Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

a

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 obstruct 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 fame;
The fault must on the nymphs be plac'd,
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 these deponents knew :-
Therefore he humbly would insist,
The bill might be with costs dismiss'd.
The cause appear'd of so much weight,
That Venus, from her judgment-seat,
Desir'd 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
so value that which men despise.
“ And then,” said she, “my son and I
Must stroll in air, 'twixt land 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 appear'd 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-asham'd look down ;
And 'was obsery'd 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 beckon'd,
To turn to Ovid, book the second ;
She then referr'd them to a place
In Virgil (vide Dido's case :)
As for Tibullus's reports,
They never pass'd for law in courts :

For Cowley's briefs, and pleas of Waller,
Still their authority was 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 or replies,
Long bills, and answers stuff 'd 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 perplex'd in mind
To see her empire thus declin'd,
When first this grand debate arose,
Above her wisdom to compose,
Conceiv'd 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
Produc'd 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."

This said, she plucks in heaven's high bowers
A sprig of amaranthine flowers,
In nectar thrice infuses bays,
Three times refind in Titan's rays;
Then calls the Graces to her aid,
And sprinkles thrice the new-born maid :
From whence the tender skin assumes
A sweetness above all perfumes :
From whence a cleanliness remains
Incapable of outward stains :
From whence that decency of mind,
So lovely in the female kind,
Where not one careless thought intrudes,
Less modest than the speech of prudes;
Where never blush was call'd in aid,
That spurious virtue in a maid,
A virtue but al second-hand ;
They blush because they understand.

The Graces next would act their part,
And show'd but little of their art;
Their work was half already done,
The child with native beauty shone;
The outward form no help requir'd:
Each, breathing on her thrice, inspir'd
That gentle, soft, engaging air,
Which in old times adorn'd the fair :
And said, “Vanessa be the name
By which thou shalt be known to fame ;
Vanessa, by the gods enrollid:
Her name on Earth shall not be told."

But still the work was not complete ;
When Venus thought on a deceit:
Drawn by her doves, away she flies,
And finds out Pallas in the skies.
“Dear Pallas, I have been this morn
To see a lovely infant born ;
A boy in yonder isle below,
So like my own without his bow,
By beauty could your heart be won,
You'd swear it is Apollo's son:
But it shall ne'er be said a child
So hopeful has by me been spoil'd ;
I have enough besides to spare,
And give him wholly to your care."

Wisdom 's above suspecting wiles :
The queen of learning gravely smiles,
Down from Olympus comes with joy,
Mistakes Vanessa for a boy ;
Then sows within her tender mind
Seeds long unknown to woman-kind;
For manly bosoms chiefly fit,
The seeds of knowledge, judgment, wit.
Her soul was suddenly endued
With justice, truth, and fortitude ;
With honor, which no breath can stain,
Which malice must attack in vain;
With open heart and bounteous hand.
But Pallas here was at a stand;
She knew, in our degenerate days,
Bare virtue could not live on praise ;
That meat must be with money bought:
She therefore, upon second thought,
Infus’d, yet as it were by stealth,
Some small regard for state and wealth ;
Of which, as she grew up, there staid
A tincture in the prudent maid :
She manag'd her estate with care,
Yet lik'd three footmen to her chair.
But lest he should neglect his studies
Like a young heir, the thrifty goddess
(For fear young master should be spoil'd)
Would use him like a younger child ;
And, after long computing, found
"Twould come to just five thousand pound.

The queen of love was pleas’d, and proud,
To see Vanessa thus endow'd :
She doubted not but such a dame
Through every breast would dart a flame;
That every rich and lordly swain
With pride would drag about her chain ;
That scholars would forsake their books,
To study bright Vanessa's looks ;
As she advanc'd, that woman-kind
Would by her model form their mind,
And all their conduct would be tried
By her, as an unerring guide ;
Offending daughters oft would hear
Vanessa's praise rung in their ear:
Miss Betty, when she does a fault,
Lets fall her knife, or spills the salt,
Will thus be by her mother chid,
“'Tis what Vanessa never did!”
“ Thus by the nymphs and swains ador’d,
My power shall be again restor’d,
And happy lovers bless my reign—"
So Venus hop'd, but hop'd in vain.

