Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE PLEASANT TETE-A-TETE, by HORACE SMITH



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THE PLEASANT TETE-A-TETE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The isle of saint eustatia, which the dutch
Last Line: Of anguish, rage, oaths, bullying, and bluster.
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Horatio
Subject(s): Crime & Criminals; Islands; Justice


THE Isle of Saint Eustatia, which the Dutch
First colonized, was governed long ago --
(I mean mis-governed) -- by the Herr Van Gutch,
As great a rogue as one would wish to know,
Who should, instead of ruling at Eustatia,
Have shared a convict's fate in Australasia.

No excellency could the knave pretend to,
Save in his title, which the folks about him
Lavished upon him as an innuendo,
Ironically meant to mock and flout him;
For he had proved himself in every case
Sordid, corrupt, extortionate, and base.

Lord Bacon urged that when in bribes he did err,
Justice, but not injustice, he had sold;
Van Gutch sold either to the highest bidder;
So that each criminal possessed of gold
Became, of course, more daring and more hardened,
Knowing beforehand that he should be pardoned.

Our governor was in fact an island Pope,
(But not, I ween, Pope Innocent or Pius,)
Selling indulgences that gave full scope
To him who fostered any lawless bias,
To sear his conscience, so that nought should shock it,
By purchased absolutions in his pocket.

As he sat waiting for this odious traffic,
Ready for hire to pardon or condemn,
Smoking his pipe in vacancy seraphic,
'Twixt stupid sottishness and native phlegm,
An Englishman, named Tate, made application
To buy a pardon by anticipation.

"May't please your Excellency," whispered Tate,
"I want to horsewhip, kick, and clapper-claw
A fellow that I hold in special hate;
But as the knave will doubtless take the law,
I wish beforehand to inquire the pittance
That I must pay to purchase an acquittance."

"That," said Van Gutch, "on circumstance must rest;
Does the man merit such a deep disgrace?" --
"Richly; he stands recorded and confessed
The most notorious scoundrel in the place." --
"Nay, then, I'll not be hard in my condition:
I promise, for ten ducats, full remission." --

"Take them," said Tate, and threw them on the table;
Then drew a whip prepared for the occasion,
And laid it on as if he would disable
His victim from all further malversation,
So thick a storm he raised of kicks and lashes,
With curses, sandwich-like, between the slashes.

Cried Tate, "Your Excellency's the convicted
And flagrant knave to whom I made allusion,
And this unmeasured scourging I've inflicted,
Because your back claims lengthened retribution.
There! -- there's no harm done -- all is honest barter:
I've trimmed a scoundrel: -- you have caught a Tartar."

This said, he bowed politely and departed;
Hied to the shore, embarked and hoisted sail;
And in some half hour's space had fairly started
From St. Eustatia with a favouring gale,
Leaving the writhing Dutchman in a fluster
Of anguish, rage, oaths, bullying, and bluster.





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