Tag Archives: John Gay

John Gay, “Panthea. An Elegy”


“Panthea. An Elegy”


Long had Panthea felt Love’s secret smart,
And hope and fear alternate rul’d her heart;
Consenting glances had her flame confest.
(In woman’s eyes her very soul’s exprest)
Perjur’d Alexis saw the blushing maid,                                             5
He saw, he swore, he conquer’d and betray’d:
Another love now calls him from her arms,
His fickle heart another beauty warms;
Those oaths oft’whisper’d in Panthea’s ears,
He now again to Galatea swears.                                                     10
Beneath a beech th’ abandon’d virgin laid,
In grateful solitude enjoys the shade;
There with faint voice she breath’d these moving strains,
While sighing Zephyrs shar’d her am’rous pains.

Pale settled sorrow hangs on upon my brow,                       15
Dead are my charms; Alexis, breaks his vow!
Think, think, dear shepherd, on the days you knew,
When I was happy, when my swain was true;
Think how thy looks and tongue are form’d to move,
And think yet more—that all my fault was love.                           20
Ah, could you view me in this wretched state!
You might not love me, but you could not hate.
Could you behold me in this conscious shade,
Where first thy vows, where first my love was paid,
Worn out with watching, sullen with despair,                              25
And see each eye swell with a gushing tear?
Could you behold me on this mossy bed,
From my pale cheek the lively crimson fled,
Which in my softer hours you oft’ have sworn,
With rosie beauty far out-blush’d the morn;                                30
Could you untouch’d this wretched object bear,
And would not lost Panthea claim a tear?
You could not sure—tears from your eyes would steal,
And unawares thy tender soul reveal.
Ah, no!—thy soul with cruelty is fraught,                                      35
No tenderness disturbs thy savage thought;
Sooner shall tigers spare the trembling lambs,
And wolves with pity hear with their bleating dams;
Sooner shall vultures from their quarry fly,
Than false Alexis for Panthea sigh.                                                  40
Thy bosom ne’er a tender thought confest,
Sure stubborn flint had arm’d thy cruel breast;
But hardest flints are worn by frequent rains,
And the soft drops dissolve their solid veins;
While thy relentless heart more hard appears,                            45
And is not soften’d by a flood of tears.

Ah, what is love! Panthea’s joys are gone,
Her liberty, her peace, her reason flown!
And when I view me in the watry glass,
I find Panthea now, not what she was.                                           50
As northern winds the new-blown roses blast,
And on the ground their fading ruins cast;
As sudden blights corrupts the ripen’d grain,
And of its verdure spoil the mournful plain;
So hapless love on blooming features preys,                               55
So hapless love destroys our peaceful days.

Come, gentle sleep, relieve these weary’d eyes,
All sorrow in thy soft embraces dies:
There, spite of all thy perjur’d vows, I find
Faithless Alexis languishingly kind;                                                 60
Sometimes he leads me by the mazy stream,
And pleasingly deludes me in my dream;
Sometimes he guides me to the secret grove,
Where all our looks, and all our talk is love.
Oh, could I thus consume each tedious day,                               65
And in sweet slumbers dream my life away;
But sleep, which now no more relieves these eyes,
To my sad soul the dear deceit denies.

Why does the sun dart forth his cheerful rays?
Why do the woods resound with warbling lays?                          70
Why does the rose her grateful fragrance yield,
And the yellow cowslips paint the smiling field?
Why do the streams with murm’ring musick flow,
And why do groves their friendly shade bestow?
Let sable clouds the cheerful sun deface,                                    75
Let mournful silence seize the feather’d race;
No more, ye roses, grateful fragrance yield,
Droop, droop, ye cowslips, in the blasted field;
No more, ye streams, with murm’ring musick flow,
And let not groves a friendly shade bestow:                                80
With sympathizing grief let nature mourn,
And never know the youthful spring’s return;
And shall I never more Alexis see?
Then what is spring, or grove or stream to me?

Why sport the skipping lambs on yonder plain?                  85
Why do the birds their tuneful voice strain?
Why frisk those heifers in cooling grove?
Their happier life is ignorant of love.

Oh! lead me to some melancholy cave,
To lull my sorrow in a living grave;                                                90
From the dark rock where dashing waters fall,
And creeping ivy hangs the craggy wall,
Where I may waste in tears my hours away,
And never know the seasons or the day.
Die, die, Panthea—fly in this hateful grove,                                 95
For what is life without the Swain I love?


Title  Panthea  This name means “of all gods” in Greek.

1  smart  “Mental suffering, sorrow” (OED).

10  Galatea  “In Greek mythology, a Nereid who was loved by the Cyclops Polyphemus. Galatea, however, loved the youth Acis” (Britannica).

14  Zephyrs  Greek god of gentle winds.

18  swain  “Lover” (OED).

39  quarry  Here a reference to the vulture’s “prey” or carrion (OED).

42  flint  “Hard stone” (OED).

45  hard  “Unyielding” (OED).

49  watry glass  Water serving as a mirror.

51  northern winds  Refers to Boreas, Greek god of the cold northern winds.

61  mazy  “Twisting” (OED).

70  warbling  “Singing with sweet quavering notes” (OED).

72  cowslips  “Well-known plant in pastures and grassy banks, blossoming in spring” (OED).

87  heifers  “Young cows” (OED).

