Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A CHARACTER, by SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE



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A CHARACTER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A bird, who for his other sins
Last Line: With scarce a pocket for his penny!


A bird, who for his other sins
Had liv'd amongst the Jacobins;
Tho' like a kitten amid rats,
Or callow tit in nest of bats,
He much abhorr'd all democrats;
Yet nathless stood in ill report
Of wishing ill to Church and Court,
Tho' he'd nor claw, nor tooth, nor sting,
And learnt to pipe God save the King;
Tho' each day did new feathers bring,
All swore he had a leathern wing;
Nor polish'd wing, nor feather'd tail,
Nor down-clad thigh would aught avail;
And tho' -- his tongue devoid of gall --
He civilly assur'd them all: --
'A bird am I of Phoebus' breed,
And on the sunflower cling and feed;
My name, good Sirs, is Thomas Tit!'
The bats would hail him brother cit,
Or, at the furthest, cousin-german.
At length the matter to determine,
He publicly denounced the vermin;
He spared the mouse, he prais'd the owl;
But bats were neither flesh nor fowl.
Blood-sucker, vampire, harpy, goul,
Came in full clatter from his throat,
Till his old nest-mates chang'd their note
To hireling, traitor, and turncoat, --
A base apostate who had sold
His very teeth and claws for gold; --
And then his feathers! -- sharp the jest --
No doubt he feather'd well his nest!
'A Tit indeed! aye, tit for tat --
With place and title, brother Bat,
We soon shall see how well he'll play
Count Goldfinch, or Sir Joseph Jay!'
Alas, poor Bird! and ill-bestarred --
Or rather let us say, poor Bard!
And henceforth quit the allegoric
With metaphor and simile,
For simple facts and style historic: --
Alas, poor Bard! no gold had he
Behind another's team he stept,
And plough'd and sow'd, while others reapt;
The work was his, but theirs the glory,
Sic vos non vobis, his whole story.
Besides, whate'er he wrote or said
Came from his heart as well as head;
And tho' he never left in lurch
His king, his country, or his church,
'Twas but to humour his own cynical
Contempt of doctrines Jacobinical;
To his own conscience only hearty,
'Twas but by chance he serv'd the party; --
The self-same things had said and writ,
Had Pitt been Fox, and Fox been Pitt;
Content his own applause to win
Would never dash thro' thick and thin,
And he can make, so say the wise,
No claim who makes no sacrifice; --
And bard still less: -- what claim had he,
Who swore it vex'd his soul to see
So grand a cause, so proud a realm
With Goose and Goody at the helm;
Who long ago had fall'n asunder
But for their rivals baser blunder,
The coward whine and Frenchified
Slaver and slang of the other side? --
Thus, his own whim his only bribe,
Our bard pursued his old A. B. C.
Contented if he could subscribe
In fullest sense his name (Greek word)
('Tis Punic Greek, for 'he hath stood!')
Whate'er the men, the cause was good;
And therefore with a right good will,
Poor fool, he fights their battles still.
Tush! squeak'd the Bats; -- a mere bravado
To whitewash that base renegado;
'Tis plain unless you're blind or mad,
His conscience for the bays he barters; --
And true it is -- as true as sad --
These circlets of green baize he had --
But then, alas! they were his garters!
Ah, silly Bard, unfed, untended,
His lamp but glimmer'd in its socket;
He liv'd unhonour'd and unfriended
With scarce a penny in his pocket; --
Nay -- tho' he hid it from the many --
With scarce a pocket for his penny!





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