«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 ...»
As years increase, she brighter shines, Cadenus with each day declines, And he must fall a prey to Time, While she continues in her prime.
Cadenus, common forms apart, In every scene had kept his heart;
Had sighed and languished, vowed and writ, For pastime, or to show his wit;
But time, and books, and State affairs, Had spoiled his fashionable airs, He now could praise, esteem, approve, But understood not what was love.
His conduct might have made him styled A father, and the nymph his child.
That innocent delight he took To see the virgin mind her book, Was but the master's secret joy In school to hear the finest boy.
Her knowledge with her fancy grew, She hourly pressed for something new;
Ideas came into her mind So fact, his lessons lagged behind;
She reasoned, without plodding long, Nor ever gave her judgment wrong.
But now a sudden change was wrought, She minds no longer what he taught.
Cadenus was amazed to find Such marks of a distracted mind;
For though she seemed to listen more To all he spoke, than e'er before.
He found her thoughts would absent range, Yet guessed not whence could spring the change.
And first he modestly conjectures, His pupil might be tired with lectures, Which helped to mortify his pride, Yet gave him not the heart to chide;
But in a mild dejected strain,
At last he ventured to complain:
Said, she should be no longer teased, Might have her freedom when she pleased;
Was now convinced he acted wrong, To hide her from the world so long, And in dull studies to engage One of her tender sex and age.
That every nymph with envy owned, How she might shine in the GRANDE-MONDE, And every shepherd was undone, To see her cloistered like a nun.
This was a visionary scheme, He waked, and found it but a dream;
A project far above his skill, For Nature must be Nature still.
If she was bolder than became A scholar to a courtly dame, She might excuse a man of letters;
Thus tutors often treat their betters, And since his talk offensive grew, He came to take his last adieu.
Vanessa, filled with just disdain, Would still her dignity maintain, Instructed from her early years To scorn the art of female tears.
Had he employed his time so long, To teach her what was right or wrong, Yet could such notions entertain, That all his lectures were in vain?
She owned the wand'ring of her thoughts, But he must answer for her faults.
She well remembered, to her cost, That all his lessons were not lost.
Two maxims she could still produce, And sad experience taught her use;
That virtue, pleased by being shown, Knows nothing which it dare not own;
Can make us without fear disclose Our inmost secrets to our foes;
That common forms were not designed Directors to a noble mind.
Now, said the nymph, I'll let you see My actions with your rules agree, That I can vulgar forms despise, And have no secrets to disguise.
I knew by what you said and writ, How dangerous things were men of wit;
You cautioned me against their charms, But never gave me equal arms;
Your lessons found the weakest part, Aimed at the head, but reached the heart.
Cadenus felt within him rise Shame, disappointment, guilt, surprise.
He know not how to reconcile
Such language, with her usual style:
And yet her words were so expressed, He could not hope she spoke in jest.
His thoughts had wholly been confined To form and cultivate her mind.
He hardly knew, till he was told, Whether the nymph were young or old;
Had met her in a public place, Without distinguishing her face, Much less could his declining age Vanessa's earliest thoughts engage.
And if her youth indifference met, His person must contempt beget, Or grant her passion be sincere, How shall his innocence be clear?
Appearances were all so strong, The world must think him in the wrong;
Would say he made a treach'rous use.
Of wit, to flatter and seduce;
The town would swear he had betrayed, By magic spells, the harmless maid;
And every beau would have his jokes, That scholars were like other folks;
That when Platonic flights were over, The tutor turned a mortal lover.
So tender of the young and fair;
It showed a true paternal care Five thousand guineas in her purse;
The doctor might have fancied worst, Hardly at length he silence broke, And faltered every word he spoke;
Interpreting her complaisance, Just as a man sans consequence.
She rallied well, he always knew;
Her manner now was something new;
And what she spoke was in an air, As serious as a tragic player.
