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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 clamour, '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 called 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 guessid,
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 marry'd to the Tunbridge-beau,
I saw coquetting tother night
In public with that odious knight !"
They rally'd 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 life, 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, hot 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 aspir'd;
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;
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;