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His bushy beard, and shoe-string's green, .
His high-crown'd hat, and satin doublet, Mov'd the stout heart of England's Queen,
Though Pope and Spaniard could not trouble it.
What, in the very first beginning !
Shame of the versifying tribe !
Can you do nothing but describe?
A house there is (and that's enough)
From whence one fatal morning issues A brace of warriors, not in buff,
But rustling in their silks and tissues.
The first came cap-a-pie from France,
Her conquering destiny fulfilling, Whom meaner beauties eye askance,
And vainly ape her art of killing.
The other Amazon kind heav'n
Had arm’d with spirit, wit, and satire : But Cobham had the polish giv'n,
And tipp'd her arrows with good-nature.
To celebrate her eyes, her air
Coarse panegyrics would but tease her, Melissa is her Nom de Guerre.
Alas, who would not wish to please her!
With bonnet blue and capuchine,
And aprons long, they hid their armour ;
In pity to the country farmer.
Fame, in the shape of Mr. P—,*
(By this time all the parish know it) Had told that thereabouts there lurk'd
A wicked imp, they call a Poet:
Who prowl'd the country far and near,
Bewitch'd the children of the peasants, Dried up the cows, and lam'd the deer,
And suck'd the eggs, and kill'd the pheasants.
My Lady heard their joint petition,
Swore by her coronet and ermine, She'd issue out her high commission
To rid the manor of such vermin.
The Heroines undertook the task,
Through lanes unknown, o'er stiles they ventur'd, Rapp'd at the door, nor stay'd to ask,
But bounce into the parlour enter'd.
The trembling family they daunt,
They Airt, they sing, they laugh, they tattle, Rummage his Mother, pinch his Aunt,
And up stairs in a whirlwind rattle:
Each hole snd cupboard they explore,
Each creek and cranny of his chamber, Run hurry-skurry round the floor,
And o'er the bed and tester clamber;
• The allusion here is to Mr. Robert Purt, a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge; who died of the small.pox, April, 1752, soon after the publication of the Poem. He was a neighboar of Mr. Gray's, when the latter resided at Stoke.
Into the drawers and china pry,
Papers and books, a huge imbroglio! Under a tea-cup he might lie,
Or creas’d, like dogs-ears, in a folio.
On the first marching of the troops,
The Muses, hopeless of his pardon, Convey'd him underneath their hoops
To a small closet in the garden.
So Rumour says: (who will, believe ?)
But that they left the door a-jar, Where, safe and laughing in his sleeve,
He heard the distant din of war.
Short was his joy. He little knew
The power of magic was no fable; Out of the window, whisk, they flew,
But left a spell upon the table.
The words too eager to unriddle,
The Poet felt a strange disorder; Transparent bird-l.me form’d the middle,
And chains invis.ble the border.
So cunning was the apparatus,
The powerful pet-hooks did so move him, That, will he, nill he, to the Great House
He went, as if the Devil drove him.
Yet on his way (no sign of grace,
For folks in fear are apt to pray) To Phæbus he preferr'd his case,
And begg'd his aid that dreadful day.
The Godhead would have back'd his quarrel ;
But with a blush on recollection, Own'd, that his quiver and his laurel
'Gainst four such eyes were no protection.
The Court was sate, the Culprit there,
Forth from their gloomy mansions creeping, The Lady Janes and Joans repair,
And from the gallery stand peeping:
Such as in silence of the night
Come (sweep) along some wirding entry, (Styack* has often seen the sight)
Or at the chapel-door stand entry:
In peaked hoods and mantles tarnish'd,
Sour visages, enough to scare ye,
The drawing-room of fierce Queen Mary.
The Peeress comes. The audience stare,
And doff their hats with due sibmission : She curtsies, as she takes the chair,
To all the people of condition.
The Bard, with many an artful fib,
Had in imagination fenc'd him Disprov'd the arguments of Squib,t
And all that Groomi could urge against hin
• The Housekeeper.
But soon his rhetoric forsook him,
When he the solemn hall had seen; A sudden fit of ague shook him,
He stood as mute as poor Macleane.*
Yet something he was heard to mutter,
*How in the park beneath an old tree, (Without design to hurt the butter,
Or any malice to the poultry,)
*He once or twice had penn'd a sonnet;
Yet hop'd, that he might save his bacon: Numbers would give their oaths upon it,
He ne'er was for a conjuror taken.'
The ghostly prudes, with hagged face,
Already had condemn'd the sinner. My Lady rose, and with a grace
She smil'd, and bid him come to dinner.
* Jesu-Maria! Madam Bridget,
Why, what can the Viscountess mean? (Cried the square-hoods in woful fidget)
The times are alter'd quite and clean !
Decorum's turn'd to mere civility;
Her air and all her manners show it. Commend me to her affability!
Speak to a Commoner and Poet!'
[Here 500 Stanzas are lost.]
• A famous highwayman hanged the week before.