Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PETITION OF A SCHOOLBOY TO HIS FATHER, by ANNA LETITIA BARBAULD



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PETITION OF A SCHOOLBOY TO HIS FATHER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Most honour'd sir, I must confess
Last Line: And your petitioner shall pray.
Alternate Author Name(s): Aikin, Anna Letitia
Subject(s): Fathers & Sons; Money; Schools; Poetry & Poets; Students


Most honour'd Sir, I must confess
I never liked a letter less
Than yours, which brought this new receipt
To prove that poets must not eat.
Alas! poetic sparks require
The aid of culinary fire:
Your ancient bards, I always find,
Recited best when they had dined:
Old Homer, and your brave Greek boys,
With whom old stories make such noise,
The savoury chine loved full as well
As striking on an empty shell;
And mighty idle it was reckon'd
(See Pope's translation, book the second)
To enter upon any matter
Of verse, or business, praise, or satire,
Till the dire rage of hunger ceased,
And empty stomachs were appeased.
Indeed, Sir, with your lean philosophy,
For want of moisture I should ossify;
And therefore beg, with all submission,
To recommend a composition,
Which Phoebus' self to me reveal'd
Last night, while sleep my eyelids seal'd.
First, from the Naiad's sacred spring
The cleansing wave with reverence bring;
Be rites of due lustration paid, --
Ill-omened else, you'll ne'er succeed.
Now with pure hands receive the flour
Which Ceres from her horn will pour.
The fairest herds on Mosswold hill
Your pail with smoking streams shall fill,
Which, tortured in the whirling churn,
Shall soon to waxen butter turn, --
Butter, more sweet than morning dew,
Butter, which Homer never knew!
My friends, you have not done your task yet:
Next of fresh eggs provide a basket;
Let Betty break them in a bowl
Large as her own free-hearted soul;
Then, with a triple-tined fork
The viscous flood incessant work,
Till white with sparkling foam it rise
Like a vext sea beneath her eyes.
The monarch of the watery reign
Thus with his trident smites the main,
When roused from Ocean's deepest bed
The billows lift their frothy head,
And the wet sailor far from shore
With dashing spray is cover'd o'er.
With flying sails and falling oars
Now speed, my friends, to distant shores,
For many a distant realm must join,
Ere we fulfill the vast design.
From islands of the Western main
Bring the sweet juices of the cane;
In bright Hesperia's groves you'll find
The lovely fruit with burnish'd rind;
Not fairer was that golden bough
Given to the pious Trojan's vow,
When the prophetic Sibyl led
To the sad nations of the dead,
Which guided through the direful scene,
And soothed the stern relentless Queen.
Strip of their bark the spicy trees
Embosom'd deep in Indian seas.
To Venus next address your prayer,
That she with rosy hand would bear
The luscious fruit to crown your toils
From Paphos and Cythera's isles.
From every clime the tribute pour'd,
Now heap'd upon the spacious board,
Sure sister Sally will not linger
To mix them with her snowy finger.
Fair priestess of the mystic rite,
Kept close from man's unhallow'd sight,
Fear not my verse should here disclose
What words the sacred charm compose,
When with uncover'd arms you bend,
The heterogeneous mass to blend: --
Your cakes are good, with joy I take them,
Nor ask the secret how you make them.
Now, the rich labour to complete,
Spread o'er the whole an icy sheet,
Thinner than o'er the pointed thorn
The glazing of a winter's morn;
Too weak to bear the beams of day,
The trickling crystal melts away.
'Tis done, -- consign it o'er to Bray,
And your petitioner shall pray.





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