This master preface, I indite,
Suits all I've written, or shall write.
When work is great, and powers are small
A verse-man may assistance call;
For every bard, from Pope to Vickars,
The Muses teaze whene'er he litters--
'What Muse, thinks he, will not make haste,
Her poet struggling, yet set fast?'
Let all Parnassus understand,
If rhyme should prove above my hand,
Like other bards who know their trade,
I then would ask the Muse's aid.
A boon I might for once implore;
She knows I never ask'd before.
Nay, should I try my powers in vain,
'Tis ten to one ne'er ask again:
However, as I'm not fast set,
Assistance is not wanted yet.
If thought should frozen up appear,
I might prefer the following prayer--
'Now, chaste Urania, heavenly muse,
Put on your buskins, or your shoes;
Adjust your handkerchief and gown
Tie fast your apron, and come down;
Lend me assistance to indite,
And be attentive while I write.
Let me perform my work so nice
That Johnny Smart may read it twice.
If I should scratch my head an hour,
Because no thought is in my power;
Culture the barren soil, and sow,
That here and there a rhyme may grow;
Or, which is valued rather more,
Supply me from your ample store:
For in your lap, Bards understand,
Are bundles ready made to hand;
Of measure, rhyme, and thought that wise is,
Like bakers tallies of all sizes.
If in a falshood I should trudge,
My elbow give a gentle nudge;
If that won't answer, give a frown,
And knock pen, ink, and paper down.'
Now should I find th' ill-natur'd Muse
Her kind assistance shall refuse;
And 'tis most probable she will,
As follows, I would guide the quill.
Let me ne'er make a reader weep;
Nor ever let him fall asleep;
For human life brings real woe,
Which blasts our comforts here below;
And leaves no room, most sure we are,
For making artificial care;
And if he sleeps, 'tis my desire,
The book should tumble in the fire;
Then whatsoe'er I brood in rhyme
Will not offend a second time
The chearful tale, I do engage,
Wards off the spleen, disease, old age;
Bids blooming health keep on its way,
And bids the doctors go to play.
When you're in danger, never doubt
A golden wager'll bring you out;
Nor entertain the smallest fear,
For Madam Fortune will be there.
Then, if you win, there's joy in store;
But, if you lose, there's ten times more.
The curtain's up-we'll four engage;
Ambrose and Joe first tread the stage;
Two batchelors--two seniors rather,
Who liv'd in harmony together
Agreed like brother and like brother,
Though one was plumper than the other.
For much good sense was Ambrose fam'd;
And much good-nature Joseph claim'd:
Whatever secrets of the heart
One had, the other took a part.
Neither commanded nor submitted,
But, like a pair of scales, were fitted.
They each possess'd, from mortgage clear,
About one hundred pounds a year;
And rather kept a frugal store;
No want appear'd, or wish for more;
And thus they held an even state,
Like gentlemen of second rate:
They walk'd on foot; they kept their word;
And well on Sunday serv'd the Lord.
Then on shrewd politics would sit
Under Lord Bute, Lord North, and Pitt;
While they one steady line maintain,
The year march'd round and round again.
Their family we've plac'd in view,
Consisting, in the whole, of two;
Except a servant maid, we'll say,
Who faithful serv'd them night and day.
There was indeed a handsome dog
Which answer'd to the name of Pug,
But, not being of the present train,
We'll never mention him again.
Most frequently they bought their meat
Of John, the butcher in Moore Street;
Who ne'er knew love, nor e'er knew spouse,
But kept a maiden and a house;
Could sleep himself alone; nay more--
Could leave his maid alone--to snore.
His back curv'd out, as might be seen;
His belly follow'd, and curv'd in
Was tall, though bent, but yet not old;
Was moulded in a coarseish mould.
With bulk his garments were not fill'd;
Was boney as the ox he kill'd.
His fat ware on the bench was laid;
His hands were all the parts that fed.
Wielded with grace his steel and knife;
His thoughts ne'er compass'd that word--wife.
One of the shortest words in speech,
And yet a word above his reach.
The knife laid by, the market o'er,
Counted his shillings by the score;
By which he knew whether or not
His profits bore another pot.
'I wonder, John, upon my life,'
Says Ambrose, 'you don't take a wife!
To keep a house and follow trade,
Assisted by a servant maid,
Is thought by some not worth pursuing;
Or, rather, deem'd the road to ruin.
Besides, two interests it brings on;
Whereas a wife's and yours is one.