92  craggy  “Hard and rough” (OED).

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions: Volume 2 (London, 1737), pp. 109-113. [Google Books]

Edited by Joanna Tran





Mary Barber, “A True Tale”


“A True TALE”

A Mother, who vast Pleasure finds
In modelling her Childrens Minds;
With whom, in exquisite Delight,
She passes many a Winter Night;
Mingles in ev’ry Play, to find                                              5
What Byas Nature gave the Mind;
Resolving thence to take her Aim,
To guide them to the Realms of Fame;
And wisely make those Realms their Way
To Regions of eternal Day;                                                 10
Each boist’rous Passion to controul,
And early humanize the Soul;
In simple Tales, beside the Fire,
The noblest Notions would inspire:
Her Children, conscious of her Care,                                15
Transported, hung around her Chair.

OF Scripture-Heroes she would tell,
Whose Names they lisp’d, ere they could spell:
The Mother then, delighted, smiles;
And shews the Story on the Tiles.                                      20

AT other Times, her Themes would be
The Sages of Antiquity;
Who left immortal Names behind,
By proving Blessings to their Kind.
Again, she takes another Scope,                                         25
And tells of A​DDISON,​ and P​OPE.

STUDIOUS to let her Children know
The various Turns of Things below; —-
How Virtue here was oft oppres’d,
To shine more glorious with the Bless’d;                          30
Told T​ULLY​’s​ ​and the G​RACCHI’​s​ D​oom,
The Patriots, and the Pride of ​Rome.
Then bless’d the ​Drapier’​s happier Fate,
Who ​sav’d, a​nd lives to ​guard​ the State.

SOME Comedies gave great Delight,                          35
And entertain’d them many a Night:
Others could no Admittance find,
Forbid, as Poison to the Mind:
Those Authors Wit and Sense, said she,
But heighten their Impiety.                                                   40

THIS ​happy Mother met, one Day,
The Book of Fables, writ by GAY;
And told her Children, Here’s a Treasure,
A Fund of Wisdom, and of Pleasure!
Such Morals, and so finely writ;                                           45
Such Decency, good Sense, and Wit!
Well has the Poet found the Art,
To raise the Mind, and mend the Heart.

HER fav’rite Son the Volume seiz’d;
And, as he read, seem’d highly pleas’d;                               50
Made such Reflections ev’ry Page;
The Mother thought above his Age;
Delighted read, but scarce was able
To finish the concluding Fable.

WHAT ​ails my Child? the Mother cries:                          55
Whose Sorrows now have fill’d your Eyes?
O dear Mamma, can he want Friends,
Who writes for such exalted Ends?
Oh base, degen’rate human Kind!
Had I a Fortune to my Mind,                                                    60
Should G​AY ​complain? But now, alas!
Thro’ what a World am I to pass?
Where Friendship is an empty Name,
And Merit scarcely paid in Fame?

RESOLV’D ​to lull his Woes to Rest,                                   65
She tells him, He should hope the best:
This has been yet G​AY’​s Case, I own;
But now his Merit’s amply known.
Content that tender Heart of thine:
He’ll be the Care of C​AROLINE.                                                 70
Who thus instructs the royal Race,
Must have a Pension, or a Place.

MAMMA, ​if you were Q​UEEN, ​says he,
And such a Book were writ for me,
I find ‘tis so much to your Taste,                                               75
That G​AY​ would keep his Coach at least.

MY ​Son, what you suppose, is true:
I see its Excellence in you.
Poets who write to mend the Mind,
A royal Recompence should find.                                             80
But I am barr’d by Fortune’s Frowns,
From the best Privilege of Crowns;
The glorious, godlike Pow’r to bless,
And raise up Merit in Distress.

BUT, dear Mamma, I long to know,                                    85
Were you the Q​UEEN​, what you’d bestow.

WHAT I’d bestow, says she, my Dear?
At least, ​a thousand Pounds a Year.


​26​ADDISON Joseph Addison (​1672-1719​), popular periodical essayist, poet, and dramatist; ​POPE Alexander Pope (1688-1744), poet, satirist, and translator of Homer (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

31TULLY Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC-43 BC)​, a Roman orator who was executed by his political enemies; the GRACCHI’s Doom Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, (169-164? BC-133 BC), “Roman tribune who sponsored agrarian reforms to restore the class of independent farmers and who was assassinated in a riot sparked by his senatorial opponents”, and his brother, Gaius Sempronius Gracchus ​(160-153 BC?-121BC), “Roman tribune who reenacted the agrarian reforms of his brother” and who committed suicide before his political enemies could execute him (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

33 ​​the Drapier’s happy fate A reference to Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), who published a series of seven pamphlets known as Drapier’s Letters (1724-1725) that was “part of a successful campaign to prevent the imposition of a new, and debased, coinage on Ireland” (Encyclopedia Britannica).

42The Book of Fables writ by GAY John Gay (​1685-1735)​, English poet and dramatist, whose ​Fables​ was published in 1727 and dedicated to William, Duke of Cumberland, the six-year-old son of the newly-crowned King George II (1683-1760) and Queen Caroline.

54​ the concluding Fable “Fable L: The Hare and many Friends” was the last of the 50 poems that make up Gay’s Fables.

