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«The Battle of the Books and Other Short Pieces Contents: Preface I. THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS II. A MEDITATION UPON A BROOMSTICK. III. PREDICTIONS FOR ...»

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This drew us in at first, to find In such a form an angel's mind;

And every virtue now supplies The fainting rays of Stella's eyes.

See, at her levee, crowding swains, Whom Stella freely entertains, With breeding, humour, wit, and sense;

And puts them but to small expense;

Their mind so plentifully fills, And makes such reasonable bills, So little gets for what she gives, We really wonder how she lives!

And had her stock been less, no doubt, She must have long ago run out.

Then who can think we'll quit the place, When Doll hangs out a newer face;

Or stop and light at Cloe's Head, With scraps and leavings to be fed.

Then Cloe, still go on to prate Of thirty-six, and thirty-eight;

Pursue your trade of scandal picking, Your hints that Stella is no chicken.

Your innuendoes when you tell us, That Stella loves to talk with fellows;

And let me warn you to believe

A truth, for which your soul should grieve:

That should you live to see the day When Stella's locks, must all be grey, When age must print a furrowed trace On every feature of her face;

Though you and all your senseless tribe, Could art, or time, or nature bribe To make you look like beauty's queen, And hold for ever at fifteen;

No bloom of youth can ever blind The cracks and wrinkles of your mind;

All men of sense will pass your door, And crowd to Stella's at fourscore.



Resolved my annual verse to pay, By duty bound, on Stella's day;

Furnished with paper, pens, and ink,

I gravely sat me down to think:

I bit my nails, and scratched my head, But found my wit and fancy fled;

Or, if with more than usual pain, A thought came slowly from my brain, It cost me Lord knows how much time To shape it into sense and rhyme;

And, what was yet a greater curse, Long-thinking made my fancy worse Forsaken by th' inspiring nine, I waited at Apollo's shrine;

I told him what the world would sa If Stella were unsung to-day;

How I should hide my head for shame, When both the Jacks and Robin came;

How Ford would frown, how Jim would leer, How Sh-r the rogue would sneer, And swear it does not always follow, That SEMEL'N ANNO RIDET Apollo.

I have assured them twenty times, That Phoebus helped me in my rhymes, Phoebus inspired me from above, And he and I were hand and glove.

But finding me so dull and dry since, They'll call it all poetic licence.

And when I brag of aid divine, Think Eusden's right as good as mine.

Nor do I ask for Stella's sake;

'Tis my own credit lies at stake.

And Stella will be sung, while I Can only be a stander by.

Apollo having thought a little, Returned this answer to a tittle.

Tho' you should live like old Methusalem, I furnish hints, and you should use all 'em, You yearly sing as she grows old, You'd leave her virtues half untold.

But to say truth, such dulness reigns Through the whole set of Irish Deans;

I'm daily stunned with such a medley, Dean W-, Dean D-l, and Dean S-;

That let what Dean soever come, My orders are, I'm not at home;

And if your voice had not been loud, You must have passed among the crowd.

But, now your danger to prevent, You must apply to Mrs. Brent, For she, as priestess, knows the rites Wherein the God of Earth delights.

First, nine ways looking, let her stand With an old poker in her hand;

Let her describe a circle round In Saunder's cellar on the ground A spade let prudent Archy hold, And with discretion dig the mould;

Let Stella look with watchful eye, Rebecea, Ford, and Grattons by.

Behold the bottle, where it lies With neck elated tow'rds the skies!

The god of winds, and god of fire, Did to its wondrous birth conspire;

And Bacchus for the poet's use

Poured in a strong inspiring juice:

See! as you raise it from its tomb, It drags behind a spacious womb, And in the spacious womb contains A sovereign med'cine for the brains.

You'll find it soon, if fate consents;

If not, a thousand Mrs. Brents, Ten thousand Archys arm'd with spades, May dig in vain to Pluto's shades.

From thence a plenteous draught infuse, And boldly then invoke the muse (But first let Robert on his knees With caution drain it from the lees);

The muse will at your call appear, With Stella's praise to crown the year.