For when in time the martial maid Found out the trick that Venus play'd, She shakes her helm, she knits her brows, And, fir'd with indignation, vows,

To-morrow, ere the setting sun,
She'd all undo that she had done.

But in the poeis we may find
A wholesome law, time out of mind,
Had been confirm’d by fate's decree,
That gods, of whatsoe'er degree,
Resume not what themselves have given.
Or any brother-god in Heaven;
Which keeps the peace among the gods,
Or they must always be at odds :
And Pallas, if she broke the laws,
Must yield her foe the stronger cause ;
A shame to one so much ador'd
For wisdom at Jove's council-board.
Besides, she fear'd the queen of love
Would meet with better friends above.
And though she must with grief reflect,
To see a mortal virgin deck'd
With graces hitherto unknown
To female breasts, except her own;
Yet she would act as best became
A goddess of unspotted fame.
She knew, by augury divine,
Venus would fail in her design;
She studied well the point, and found
Her foe's conclusions were not sound,
From premises erroneous brought;
And therefore the deduction's nought,
And must have contrary effects
To what her treacherous foe expects.

In proper season Pallas meets The queen of love, whom thus she greets . (For gods, we are by Homer told, Can in celestial language scold :) " Perfidious goddess! but in vain You form'd this project in your brain ; A project for thy talents fit, With much deceit and little wit. Thou hast, as thou shalt quickly see, Deceiv'd thyself, instead of me: For how can heavenly wisdom prove An instrument to earthly love? Know'st thou not yet, that men commence Thy votaries, for want of sense ? Nor shall Vanessa be the theme To manage thy abortive scheme : See 'll prove the greatest of thy foes; And yet I scorn to interpose, But, using neither skill nor force, Leave all things to their natural course."

The goddess thus pronounc'd her doom When, lo! Vanessa in her bloom Advanc'd, like Atalanta's star, But rarely seen, and seen from far: In a new world with caution stept, Watch'd all the company she kept, Well knowing, from the books she read, What dangerous paths young virgins tread; Would seldom at the park appear, Nor saw the play-house twice a year ; Yet, not incurious, was inclin'd To know the converse of mankind.

First issued from perfumers' shops, A crowd of fashionable fops : They ask'd her, how she lik’d the play? Then told the tattle of the day; A duel fought last night at two, About a lady—you know who ; Mention'd a new Italian come Either from Muscovy or Rome ;

Gave hints of who and who's together;
Then fell a talking of the weather ;
Last night was so extremely fine,
The ladies walk'd till after nine ;
Then, in soft voice and speech absurd,
With nonsense every second word,
With fustian from exploded plays,
They celebrate her beauty's praise :
Run o'er their cant of stupid lies,
And tell the murders of her eyes.

With silent scorn Vanessa sat,
Scarce listening to their idle chat;
Further than sometimes by a frown,
When they grew pert, to pull them down.
At last she spitefully was bent
To try their wisdom's full extent;
And said she valued nothing less
Than titles, figure, shape, and dress;
That merit should be chiefly plac'd
In judgment, knowledge, wit, and taste;
And these, she offer'd to dispute,
Alone distinguish'd man from brute ;
That present times have no pretence
To virtue, in the noble sense
By Greeks and Romans understood,
To perish for our country's good.
She nam'd the ancient heroes round,
Explain'd for what they were renown'd;
Then spoke with censure or applause
Of foreign customs, rites, and laws;
Through nature and through art she rang’d,
And gracefully her subject chang’d;
In vain ! her hearers had no share
In all she spoke, except to stare.
Their judgment was, upon the whole,
—“That lady is the dullest soul !-"
Then tipt their forehead in a jeer,
As who should say—“She wants it here!
She may be handsome, young, and rich,
But none will burn her for a witch!”

A party next of glittering dames, From round the purlieus of St. James, Came early, out of pure good-will, To see the girl in dishabille. Their clamor, 'lighting from their chairs, Grew louder all the way up stairs ; At entrance loudest, where they found The room with volumes litter'd round. Vanessa held Montaigne, and read, Whilst Mrs. Susan comb'd her head. They call’d for tea and chocolate, And fell into their usual chat, Discoursing, with important face, On ribbons, fans, and gloves, and lace; Show'd patterns just from India brought, And gravely ask'd her what she thought, Whether the red or green were best, And what they cost ? Vanessa guess'd, As came into her fancy first ; Nam'd half the rates, and lik'd the worst To scandal next—" What awkward thing Was that last Sunday in the ring ? I'm sorry Mopsa breaks so fast : I said, her face would never last. Corinna, with that youthful air, Is thirty, and a bit to spare: Her fondness for a certain earl Began when I was but a girl! Phyllis, who but a month ago Was married to the Tunbridge-beau,

51

I saw coquetting t'other night
In public with that odious knight!