70 He’ll be the care of CAROLINE ​In dedicating Fables to Prince William, Gay was hoping to court favor with the Prince’s mother, Queen Caroline (1683-1737), known to be a patron of the arts. In the end, he was offered the post of Gentleman Usher to Princess Louisa, then two years old.  Feeling snubbed, Gay declined the position.

Source:  Poems on Several Occasions​ (London, 1735), pp. 7-12.   [Google Books]

Edited by Autumn Goldstein Harris

John Gay, “The Shepherd’s Week IV. Thursday; or, the Spell”


 “The Shepherd’s Week IV. Thursday; or, the Spell


Hobnelia, seated in a dreary vale,
In pensive mood rehears’d her piteous tale,
Her piteous tale the winds in sighs bemoan,
And pining echo answers groan for groan.
I rue the day, a rueful day I trow,                                                                  5
The woful day, a day indeed of woe!
When Lubberkin to town his cattle drove,
A maiden fine bedight he hapt to love;
The maiden fine bedight his love retains,
And for the village he forsakes the plains.                                                    10
Return, my Lubberkin, these ditties hear;
Spells will I try, and spells shall ease my care.
With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.
When first the year, I heard the cuckow sing,                                              15
And call with welcome note the budding spring,
I straitway set a running with such haste,
Deb’rah that won the smock scarce ran so fast.
‘Till spent for lack of breath, quite weary grown,
Upon a rising bank I sat adown,                                                                     20
Then doff’d my shoe, and by my troth, I swear,
There I spy’d this yellow frizled hair,
As like to Lubberkin’s in curl and hue,
As if upon his comely pate it grew.
With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,                                         25
And turn me thrice around, around, around.
At eve last Midsummer no sleep I sought,
But to the field a bag of hemp-seed brought,
I scatter’d round the seed on ev’ry side,
And three times in a trembling accent cry’d,                                                  30
This hemp-seed with my virgin hand I sow,
Who shall my true-love be, the crop shall mow.
I strait look’d back, and if my eyes speak truth,
With his keen scythe behind me came the youth.
With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,                                          35
And turn me thrice around, around, around.
Last Valentine, the day when birds of kind.
Their paramours with mutual chirpings find;
I rearly rose, just at the break of the day,
Before the sun had chas’d the stars away;                                                     40
A-field I went, amid the morning dew
To milk my kine (for so should huswives do)
Thee first I spy’d, and the first swain we see,
In spite of fortune shall our true-love be;
See, Lubberkin, each bird his partner take,                                                     45
And canst thou then thy sweetheart dear forsake?
With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.
Last May-day fair I search’d to find a snail
That might my secret lover’s name reveal;                                                     50
Upon a gooseberry-bush a snail I found,
For always snails near sweetest fruit abound.
I seiz’d the vermine, home I quickly sped,
And on the hearth the milk-white embers spread.
Slow crawl’d the snail, and if I right can spell,                                                 55
In the soft ashes mark’d a curious L:
Oh, may this wondrous omen lucky prove!
For L is found in Lubberkin and Love.
With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.                                                      60
Two hazel-nuts I threw into the flame,
And to each nut I gave a sweet-heart’s name.
This with the loudest bounce me sore amaz’d,
That in a flame of brightest colour blaz’d.
As blaz’d the nut so may thy passion grow,                                                      65
For ‘twas thy nut that did so brightly glow.
With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.
As peascods once I pluck’d, I chanc’d to see
One that was closely fill’d with three times three,                                          70
Which when I crop’d I safely home convey’d,
And o’er the door the spell in secret laid,
My wheel I turn’d, and sung a ballad new,
While from the spindle I the fleeces drew;
The latch mov’d up, when who shou’d first come in,                                     75
But in his proper person,--Lubberkin.
I broke my yarn surpriz’d the sight to see,
Sure sign that he would break his word with me.
Eftsoons I join’d it with my wonted slight,
So may again his love with mine unite!                                                             80
With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground
And turn me thrice around, around, around.
This Lady-fly I take from off the grass,
Whose spotted back might scarlet red surpass.
Fly, Lady-Bird, North, South, or East or West,                                                      85
Fly where the Man is found that I love best.
He leaves my hand, see to the West he’s flown,
To call my true-love from the faithless town.
With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.                                                       90
This mellow pippin, which I pare around,
My shepherd’s name shall flourish on the ground.
I fling th’unbroken paring o’er my head,
Upon the grass a perfect L is read;
Yet on my heart a fairer L is seen                                                                       95
Than what the paring marks upon the green.
With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.
This pippin shall another tryal make,
See from the core two kernels brown I take;                                                    100
This on my check for Lubberkin is worn,
And Boobyclod on t’other side is born.
But Boobyclod soon drops upon the ground,
A certain token that his love’s unsound,
While Lubberkin sticks firmly to the last                                                             105
Oh were his Lips to mine but join’d so fast!
With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.
As Lubberkin once slept beneath a Tree
I twitch’d his dangling garter from his knee;                                                     110
He wist not when the hempen string I drew,
Now mine I quickly doff of inkle blue;
Together fast I tye the garters twain,
And while I knit the knot repeat his strain.
Three times a true-love’s knot I tye secure,                                                            115
Firm be the knot, firm may his love endure.
With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.
As I was wont, I trudg’d last market-day
To town, with new-laid eggs preserv’d in hay.                                                   120
I made my market long before ‘twas night,
My purse grew heavy and my basket light.
Strait to the ‘pothecary’s shop I went,
And in love-powder all my mony spent;
Behap what will, next Sunday after prayers,                                                       125
When to the ale-house Lubberkin repairs,
These golden flies into his mug I’ll throw,
And soon the swain with fervent love shall glow.
With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground,
And turn me thrice around, around, around.                                                         130
But hold–our Light-foot barks, and cocks his ears,
O’er yonder stile see Lubberkin appears.
He comes, he comes, Hobnelia’s not bewray’d,
Nor shall she crown’d with willow die a maid.
He vows, he swears, he’ll give me a green gown,                                              135
Oh dear! I fall adown, adown, adown!


