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John Gay

(30 June 1685 – 4 December 1732 / Barnstaple, England)

An Elegy on a Lap-dog

1 Shock's fate I mourn; poor Shock is now no more,
2 Ye Muses mourn, ye chamber-maids deplore.
3 Unhappy Shock! yet more unhappy fair,
4 Doom'd to survive thy joy and only care!
5 Thy wretched fingers now no more shall deck,
6 And tie the fav'rite ribbon round his neck;
7 No more thy hand shall smooth his glossy hair,
8 And comb the wavings of his pendent ear.
9 Yet cease thy flowing grief, forsaken maid;
10 All mortal pleasures in a moment fade:
11 Our surest hope is in an hour destroy'd,
12 And love, best gift of heav'n, not long enjoy'd.

13 Methinks I see her frantic with despair,
14 Her streaming eyes, wrung hands, and flowing hair
15 Her Mechlen pinners rent the floor bestrow,
16 And her torn fan gives real signs of woe.
17 Hence Superstition, that tormenting guest,
18 That haunts with fancied fears the coward breast;
19 No dread events upon his fate attend,
20 Stream eyes no more, no more thy tresses rend.
21 Tho' certain omens oft forewarn a state,
22 And dying lions show the monarch's fate;
23 Why should such fears bid Celia's sorrow rise?
24 For when a lap-dog falls no lover dies.

25 Cease, Celia, cease; restrain thy flowing tears,
26 Some warmer passion will dispel thy cares.
27 In man you'll find a more substantial bliss,
28 More grateful toying, and a sweeter kiss.

29 He's dead. Oh lay him gently in the ground!
30 And may his tomb be by this verse renown'd.
31 Here Shock, the pride of all his kind, is laid;
32 Who fawn'd like man, but ne'er like man betray'd.

Submitted: Sunday, May 27, 2001

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  • Rookie Ian Fraser (7/20/2011 8:18:00 AM)

    Judging by the low scores submitted, this delicious poem is not well understood by modern readers. It is in a style called mock-heroic which was very popular among the 18th century satirists. Swift, a friend of Gay's, uses it extensively in Gulliver's Travels for example. In it seemingly trivial events, in this case the death of a pet dog are blown up out of all proportion to satirize their subject. Despite his teasing style Gay was capable of some very barbed criticism, as here in the final couplet, and his work was temporarily banned by the government of the day for its seditious content. (Report) Reply

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