“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 ADDISON, and POPE
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 TULLY’s and the GRACCHI’s Doom,
The Patriots, and the Pride of Rome.
Then bless’d the Drapier’s happier Fate,
Who sav’d, and 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 GAY 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 GAY’s Case, I own;
But now his Merit’s amply known.
Content that tender Heart of thine:
He’ll be the Care of CAROLINE. 70
Who thus instructs the royal Race,
Must have a Pension, or a Place.
MAMMA, if you were QUEEN, says he,
And such a Book were writ for me,
I find ‘tis so much to your Taste, 75
That GAY 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 QUEEN, 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).
31 TULLY 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).
42 The 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