«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 ...»
The groaning chair began to crawl, Like a huge snail along the wall;
There stuck aloft in public view;
And with small change a pulpit grew.
The porringers, that in a row Hung high, and made a glittering show, To a less noble substance changed, Were now but leathern buckets ranged.
The ballads pasted on the wall, Of Joan of France, and English Moll, Fair Rosamond, and Robin Hood, The Little Children in the Wood, Now seemed to look abundance better, Improved in picture, size, and letter;
And high in order placed, describe The heraldry of every tribe.
A bedstead of the antique mode, Compact of timber, many a load, Such as our ancestors did use,
Was metamorphosed into pews:
Which still their ancient nature keep, By lodging folks disposed to sleep.
The cottage, by such feats as these, Grown to a church by just degrees, The hermits then desired their host To ask for what he fancied most.
Philemon having paused a while, Returned 'em thanks in homely style;
Then said, "My house is grown so fine,
Methinks I still would call it mine:
I'm old, and fain would live at ease, Make me the Parson, if you please."
He spoke, and presently he feels His grazier's coat fall down his heels;
He sees, yet hardly can believe, About each arm a pudding sleeve;
His waistcoat to a cassock grew, And both assumed a sable hue;
But being old, continued just As thread-bare, and as full of dust.
His talk was now of tithes and dues;
He smoked his pipe and read the news;
Knew how to preach old sermons next, Vamped in the preface and the text;
At christenings well could act his part, And had the service all by heart;
Wished women might have children fast, And thought whose sow had farrowed last Against Dissenters would repine, And stood up firm for Right divine.
Found his head filled with many a system, But classic authors, - he ne'er missed 'em.
Thus having furbished up a parson, Dame Baucis next they played their farce on.
Instead of home-spun coifs were seen Good pinners edg'd with colberteen;
Her petticoat transformed apace, Became black satin flounced with lace.
Plain Goody would no longer down, 'Twas Madam, in her grogram gown.
Philemon was in great surprise, And hardly could believe his eyes, Amazed to see her look so prim;
And she admired as much at him.
Thus, happy in their change of life, Were several years this man and wife;
When on a day, which proved their last, Discoursing o'er old stories past, They went by chance amidst their talk, To the church yard to take a walk;
When Baucis hastily cried out, "My dear, I see your forehead sprout!" "Sprout," quoth the man, "what's this you tell us?
I hope you don't believe me jealous, But yet, methinks, I feel it true;
And really, yours is budding too Nay, - now I cannot stir my foot;
It feels as if 'twere taking root."
Description would but tire my Muse;
In short, they both were turned to Yews.
Old Goodman Dobson of the green Remembers he the trees has seen;
He'll talk of them from noon till night, And goes with folks to show the sight;
On Sundays, after evening prayer, He gathers all the parish there,
Points out the place of either Yew:
Here Baucis, there Philemon grew, Till once a parson of our town, To mend his barn, cut Baucis down;
At which, 'tis hard to be believed How much the other tree was grieved,
Grow scrubby, died a-top, was stunted:
So the next parson stubbed and burnt it.
CHAPTER VI - THE LOGICIANS REFUTED.
LOGICIANS have but ill defined As rational, the human kind;
Reason, they say, belongs to man, But let them prove it, if they can.
Wise Aristotle and Smiglesius, By ratiocinations specious, Have strove to prove with great precision, With definition and division,
HOMO EST RATIONE PRAEDITUM;
But, for my soul, I cannot credit 'em.
And must, in spite of them, maintain That man and all his ways are vain;
And that this boasted lord of nature Is both a weak and erring creature.
That instinct is a surer guide Than reason-boasting mortals pride;
And, that brute beasts are far before 'em,
DEUS EST ANIMA BRUTORUM.
Whoever knew an honest brute, At law his neighbour prosecute, Bring action for assault and battery, Or friend beguile with lies and flattery?
O'er plains they ramble unconfined, No politics disturb their mind;
They eat their meals, and take their sport, Nor know who's in or out at court.
