Tag Archives: irony

Mary Barber, “An Unanswerable Apology for the Rich”


“An Unanswerable Apology for the Rich”


All-bounteous Heav’n, Castalio cries,
With bended Knees, and lifted Eyes,
When shall I have the Pow’r to bless,
And raise up Merit in Distress?

How do our Hearts deceive us here!                                           5
He gets ten thousand Pounds a Year.
With this the pious Youth is able
To build, and plant, and keep a Table.
But then the Poor he must not treat:
Who asks the Wretch, that wants to eat?                                           10
Alas! to ease their Woes he wishes;
But cannot live without Ten Dishes:
Tho’ Six would serve as well, ’tis true;
But one must live, as others do.
He now feels Wants unknown before,                                                15
Wants still increasing with his Store.
The good Castalio must provide
Brocade, and Jewels, for his Bride.
Her Toilet shines with Plate emboss’d;
What Sums her Lace and Linen cost!                                                   20
The Cloaths that must his Person grace,
Shine with Embroidery, and Lace.
The costly Pride of Persian Looms,
And Guido’s Paintings, grace his Rooms.
His Wealth Castalio will not waste;                                                       25
But must have ev’ry thing in Taste.
He’s an OEconomist confest;
But what he buys, must be the best:
For common Use a Set of Plate;
Old China, when he dines in State;                                                      30
A Coach and Six, to take the Air;
Besides a Chariot, and a Chair.
All these important Calls supply’d,
Calls of Necessity, not Pride,
His Income’s regularly spent;                                                                35
He scarcely saves to pay his Rent.
No Man alive would do more Good,
Or give more freely, if he cou’d.
He grieves, whene’er the Wretched sue;
But what can poor Castalio do?                                                             40

Would Heav’n but send ten thousand more,
He’d give –– just as he did before.


1 Castalio Identity untraced; Barber’s pseudonym suggests a male form of “Castilian,” characteristic of the spring Castalia, sacred in antiquity to Apollo and the Muses as a source of poetic inspiration (OED).

10 Wretch “An unfortunate or unhappy person” (OED).

18 Brocade “A rich fabric with a raised pattern, typically with gold or silver thread” (OED).

23 Persian Looms Expensive textiles imported from areas that belonged to the Persian Empire, or modern day Iran.

24 Guido’s paintings Probably a reference to Guido Reni (1575-1642), a prolific Italian Baroque painter whose works were popular in eighteenth-century England. Charles I, for example, had more paintings by Reni than any other artist in his collection. (England and the Italian Renaissance).

27 OEconomist Archaic spelling of economist.

30 China “Household tableware or other objects made from China or a similar material” (OED).

31 A Coach and Six “A carriage drawn by six horses” (OED).

32 Chariot “A stately or triumphal carriage” (OED); Chair “An enclosed chair for conveying one person, carried between horizontal poles by two porters” (OED).

39 sue “Appeal formally to a person for something” (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1735), pp. 17-19. [Google Books]

 Edited by Nikolas Refanidis