4 pining “The infliction or undergoing of physical or emotional pain” (OED).

5 trow “Belief; faith, trust” (OED).

8 bedight “To equip” (OED).

18 won the smock “Based on a superstition in eighteenth-century England that states if a young woman were to head into the fields early in the morning, she might hear the notes of a cuckoo. If a young woman were to succeed in hearing the notes of a cuckoo, she’s to take off her boot and look inside and find a hair the colour of the man they were to marry” (Charles Dickens, All The Year Round, 88).

21 doff’d   “To put off or take off from the body” (OED).

24 comely pate Beautiful head.

27 Midsummer “The day of the summer solstice (21 or 22 June), or the period around this” (OED).

28 hemp-seed   “The seed of an annual herbaceous plant” (OED).

43 swain “A country or farm labourer, frequently a shepherd” (OED).

49 May-day fair “May Day ushers in the fifth month of the modern calendar year, the month of May. May Day celebrations and festivities were once the highlight of the year in every town and village through Britain” (The Learn English Network).

69 peascodsThe pod or legume of the pea plant” (OED).

79 EftsoonsA second time, again” (OED).

91 pippin “A seed or pip of any of various fleshy fruits” (OED).

111 wist Knew (OED).

123 ‘pothecary’s shop A contraction of “apothecary” meaning “a store or shop of non-perishable commodities, spices, drugs, comfits, preserves” (OED).

134 crown’d with willow “Taken as a symbol of grief for unrequited love or the loss of a mate” (OED). The use of willow as a symbol of grief appears in Psalm 137 and influenced the custom of wearing a cap or crown made of willow twigs to communicate the grief suffered by forsaken lovers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. (Paul Kendall, Trees for Life, 1).

135 green gown The Bride in Jan Van Eyck’s fifteenth-century painting, “Giovanni Arnolfini and His Bride,” wears green as a symbol of her fertility while slouching in imitation of pregnancy, indicating her willingness to bear children. A green gown was the best choice for a bride’s gown because of its early symbolism (John Gage, Color and Culture, 1993).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1720), pp. 101-108.

 Edited by Imani Muhammad

John Gay, “Fable IV: The Eagle, and the Assembly of Animals”


 “Fable IV: The Eagle, and the Assembly of Animals”


As Jupiter’s all-seeing eye
Survey’d the worlds beneath the sky,
From this small speck of earth were sent
Murmurs and sounds of discontent;
For ev’ry thing alive complain’d                                                                               5
That he the hardest life sustain’d.
Jove calls his Eagle. At the word
Before him stands the royal bird.
The bird, obedient, from heav’n’s height
Downward directs his rapid flight;                                                                           10
Then cited ev’ry living thing,
To hear the mandates of his king.
Ungrateful creatures, whence arise
These murmurs which offend the skies;
Why this disorder? say the cause:                                                                             15
For just are Jove’s eternal laws.
Let each his discontent reveal.
To yon sour dog I first appeal.
Hard is my lot, the Hound replies.
On what fleet nerves the greyhound flies!                                                                 20
While I, with weary step and slow,
O’er plains, and vales, and mountains, go;
The morning sees my chase begun,
Nor ends it till the setting sun.
When, says the Greyhound, I pursue,                                                                   25
My game is lost, or caught in view,
Beyond my sight the prey’s secure:
The hound is slow, but always sure.
And, had I his sagacious scent,
Jove ne’er had heard my discontent.                                                                              30
The Lion crav’d the fox’s art;
The Fox, the lion’s force and heart;
The Cock implor’d the pigeon’s flight,
Whose wings were rapid, strong, and light;
The Pigeon strength of wing despis’d,                                                                             35
And the cock’s matchless valour priz’d:
The Fishes wish’d to graze the plain,
The Beasts to skim beneath the main.
Thus, envious of another’s fate,
Each blam’d the partial hand of Fate.                                                                               40
The bird of heav’n then cry’d aloud—
Jove bids disperse the murm’ring crowd:
The God rejects your idle pray’rs.
Would ye, rebellious mutineers,
Entirely change your name and nature,                                                                           45
And be the very envy’d creature?
What, silent all, and none consent!
Be happy then, and learn content.
Nor imitate the restless mind,
And proud ambition, of mankind.                                                                                       50


1 Jupiter “The supreme deity of the ancient Romans, corresponding to the Greek Zeus; the ruler of gods and men, and the god of the heavens, whose weapon was the thunderbolt” (OED).

 7 Jove “A poetical equivalent of Jupiter, name of the highest deity of the ancient Romans” (OED); Eagle “It is said that the Eagle only is never smitten with Lightning; and therefore it is judged that she serveth Jupiter as his Armour-bearer” (Pliny’s Natural History, Book X, Chapter III).