A butcher can't be worth a groat,
Except assisted as he ought.
Besides, there's peace of mind, no doubt,
To think all's well when you are out.'
These weighty reasons John thought good;
Return'd a smile as if he wou'd.
Told Mr. Ambrose, ' That the road
To courtship he had never trod;
Nor knew a woman, he confess'd,
Of all the race, who'd make him bless'd.
But, Sir, if you'll point out one fair
That suits, I'll try to bring her here.'
'I'm happy,' Ambrose said, 'to lend
Assistance to a worthy friend.
One of the best I have in view,
Adapted perfectly for you,
If you've address enough to win her,
Our Sally--you have often seen her;
As to her beauty, you can see
Her stock in hand as well as me.
She's prudence, carefulness, and honour:
She'll prove a fortune to her owner.
Then I some service too can render;
To fetch the meat I buy will send her:
Besides, if you've this scheme in view,
Our door is on the latch for you.'
John bow'd and blush'd, and bow'd again--
'A sense of favours should retain.'
Now Joseph, with his walking stick,
Approach'd.--One half began to speak.
'Why, John, it secretly is said,
You've ta'en a fancy to our maid.
Whate'er may be the public voice,
I much commend your prudent choice:
In her the virtues grow like plants;
Which every wife should have, but wants.
Domestic bliss to you'll be kind,
Which all can seek but few can find
If you place there a heart that's true,
And she can fix her heart on you,
You'll be pronounc'd, I dare engage,
The happiest couple of the age.'
John bow'd and blush'd, and bow'd again--
'A sense of favours should retain.'
He often to their house resorted
To court her who was dully courted.
He'd half a mind to join in one;
The other half to let't alone.
He ponder'd well, both con and pro;
His courtship mov'd on rather slow.
The Loves took time to prosecute,
As lawyers do a Chancery suit.
Yet cases will occur, which may
Be injur'd by a long delay.
The gentlemen at length discover
That John is but a sluggish lover.
Like a dull beast to slaughter gone,
'Twas needful they should goad him on.
Told him, 'while he, with sleepy eyes,
Survey'd, another'd take the prize.
That such a prize, they needs must say,
Cannot be met with every day.
That two or three, upon my honour,
Already fix an eye upon her.
You'll find it difficult to carry her;
I'll lay ten guineas you can't marry her.'
John thought he could no hazard run,
And, in a moment, cried out 'Done!'
What mighty wonders crowd in view,
That wagers of all sizes do:
They bring you joy, they bring vexation;
They prop a falling reputation;
They make a wife, they make an heir;
They bring a husband to despair.
The wager argument refutes;
Instantly finishes disputes;
For, when one side begins to lay,
The other's but one word to say;
And if that word should not be, done!
The first has most compleatly won.
In rhetoric its powers are shewn;
The boldest figure ever known.
'Twill your antagonist o'erthrow;
It fells him with a single blow;
Is the most cogent we insist,
Except a blow with double fist.
In altercations held by man,
The wager never leads the van;
But, when disputes assail the ear,
We find it bringing up the rear.
Should reasons offer, great or small,
The wager overcomes them all.
Can eas'ly turn friends into foes,
And give to each a bloody nose:
Makes the nabb'd squire cry out for bail;
The bell-man--'houshold goods for sale.'
Repenting eyes produce a flood;
And pam at once cut down a wood,
The horse the squire did once bestride,
And kept a groom to rub each side,
Now master has been sore humbugg'd,
Is by a pair of panniers rubb'd.
The pair of scales we'll use once more,
Which we produc'd some lines before:
If even perfectly they stand,
Ten guineas plac'd on either hand
Will make that scale drop down in haste,
And make the other rise as fast.
This was our lover's case, in fact,
Who now resembled scales exact.
His sentiments quite even seem,
'Till ten bright guineas turn'd the beam.
Three days were scarcely turned about
Before the Parson was sought out,
To tye a knot 'twixt man and wife,
Which very often galls for life,
Though he's a fee to make the noose,
They'd double it to set them loose.
Before six weeks were fully gone,
Sally brought forth a lusty son.
For once the gossips did not trace
Its likeness in the father's face;
For once were sparing of those jokes
Which flourish among child-bed folks,
For recent wounds may hurt so much
As not to bear the slightest touch.
John was amaz'd, and deemed it rude,
A stranger should so soon intrude;
Thought, if they follow'd this career,
Might half a dozen have a year.
The pasture, with this rising flock,
Would be too scanty for the stock.