But those who aim at ridicule, Should fix upon some certain rule, Which fairly hints they are in jest, Else he must enter his protest;
For let a man be ne'er so wise, He may be caught with sober lies;
A science which he never taught, And, to be free, was dearly bought;
For, take it in its proper light, 'Tis just what coxcombs call a bite.
But not to dwell on things minute, Vanessa finished the dispute, Brought weighty arguments to prove, That reason was her guide in love.
She thought he had himself described, His doctrines when she fist imbibed;
What he had planted now was grown, His virtues she might call her own;
As he approves, as he dislikes, Love or contempt her fancy strikes.
Self-love in nature rooted fast,
Attends us first, and leaves us last:
Why she likes him, admire not at her, She loves herself, and that's the matter.
How was her tutor wont to praise The geniuses of ancient days!
(Those authors he so oft had named For learning, wit, and wisdom famed).
Was struck with love, esteem, and awe, For persons whom he never saw.
Suppose Cadenus flourished then, He must adore such God-like men.
If one short volume could comprise All that was witty, learned, and wise, How would it be esteemed, and read, Although the writer long were dead?
If such an author were alive, How all would for his friendship strive;
And come in crowds to see his face?
And this she takes to be her case.
Cadenus answers every end, The book, the author, and the friend, The utmost her desires will reach, Is but to learn what he can teach;
His converse is a system fit Alone to fill up all her wit;
While ev'ry passion of her mind In him is centred and confined.
Love can with speech inspire a mute, And taught Vanessa to dispute.
This topic, never touched before,
Displayed her eloquence the more:
Her knowledge, with such pains acquired, By this new passion grew inspired.
Through this she made all objects pass, Which gave a tincture o'er the mass;
As rivers, though they bend and twine, Still to the sea their course incline;
Or, as philosophers, who find Some fav'rite system to their mind, In every point to make it fit, Will force all nature to submit.
Cadenus, who could ne'er suspect His lessons would have such effect, Or be so artfully applied, Insensibly came on her side;
It was an unforeseen event, Things took a turn he never meant.
Whoe'er excels in what we prize, Appears a hero to our eyes;
Each girl, when pleased with what is taught, Will have the teacher in her thought.
When miss delights in her spinnet, A fiddler may a fortune get;
A blockhead, with melodious voice In boarding-schools can have his choice;
And oft the dancing-master's art Climbs from the toe to touch the heart.
In learning let a nymph delight, The pedant gets a mistress by't.
Cadenus, to his grief and shame, Could scarce oppose Vanessa's flame;
But though her arguments were strong, At least could hardly with them wrong.
Howe'er it came, he could not tell, But, sure, she never talked so well.
His pride began to interpose, Preferred before a crowd of beaux, So bright a nymph to come unsought, Such wonder by his merit wrought;
'Tis merit must with her prevail, He never know her judgment fail.
She noted all she ever read, And had a most discerning head.
'Tis an old maxim in the schools, That vanity's the food of fools;
Yet now and then your men of wit Will condescend to take a bit.
So when Cadenus could not hide, He chose to justify his pride;
Construing the passion she had shown, Much to her praise, more to his own.
Nature in him had merit placed, In her, a most judicious taste.
Love, hitherto a transient guest, Ne'er held possession in his breast;
So long attending at the gate, Disdain'd to enter in so late.
Love, why do we one passion call?
When 'tis a compound of them all;
Where hot and cold, where sharp and sweet, In all their equipages meet;
Where pleasures mixed with pains appear, Sorrow with joy, and hope with fear.
Wherein his dignity and age Forbid Cadenus to engage.
But friendship in its greatest height, A constant, rational delight, On virtue's basis fixed to last, When love's allurements long are past;
Which gently warms, but cannot burn;
He gladly offers in return;
His want of passion will redeem, With gratitude, respect, esteem;
With that devotion we bestow, When goddesses appear below.
While thus Cadenus entertains Vanessa in exalted strains, The nymph in sober words intreats A truce with all sublime conceits.
For why such raptures, flights, and fancies, To her who durst not read romances;
In lofty style to make replies, Which he had taught her to despise?