8 the royal bird A reference to the eagle which “served as Jupiter’s personal messenger” (Asuni, Michele. “Jupiter and Eagle.” Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum).

29 sagacious “Acute in perception, esp. by the sense of smell” (OED).

38 skim To move “lightly along or close to a surface” (OED); main “The open sea” (OED).

41 bird of heav’n Another reference to Jupiter’s eagle.

44 mutineers People “who [revolt] against or openly [resist] the authority of a superior or a governing body” (OED).

SOURCE: Fables (London, 1793), pp. 21-24. [J. Paul Leonard Library]

Edited by Sara Contreras

John Gay, “Fable XXXI: The Universal Apparition”


 “Fable XXXI: The Universal Apparition”


A RAKE, by ev’ry passion rul’d,
With ev’ry vice his youth had cool’d;
Disease his tainted blood assails,
His spirits droop, his vigour fails;
With secret ills at home he pines,                                                                               5
And, like infirm old age, declines.
As twing’d with pain, he pensive sits,
And raves, and prays, and swears, by fits,
A ghastly phantom, lean and wan,
Before him rose, and thus began—                                                                             10
My name perhaps hath reach’d your ear;
Attend, and be advis’d by care.
Nor love, nor honour, wealth, nor pow’r,
Can give the heart a cheerful hour,
When health is lost.— Be timely wise:                                                                         15
With health all taste of pleasure flies.
Thus said, the phantom disappears.
The wary counsel wak’d his fears.
He now from all excess abstains,
With physic purifies his veins;                                                                                       20
And, to procure a sober life,
Resolves to venture on a wife.
But now again the sprite ascends,
Where’er he walks his ear attends;
Insinuates that beauty’s frail,                                                                                        25
That perseverance must prevail;
With jealousies his brain inflames,
And whispers all her lovers’ names.
In other hours she represents
His household charge, his annual rents,                                                                      30
Increasing debts, perplexing duns,
And nothing for his younger sons.
Straight all his thought to gain he turns,
And with the thirst of lucre burns.
But, when possest of fortune’s store,                                                                            35
The spectre haunts him more and more;
Sets want and misery in view,
Bold thieves, and all the murd’ring crew,
Alarms him with eternal frights,
Infests his dream, or wakes his nights.                                                                         40
How shall he chase this hideous guest?
Pow’r may perhaps protect his rest;
To pow’r he rose. Again the sprite
Besets him morning, noon, and night;
Talks of ambition’s tott’ring seat,                                                                                    45
How envy persecutes the great,
Of rival hate, of treach’rous friends,
And what disgrace his fall attends.
The court he quits to fly from Care,
And seeks the peace of rural air.                                                                                     50
His groves, his fields, amus’d his hours;
He prun’d his trees, he rais’d his flow’rs:
But Care again his steps pursues;
Warns him of blasts, of blighting dews,
Of plund’ring insects, snails, and rains,                                                                           55
And droughts, that starve the labour’d plains.
Abroad, at home, the spectre’s there;
In vain we seek to fly from Care.
At length he thus the ghost addrest—
Since thou must be my constant guest,                                                                           60
Be kind, and follow me no more,
For Care by right should go before.


1 Rake “Fashionable or stylish man of promiscuous habits” (OED).

4 spirits “The animating or vital principle in man which gives life” (OED).

9 wan “gloomy” (OED).

20 physic “A medical substance or purgative” (OED).

22 venture “An occasion of trying ones chance” (OED).

23 sprite “Incorporeal being” (OED); ascend “To rise” (OED).

24 attends “To turn one’s ear to listen to” (OED).

27 inflames “The Showing of anger, passion, or zeal” (OED).

31 duns “Persistent demands for money” (OED).

34 lucre “Acquisition of something profitable” (OED).

44 besets “To assail on all sides” (OED).

54 blasts “Strong gusts of wind” (OED).

SOURCE: Fables, volume 1 (London, 1793), pp. 138 – 141. [J. Paul Leonard Library]

Edited by Jihane Abdelhadi

John Gay, “Fable XXXIII: The Courtier and Proteus”


“Fable XXXIII: The Courtier and Proteus”


Whene’re a Courtier’s out of place,
The country shelters his disgrace;
Where, doom’d to exercise and health,
His house and gardens own his wealth.
He builds new schemes, in hopes to gain                                   5
The plunder of another reign;
Like Philip’s son, would fain be doing,
And sighs for other realms to ruin.
As one of these, (without his wand)
Pensive, along the winding strand                                               10
Employ’d the solitary hour
In projects to regain his pow’r,
The waves in spreading circles ran,
Proteus arose, and thus began—
Came you from court? For in your mien                                      15
A self-important air is seen.
He frankly own’d his friends had trick’d him,
And how he fell his party’s victim.
Know, says the god, by matchless skill
I change to ev’ry shape at will;                                                        20
But yet, I’m told, at court you see
Those who presume to rival me.
Thus said— a snake, with hideous trail,
Proteus extends his scaly mail.
Know, says the Man, though proud in place,                               25
All courtiers are of reptile race.
Like you, they take that dreadful form,
Bask in the sun, and fly the storm;
With malice hiss, with envy gloat,
And for convenience change their coat;                                       30
With new-got lustre rear their head,
Though on a dunghill born and bred.
Sudden the god a lion stands,
He shakes his mane, he spurns the sands;
Now a fierce lynx, with fiery glare,                                                 35
A wolf, an ass, a fox, a bear!
Had I ne’er liv’d at court, he cries,
Such transformation might surprise;
But there, in quest of daily game,
Each able courtier acts the same.                                                   40
Wolves, lions, lynxes, while in place,
Their friends and fellows are their chase;
They play the bear’s and fox’s part;
Now rob by force, now steal with art;
They sometimes in the senate bray;                                               45
Or, chang’d again to beasts of prey,
Down from the lion to the ape,
Practise the frauds of ev’ry shape.
So said, upon the god he flies;
In cords the struggling captive ties.                                                  50
Now, Proteus, now (to truth compell’d)
Speak, and confess, or what you will,
Use strength, surprise, or what you will,
The courtier finds evasion still;
Not to be bound by any ties,                                                              55
And never forc’d to leave his lies.


