Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Christopher Smart, 'To the Rev. Mr. Powell, on the Non-performance of a Promise he made the Author of a Hare' (1752)



FRIEND, with regard to this same hare,
Am I to hope, or to despair?
By punctual post the letter came,
With P***ll's hand, and P***ll's name:
Yet there appear'd, for love or money,
Nor hare, nor leveret, nor coney.
Say, my dear Morgan, has my lord,
Like other great ones kept his word?
Or have you been deceiv'd by 'squire?
Or has your poacher lost his wire?
Or in some unpropitious hole,
Instead of puss, trepann'd a mole?
Thou valiant son of great Cadwallader,
Hast thou a hare, or hast thou swallow'd her?

But, now, me thinks, I hear you say,
(And shake your head) " Ah, well-a-day!
"Painful pre-em'nence to be wise,
"We wits have such short memories.
"Oh, that the act was not in force!
"A horse !—my kingdom for a horse!"
"To love—yet be deny'd the sport!
"Oh! for a friend or two at court!
"God knows, there's scarce a man of quality.
"In all our peerless principality—

But hold—for on his country joking,
To a warm Welchman's most provoking.
As for poor puss, upon my honour,
I never set my heart upon her.
But any gift from friend to friend,
Is pleasing in it's aim and end.

I, like the cock, would spurn a jewel
Sent by th' unkind, th' unjust, and cruel.
But honest P***ll ! Sure from him
A barley-corn wou'd be a gem.
Pleas'd therefore had I been, and proud,-
And prais'd thy generous heart aloud,
If 'stead of hare (but do not blab it)
You'd sent me only a Welch rabbit.

Nice: though I didn't get he reference to the cock who spurns a jewel. So I looked it up: it's Aesop of course. 'Many men pass talent unnoticed, but delight to find a piece of vulgarity; even as the cock spurns the jewel under foot, but crows over the earth-worm that he finds'.