They never to the levee go To treat as dearest friend a foe;
They never importune his grace, Nor ever cringe to men in place;
Nor undertake a dirty job, Nor draw the quill to write for Bob.
Fraught with invective they ne'er go
To folks at Paternoster Row:
No judges, fiddlers, dancing-masters, No pickpockets, or poetasters
Are known to honest quadrupeds:
No single brute his fellows leads.
Brutes never meet in bloody fray, Nor cut each others' throats for pay.
Of beasts, it is confessed, the ape Comes nearest us in human shape;
Like man, he imitates each fashion,
And malice is his ruling passion:
But, both in malice and grimaces, A courtier any ape surpasses.
Behold him humbly cringing wait Upon the minister of state;
View him, soon after, to inferiors
Aping the conduct of superiors:
He promises, with equal air, And to perform takes equal care.
He, in his turn, finds imitators, At court the porters, lacqueys, waiters Their masters' manners still contract, And footmen, lords, and dukes can act.
Thus, at the court, both great and small Behave alike, for all ape all.
CHAPTER VII - THE PUPPET SHOW.
THE life of man to represent, And turn it all to ridicule, Wit did a puppet-show invent, Where the chief actor is a fool.
The gods of old were logs of wood, And worship was to puppets paid;
In antic dress the idol stood, And priests and people bowed the head.
No wonder then, if art began The simple votaries to frame, To shape in timber foolish man, And consecrate the block to fame.
From hence poetic fancy learned That trees might rise from human forms The body to a trunk be turned, And branches issue from the arms.
Thus Daedalus and Ovid too, That man's a blockhead have confessed, Powel and Stretch the hint pursue;
Life is the farce, the world a jest.
The same great truth South Sea hath proved On that famed theatre, the ally, Where thousands by directors moved Are now sad monuments of folly.
What Momus was of old to Jove The same harlequin is now;
The former was buffoon above, The latter is a Punch below.
This fleeting scene is but a stage, Where various images appear, In different parts of youth and age Alike the prince and peasant share.
Some draw our eyes by being great, False pomp conceals mere wood within, And legislators rang'd in state Are oft but wisdom in machine.
A stock may chance to wear a crown, And timber as a lord take place, A statue may put on a frown, And cheat us with a thinking face.
Others are blindly led away, And made to act for ends unknown, By the mere spring of wires they play, And speak in language not their own.
Too oft, alas! a scolding wife Usurps a jolly fellow's throne, And many drink the cup of life Mix'd and embittered by a Joan.
In short, whatever men pursue Of pleasure, folly, war, or love, This mimic-race brings all to view, Alike they dress, they talk, they move.
Go on, great Stretch, with artful hand, Mortals to please and to deride, And when death breaks thy vital band Thou shalt put on a puppet's pride.
Thou shalt in puny wood be shown, Thy image shall preserve thy fame, Ages to come thy worth shall own, Point at thy limbs, and tell thy name.
Tell Tom he draws a farce in vain, Before he looks in nature's glass;
Puns cannot form a witty scene, Nor pedantry for humour pass.
To make men act as senseless wood, And chatter in a mystic strain, Is a mere force on flesh and blood, And shows some error in the brain.
He that would thus refine on thee, And turn thy stage into a school, The jest of Punch will ever be, And stand confessed the greater fool.
CHAPTER VIII - CADENUS AND VANESSA.
WRITTEN ANNO 1713.
THE shepherds and the nymphs were seen Pleading before the Cyprian Queen.
The counsel for the fair began Accusing the false creature, man.
The brief with weighty crimes was charged,
On which the pleader much enlarged:
That Cupid now has lost his art, Or blunts the point of every dart;
His altar now no longer smokes;
His mother's aid no youth invokes This tempts free-thinkers to refine, And bring in doubt their powers divine, Now love is dwindled to intrigue, And marriage grown a money-league.
Which crimes aforesaid (with her leave) Were (as he humbly did conceive) Against our Sovereign Lady's peace, Against the statutes in that case,
Against her dignity and crown:
Then prayed an answer and sat down.