1 Courtier “An attendant at court” (OED).

7 Philip’s son  Alexander the Great (356BC-323BC), son of Philip II of Macedon, known for his military exploits; fain “Gladly, willingly, with pleasure” (OED).

9 wand “Straight slender stick made from young tree bark” (OED).

14 Proteus “Sea god, son of Oceanus and Tethys;” capable of changing shape (OED).

15 mein “The look, bearing, manner, or conduct of a person” (OED).

24 mail The snake’s skin, figured as armor.

32 Dunghill “Heap or pile of dung” (OED).

 SOURCE:  Fables (London 1727), pp. 147-150. [ J. Paul Leonard Library]

Edited by Sarah Aubin


John Gay, “Fable I: The Lion, the Tiger, and the Traveller”


“Fable I:  The Lion, the Tiger, and the Traveller


Accept, young PRINCE, the moral lay,
And in these tales mankind survey;
With early virtues plant your breast,
The specious arts of vice detest.
Princes, like Beauties, from their youth,                           5
Are strangers to the voice of truth:
Learn to contemn all praise betimes;
For flattery’s the nurse of crimes;
Friendship by sweet reproof is shewn,
(A virtue never near a throne;)                                           10
In courts such freedom must offend,
There none presumes to be a friend,
To those of your exalted station
Each courtier is a dedication;
Must I too flatter like the rest,                                              15
And turn my morals to a jest?
The muse disdains to steal from those,
Who thrive in courts by fulsome prose.
But shall I hide your real praise,
Or tell you what a nation says?                                             20
They in your infant bosom trace
The virtues of your Royal race,
In the fair dawning of your mind,
Discern you gen’rous, mild and kind,
They see you grieve and hear distress,                                 25
And pant already to redress.
Go on, the height of good attain,
Nor let a nation hope in vain.
For hence we justly may presage
The virtues of a riper age.                                                        30
True courage shall your bosom fire,
And future Actions own your Sire.
Cowards are cruel; but the brave
Love mercy, and delight to save.
A Tiger, roaming for his prey,                                                  35
Sprung on a Trav’ler in the way;
The prostrate game a Lion spies,
And on the greedy tyrant flies:
With mingle roar resounds the wood,
Their teeth, their claws distill with blood,                               40
Till, vanquish’d by the Lion’s strength,
The spotted foe extends his length.
The Man besought the shaggy lord,
And on his knees for life implor’d;
His life the gen’rous hero gave.                                                45
Together walking to his Cave,
The Lion thus bespoke his guest.

What hardy beast shall dare contest
My matchless strength? You saw the fight,
And must attest my pow’r and right.                                      50
Forc’d to forego their native home
My starving slaves at distance roam,
Within these woods I reign alone,
The boundless forest is my own;
Bears, wolves, and all the savage brood                                55
Have dy’d the regal den with blood;
These carcases on either hand,
Those bones that whiten all the land
My former deeds and triumphs tell,
Beneath these jaws what number fell.                                   60
True, says the Man, the strength I saw
Might well the brutal nation awe;
But shall a monarch, brave like you,
Place glory in so false a view?
Robbers invade their neighbor’s right.                                   65
Be lov’d. Let justice bound your might.
Mean are ambitious heroes boasts
Of wasted lands and slaughter’d hosts;
Pirates their power by murders gain,
Wise kings by love and mercy reign;                                      70
To me your clemency hath shewn
The virtue worthy of a throne;
Heav’n gives you power above the rest,
Like Heav’n to succour the distrest.
The case is plain, the Monarch said;                                      75
False glory hath my youth mis-led,
For beasts of prey, a servile train,
Have been the flatt’rers of my reign.
You reason well. Yet tell me, friend,
Did ever you in courts attend?                                                 80
For all my fawning rogues agree
That human heroes rule like me.


1 lay “The way, position, or direction in which something is laid or lies (esp. said of country); disposition or arrangement with respect to something” (OED).

4 specious “Apparent, as opposed to real” (OED); vice “Depravity or corruption of morals; evil, immoral, or wicked habits or conduct; indulgence in degrading pleasures or practices“ (OED); detest “To feel abhorrence of; to hate or dislike intensely; to abhor, abominate” (OED).

7 contemn “To treat as of small value, treat or view with contempt; to despise, disdain, scorn, slight” (OED).

9 reproof “A second or further proof (in various senses)” (OED).

13 exalted “Raised or set up on high; elevated” (OED).

