Tag Archives: narrative verse

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

Mary Leapor, “Nature undone by Art”


“NATURE undone by ART”


WHEN first Alexis bless’d our wond’ring Eyes,
Like some young De’ty of the pregnant Skies;
His blooming Form by Nature richly dress’d;
Nor purple Crime had stain’d his iv’ry Breast:
His pleasing Voice diffus’d a gen’ral Joy,                                                5
And list’ning Virgins bless’d the charming Boy.
His just Reflections, while they taught, allur’d;
His Smiles were harmless, and his Language pure:
He learn’d with Pleasure, and he taught with Ease:
Whate’er Alexis did, was sure to please.                                                10
Gorgonian Malice found a soothing Charm;
No envious Tongue could wish Alexis Harm:
For thrifty Nature, like a partial Mother,
To form one lovely Image, strips another;
And makes the beauteous Darling of her Breast                                  15
Perfection only, while she starves the rest.
On this gay Youth she lavish’d all her Pride,
Till he, ingrateful, wander’d from her Side:
Then polish’d Art, with her affected Train
Of glitt’ring Shadows, won the cheated Swain;                                      20
Dissimulation roll’d her leering Eyes,
With courteous Knavery, and well-bred Lyes;
Affectation, Pride; a motly Throng;
And smiling Flatt’ry, with her silver Tongue:
These taught those once engaging Eyes to roll,                                     25
And cast Pollution on his tainted Soul.
In his dark Breast tumultuous Passions rise,
Where guilty Flame and smother’d Hatred lies.
Now the chang’d Idiot can his Rhet’ric spend
To praise a Coxcomb, or deceive his Friend.                                          30
His Heart, whence Truths eternal us’d to spring,
Where Honour reign’d as undisputed King,
Is now a Dungeon for the Dregs of Sin.
Deceit, Ingratitude, and Av’rice, now
Have stain’d the Whiteness of his alter’d Brow:                                     35
Not worth our Pity, and below Disdain;
We look with Loathing, and we hear with Pain.


4 purple “Of the colour of blood; bloody” (OED).

11 Gorgonian Malice “Of or pertaining to the malevolence of the three mythical female personages, with snakes for hair, whose look turned the beholder into stone” (OED).

21 Dissimulation “Concealment of what really is, under a feigned semblance of something different; feigning, hypocrisy” (OED).

24 silver Tongue “A tendency to be eloquent and persuasive in speaking” (OED).

30 Coxcomb “A vain, conceited, or pretentious man; a man of ostentatiously affected
mannerisms or appearance; a fop” (OED).

33 Dregs “Residue” (OED).

Source:  Poems Upon Several Occasions (London, 1751), pp. 98-100.  [Hathi Trust]

Edited by Beck Serna

Charlotte Lennox, “The Rival Nymphs. A Tale”


 “The Rival Nymphs. A Tale.”


Clarissa blest with ev’ry Grace,
A Shape divine, and charming Face,
Had triumph’d long o’er many a Swain,
And oft’ been woo’d, but woo’d in vain;
Not so Amanda, blooming Youth,                                                  5
Soft Innocence, and artless Truth,
Were all the Beauties she cou’d boast,
Not form’d by Nature for a Toast;
Yet some there were, who in her Mind
A thousand nameless Charms cou’d find:                                    10
She lov’d not Visits, Park, or Play,
But mop’d, and read her Time away;
Insensible to a Degree,
Her Heart was all her own, and free;
Yet oft of Love’s soft pleasing Pains,                                             15
The Nymph wou’d write in melting Strains.
The lambent Flame that warm’d her Breast,
Each tender flowing Line confess’d;
Moneses, whose enchanting Form
Was one continu’d endless Charm:                                               20
To whom indulgent Heav’n had join’d,
All that cou’d beautify a Mind;
Had often own’d bright Beauty’s Power,
Had sigh’d and lov’d — for half an Hour.
But yet the lovely Youth confess’d,                                               25
Whoe’er could wound his destin’d Breast,
Her Charms must over Time prevail,
Her Wit must please when Beauty fail’d;
Yet since he cou’d not hope to find,
One blest with all those Charms of Mind;                                    30
He thought Clarissa worth his Care,
And all the Hours he had to spare;
Soft Vows, and tender speaking Eyes,
Pleading Looks, and melting Sighs;
Make the believing Maid approve                                                  35
His false, but well dissembled Love.
But while Clarissa’s Charms he own’d,
He with a secret Passion burn’d.
Amanda found the Way to win
His Heart, and let her Image in;                                                      40
His Pain the lovely Youth conceals,
All but what his Eyes reveals:
His Eyes, that all his Passion tell,
And speak the Love he felt so well.

Amanda heard the Youth complain,                                        45
She heard and felt an equal Flame;
But still with native Shyness arm’d,
She shuns the lovely Swain she charm’d;
His Looks, his Sighs, his Actions move,
And in soft Language plead for Love.                                             50

Clarissa still exults, and cries,
He’s yet a Victim to my Eyes;
He neither will, nor can be free;
Me he still loves, and only Me:
Ah! cease to claim my charming Prize;                                            55
Amanda, to the Fair replies,
Cou’d I, Clarissa, cou’d I boast,
The Hearts that to thy Charms are lost,
With Joy I wou’d them all resign,
To keep my lov’d Moneses mine.                                                        60

In vain the Nymph declares her Flame,
Clarissa still asserts her Claim;
And ‘till the lov’d Moneses owns,
The conqu’ring Maid for whom he burns;
‘Till he’ll the happy Fair unfold,                                                           65
The Sequel must remain untold.


 Title Nymphs “Any of a class of semi-divine spirits, imagined as taking the form of a maiden inhabiting the sea, rivers, mountains, woods, trees, etc., and often portrayed in poetry as attendants on a particular god” (OED).

3 Swain In pastoral poetry, synonymous with a young shepherd.

 17 lambent “Of a flame (fire, light): playing lightly upon or gliding over a surface without burning it, like a ‘tongue of fire’; shining with a soft clear light and without fierce heat” (OED).

 19 Moneses Here a masculine pastoral name, the object of Amanda and Clarissa’s desire.

35 Maid A virgin (OED).

54 loves Corrected from “love’s,” a printer’s error.

Source: Poems on Several Occasions. Written by a Young Lady (London, 1747), pp. 7-11. [Google Books]

 Edited by Sydney Brunner