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Fables of John Gay (Somewhat Altered)

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Si doulce la Margarite.

When I first saw you—never mind the year—you could speak no English, and when next I saw you, after a lapse of two years, you would prattle no French; when again we met, you were the nymph with bright and flowing hair, which frightened his Highness Prince James out of his feline senses, when, as you came in by the door, he made his bolt by the window. It was then that you entreated me, with "most petitionary vehemence," to write you a book—a big book—thick, and all for yourself—

"Apollo heard, and granting half the prayer,Shuffled to winds the rest and tossed in air."

I have not written the book, nor is it thick: but I have printed you a book, and it is thin. And I take the occasion to note that old Geoffry Chaucer, our father poet, must have had you in his mind's eye, by prescience or precognition, or he could hardly else have written two poems, one on the daisy and one on the rose. They are poems too long for modern days, nor are we equal in patience to our fore-fathers, who read 'The Faërie Queen,' 'Gondibert,' and the 'Polyolbion,' annually, as they cheeringly averred, through and out. Photography, steam, and electricity make us otherwise, and Patience has fled to the spheres; therefore, if feasible, shall "brevity be the soul of wit," and we will eschew "tediousness and outward flourishes" in compressing 'The Flower and the Leaf' into little:—

The Flower and the Leaf. A maiden in greenwood in month of sweet May,Arose and awoke at the dawn of the day:As she wended along,She heard fairie song—"Si doulce est la Margarite."There the Ladye the Flower and Ladye the Leaf,With knights and squires of fairie chief,Were met upon mead,For devoir and deed—Homage unto "La doulce Margarite." There the ladye in white and the ladye in greenSat on their thrones by the Fairie Queen,Whilst knights did their duty,And bowed down to beauty—"Si doulce est la Margarite,"—When the skies grew hot and the ladies pale,And the storm descended in lightning and hail,As they danced and sung,And the burden rung—"Sous la feuille, sous la feuille, meet." Our Ladye of Leaf asked her of the FlowerAnd fairie Nymphs to shelter in bower:And they danced and sung,And the refrain rung—"Si doulce est la Margarite."All woe begone shivered the Ladye Flower,The Ladye Leaf glittered in gems from the shower:As they danced and sung,And the refrain rung—"Si doulce est la Margarite." And knights and squires then wended forth,East and west, and south, and north:To free forests and shoresFrom giants and boars,And shelter in night and in storm;And every knight bore in chief on his shieldThe foyle en verte on an argent field:And they rode and they sungThe huge oaks among:—"Sous la feuille, sous la feuille, dorme." The maiden then asked of the Fairie QueenTo tell her the moral of what she had seen:Who answered and sungIn her fairie tongue—"Si doulce est la Margarite."The knight that is wise will lead from bowerThe lasting Leaf—not the fading Flower:And when storms ariseTo turmoil life's skies—"Sous la feuille, sous la feuille, meet." Romaunt of the Rose. Within my twentie yeares of age,When Love asserteth most his courage,I dreamed a dream, now fain to tell—A dream that pleased me wondrous well.Now this dream will I rime aright,To make your heartes gaye and light;For Love desireth it—alsoCommandeth me that it be so.It is the Romaunt of the Rose,And tale of love I must disclose.Fair is the matter for to make,But fairer—if she will to takeFor whom the romaunt is begonneFor that I wis she is the fair oneOf mokle prise; and therefore sheSo worthier is beloved to be;And well she ought of prise and rightBe clepened Rose of every wight.But it was May, thus dreamed me,—A time of love and jollitie:A time there is no husks or straw,But new grene leaves on everie shaw;The woods were grene, the earth was proud,Beastès and birdès snug aloud;And earth her poore estate forgote,In which the winter her had fraught.Ah! ben in May the sunne is bright,And everie thing does take delight:The nightingale then singeth blithe;Then is blissful many a scithe;The goldfinch and the popinjay,They then have many things to say.Hard is his heart that loveth noughtIn May, when all such love is wrought. Right from my bed full readilie,That it was by the morrow earlie;And up I rose, and gan me clotheAnon I with my handès bothe:A silver needle forth I drewOut of an aguiler quainte inew,And gan this needle threade anone,For out of town me list to gone,Jollife and gaye, full of gladnesse,Towards a river gan I me dresse,For from a hill that stood there neereCame down the stream of that rivere—My face, I wis, there saw I wele,The bottom ypaved everie deleWith gravel, which was shining shene,In meadows soft and soote and greene.And full attempre out of dredeThen gan I walken throw the medeDownward ever in my playingAs the river's waters straying;And when I had awhile igoneI saw a garden right anone,Of walls with many portraitures,And bothe of images and peintures— But you may read it as it flowsIn Chaucer's Romaunt of the Rose. Chaucer to his Booke. Now go, my booke, and be courageous,For now I send you forthe into the worlde.And though ye may find some outrageous,And in a pette be in some cornere hurl'd;Yet you by little fingeres will be greasèdAnd known hereafter by the marke of thumbe;At which, my little booke, be ye well pleasèd,For booke, like mouthe, unopenèd is dumbe.And there be some, perchance, will bidde you offTo