Laurence Whyte, “The Inchantment. A Tale”


“The Inchantment. A Tale”

In nova sert animus mutatas dicere Formas
Corpora.                                                               Ovid.        

‘Tis thine, O Muse! to sing or set a Song,
To spin a Tale, to make it short or long,
To give a Flow of Thoughts, with Numbers sweet,
That Sense and Metre in each stanza meet,
And from the Chaos of Imaginations,                                                5
To range Ideas in their proper stations.
Lo! here is Matter void of Spleen or Gall,
With all the Humours, innocent as Paul,
Who by his Stars, alas! was used so scurvy,
To be inchanted and turned topsy turvy,                                          10
Who, metamorphos’d, flew away astonish’d;
Then stood corrected, lectur’d, and admonish’d,
Be thou, O Muse! propitious to our Tale,
To help us out, when Wit and Humour fail.
Two Mendicants of late, with open Palms,                                  15
Came to a Pastry school to seek for Alms;
The Elder was a Graduate in the Trade,
The Younger was as bashful as a Maid,
But strong enough to bear a heavy Sack,
To lift and toss it on his humble Back;                                                20
Was sent abroad a Novice with his Brother,
For they must learn the Trade from one another.
The Elder on the threshold fixt his Toes,
And thus harangu’d the Ladies thro’ the Nose!
“Can you afford us Flour, Meal, or Paste,                                             25
Which you so often throw away and waste,
The welfare of your Souls be your Concern,
And Charity’s a Lesson you shou’d learn.”
Bless us, O Lord! Quoth they, pray who is that,
That comes to beg, new clad, so sleek and fat?                                 30
For by his Voice it shou’d be F—r Paul,
Not he indeed says one, no not at all,
For he’s a shotten Herring, thin and meagre,
The next degree in Colour to a Neagre,
Or something like it, of Mollotto Hue,                                                   35
Down right Egyptian, or a wand’ring Jew.
Quoth he, “you’re not mistaken in the Man,
He did, some Years ago, look thin and wan,
By too long fasting, watching, Midnight Pray’rs,
By Pilgrimage, and Study, many Years;                                                  40
Old Age at length got him a writ of Ease,
From these hard Duties, in declining Days,
Now he’s grown Young, ‘tis well you see him thrive,
But to St. F—s, pray what will you give,
’Tis true we’re glad to see you plump and full,                                    45
But how can you, from Kids, or Goats get Wool,
’Tis strange that you shou’d wander from your Road,
Who has been us’d so long to beg abroad,
If on that Errand now you come to crave,
Instead of Pence, we’ll give you what we have,                                   50
And though we cannot fill a Sack or Sieve,
Our flour in handfuls thus we freely give.”
The Elder they attack’d in front and rear,
The poor young Novice comes in for his Share,
Both were half choak’d and blinded in the strife,                               55
The coal black Wig was powder’d to the Life.
No Millers whiter, all from Head to Toe,
Nor did they know which way to turn or go;
Amaz’d a while, and mute as any Post,
They stood like Statues, gastly as a Ghost,                                            60
When they recover’d from that silent Trance,
Paul shook his Head–“I have it all at once!
’Tis all Inchantment,—-all we see are Fairies,
Or else they cou’d not not play such wild Fegaries,
There! there! you see the little Fairy Queen,                                        65
With golden Locks, her Gown and Mantle green,
Dress’d in her Silks—-a Vengance light upon her,
The rest you see, are Nymphs, her Maids of Honour,
Dress’d up with Ribbons all so prim and gay,
Satan avoid!—-then touch them not I say,                                          70
We must not handle any Fairy Treasure,
Lest we incur St. F—-s his Displeasure,
For punishment he suffer’d us to stray,
And left those Imps to cross us in our Way,
Too sure I am, they’re not of human kind,                                          75
That cou’d by Magick Powder strike us blind.”
At length they groap’d, and scrambl’d from the Door,
Leaving behind,—their Blessings to be sure,
The Nymphs pursu’d and drudg’d them in their Flight,
And were so kind t’escorte them out of Sight,                                      80
They sent them off well roasted, and well basted,
When all their Ammunition was quite wasted,
When they beheld each other in his Plight,
And saw their Colour change from Grey to white,
They bless’d themselves, and thrice each other blest,                        85
And each, with lifted Eyes, thrice knock’d his Breast.
Quoth Paul, “I tremble lest that where we stand
Is still within the Bounds of Fairy Land,
Our Friends at home will scarce believe this Story,
But must allow it was our Purgatory,                                                     90
If they should say, ‘twas all a dream or Fancy,
Then by this Hand—-I’ll swear ‘twas Necromancy,
’Tis Satan’s Work,—-all Sorcery indeed!
From his Illusions let us fly with Speed.”
No yellow Dragoon from the Boyn cou’d run,                               95
So fast as these two Mendicants have done,
Until they got within the Convent Gate,
And all their strange Adventures did relate,
Whate’er was added, nothing was diminish’d,
For ev’ry Tale that travels is replenish’d.                                               100
To whom the Gu—n, laughing in his Sleeve,
“You don’t belong to Adam nor to E—-,
Can you expect to have admittance here,
This is no Colour for a Cordelier,
Now by that Hand, you on your Body bear,                                         105
(That favourite Oath which you so often swear,)
In Dom—k’s Livr’y here you shall not stay,
Go forth to B—street, without more Delay,
Not stand one Flash of Powder, without Ball,
You and that Novice have disgrac’d us all;                                            110
As for the Tale which you relate re vera,
’Tis all extracted from your own Chimera,
I hope it varies from the Truth a little,
But sure I am, it has not lost one Tittle.
Too long indeed to be exactly true,                                                       115
If so it is the better still for you;
There are such Things we call Deceptio Visus,
That doth sometimes deceive us, and surprize us,
Our Senses never are to be our Guide,
While Faith and Reason over them preside,                                         120
And if I must with you philosophize,
We are not always to believe our Eyes;
Some Men we find are govern’d by the Moon,
They seldom thrive, but often are undone,
Sure some unlucky Planet rul’d this Day,                                              125
Caus’d you to wander, and to run astray,
What Spirit drove you to those Fairy dances,
To change your Habit and forsake St. F—-s?”
What brought you there unless you were besotted,
’Twas well you were not pickl’d, bon’d or potted;                                 130
I wish they had anatomiz’d you there,
To string you up, as Geese and Wood-Cocks are;
Sure in your Looks, they cou’d not be mistaken,
Old Carron was not fit for Brawn, or Bacon,
You cou’d not bear being sous’d, or well preserv’d,                           135
To be dissected, collar’d up, or carv’d;
What can we say, when we sum up the whole,
They cou’d make nothing of you, Fish or Fowl;
For in the Battle you made no resistance,
And in your Flight you hardly sav’d your Distance,                              140
Then to conclude, we may with Reason say,
You’re neither fit to fight or run away,
Now, to your Cells retire, to fast and pray.