With anger, that created heat,
Upbraided Sally with deceit;
Lamented his unhappy state,
And, with a vengeance, curs'd his fate.
But when calm reason took the rule,
And rage became a little cool,
Told her, 'if she'd the father tell,
He'd all forgive--and all is well,'
She hesitated--look'd aside;
Studied a moment--this denied.
But how could she, a silly elf,
Tell him what she ne'er knew herself;
For, if two men fire in the dark,
No soul can tell which hit the mark.
As John ne'er prosper'd, all allow,
In getting heirs, to kill a cow;
It follows, the two first, we see,
Were the best work-men of the three.
For many years they travell'd through
A thorny path; and two ways drew.
While neither gave the other rest,
She kept the secret in her breast.
It happen'd, our ten-guineas bride
By surly death was call'd aside.
But whether John rejoic'd or not,
To let me know he quite forgot.
Now marriage shall no more perplex;
For ever he'll discard the sex;
Like a wreck'd sailor got on shore,
Will venture out to sea no more.
Grant but ten lines, and you'll peruse
The application, if you chuse.
Should you the wager shun, depend on't
You'll shun the evils at the end on't;
Under no jealous fears you'll groan;
Maintain no children but your own;
In true content may pass your life,
When prudence guides you in a wife;
Then never to the altar move
But when excited by pure love.
The double wedding
Two Ladies and a Gent, I sing,
As by the Muse invited,
Bound in the matrimonial string,
All bitten, or else bited.
Ere you take Beauty for a prop,
Be certain that 'twill bear you up;
Or, if a fortune you'd obtain,
The road is pointed out most plain.
Some Bards shine forth with depth of thought;
Some are with pleasing humour fraught;
Others, a mongrel species making,
Worship a calf of their creating:
This maxim of the last we hold;
The calf has neither brains nor gold.
But let fair truth with me abide;
Be thou my patron and my guide:
For falshood we must deem a crime,
Whether held up in prose or rhime.
Miss Flora was that lovely lass
You'd wish to meet--be loth to pass.
The piece that charms and gives surprize
You'd rather have before your eyes;
Was tall and strait--a pleasing face;
And mov'd with a becoming grace.
Whenever so much beauty starts
It draws a train of eyes and hearts.
What Stoic can refuse an eye
Whene'er Miss Flora passes by?
Her captivating power she knows;
Returns side-glances as she goes;
Draws in the incense of the street,
And finds a flood of homage sweet.
If one sex mounts her beauty high,
'Twill in another raise a sigh.
Nay, some would even take an oath
That she excites a sigh in both.
The stranger is surpriz'd to meet
So fine a girl in Coleshill street;
Will turn, before three steps are took,
His head, to gain a second look;
Keep walking, turning left and right
So long as she appears in sight:
His eyes behind, his toes before,
Hoping to see her find her door--
'Look forward, Friend, or you'll be lost,
Her charms will run ye 'gainst a post!'
Slipshod a fine young man appears;
Would class with first-rate grenadiers;
Was strait, was handsome, and well made,
And was a master in his trade;
Yet one defect we must allow
His face possess'd--a clouded brow;
But this a match can never spoil;
While lovers we assume a smile:
'Tis time enough for clouds to rise
When marriage tempests veil the skies.
He look'd--he lov'd her--and what then?
She look'd, and she lov'd him agen.
Two distant flames keep a dull course;
United, act with double force.
Then, as to wealth, by what appears,
His fortune was the same as hers.
What's that, pray? Why, Sir, can't you guess?
'Twas nothing--neither more nor less.
But now, before the Parson draws
The marriage noose, they stop and pause--
'Two nothings in a man and wife'
They saw would cause an irksome life.
While single, we can dine, at least
On beauty, as a first-rate feast;
But when the marriage state commences,
That eye-sight treat quite banish'd hence is;
And something solid in that case
Must lovers find to take its place.
Beauty's a treasure, or 'tis not,
According to what market brought;
And bears a price for high or low
Exactly as the markets go.
When single it is worth the saving;
When married it's not worth a shaving;
Neglected quite from day to day,
And quickly after thrown away.
Its end is answer'd; and pray why
A useless tool mayn't be thrown by?
Dame T--n's beauty, we aver,
Is seen by all--but John and her.
Nature design'd the transient guest
But as a stimulus at best.
Then why should Slipshod and his fair
Depend on such deceitful ware.