Conventrè, or Yorke, or Jericho;But be not you, my booke, abashed by scoff,For I will teach you where you boun to go,—Which is in Gloucestershire, there unto Bisley,Where the church spire is spièd long afarre;It is not either uncouth, square, or grisly,But soareth high, as if to catch a starre;Where shall the brother of the Christian Yeare,Keble, hereafter tend the seven springs,Above whose fountains doth The Grove uproar,Like to Mount Helicon, where Clio sings,Where rookès build, and peacocke spreadeth tail.And there the wood-pigeon doth sobbe Coo coo;Neither do sparrow, merle or mavis fail,And there the owl at midnight singeth Whoo.And where there are a Laurel and a Rose,Beneath whose branches wide a broode doth haunt;The whom high walls and fretted gates enclose,Where goode may enter, badde are bidde avaunt.And there is one yclepen Margarete,Who alsoe for the nonce is clepen Rose,For she must on some other hille be setteWhen Hymenæos shall her lotte dispose.And, little booke, it is to her you runne.And sisters eight, for they, in soothe, are nine;And in their bowere baske as in the suunne,And beare Maid Marion's love to Catherine,Who is her gossipe, and she is her pette;And nought mote save us from a wrath condign,If you, my booke, should haplessly forgette,Nor bended knees, I trow, nor teares of Margarete.
PAGE Dedication Introduction Lion, Tiger, and Traveller Spaniel and Chameleon Mother, Nurse, and Fairy Jove's Eagle, and Murmuring Beasts Wild Boar and Ram Miser and Plutus Lion, Fox, and Gander Lady and Wasp Bull and Mastiff Elephant and Bookseller Turkey, Peacock, and Goose Cupid, Hymen, and Plutus The Tamed Fawn Monkey who had seen the World Philosopher and Pheasant Pin and Needle Shepherd's Dog and Wolf The Unsatisfactory Painter Lion and Cub Old Hen and Young Cock Ratcatcher and Cats Goat without a Beard Old Woman and her Cats Butterfly and Snail Scold and Parrot Cur and Mastiff Sick Man and the Angel Persian, Sun, and Cloud Fox at the point of Death Setting Dog and Partridge Universal Apparition Owls and Sparrow Courtier and Proteus Mastiff Barley Mow and Dunghill Pythagoras and Countryman Farmer's Dame and Raven Turkey and Ant Father and Jupiter Two Monkeys Owl and Farmer Juggler and Vice Council of Horses Hound and Huntsman Poet and the Rose Cur, Horse, and Shepherd's Dog Court of Death Florist and Pig Man and Flea Hare and many Friends Dog and Fox Vulture, Sparrow, and Birds Ape and Poultry Ant in Office Bear in a Boat Squire and Cur Countryman and Jupiter Man, Cat, Dog, and Fly Jackall, Leopard, and Beasts Degenerate Bees Packhorse and Carrier Pan and Fortune Plutus, Cupid, and Time Owl, Swan, Cock, Spider, Ass, and Farmer Cookmaid, Turnspit, and Ox Raven, Sexton, and Earthworm Town Mouse and Country Mouse Magpie and Brood The Three Warnings Postscript
INTRODUCTION. Remote from cities dwelt a swain,Unvexed by petty cares of gain;His head was silvered, and by ageHe had contented grown and sage;In summer's heat and winter's coldHe fed his flock and penned his fold,Devoid of envy or ambition,So had he won a proud position. A deep philosopher, whose rulesOf moral life were drawn from schools,With wonder sought this shepherd's nest,And his perplexity expressed: "Whence is thy wisdom? Hath thy toilO'er books consumed the midnight oil,Communed o'er Greek and Roman pages,With Plato, Socrates—those sages—Or fathomed Tully,—or hast travelledWith wise Ulysses, and unravelledOf customs half a mundane sphere?" The shepherd answered him: "I ne'erFrom books or from mankind sought learning,For both will cheat the most discerning;The more perplexed the more they viewIn the wide fields of false and true. "I draw from Nature all I know—To virtue friend, to vice a foe.The ceaseless labour of the beePrompted my soul to industry;The wise provision of the antMade me for winter provident;My trusty dog there showed the way,And to be true I copy Tray.Then for domestic hallowed love,I learnt it of the cooing dove;And love paternal followed, whenI marked devotion in the hen. "Nature then prompted me to schoolMy tongue from scorn and ridicule,And never with important mienIn conversation to o'erween.I learnt some lessons from the fowls:To shun solemnity, from owls;Another lesson from the pie,—Pert and pretentious, and as sly;And to detest man's raids and mulctures,From eagles, kites, goshawks, and vultures;But most of all abhorrence takeFrom the base toad or viler snake,With filthy venom in the bite,Of envies, jealousies, and spite.Thus from Dame Nature and CreationHave I deduced my observation;Nor found I ever thing so mean,That gave no moral thence to glean." Then the philosopher replied:"Thy fame, re-echoed far and wide,Is just and true: for books misguide,—As full, as man himself, of pride;But Nature, rightly studied, leadsTo noble thoughts and worthy deeds."
FABLE I.Lion, Tiger, and Traveller. Accept, my Prince, the moral fable,To youth ingenuous, profitable.Nobility, like beauty's youth,May seldom hear the voice of truth;Or mark and learn the fact betimesThat flattery is the nurse of crimes.Friendship, which seldom nears a throne,Is by her voice of censure known.To one in your exalted stationA courtier is a dedication;But I dare not to dedicateMy verse e'en unto royal state.My muse is sacred, and must teachTruths which they slur in courtly speech.But I need not to hide the praise,Or veil the thoughts, a nation pays;We in your youth and virtues traceThe dawnings of your royal race;Discern the promptings of your breast,Discern you succour the distrest,Discern your strivings to attainThe heights above the lowly plain....