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James Beattie

(25 October 1735 – 18 August 1803 / Laurencekirk in the Mearns, Scotland)

Epistle To The Honourable C. B.


When B*** invites me, and inviting sings,
Instant I'd fly, (had heaven vouchsafed me wings)
To hail him in that calm sequestered seat,
Whence he looks down with pity on the great;
And, midst the groves retired, at leisure wooes
Domestic love, contentment, and the Muse.
I wish for wings and winds to speed my course;
Since B--t and the fates refuse a horse.
Where now the Pegasus of antient time,
And Ippogrifo famed in modern rhime?
O, where that wooden steed, whose every leg
Like lightning flew, obsequious to the peg;
The waxen wings by Daedalus designed,
And China waggons wafted by the wind?
A Spaniard reached the moon, upborn by geese;
(Then first 'twas known that she was made of cheese.)
A fidler on a fish through waves advanced,
He twanged his catgut, and the Dolphin danced.
Hags rode on broom-sticks, heathen-gods on clouds;
Ladies, on rams and bulls, have dared the floods.
Much famed the shoes Jack Giant-killer wore,
And Fortunatus' hat is famed much more.
Such vehicles were common once, no doubt;
But modern versemen must even trudge on foot,
Or doze at home, expectants of the gout.
Hard is the task, indeed 'tis wondrous hard,
To act the Hirer, yet preserve the Bard.
'Next week, by--, (but 'tis a sin to swear)
'I give my word, sir, you shall have my mare;
'Sound wind and limb, as any ever was,
'And rising only seven years old next grass.
'Four miles an hour she goes, nor needs a spur;
'A pretty piece of flesh, upon my conscience, sir.'
This speech was B--t's; and, tho' mean in phrase,
The nearest thing to prose, as Horace says,
(Satire the fourth, and forty-second line)
'Twill intimate that I propose to dine
Next week with B***. Muse, lend thine aid a while;
For this great purpose claims a lofty style.
Ere yonder sun, now glorious in the west,
Has thrice three times reclined on Thetis' breast;
Ere thrice three times, from old Tithonus' bed,
Her charms all glowing with celestial red,
The balmy morn shall rise to mortal view,
And from her bright locks shake the pearls of dew,
These eyes, O B***, shall hail thy opening glades,
These ears shall catch the music of thy shades;
This cherished frame shall drink the gladsome gales,
And the fresh fragrance of thy flowery vales.
And (for I know the Muse will come along)
To B*** I mean to meditate a song:
A song, adorned with every rural charm,
Trim as thy garden, ample as thy farm,
Sweet as thy milk, and brisk as bottled beer,
Wholesome as mutton, and as water clear,
In wildflowers fertile, as thy fields of corn,
And frolicksome as lambs, or sheep new shorn.
I ask not ortolans, or Chian wine,
The fat of rams, or quintessence of swine.
Her spicy stores let either India keep,
Nor El Dorado vend her golden sheep.
And to the mansion house, or council hall,
Still on her black splay feet may the huge tortoise crawl.
Not Parson's butt my appetite can move,
Nor, Bell, thy beer; nor even thy nectar, Jove.
If B*** be happy, and in health, his guest,
Whom wit and learning charm, can wish no better feast.

Submitted: Monday, May 07, 2012

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