THE SECOND PART
As ev'ry excellence, we know,
Can never in one female grow,
And as they all are worth your heed,
Take this advice, and you'll succeed--
If in one fair all can't be reckon'd,
Add to your first wife, wife the second;
And, further, if there still wants more,
Augment them into number four:
Thus you'll have all, without a let,
Of virtues in the alphabet.
Now Mistress Dorcas we'll let in,
With some few hairs upon her chin:
She'd been a wife, had lost the chain,
And doubly wish'd for one again.
The cat, that never tasted mouse,
Creeps silently about the house;
But once enjoying the repast,
Ardently seeks another taste.
Though Dorcas' group of charms were fled,
She burnish'd up what were not dead;
Aided by dress, some few could show,
Though turn'd of forty long ago.
The careful man, of wealth bereft,
Will doubly cherish what he's left;
But people said, perhaps in spite,
Her's blaz'd but with a dimish light.
She had, however, 'tis confess'd,
That which would balance all the rest:
She'd house and land, and cash beside,
Would make the blind or lame a bride;
So that we're authoriz'd to say
Her beauties in her pocket lay;
Prevailing beauties, we insist,
Such as no class of men resist.
The charms held by another lass
Merely for counterfeits would pass;
But what in Dorcas did abound
Will ever be true sterling found.
This trifling diff'rence occurs
'Twixt other females' case and hers.
The girl that's beautiful and smiles
Draws many a lover in her wiles;
If she be rich, and fair, and sweet,
They'll fall by dozens at her feet;
But if she's old, yet wealth discovers,
She may draw men, but never lovers.
Should poverty 'gainst beauty strive,
You'd never keep true love alive.
A union with pure bliss is fraught,
When founded upon prudent thought.
Slipshod would better fortune try--
On Dorcas cast a smiling eye.
'O dear!' methinks the ladies say,
'How apt are men to go astray!
Unhappy is a Woman's lot;
We know not when a heart we've got:
And if by chance one is our share,
'Tis difficult to keep it there.'
I'm sorry, ladies, but don't cry,
No soul is more your friend than I.
Then let not anxious thoughts be catch'd;
You'll find the sexes nearly match'd.
Could such a youth meet with disdain,
Or ever send a smile in vain?
Dorcas was conscious of the prize,
And sweetly answer'd with her eyes.
None after tedious courtship pants
When each gives what the other wants;
'Tis for a husband Dorcas lives;
And 'tis a husband Slipshod gives.
He longs a fortune to command;
She puts a fortune in his hand.
Dorcas of such a youth was glad;
She sign'd and seal'd o'er all she had:
Her cash, her houses, and her land,
She gave them all to gain his hand.
With wealth she fill'd his hand alone,
That she might call that hand her own.
Nay, if one anxious thought survive,
It was that she'd no more to give.
The lawyer well his work had wrought;
Slipshod the tempting prize had caught.
Now to that place their feet repairs
Where Priests send folks to bliss by pairs;
Where Happiness, a lovely guest,
Enters, and sooths the mind at least.
Serene's the view for one short space,
And not a cloud dares shew its face.
But why, when bliss poor Dorcas feels,
Does sorrow tread upon its heels?
This was design'd to humble pride,
Or prosp'rous folks would be o'er-joy'd.
Not many hours were fully gone--
The welkin clouded--storms came on.
Marriage had answer'd every end
Which Slipshod could at first intend.
He pick'd a quarrel with his bride,
And swore 'he'd ne'er lie by her side:'
Nor should it be display'd to view
That one house ever held the two.
She, lost, in tears, and, what was worse,
He left her with a solemn curse--
Flew to Miss Flora's arms for life;
Cohabits with her as a wife
Hence are a race of beauties bred--
By Dorcas' fortune cloth'd and fed.
Our hero now two wives had gain'd;
And two important points obtain'd.
For wealth and beauty, Flora sings,
Will weigh down half a score good things.
Had gentle prudence been the word,
He must have sought out wife the third.
If sense, wit, learning, he'd pursu'd,
You would have half a dozen view'd.
Poor Dorcas mourn'd week after week
A livelihood she had to seek:
That bliss was fled which should have lasted;
Her marriage prospects all were blasted.
Choice nuptial fruit before her placed,
Like Tantalus, but must not taste.
Her houses, lands, and money fled,
She keeps a pot of ale for bread.
Let romance-writers, to a man,
Match Slipshod's conduct if they can.
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Comments about this poem (The Wager by William Hutton )
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(1895 - 1985)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
William Butler Yeats
(13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939)
(31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821)
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