17 muse One of the many goddesses of poetry, art, and philosophy that are depended on by humans for the creation of their work (Oxford Classical Dictionary).

18 fulsome “Offensive or objectionable owing to excess or lack of moderation; esp. excessively effusive or complimentary; too lavish, overdone” (OED).

29 presage “An indication or foreshadowing of a future event” (OED).

32 sire “One who exercises dominion or rule; a lord, master, or sovereign“ (OED).

37 prostrate “Of a person: lying with the face to the ground, in token of submission or humility, as in adoration, worship, or supplication” (OED).

50 attest “Evidence, testimony, witness” (OED).

71 clemency “Mercy, leniency” (OED).

74 succour “Aid, help, assistance” (OED).

77 servile “Of a person: that behaves like a slave” (OED).

81 rogue “Chiefly depreciative. A servant“ (OED).

Source: Fables, volume 1 (London, 1727), pp. 20-25. [Google Books]

Edited by Helen Moy


John Gay, “Epistle to a Lady. Occasioned by the Arrival of Her Royal Highness”


 EPISTLE TO A LADY. Occasioned by the Arrival of HER ROYAL HIGHNESS”

 MADAM, to all your censures I submit,
And frankly own I should long since have writ:
You told me, silence would be thought a crime,
And kindly strove to ease me into rhyme:
No more let trifling themes your Muse employ,                                            5
Nor lavish verse to paint a female toy:
No more on plains with rural damsels sport,
But sing the glories of the British court.

By your commands and inclination sway’d,
I call’d th’ unwilling Muses to my aid;                                                              10
Resolv’d to write, the noble theme I chose,
And to the Princess thus the Poem rose.

Aid me bright Phoebus; aid, ye sacred Nine;
Exalt my Genius, and my verse refine.
My strains with Carolina’s name I grace,                                                          15
The lovely parent of our royal race.
Breathe soft, ye winds, ye waves in silence sleep;
Let prosp’rous breezes wanton o’er the deep,
Swell the white sails, and with the streamers play,
To waft her gently o’er the watry way.                                                               20

Here I to Neptune form’d a pompous pray’r,
To rein the winds, and guard the royal Fair;
Bid the blue Tritons sound their twisted shells,
And call the Nereids from their pearly cells.

Thus my warm zeal had drawn the Muse along,                                   25
Yet knew no method to conduct her song:
I then resolv’d some model to pursue,
Perus’d French Criticks, and began anew.
Long open panegyrick drags at best,
And praise is only praise when well address’d.                                            30

Strait Horace for some lucky Ode I sought:
And all along I trac’d him thought by thought:
This new performance to a friend I show’d;
For shame, says he, what, imitate an Ode!
I’d rather ballads write, and Grubstreet lays,                                                35
Than pillage Casar for my patron’s praise:
One common fate all imitators share,
To save mince-pies, and cap the grocer’s ware.
Vex’d at the charge, I to the flames commit
Rhymes, similies, Lords names, and ends of wit;                                         40
In blotted stanzas scraps of Odes expire,
And fustian mounts in Pyramids of fire.

Ladies, to you I next inscrib’d my lay,
And writ a letter in familiar way:
For still impatient till the Princess came,                                                       45
You from description wish’d to know the dame.
Each day my pleasing labour larger grew,
For still new graces open’d to my view.
Twelve lines ran on to introduce the theme,
And then I thus pursu’d the growing scheme.                                              50

Beauty and wit were sure by nature join’d,
And charms are emanations of the mind;
The soul transpiercing through the shining frame,
Forms all the graces of the Princely Dame:
Benevolence her conversation guides,                                                              55
Smiles on her cheek, and in her eye resides.
Such harmony upon her tongue is found,
As softens English to Italian sound:
Yet in those sounds such sentiments appear,
As charm the Judgment, while they sooth the ear.                                            60

Religion’s chearful flame her bosom warms,
Calms all her hours, and brightens all her charms.
Henceforth, ye Fair, at chappel mind your pray’rs,
Nor catch your lover’s eyes with artful airs;
Restrain your looks, kneel more, and whisper less,                                          65
Nor most devoutly criticize on dress.

From her form all your characters of life,
The tender mother, and the faithful wife.
Oft have I seen her little infant train,
The lovely promise of a future reign;                                                                 70
Observ’d with pleasure ev’ry dawning grace,
And all the mother op’ning in their face,
The son shall add new honours to the line,
And early with paternal virtues shine;
When he the tale of Audenard repeats,                                                            75
His little heart with emulation beats;
With conquests yet to come, his bosom glows,
He dreams of triumphs and of vanquish’d foes.
Each year with arts shall store his rip’ning brain,
And from his Grandsire he shall learn to reign.                                               80

Thus far I’d gone: Propitious rising gales
Now bid the sailor hoist the swelling sails.
Fair Carolina lands; the canons roar,
White Albion’s cliffs resound from shore to shore,
Behold the bright original appear,                                                                 85
All praise is faint when Carolina’s near.
Thus to the nation’s joy, but Poet’s cost,
The Princess came, and my new plan was lost.