As when a beauteous nymph decays, We say she's past her dancing days;

So poets lose their feet by time, And can no longer dance in rhyme.

Your annual bard had rather chose To celebrate your birth in prose;

Yet merry folks who want by chance A pair to make a country dance, Call the old housekeeper, and get her To fill a place, for want of better;

While Sheridan is off the hooks, And friend Delany at his books, That Stella may avoid disgrace, Once more the Dean supplies their place.

Beauty and wit, too sad a truth, Have always been confined to youth;

The god of wit, and beauty's queen, He twenty-one, and she fifteen;

No poet ever sweetly sung.

Unless he were like Phoebus, young;

Nor ever nymph inspired to rhyme, Unless like Venus in her prime.

At fifty-six, if this be true, Am I a poet fit for you;

Or at the age of forty-three, Are you a subject fit for me?

Adieu bright wit, and radiant eyes;

You must be grave, and I be wise.

Our fate in vain we would oppose, But I'll be still your friend in prose;

Esteem and friendship to express, Will not require poetic dress;

And if the muse deny her aid To have them sung, they may be said.

But, Stella say, what evil tongue Reports you are no longer young?

That Time sits with his scythe to mow Where erst sat Cupid with his bow;

That half your locks are turned to grey;

I'll ne'er believe a word they say.

'Tis true, but let it not be known, My eyes are somewhat dimish grown;

For nature, always in the right, To your decays adapts my sight, And wrinkles undistinguished pass, For I'm ashamed to use a glass;

And till I see them with these eyes, Whoever says you have them, lies.

No length of time can make you quit Honour and virtue, sense and wit, Thus you may still be young to me,

While I can better hear than see:

Oh, ne'er may fortune show her spite, To make me deaf, and mend my sight.


THIS day, whate'er the Fates decree, Shall still be kept with joy by me;

This day, then, let us not be told That you are sick, and I grown old, Nor think on our approaching ills, And talk of spectacles and pills;

To-morrow will be time enough To hear such mortifying stuff.

Yet, since from reason may be brought A better and more pleasing thought, Which can, in spite of all decays,

Support a few remaining days:

From not the gravest of divines Accept for once some serious lines.

Although we now can form no more Long schemes of life, as heretofore;

Yet you, while time is running fast, Can look with joy on what is past.

Were future happiness and pain A mere contrivance of the brain, As Atheists argue, to entice, And fit their proselytes for vice (The only comfort they propose, To have companions in their woes).

Grant this the case, yet sure 'tis hard That virtue, styled its own reward, And by all sages understood To be the chief of human good, Should acting, die, or leave behind Some lasting pleasure in the mind.

Which by remembrance will assuage Grief, sickness, poverty, and age;

And strongly shoot a radiant dart, To shine through life's declining part.

Say, Stella, feel you no content, Reflecting on a life well spent;

Your skilful hand employed to save Despairing wretches from the grave;

And then supporting with your store, Those whom you dragged from death before?

So Providence on mortals waits, Preserving what it first creates, You generous boldness to defend An innocent and absent friend;

That courage which can make you just, To merit humbled in the dust;

The detestation you express

For vice in all its glittering dress:

That patience under to torturing pain, Where stubborn stoics would complain.

Must these like empty shadows pass, Or forms reflected from a glass?

Or mere chimaeras in the mind, That fly, and leave no marks behind?

Does not the body thrive and grow By food of twenty years ago?

And, had it not been still supplied, It must a thousand times have died.

Then, who with reason can maintain That no effects of food remain?

And, is not virtue in mankind The nutriment that feeds the mind?

Upheld by each good action past,

And still continued by the last:

Then, who with reason can pretend That all effects of virtue end?

Believe me, Stella, when you show That true contempt for things below, Nor prize your life for other ends Than merely to oblige your friends, Your former actions claim their part, And join to fortify your heart.

For virtue in her daily race, Like Janus, bears a double face.

Look back with joy where she has gone, And therefore goes with courage on.

She at your sickly couch will wait, And guide you to a better state.

