“Verses occasion’d by a Horse’s biting a Lady’s Breast”
See how unlimited is Beauty’s Sway!
An Ass once spoke (as antient Records say)
Charm’d with an Angel offer’d to his View,
The Story’s strange, but we must swear ‘tis true—
—I deal in Wonders of a merrier Kind, 5
Not done by Angels, but by Woman-kind.
Nothing unnatural shall here accrue,
The Story’s strange, but not more strange than true,
—A Horse (descended from a long-told Race
Of well-bred Hunters, whom no Vice disgrace) 10
For Beauty fam’d, in Speed out strip’d by none,
A Creature fit to mount a Goddess on;
This Horse a mighty Favourite became
To a most Noble, Puissant, Princely Dame,
Illustrious for her Titles, Beauty, Fame; 15
Pleas’d oft she’d tell his well-descended Race,
Smooth his fine Neck, his Main in Ringlets trace,
Nor lies the Muse who sings she kiss’d his Face.
He by those dear repeated Favours fir’d,
By the warm Stroaks of her soft Hand inspir’d, 20
Conceiv’d (strange of a Horse to tell) a Flame
For his fond Lady—and who dare him blame,
Or who so kindly us’d, but must have had the same—
—His Love unable longer to suppress,
He furiously the charming D——s press’d, 25
And mark’d his Kisses on her bleeding breast—
—She frighten’d at the Creature’s rude Embrace,
Scream’d out for Aid, and fled the dangerous Place—
Away the disappointed Horse was led,
He neigh’d aloud, and wanton turn’d his Head— 30
—The D——s sigh’d, and went alone to Bed—
Which Tale’s most nat’ral, which most hits your Taste,
Which does in Beauty, which in Sense surpass,
B————d the Angel, or the Horse the Ass?
2-3 An Ass once spoke . . . View These lines allude to a portion of a biblical story in Numbers 22. Balaam, riding his donkey, is blocked three times by an angel as he tries to follow the princes of Moab. Balaam cannot see the angel, and beats his donkey when she balks. Finally, she is given the ability to speak and asks what she has done to deserve the three beatings. He threatens to kill her, but the angel reveals himself, and rebukes Balaam (Numbers 22: 21-34).
10 Hunters Horses trained to be used for foxhunting.
14 Puissant “Possessed of or wielding power; having great authority or influence” (OED).
17 Main Variant spelling of “mane”: the hair flowing from a horse’s crest, or top of the neck.
25 D——s Probably “Duchess” (see note to line 34 below).
34 B——–d Possibly a reference to Diana Russell (nee Spencer) (1710-1735). She was known for her beauty in this period, but did not become Duchess of Bedford until October 1732. The poet may be taking the liberty of referring to her future title knowing that her husband was the sole heir to the Bedford dukedom (Massey, The First Lady Diana).
SOURCE: Gentleman’s Magazine (vol. 2, March 1732), p. 672. [Google Books]
Edited by Elizabeth Eckert