They rallied next Vanessa's dress :
“That gown was made for old queen Bess.
Dear madam, let me see your head:
Don't you intend to put on red ?
A petticoat without a hoop!
Sure, you are not asham'd to stoop!
With handsome garters at your knees,
No matter what a fellow sees."
Fill'd with disdain, with rage inflam'd,
Both of herself and sex asham'd,
The nymph stood silent out of spite,
Nor would vouchsafe to set them right.
Away the fair detractors went,
And gave by turns their censures vent.
She's not so handsome in my eyes :
For wit, I wonder, where it lies !
“She's fair and clean, and that's the most
But why proclaim her for a toast ?
A baby face: no lise, no airs,
But what she learn'd at country-fairs :
Scarce knows what difference is between
Rich Flanders lace and colberteen.
I'll undertake, my little Nancy
In flounces hath a better fancy!
With all her wit, I would not ask
Her judgment, how to buy a mask.
We begg'd her but to patch her face,
She never hit one proper place;
Which every girl at five years old
Can do as soon as she is told.
I own, that out-of-fashion stuff
Becomes the creature well enough.
The girl might pass, if we could get her
To know the world a little better."
(To know the world! a modern phrase,
For visits, ombre, balls, and plays.)

Thus, to the world's perpetual shame, The queen of beauty lost her aim ; Too late with grief she understood, Pallas had done more harm than good; For great examples are but vain, Where ignorance begets disdain. Both sexes, arm'd with guilt and spite, Against Vanessa's power unite : To copy her few nymphs aspird ; Her virtues fewer swains admir'd. So stars beyond a certain height Give mortals neither heat nor light.

Yet some of either sex, endow'd With gifts superior to the crowd, With virtue, knowledge, taste, and wit, She condescended to admit: With pleasing arts she could reduce Men's talents to their proper use : And with address each genius held! To that wherein it most excell'd; Thus making others' wisdom known, Could please them, and improve her own A modest youth said something new. She plac'd it in the strongest view. All humble worth she strove to raise; Would not be prais'd, yet lov’d to praise The learned met with free approach, Although they came not in a coach : Some clergy too she would allow, Nor quarrell’d at their awkward bow; But this was for Cadenus' sake, A gownman of a different make ;.

2 I 2

a

Whom Pallas, once Vanessa's tutor,
Had fix'd on for her coadjutor.

But Cupid, full of mischief, longs
To vindicate his mother's wrongs.
On Pallas all attempts are vain :
One way he knows to give her pain;
Vows on Vanessa's heart to take
Due vengeance, for her patron's sake.
Those early seeds by Venus sown,
In spite of Pallas, now were grown;
And Cupid hop'd they would improve
By time, and ripen into love.
The boy made use of all his craft,
In vain discharging many a shast,
Pointed at colonels, lords, and beaux:
Cadenus warded off the blows;
For, placing still some book betwixt,
The darts were in the cover fix'd,
Or, ofien blunted and recoil'd,
On Plutarch's Morals struck, were spoil'd.

The queen of wisdom could foresee,
But not prevent, the Fates' decree :
And human caution tries in vain
To break that adamantine chain.
Vanessa, though by Pallas taught,
By Love invulnerable thought,
Searching in books for wisdom's aid,
Was, in the very search, betray’d.