O then, whatever heav'n intends, Take pity on your pitying friends;

Nor let your ills affect your mind, To fancy they can be unkind;

Me, surely me, you ought to spare, Who gladly would your sufferings share;

Or give my scrap of life to you, And think it far beneath your due;

You to whose care so oft I owe That I'm alive to tell you so.


PALLAS, observing Stella's wit Was more than for her sex was fit;

And that her beauty, soon or late, Might breed confusion in the state;

In high concern for human kind, Fixed honour in her infant mind.

But (not in wranglings to engage With such a stupid vicious age), If honour I would here define, It answers faith in things divine.

As natural life the body warms, And, scholars teach, the soul informs;

So honour animates the whole, And is the spirit of the soul.

Those numerous virtues which the tribe Of tedious moralists describe, And by such various titles call, True honour comprehends them all.

Let melancholy rule supreme, Choler preside, or blood, or phlegm.

It makes no difference in the case.

Nor is complexion honour's place.

But, lest we should for honour take The drunken quarrels of a rake, Or think it seated in a scar, Or on a proud triumphal car, Or in the payment of a debt, We lose with sharpers at piquet;

Or, when a whore in her vocation, Keeps punctual to an assignation;

Or that on which his lordship swears,

When vulgar knaves would lose their ears:

Let Stella's fair example preach A lesson she alone can teach.

In points of honour to be tried, All passions must be laid aside;

Ask no advice, but think alone, Suppose the question not your own;

How shall I act? is not the case, But how would Brutus in my place;

In such a cause would Cato bleed;

And how would Socrates proceed?

Drive all objections from your mind, Else you relapse to human kind;

Ambition, avarice, and lust, And factious rage, and breach of trust, And flattery tipped with nauseous fleer, And guilt and shame, and servile fear, Envy, and cruelty, and pride, Will in your tainted heart preside.

Heroes and heroines of old, By honour only were enrolled Among their brethren in the skies, To which (though late) shall Stella rise.

Ten thousand oaths upon record Are not so sacred as her word;

The world shall in its atoms end Ere Stella can deceive a friend.

By honour seated in her breast, She still determines what is best;

What indignation in her mind, Against enslavers of mankind!

Base kings and ministers of state, Eternal objects of her hate.

She thinks that Nature ne'er designed, Courage to man alone confined;

Can cowardice her sex adorn, Which most exposes ours to scorn;

She wonders where the charm appears In Florimel's affected fears;

For Stella never learned the art At proper times to scream and start;

Nor calls up all the house at night, And swears she saw a thing in white.

Doll never flies to cut her lace, Or throw cold water in her face, Because she heard a sudden drum, Or found an earwig in a plum.

Her hearers are amazed from whence Proceeds that fund of wit and sense;

Which, though her modesty would shroud, Breaks like the sun behind a cloud, While gracefulness its art conceals, And yet through every motion steals.

Say, Stella, was Prometheus blind, And forming you, mistook your kind?

No; 'twas for you alone he stole The fire that forms a manly soul;

Then, to complete it every way, He moulded it with female clay, To that you owe the nobler flame, To this, the beauty of your frame.

How would ingratitude delight?

And how would censure glut her spite?

If I should Stella's kindness hide In silence, or forget with pride, When on my sickly couch I lay, Impatient both of night and day, Lamenting in unmanly strains, Called every power to ease my pains, Then Stella ran to my relief With cheerful face and inward grief;

And though by Heaven's severe decree She suffers hourly more than me, No cruel master could require, From slaves employed for daily hire, What Stella by her friendship warmed, With vigour and delight performed.

My sinking spirits now supplies With cordials in her hands and eyes, Now with a soft and silent tread, Unheard she moves about my bed.

I see her taste each nauseous draught,

And so obligingly am caught:

I bless the hand from whence they came, Nor dare distort my face for shame.

Best pattern of true friends beware, You pay too dearly for your care;

If while your tenderness secures My life, it must endanger yours.

For such a fool was never found, Who pulled a palace to the ground, Only to have the ruins made Materials for a house decayed.


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