The nymphs with scorn beheld their foes:
When the defendant's counsel rose, And, what no lawyer ever lacked, With impudence owned all the fact.
But, what the gentlest heart would vex, Laid all the fault on t'other sex.
That modern love is no such thing As what those ancient poets sing;
A fire celestial, chaste, refined, Conceived and kindled in the mind, Which having found an equal flame, Unites, and both become the same, In different breasts together burn, Together both to ashes turn.
But women now feel no such fire, And only know the gross desire;
Their passions move in lower spheres, Where'er caprice or folly steers.
A dog, a parrot, or an ape, Or some worse brute in human shape Engross the fancies of the fair, The few soft moments they can spare From visits to receive and pay, From scandal, politics, and play, From fans, and flounces, and brocades, From equipage and park-parades, From all the thousand female toys, From every trifle that employs The out or inside of their heads Between their toilets and their beds.
In a dull stream, which, moving slow, You hardly see the current flow, If a small breeze obstructs the course, It whirls about for want of force, And in its narrow circle gathers
Nothing but chaff, and straws, and feathers:
The current of a female mind Stops thus, and turns with every wind;
Thus whirling round, together draws Fools, fops, and rakes, for chaff and straws.
Hence we conclude, no women's hearts Are won by virtue, wit, and parts;
Nor are the men of sense to blame
For breasts incapable of flame:
The fault must on the nymphs be placed, Grown so corrupted in their taste.
The pleader having spoke his best, Had witness ready to attest, Who fairly could on oath depose, When questions on the fact arose, That every article was true;
NOR FURTHER THOSE DEPONENTS KNEW:
Therefore he humbly would insist, The bill might be with costs dismissed.
The cause appeared of so much weight, That Venus from the judgment-seat Desired them not to talk so loud,
Else she must interpose a cloud:
For if the heavenly folk should know These pleadings in the Courts below, That mortals here disdain to love, She ne'er could show her face above.
For gods, their betters, are too wise To value that which men despise.
"And then," said she, "my son and I
Must stroll in air 'twixt earth and sky:
Or else, shut out from heaven and earth, Fly to the sea, my place of birth;
There live with daggled mermaids pent, And keep on fish perpetual Lent."
But since the case appeared so nice, She thought it best to take advice.
The Muses, by their king's permission, Though foes to love, attend the session, And on the right hand took their places
In order; on the left, the Graces:
To whom she might her doubts propose On all emergencies that rose.
The Muses oft were seen to frown;
The Graces half ashamed look down;
And 'twas observed, there were but few Of either sex, among the crew, Whom she or her assessors knew.
The goddess soon began to see Things were not ripe for a decree, And said she must consult her books, The lovers' Fletas, Bractons, Cokes.
First to a dapper clerk she beckoned, To turn to Ovid, book the second;
She then referred them to a place In Virgil (VIDE Dido's case);
As for Tibullus's reports,
They never passed for law in Courts:
For Cowley's brief, and pleas of Waller, Still their authority is smaller.
There was on both sides much to say;
She'd hear the cause another day;
And so she did, and then a third, She heard it - there she kept her word;
But with rejoinders and replies, Long bills, and answers, stuffed with lies Demur, imparlance, and essoign,
The parties ne'er could issue join:
For sixteen years the cause was spun, And then stood where it first begun.
Now, gentle Clio, sing or say, What Venus meant by this delay.
The goddess, much perplexed in mind, To see her empire thus declined, When first this grand debate arose Above her wisdom to compose, Conceived a project in her head, To work her ends; which, if it sped, Would show the merits of the cause Far better than consulting laws.
In a glad hour Lucina's aid Produced on earth a wondrous maid, On whom the queen of love was bent To try a new experiment.
She threw her law-books on the shelf, And thus debated with herself:Since men allege they ne'er can find Those beauties in a female mind Which raise a flame that will endure For ever, uncorrupt and pure;
If 'tis with reason they complain, This infant shall restore my reign.
I'll search where every virtue dwells, From Courts inclusive down to cells.
What preachers talk, or sages write, These I will gather and unite, And represent them to mankind Collected in that infant's mind."