Elizabeth Tollet, “The Portrait”


 “The Portrait”

 Votiva pateat veluti descripta tabella
Vita —- —– —- —– Hor.

On what wou’d I my Wishes fix?
‘Tis not upon a Coach and Six:
‘Tis not your rich Brocades to wear;
‘Tis not on Brilliants in my Ear.
‘Tis not to hurry up and down                                              5
To Tunbridge, Epson, Kensington;
Much less to rub my wakeful Eyes
At Basset, till the Sun shou’d rise:
Had I a Foe I meant to curse,
Nay, Rival, I’d not wish her worse,                                       10
For once, to tell you what’s the Lot
I like, I’ve told you what ‘tis not;
A lazy Life I first wou’d choose,
A lazy Life best suits the Muse:
A few choice Books of ev’ry Sort;                                         15
But none that meddle with the Court.
Small Thoughts for Cloaths; ‘tis all a Case:
They’ll neither mend nor spoil my Face.
Money! Enough to serve my Ends:
An Hackney to go see my Friends;                                       20
That I may laugh if Fops pass by,
And they not know my Livery,
Friends that in any Dress would come;
To whom I’d always be at home:
My Table still shou’d cover’d be,                                           25
On this Side Books, on that Bohea;
While we sip on, and ne’er debate
Matters of Scandal, or of State.
For Horace tells us, as you know,
‘Tis Sweet to fool it a propos.                                                  30

Dulce est desipere in loco.      Hor.


Epigraph Votiva pateat veluti descripta tabella “Life may be laid out as if it were depicted on a votive tablet” (Horace, Satires, 2:1, ll. 3-4); Horace’s Satires were “published in 35 BCE” (Oxford Bibliographies).

6 Tunbridge Affluent town in Kent, England; Epsom Market town in Surrey; Kensington Royal palace in London.

8 Basset “An obsolete game of cards, resembling Faro, first played in Venice” (OED).

20 Hackney “A horse-drawn carriage which is let out for hire” (OED).

21 Fops “One who is foolishly attentive to and vain of his appearance, dress, or manners” (OED).

22 Livery “The dress, uniform, or insignia…by which a family, etc., may be identified” (OED).

26 Bohea “Name given in the early eighteenth century to finest kind of black tea” (OED).

29 Horace (65-8 BC), Latin lyric poet and satirist under the emperor Augustus.

30 a propos “To the purpose” (OED).

Postscript Dulce est desipere in loco “It is sweet to be silly at the appropriate time” (Horace, Odes, 4:12, l. 27).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions. With Ann Boleyn to King Henry VIII. An Epistle (London, 1755), pp. 33-34. [Google Books]

Edited by Donna Hang

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