Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

First Line: The dinner was over, the tablecloth gone
Last Line: And gave the discourse a definitive blow.
Alternate Author Name(s): Daphne
Subject(s): Books; Household Employees; Social Classes; Women Writers; Reading; Servants; Domestics; Maids; Caste

THE dinner was over, the tablecloth gone,
The bottles of wine and the glasses brought on,
The gentlemen filled up the sparkling glasses,
To drink to their king, to their country and lasses:
The ladies a glass or two only required,
To the drawing-room then in due order retired,
The gentlemen likewise that chose to drink tea;
And, after discussing the news of the day,
What wife was suspected, what daughter eloped,
What thief was detected, that 'twas to be hoped
The rascals would all be convicted, and roped;
What chambermaid kissed when her lady was out;
Who won, and who lost, the last night at the rout;
What lord gone to France, and what tradesman unpaid,
And who and who danced at the last masquerade;
What banker stopped payment with evil intention,
And twenty more things much too tedious to mention:
Miss Rhymer says, 'Mrs. Routella, ma'am, pray
Have you seen the new book (that we talked of that day
At your house, you remember) of Poems, 'twas said
Produced by the pen of a poor servant-maid?'
The company, silent, the answer expected;
Says Mrs. Routella, when she'd recollected:
'Why, ma'am, I have bought it for Charlotte; the child
Is so fond of a book, I'm afraid it is spoiled:
I thought to have read it myself, but forgat it;
In short, I have never had time to look at it.
Perhaps I may look it o'er some other day;
Is there anything in it worth reading, I pray?
For your nice attention there's nothing can 'scape.'
She answered, 'There's one piece, whose subject's a Rape.'
'A Rape!', interrupted the Captain Bonair;
'A delicate theme for a female, I swear';
Then smirked at the ladies, they simpered all round,
Touched their lips with their fans -- Mrs. Consequence frowned.
The simper subsided, for she, with her nods,
Awes these lower assemblies, as Jove awes the gods.
She smiled on Miss Rhymer, and bade her proceed --
Says she, 'There are various subjects indeed:
With some little pleasure I read all the rest,
But the "Murder of Amnon" 's the longest and best.'
'Of Amnon, of Amnon, Miss Rhymer, who's he?
His name,' says Miss Gaiety, ''s quite new to me.' --
''Tis a Scripture tale, ma'am -- he's the son of King David,'
Says a reverend old Rector. Quoth madam, 'I have it;
A Scripture tale? -- ay -- I remember it -- true;
Pray, is it i' th' Old Testament or the New?
If I thought I could readily find it, I'd borrow
My housekeeper's Bible, and read it tomorrow.'
''Tis in Samuel, ma'am,' says the Rector: -- Miss Gaiety
Bowed, and the Reverend blushed for the laity.
'You've read it, I find,' says Miss Harriot Anderson;
'Pray, sir, is it anything like Sir Charles Grandison?'
'How you talk,' says Miss Belle, 'how should such a girl write
A novel, or anything else that's polite?
You'll know better in time, Miss.' -- She was but fifteen:
Her mamma was confused -- with a little chagrin,
Says, 'Where's your attention, child? did not you hear
Miss Rhymer say that it was poems, my dear?'
Says Sir Timothy Turtle, 'My daughters ne'er look
In anything else but a cookery-book:
The properest study for women designed.'
Says Mrs. Domestic, 'I'm quite of your mind.'
'Your haricots, ma'am, are the best I e'er eat,'
Says the Knight; 'may I venture to beg a receipt?'
''Tis much at your service,' says madam, and bowed,
Then fluttered her fan, of the compliment proud.
Says Lady Jane Rational, 'The bill of fare
Is th' utmost extent of my cookery care:
Most servants can cook for the palate, I find,
But very few of them can cook for the mind.'
'Who,' says Lady Pedigree, 'can this girl be?
Perhaps she's descended from some family -- '.
'Of family, doubtless,' says Captain Bonair;
'She's descended from Adam, I'd venture to swear.'
Her Ladyship drew herself up in her chair,
And, twitching her fan-sticks, affected a sneer.
'I know something of her,' says Mrs. Devoir;
'She lived with my friend, Jacky Faddle, Esq.
'Tis some time ago, though; her mistress said then
The girl was excessively fond of a pen;
I saw her, but never conversed with her, though:
One can't make acquaintance with servants, you know.'
''Tis pity the girl was not bred in high life,'
Says Mr. Fribello. -- 'Yes, -- then,' says his wife,
'She doubtless might have wrote something worth notice.'
''Tis pity,' says one -- says another, 'and so 'tis.'
'O law!', says young Seagram, 'I've seen the book, now
I remember; there's something about a mad cow.'
'A mad cow! -- ha, ha, ha, ha,' returned half the room;
'What can y' expect better?', says Madam Du Bloom.
They look at each other -- a general pause --
And Miss Coquettilla adjusted her gauze.
The Rector reclined himself back in his chair,
And opened his snuff-box with indolent air:
'This book,' says he (snift, snift), 'has, in the beginning,'
(The ladies give audience to hear his opinion),
'Some pieces, I think, that are pretty correct:
A style elevated you cannot expect;
To some of her equals they may be a treasure,
And country lasses may read 'em with pleasure.
That "Amnon", you can't call it poetry neither,
There's no flights of fancy, or imagery either;
You may style it prosaic, blank verse at the best;
Some pointed reflections, indeed, are expressed;
The narrative lines are exceedingly poor:
Her Jonadab is a -- '. The drawing-room door
Was opened, the gentlemen came from below,
And gave the discourse a definitive blow.

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net