Epigraph “My mind inclines me to tell of bodies changed into new forms;” the opening lines of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

7 Spleen “To regard with anger;” Gall “Bitterness” (OED).

8 Humours “In ancient and medieval physiology and medicine: any of four fluids of the body (blood, phlegm, choler, and so-called melancholy or black bile) believed to determine, by their relative proportions and conditions, the state of health and the temperament of a person” (OED).

13 propitious “Gracious; merciful, lenient” (OED).

15 Mendicant “A member of any of the Christian religious orders whose members originally lived solely on alms” (OED).

31 F–r Friar.

33 shotten Herring Figurative for “a person who is exhausted by sickness or destitute of strength or resources” (OED).

35 Mollotto “Mulatto; a person with one white and one black parent” (OED).

44 St. F—s Francis of Assisi (1181or 82-1226); Franciscans were mendicants, dependent on alms.

64 Fegaries Pranks (OED).

79 drudg’d Repressed (OED).

84 Grey to white “Qui Color ater erat nunc est contrarius atro” [Author’s note; “What once was black, is now the opposite” (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 2, line 541).]  Franciscan robes were grey or brown.

87 Quoth Paul “Heu fuge crudeles terras” [Author’s note; “O flee this cruel land” (Virgil, Aeneid, Book 3, line 46).]

92 Necromancy “Sorcery, witchcraft” (OED).

95 No yellow Dragoon from the Boyn cou’d run  A “dragoon” was “a species of cavalry soldier” that also fought on foot in this period (OED). More generally, Whyte appears to be referencing the cowardice of James II’s Irish soldiers during the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, many of whom deserted after the order to retreat.

101 Gu—-n Likely the guardsman of the “Convent Gate” (l. 97).

102 E—- Eve.

104 Cordelier “A Franciscan friar…so called from the knotted cord which they wear round the waist” (OED).

107 Dom–k’s Livr’y Dominican robes, which were white.

108 B—street Bridge St. The Dominicans had a “chapel on the east side of Bridge St.” in Dublin during this period (Nuala Burke, “A Hidden Church?: The Structure of Catholic Dublin in the Mid-Eighteenth Century,” Archivium Hibernicum, vol. 32 (1974), p. 82).

111 re vera “In truth.”

112 Chimera “A mere wild fancy; an unfounded conception” (OED).

114 Tittle “Any minute point” (OED).

117 Deceptio Visus “Deceptive vision.”

129 besotted “Mentally or morally stupid” (OED).

131 anatomiz’d Dissected (OED).

134 Brawn “The flesh of the boar” (OED).

135 sous’d “To prepare or preserve meat…by steeping in some kind of pickle, esp. one made with vinegar or other tart liquor” (OED).

SOURCE:  Original Poems on Various Subjects, Second Edition (Dublin, 1742), pp. 170-75. [Google Books]

Edited by Casey Ingham

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *