighborhood in north London in the mid-century period.

38 read Corrected from “red” in the original text.

44 vellum A fine kind of parchment prepared from the skins of calves (lambs or kids) and used especially for writing, painting, or binding” (OED).

50 SOPHIA Greek name meaning “wisdom;” also referring to Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1762), pp. 14-16. [Google Books]

Edited by Rafe Kassim