Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO RALPH LEYCESTER, ESQ., IN ANSWER TO A LETTER, by JOHN BYROM



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TO RALPH LEYCESTER, ESQ., IN ANSWER TO A LETTER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Dear peter, this tells you as soon as it could
Last Line: Of the best of good wishes for the whole of your flock.
Subject(s): Animals; Butchers; Dinners & Dining; Food & Eating; Hunting; Rabbits; Hunters; Hares


DEAR Peter, this tells you as soon as it could,
That the hare which you sent us was tender and good;
And we send you thanks for it.—You say, "a Toft hare
"Was wont to produce a verse-copied affair;"
Which is true in the main; but Philosophers oft
Give effects to wrong causes;—it neither was Toft
Nor hare, that was really productive of metre,
But (as here you may see by self-evidence)—PETER.

The hare was no more than occasional item
That if verses were willing one might as well write 'em;
And Toft, tho' within but a few mille passus,
Was as fit for the purpose as foreign Parnassus.
Its good-natur'd owner was proximate cause
Of the free-flowing rhyme and its modify'd pause,
The Phebus, at whose innuendo the Muse
Her assistance, jam nunc, knows not how to refuse.

Still, it seems, "you like verse as you hope I like hare:"
Ay, for intercourse-sake, not the worth of the ware.
Shops would answer your taste with a much better line;
And shambles, with full as good provender, mine.
Nay if one should reflect upon cruelty's source,—
In the gentlemen butchers,—the HUNT and the COURSE,
'Twere enough to prevent either pudding or jelly
From storing such carcass within a man's belly.

Still I think of old Elwall invited to sup
At your Chester abode, when a hare was cut up,
How he gave me this answer concerning this prog,—
"Dost thou ever eat hare?"—"Dost thou ever eat dog?"
Don't think that hereby one intends to degrade
The presentment, Sir Peter, which now you have made;
I would only suggest that the thanks which I render
Stand up on their feet not to hare, but hare-sender,

Whose case you describe so exactly like mine,
'That it runneth almost in a parallel line;—
"You grow old,"—I grow older; "stir little from home,"
I, less; and abroad more unable to roam:
You lament that "you cannot come in a friend's way
"As you formerly could,"—the same also I say.
Now, the case being common, how should it affect us,
Seeing "aliter non fit, avite, senectus?"—

With gratitude first, as I take it—a truth
Which is common, indeed, both to age and to youth;
But if youth has neglected to fill up that page,—
My case,—it belongs to executor age
To supply the defect, which, tho' negligent, still
We suppose the said youth to have had in its will;
Old senectus is ty'd then, for benefits lent us,
To pay the just debts of testator Juventus.

With temperance next; since if gratitude binds
For the sake of past youth our senescenter minds,
They must in a body more subject to Phthisic,
Guard against all excess and turn food into Physic.
One sees how corpuscular eating and drinking
Make youth in its mentals so stout, and unthinking;
Age therefore, altho' not so paunchful or pateful,
Will be much better off, being sober and grateful.

Two helps without which the mere animal pow'r
In young or old blood grows insipid or sour.
If the two ventilators of life do not mix,
Old age would, I find, be as cross as two sticks.
Oh! grant me, ye pow'rs both of verse and of prose,
To be thoughtful and thankful, choose how the world goes!
Not,—though the old man should become twice a child,—
To be peevish and fretful, but placid and mild.

Now as touching King George and his pensioner Pitt,
Your two present darlings of national wit,
And the strange alterations that seem, in your eyes,
So great as if nothing henceforth could surprise;
If you have not yet seen men and matters so vary
As to bring you before to a "nil admirari"
In this changeable island, one need not be told
That you are but a youngster, but newly grown old.

What a pleasure to come, has our coming to age,
To emancipate thought from so shifting a stage!
And to fix it on matters that will in all cases,
Stand firm on their solid, immoveable bases;
Real objects!—your epitaph, else, on the hare
"Kill'd November thirteenth" is but one of a pair
With a poor hunted Peer's DECOLLAT. such a day—
What more than the puss has the peerage, I pray?

It would else be too true what comes into my mind,
How our old master Bentley divided mankind;—
He was talking of short-hand, and how an erroneous
"Natare" the blockheads had made Suetonius
To write for "notare;"—the world, he then said,
Was made up of two sorts,—worriers, worried.—
Dick, he told me, should learn, and, amidst the world's hurry,
As the potenter choice, be a lawyer and "worry."

You see now, old friend, how intentional aim
Sets out to comply with your copyhold claim;
How age would run on, if the Muse did not fix
The Rhythmus of dactyls to ninety and six;
And prompt what the household requires me to add,—
That to hear of Toft-welfare they always are glad,
Being always possess'd of a competent stock
Of the best of good wishes for the whole of your flock.





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