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With tender billets-doux he lights the pire,
And breathes three am'rous sighs to raise the fire.
Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes
Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize:
The pow'rs gave ear, and granted half his pray'r,
The rest the winds dispersed in empty air.
Close by those meads, for ever crowned with flow'rs,
Where Thames with pride surveys his rising tow'rs,
There stands a structure of majestic frame,
Which from the neighb'ring Hampton takes its name.
Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom
Of foreign tyrants, and of nymphs at home;
Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take — and sometimes tea.
Hither our nymphs and heroes did resort,
To taste awhile the pleasures of a court;
In various talk the cheerful hours they passed,
Of who was bit, or who capotted last;
This speaks the glory of the British queen,
And that describes a charming Indian screen;
A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes;
At ev'ry word a reputation dies.
Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat,
With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.
Now when, declining from the noon of day,
The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray;
When hungry judges soon the sentence sign,
And wretches hang that jurymen may dine;
When merchants from th’ Exchange return in peace,
And the long labours of the toilet cease,
The board's with cups and spoons, alternate, crowned,
The berries crackle, and the mill turns round;
On shining altars of Japan they raise
The silver lamp, and fiery spirits blaze:
From silver spouts the grateful liquors glide,
While China's earth receives the smoking tide.
At once they gratify their smell and taste,
While frequent cups prolong the rich repast.
Coffee (which makes the politician wise,
And see through all things with his half-shut eyes)
to the baron's brain
New stratagems, the radiant lock to gain.
Ah cease, rash youth ! desist ere 't is too late,
Fear the just gods, and think of Scylla's fate!
Changed to a bird, and sent to fit in air,
She dearly pays for Nisus' injured hair!
But when to mischief mortals bend their mind,
How soon fit instruments of ill they find !
Just then, Clarissa drew with tempting grace
A two-edged weapon from her shining case:
So ladies, in romance, assist their knight,
Present the spear, and arm him for the fight;
He takes the gift with rev'rence, and extends
The little engine on his fingers' ends;
This just behind Belinda's neck he spread,
As o'er the fragrant steams she bends her head.
He first expands the glitt’ring forfex wide
T'enclose the lock; then joins it, to divide;
One fatal stroke the sacred hair does sever
From the fair head, for ever, and for ever!
The living fires come flashing from her eyes,
And screams of horror rend th' affrighted skies.
Not louder shrieks by dames to heav'n are cast,
When husbands die, or lapdogs breathe their last;
Or when rich china vessels, fall’n from high,
In glitt'ring dust and painted fragments lie!
“Let wreaths of triumph now my temples twine,"
The victor cried, "the glorious prize is mine!
While fish in streams, or birds delight in air,
Or in a coach and six the British fair,
As long as Atalantis shall be read,
Or the small pillow grace a lady's bed,
While visits shall be paid on solemn days,
When num'rous wax-lights in bright order blaze,
While nymphs take treats, or assignations give,
So long my honour, name, and praise shall live!”
What time would spare, from steel receives its date,
And monuments, like men, submit to fate!
Steel did the labour of the gods destroy,
And strike to dust th' aspiring tow’rs of Troy;
Steel could the works of mortal pride confound,
And hew triumphal arches to the ground.
What wonder then, fair nymph! thy hairs should feel
The conqu’ring force of unresisted steel?
But anxious cares the pensive nymph oppressed,
And secret passions laboured in her breast.
Not youthful kings in battle seized alive,
Not scornful virgins who their charms survive,
Not ardent lover robbed of all his bliss,
Not ancient lady when refused a kiss,
Not tyrants fierce that unrepenting die,
Not Cynthia when her manteau's pinned awry,
E'er felt such rage, resentment, and despair,
As thou, sad virgin! for thy ravished hair.
While her racked soul repose and peace requires,
The fierce Thalestris fans the rising fires.
“O wretched maid !” she spread her hands, and cried,
(And Hampton's echoes, "Wretched maid !” replied)
“Was it for this you took such constant care
Combs, bodkins, leads, pomatums to prepare?
For this your locks in paper durance bound?
For this with tort’ring irons wreathed around ?
Oh had the youth been but content to seize
Hairs less in sight, or any hairs but these !
Gods! shall the ravisher display this hair,
While the fops envy, and the ladies stare !
Honour forbid! at whose unrivalled shrine
Ease, pleasure, virtue, all, our sex resign.
Methinks already I your tears survey,
Already hear the horrid things they say,
Already see you a degraded toast,
And all your honour in a whisper lost!
How shall I, then, your helpless fame defend ?
’T will then be infamy to seem your
And shall this prize, th' inestimable prize,
Exposed through crystal to the gazing eyes,
And heightened by the diamond's circling rays,
On that rapacious hand for ever blaze?
Sooner shall grass in Hyde Park Circus grow,
And wits take lodgings in the sound of Bow;
Sooner let earth, air, sea, to chaos fall,
Men, monkeys, lapdogs, parrots, perish all !"
She said; then raging to Sir Plume repairs,
And bids her beau demand the precious hairs:
Sir Plume, of amber snuff-box justly vain,
And the nice conduct of a clouded cane,
With earnest eyes, and round unthinking face,
He first the snuff-box opened, then the case,
And thus broke out — “My lord, why, what the devil !
Zounds ! damn the lock! 'fore Gad, you must be civil !
Plague on 't! 't is past a jest — nay, prithee, pox !
Give her the hair.” — He spoke, and rapped his box.
"It grieves me much," replied the peer again,
“Who speaks so well should ever speak in vain :
But by this lock, this sacred lock, I swear,
(Which never more shall join its parted hair;
Which never more its honours shall renew,
Clipped from the lovely head where once it grew)
That, while my nostrils draw the vital air,
This hand, which won it, shall for ever wear.”
He spoke, and speaking, in proud triumph spread
The long-contended honours of her head.
But see! the nymph in sorrow's pomp appears,
Her eyes half-languishing, half drowned in tears;
Now livid pale her cheeks, now glowing red
On her heaved bosom hung her drooping head,
Which with a sigh she raised, and thus she said:
“For ever cursed be this detested day,
Which snatched my best, my fav’rite curl away;
Happy! ah ten times happy had I been,
If Hampton Coạrt these eyes had never seen!
Yet am not I the first mistaken maid,
By love of courts to num’rous ills betrayed.
O had I rather unadmired remained
In some lone isle, or distant northern land,
Where the gilt chariot never marked the way,
Where none learn ombre, none e'er taste bohea !
There kept my charms concealed from mortal eye,
Like roses, that in deserts bloom and die.
What moved my mind with youthful lords to roam ?
O had I stayed, and said my pray’rs at home!
'T was this the morning omens did foretell,