Since all my schemes were baulk’d, my last resort,
I left the Muses to frequent the Court;                                                          90
Pensive each night, from room to room I walk’d,
To one I bow’d, and with another talk’d;
Enquir’d what news, or such a Lady’s name,
And did the next day, and the next, the same.
Places, I found, were daily given away,                                                          95
And yet no friendly Gazette mention’d Gay.
I ask’d a friend what method to pursue;
He cry’d, I want a place as well as you.
Another ask’d me, why I had not writ;
A Poet owes his fortune to his wit.                                                                 100
Strait I reply’d, with a courtly grace,
Flows easy verse from him that has a place!
Had Virgil ne’er at court improv’d his strains,
He still had sung of flocks and homely swains;
And had not Horace sweet preferment found,                                             105
The Roman lyre had never learnt to sound.

Once Ladies fair in homely guise I sung,
And with their names wild woods and mountains rung.
Oh, teach me now to strike a softer strain!
The Court refines the language of the plain.                                                 110

You must, cries one, the Ministry rehearse,
And with each Patriot’s name prolong your verse.
But sure this truth to Poets should be known,
That praising all alike, is praising none.

Another told me, if I wish’d success,                                                        115
To some distinguish’d Lord I must address;
One whose high virtues speak his noble blood,
One always zealous for his country’s good;
Where valour and strong eloquence unite,
In council cautious, resolute in fight;                                                             120
Whose gen’rous temper prompts him to defend,
And patronize the man that wants a friend.
You have, ‘tis true, the noble Patron shown,
But I, alas! Am to Argyle unknown.

Still ev’ry one I met in this agreed,                                                           125
That writing was my method to succeed;
But not preferments so possess’d my brain,
That scarce I could produce a single strain:
Indeed I sometimes hammer’d out a line,
Without connection as without design.                                                          130
One morn upon the Princess this I writ,
An Epigram that boasts more truth than wit

The pomp of titles easy faith might shake,
She scorn’d an empire for religion’s sake:
For this, on earth, the British crown is giv’n,                                                      135
And an immortal crown decreed in heav’n.

Again, while GEORGE’s virtues rais’d my thought,
The following lines prophetick fancy wrought.

Methinks I see some Bard, whose heav’nly rage,
Shall rise in song, and warm a future age;                                                          140
Look back through time, and, rapt in wonder, trace
The glorious series of the Brunswick race.

 From the first George these godlike kings descend,
A line which only with the world shall end.
The next a genr’ous Prince renown’d in arms,                                                    145
And bless’d, long bless’d in Carolina’s charms;
From these the rest. ‘Tis thus secure in peace,
We plow the fields, and reap the year’s increase:
Now Commerce, wealthy Goddess, rears her head,
And bids Britannia’s fleets their canvas spread;                                                 150
Unnumber’d ships the peopled ocean hide,
And wealth returns with each revolving tide.

Here paus’d the sullen Muse, in haste I dress’d,
And through the croud of needy courtiers press’d;
Though unsuccessful, happy whilst I see,                                                        155
Those eyes that glad a nation, shine on me.


 Title First published in 1714, this is Gay’s revised version; Her Royal Highness Caroline of Ansbach (1683 – 1737). She married George Augustus of Great Britain in 1705, and became Princess of Wales in 1714, and Queen in 1727.

13 Phoebus “Greek God Apollo: God of music, poetry, sun, and light” (OED); Sacred Nine The nine Muses: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (lyric poetry), Euterpe (music), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (religious music), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy).

15 Carolina Caroline, Princess of Wales in 1714. She became the first woman to receive the title at the same time her husband received his.

21 Neptune Roman god of the sea.

23 Triton Greek sea deity, son of Poseidon.

24 Nereids Sea nymphs.

29 Panegyrick Public speech or text delivered in high praise of a person or thing. (OED).

31 Horace Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC – 8 BC) Latin lyric poet and satirist under the emperor Augustus. Known for his odes.

35 Grubstreet “Used for the tribe of mean and needy authors, or literary hacks” (OED).

36 Casar Augustus Caesar (63 BC – 14 AD), founder of the Roman Empire and its first Emperor. Horace’s second ode, “To Augustus Caesar,” celebrated its addressee as savior of the Empire.

42 Fustian “Coarse cloth made of cotton or flax” (OED).

75 Audenard Battle of Oudenarde July 11, 1708. The Grand Alliance (Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, and the Holy Empire) held victory over the French.

81 Propitious “Of God, the fates” (OED).

84 Albion “The island of Britain” (OED).

96 Gazette Newspaper.

103 Virgil Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BC – 19 BC), Roman court poet.

124 Argyle John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyle (1680-1743). A noted commander in the British Army during the War of the Spanish Succession, and also known to be a patron of the arts.

132 Epigram A short, witty poem.

134 She scorn’d…religion’s sake Caroline rejected the suit of Archduke Charles of Austria (who would later become King of Spain) on religious grounds.

137 George George Augustus (1683-1760), Prince of Wales in 1714.

139 Bard An ancient Celtic poet whose primary function was to compose and sing (usually to the harp) verses celebrating the achievements of chiefs and warriors.

142 Brunswick A reference to the Duchy state of Brunswick and Lüneberg, in Northern Germany, from which the Hanoverian kings came.

143 first George King George I of Great Britain (1660-1727), reigned from 1714.

145 Prince George Augustus, Prince of Wales, later King George II of Great Britain, reigned from 1727-1760.

Source: Poems on Several Occasions, Volume 2 (London, 1731), pp. 3-11. [Google Books]

 Edited by Jennifer Fong