Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, EPISTLE FROM FERN HILL, by MARY JONES



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EPISTLE FROM FERN HILL, by            
First Line: Charlot, who my controller is chief
Last Line: Or I forget our friend in brooke street.


CHARLOT, who my controller is chief,
And dearly loves a little mischief,
Whene'er I talk of packing up,
To all my measures puts a stop;
And though I plunge from bad to worse,
Grown duller than her own dull horse,
Yet out of complaisance exceeding,
Or pure perverseness, called good-breeding,
Will never let me have my way
In anything I do or say.

At table, if I ask for veal,
In complaisance she gives me quail.
'I like your beer: 'tis brisk and fine' --
'O no; John, give Miss Jones some wine.'
And though from two to four you stuff,
She never thinks you're sick enough;
In vain your hunger's cured, and thirst,
If you'd oblige her, you must burst.

Whether in pity, or in ire,
Sometimes I'm seated next the fire;
So very close, I pant for breath,
In pure good manners scorched to death.
Content I feel her kindness kill,
I only beg to make my will;
But still in all I do or say,
This nuisance Breeding's in the way;
O'er which to step I'm much too lazy,
And too obliging to be easy.

Oft do I cry, 'I'm almost undone
To see our friends in Brooke Street, London.'
As seriously the nymph invites
Her slave to stay till moon-shine nights.
Lo! from her lips what language breaks,
What sweet persuasions when she speaks!
Her words so soft! her sense so strong!
I only wish -- to slit her tongue.
But this, you'll say, 's to make a clutter,
Forsooth! about one's bread and butter.
Why, be it so; yet I'll aver
That I'm as great a plague to her;
For well-bred folks are ne'er so civil,
As when they wish you at the devil.
So, Charlot, for our mutual ease,
Let's e'en shake hands, and part in peace;
To keep me here is but to tease ye,
To let me go would be to ease ye.

As when (to speak in phrase more humble)
The General's guts begin to grumble,
Whate'er the cause that inward stirs,
Or pork, or pease, or wind, or worse;
He wisely thinks the more 'tis pent,
The more 'twill struggle for a vent:
So only begs you'll hold your nose,
And gently lifting up his clothes,
Away th' imprisoned vapour flies,
And mounts a zephyr to the skies.

So I (with reverence be it spoken)
Of such a guest am no bad token;
In Charlot's chamber ever rumbling,
Her pamphlets and her papers tumbling,
Displacing all the things she places,
And, as is usual in such cases,
Making her cut most sad wry faces.
Yet, spite of all this rebel rout,
She's too well-bred to let me out,
For fear you squeamish nymphs at court
(Virgins of not the best report)
Should on the tale malicious dwell,
When me you see, or of me tell.

O Charlot! when alone we sit,
Laughing at all our own (no) wit,
You wisely with your cat at play,
I reading Swift, and spilling tea;
How would it please my ravished ear
To hear you from your easy chair,
With look serene, and brow uncurled,
Cry out, 'A -- for all the world!'
But you, a slave to too much breeding,
And I, a fool with too much reading,
Follow the hive, as bees their drone,
Without one purpose of our own;
Till tired with blundering and mistaking,
We die sad fools of others' making.

Stand it recorded on yon post,
That both are fools then to our cost!
The question's only, which is most?
I, that I never yet have shown
One steady purpose of my own;
Or you, with both your blue eyes waking,
Run blundering on, by choice mistaking? --
Alas! we both might sleep contented,
Our errors purged, our faults repented;
Could you, unmoved, a squeamish look meet,
Or I forget our friend in Brooke Street.





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