Elizabeth Thomas, “Epistle to Clemena”



Epistle to Clemena

Occasioned by an Argument she had
maintain’d against the AUTHOR.


Tho’ you my Resolution still accuse,
And for Misanthropy condemn the Muse;
Still finding Fault with what I most commend,
And lose good Humour in the Name of Friend:
Yet if these pettish Heats you lay aside,
And by calm Reason let the Cause be try’d.                                     5
I make no Question, but it would appear,
You had no Cause to boast, nor I to fear.

For when two bind themselves in Marriage Bands,
Fidelity in each, the Church commands;                                           10
Equal’s the Contract, equal are the Vows,
Yet Custom, diff’rent Licences allows:
The Man may range from his unhappy Wife,
But Woman’s made a Property for Life.
To no dear Friend the Grief may be reveal’d,                                   15
No, she poor Soul, must keep her Shame conceal’d:
And, to the Height of doating Folly grown,
Believe her Husband’s Character her own.

So I have seen a lovely beauteous Maid,
By Duty forc’d, by Interest betray’d,                                                  20
Resign her self into Nefario’s Arms,
And make the sordid Wretch sole Master of her Charms.
With seeming Transport he the Bliss receives,
With seeming Gratitude, rich Presents gives:
The finest Brillants thro’ the Town are sought,                               25
The costliest Liv’ries for her Servants bought;
The richest Tissues for her self to wear,
And nothing that she lik’d could purchas’d be too dear.
But ‘ere the Sun his annual Course had run,
Or thrice three Moons with borrow’d Lustre shone;                     30
The Libertine resum’d his brutal Life:
Oh! then how nauseous grew the Name of Wife.
Her Conversation, and her Charms were stale,
Nor Wit and Beauty, longer could prevail:
The Night he turn’d to Day, the Day to Night,                                 35
Yet still uneasy in Aminta’s Sight.

At two, perhaps, he condescends to rise,
Fetches a Yawn or two, and rubs his Eyes:
Run, run, cries he, to Captain Hackum’s straight,
And tell the Rakes, I for their Coming wait;                                    40
Be sure you bring the Dogs, and heark, d’ye hear,
Bid Tom, the Butler, in my Sight appear.

The hungry Bravo’s to their Patron run,
And wonder that his Levee is so soon:
Bless me, says one, how well you look to Day!                             45
T’other replies, ay, he may well look Gay,
When Wine, and Women, pass his Time away.
While Bus’ness other Mortals Peace destroys,
He gives his Soul a nobler Loose to Joys.
Enough, Nefario cries, sit down my Friends,                                  50
See where the sparkling Burgundy attends.
This Wine was sent from France but t’other Day,
And never yet in Vinter’s Cellar lay.

Set in for Drinking thus, they each recite
The wonderful Atchievement of the Night.                                    55
One tells how he did Phillis serenade,
Fought with the Watch, and made them run afraid:
While t’other shrugging cries, I chang’d my Bed,
And was in Triumph to the Counter led.
But if the Town does Canes enough afford,                                   60
I’ll drub that Rascal where I bought my Sword.

Sated at last with fulsome Lies and Wine,
Nefario swears aloud, ‘Tis Dinner Time.
Aminta’s call’d, and calmly down they sit,
But she not one poor Word or Look can get.                                 65
This Meat’s too salt, t’other’s too fresh, he cries,
And from the Table in a Passion flies:
Not, that his Cook is faulty in the least,
But ‘tis the Wife that palls his squeamish Taste.

Well, after having ransack’d Park and Play,                               70
He with some hackney Vizor sneaks away,
To fam’d Pontack’s, or noted Monsieur Locket’s,
Where Mrs. Jilt, as fairly picks his Pockets.
‘Thus bubbled, in Revenge, he walks his Round,
From Loft three Stories high, to Cellar under Ground:                    75
Scow’rs all the Streets, some Brother Rake doth fight,
And with a broken Pate concludes the Night.
Or in some Tavern with the gaming Crew,
He drinks, and swears, and plays, ‘till Day doth Night pursue.

Mean while Aminta for his Stay doth mourn,                            80
And sends up pious Vows for his Return:
Fears some Mishap, looks out at ev’ry Noise,
And thinks each Breath of Wind, her dear Nefario’s Voice.
At last the Clock strikes Five, and Home he comes,
And kicks the spaniel Servants thro’ the Rooms;                             85
‘Till he the lovely pensive Fair doth spy,
Nor can she ‘scape the sordid Tyranny:
A thousand brutish Names to her he gives,
Which she poor Lady patiently receives:
A thousand Imprecations doth bestow,                                             90
And scarcely can refrain to give th’ impending Blow.
‘Till tir’d with Rage, and overcome with Wine,
Dead drunk he falls, and snoring lies supine.

Wretched Nefario! no Repentance shows,
But mocks those ills Aminta undergoes:                                            95
Ruin’d by him, with Pain she draws her Breath,
And still survives an Evil worse than Death.

Ah Friend! in these deprav’d unhappy Times,
When Vice walks barefac’d, Virtues pass for Crimes:
Many Nefario’s must we think to find,                                              100
Tho’ not so bad as this, yet Villains in their Kind.
Hard is that Venture where our All we lose;
But harder yet an honest Man to choose.


23  Transport  “Vehement emotion…mental exaltation, rapture, ecstasy” (OED)

26  Liv’ries  “The uniform or insignia worn by a household’s servants” (OED)

31  Libertine “A person (typically a man) who is not restrained by morality, esp. with regard to sexual relations; a person of dissolute or promiscuous habits” (OED); also called “rakes.”

43  Bravo’s  In this context, fellow rakes.

44  Levee  “A reception of visitors on rising from bed; a morning assembly held by a prince or person of distinction” (OED).

57  Watch  Watchman, “appointed to keep watch and ward in all towns from sunset to sunrise” (OED).

59  Counter  “Prison” (OED).

70  Park and Play  References to St. James’s Park and the theatre, both known haunts for rakish men and prostitutes in the period.

71  hackney Vizor  “A prostitute” (OED).

 72  Pontack’s  A popular London tavern located on Abchurch Lane; Monsieur Locket’s  Another “fashionable tavern where the young and gay met to dine,” located in Gerard street, Soho (John Timbs, Clubs and Club Life in London(London, [1875]), pp. 379-80, 322).

74  bubbled  “Deluded, duped, or cheated” (OED).

77  Pate  “The head, the skull” (OED).

85  spaniel  “Submissive or cringing” (OED).

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions. By a Lady (London, 1726), pp. 174-79.  [Google Books]

 Edited by Will Hinds

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