But when her tutor will affect Devotion, duty, and respect, He fairly abdicates his throne, The government is now her own;
He has a forfeiture incurred, She vows to take him at his word, And hopes he will not take it strange If both should now their stations change The nymph will have her turn, to be
The tutor; and the pupil he:
Though she already can discern Her scholar is not apt to learn;
Or wants capacity to reach The science she designs to teach;
Wherein his genius was below The skill of every common beau;
Who, though he cannot spell, is wise Enough to read a lady's eyes?
And will each accidental glance Interpret for a kind advance.
But what success Vanessa met Is to the world a secret yet;
Whether the nymph, to please her swain, Talks in a high romantic strain;
Or whether he at last descends To like with less seraphic ends;
Or to compound the bus'ness, whether They temper love and books together;
Must never to mankind be told, Nor shall the conscious muse unfold.
Meantime the mournful queen of love Led but a weary life above.
She ventures now to leave the skies, Grown by Vanessa's conduct wise.
For though by one perverse event Pallas had crossed her first intent, Though her design was not obtained, Yet had she much experience gained;
And, by the project vainly tried, Could better now the cause decide.
She gave due notice that both parties,
CORAM REGINA PROX' DIE MARTIS,Should at their peril without fail Come and appear, and save their bail.
All met, and silence thrice proclaimed, One lawyer to each side was named.
The judge discovered in her face Resentments for her late disgrace;
And, full of anger, shame, and grief, Directed them to mind their brief;
Nor spend their time to show their reading, She'd have a summary proceeding.
She gathered under every head, The sum of what each lawyer said;
Gave her own reasons last; and then Decreed the cause against the men.
But, in a weighty case like this, To show she did not judge amiss, Which evil tongues might else report, She made a speech in open court;
Wherein she grievously complains, "How she was cheated by the swains."
On whose petition (humbly showing That women were not worth the wooing, And that unless the sex would mend, The race of lovers soon must end);
"She was at Lord knows what expense, To form a nymph of wit and sense;
A model for her sex designed, Who never could one lover find, She saw her favour was misplaced;
The follows had a wretched taste;
She needs must tell them to their face, They were a senseless, stupid race;
And were she to begin again, She'd study to reform the men;
Or add some grains of folly more To women than they had before.
To put them on an equal foot;
And this, or nothing else, would do't.
This might their mutual fancy strike, Since every being loves its like.
But now, repenting what was done, She left all business to her son;
She puts the world in his possession, And let him use it at discretion."
The crier was ordered to dismiss The court, so made his last O yes!
The goddess would no longer wait, But rising from her chair of state, Left all below at six and seven, Harnessed her doves, and flew to Heaven.
CHAPTER IX - STELLA'S BIRTHDAY, 1718.
STELLA this day is thirty-four (We shan't dispute a year or more) However, Stella, be not troubled, Although thy size and years are doubled Since first I saw thee at sixteen, The brightest virgin on the green.
So little is thy form declined;
Made up so largely in thy mind.
Oh, would it please the gods to split Thy beauty, size, and years, and wit, No age could furnish out a pair
Of nymphs so graceful, wise, and fair:
With half the lustre of your eyes, With half your wit, your years, and size.
And then, before it grew too late, How should I beg of gentle fate, (That either nymph might lack her swain), To split my worship too in twain.
STELLA'S BIRTHDAY, 1720.
ALL travellers at first incline Where'er they see the fairest sign;
And if they find the chambers neat, And like the liquor and the meat, Will call again and recommend The Angel Inn to every friend What though the painting grows decayed,
The house will never lose its trade:
Nay, though the treach'rous tapster Thomas Hangs a new angel two doors from us, As fine as daubers' hands can make it, In hopes that strangers may mistake it, We think it both a shame and sin, To quit the true old Angel Inn.
Now, this is Stella's case in fact, An angel's face, a little cracked (Could poets, or could painters fix
How angels look at, thirty-six):