Cupid, though all his darts were lost,
Yet still resolv'd to spare no cost:
He could not answer to his fame
The triumphs of that stubborn dame,
A nymph so hard to be subdued,
Who neither was coquette nor prude.
“I find," said.he, “she wants a doctor
Both to adore her, and instruct her:
I'll give her what she most admires,
Among those venerable sires,
Cadenus is a subject fit,
Grown old in politics and wit,
Caress'd by ministers of state,
Of half mankind the dread and hate.
Whate'er vexations love attend,
She need no rivals apprehend.
Her sex, with universal voice,
Must laugh at her capricious choice."
Cadenus many things had writ:
Vanessa much esteem'd his wit,
And call'd for his poetic works :
Meantime the boy in secret lurks ;
And, while the book was in her hand,
The urchin from his private stand
Took aim, and shot with all his strength
A dart of such prodigious length,
It pierc'd the feeble volume through,
And deep transfix'd her bosom too.
Some lines, more moving than the rest,
Stuck to the point that piere'd her breast,
And, borne directly to the heart,
With pains unknown, increas'd her smart.

Vanessa, not in years a score,
Dreams of a gown of forty-four;
Imaginary charms can find
In eyes with reading almost blind :
Cadenus now no more appears
Declind in health, advanced in years.
She fancies music in his tongue;
No farther looks, but thinks him young.
What mariner is not afraid
To venture in a ship decay'd ?

What planter will attempt to yoke
A sapling with a falling oak?
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 sigh'd and languish'd, vow'd and writ
For pastime, or to show his wit.
But books, and time, and state affairs,
Had spoil'd his fashionable airs :
He now could praise, esteem, approve,
But understood not what was love.
His conduct might have made him styl'd
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 press'd for something new;
Ideas came into her mind
So fast, his lessons lagg'd behind ;
She reason’d, 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 amaz'd to find
Such marks of a distracted mind:
For, though she seem'u to listen more
To all he spoke, than e'er before,
He found her thoughts would absent range,
Yet guess'd not whence could spring the change
And first he modestly conjectures
His pupil might be tir'd with lectures ;
Which help'd to mortisy his pride,
Yet gave him not the heart to chide :
But, in a mild dejected strain,
At last he ventur'd to complain;
Said, she should be no longer teas'd,
Might have her freedom when she pleas'd;
Was now convinc'd 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 own'd,
How she might shine in the grand monde :
And every shepherd was undone
To see her cloister'd like a nun.
This was a visionary scheme:
He wak'd, and found it but a dream
A project far above his skill;
For nature must be nature sull
If he were 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, filld with just disdain,
Would still her dignity maintain,
Instructed from her early years
To scorn the art of female tears.

Had he employ'd his time so long
To teach her what was right and wrong.
Yet could such notions entertain
That all his lectures were in vain?
She own'd the wandering 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 their use;
That virtue, pleas'd by being shown,
Knows nothing which it dares not own;
Can make us without fear disclose
Our inmost secrets to our foes :
That common forms were not design'd
Directors to a noble mind.
“Now," said the nymph, “to 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 caution'd me against their charms,
But never gave me equal arms;
Your lessons found the weakest part,
Aim'd at the head, but reach'd the heart.”

Cadenus felt within him rise
Shame, disappointment, guilt, surprise.
He knew not how to reconcile
Such language with her usual style :
And yet her words were so express’d,
He could not hope she spoke in jest,
His thoughts had wholly been confin'd
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 treacherous use
Of wit, to flatter and seduce :
The town would swear, he had betray'd
By magic spells the harmless maid :
And, every beau would have his jokes,
That scholars were like other folks ;
And when Platonic flights were over,
The tutor turn'd a mortal lover!
So tender of the young and fair!
It show'd a true paternal care-
Five thousand guineas in her purse!
The doctor might have fancied worse.

Hardly at length he silence broke,
And falter'd every word he spoke;
Interpreting her complaisance,
Just as a man sans conséquence.
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 finish'd the dispute,
Brought weighty arguments to prove
That reason was her guide in love.
She thought he had himself describ'd
His doctrines when she first imbibd:
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 nam'd,
For learning, wit, and wisdom fam'd.)
Was struck with love, esteem, and awe,
For persons whom he never saw.
Suppose Cadenus flourish'd then,
He must adore such godlike men.
If one short volume could comprise
All that was witty, learn'd, and wise,
How would it be esteer'd 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 every passion of her mind
In him is center'd and confin'd.

Love can with speech inspire a mute,
And taught Vanessa to dispute.
This topic, never touch'd before,
Display'd her eloquence the more :
Her knowledge, with such pains acquir'd,
By this new passion grew inspir'd;
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 favorite 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 in our eyes:
Each girl, when pleas'd 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 may 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.

« ZurückWeiter »