Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FIVE HUNDRED A YEAR, by JAMES SMITH (1775-1839)



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FIVE HUNDRED A YEAR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: That gilt middle path, which the poet of rome
Last Line: I'd gladly give up my five hundred a year.
Subject(s): Animals; Life; Love; Poetry & Poets; Snakes; Serpents; Vipers


THAT gilt middle path, which the poet of Rome
Extolled as the only safe highway to bliss;
That "haven" which many a poet at home
Assures us all Guinea-bound merchantmen miss;
That blessed middle line,
Which bard and divine
In sonnet and sermon so sigh for, is mine; --
My uncle, a plain honest fat auctioneer,
Walked off, and bequeathed me Five Hundred a year.

I ne'er, if I live to the age of Old Parr,
Can fail to remember how stared brother Bill,
Jack bullied, and Tom, who is now at the Bar,
Drove post to a Proctor to knock up the will.
They never could trace
What beauty or grace
Sir Christopher Catalogue saw in my face,
To cut off three youths, to his bosom so dear,
And deluge a fourth with Five Hundred a year!

The will, though law-beaten, stood firm as a rock,
The probate was properly lodged at the Bank;
Transferred to my name stood the spleen-moving stock,
And I, in the West, bearded people of rank.
No longer a clerk,
I rode in the Park,
Or lounged in Pall Mall till an hour after dark.
I entered, what seemed then, a happy career,
Possessed of a gig and Five Hundred a year.

Ere long, I began to be bored by a guest,
A strange sort of harpy, who poisoned my feast:
He visits, in London, the folks who dwell West,
But seldom cohabits with those who live East.
Bar, door-chain, or key,
Could not keep me free --
As brisk as a bailiff in bolted Ennui.
"I'm come," he still cried, "to partake of your cheer,
I'm partial to folks of Five Hundred a year."

Meanwhile my three brothers, by prudence and care,
Got onward in life, while I stuck by the wall;
Bill opened a tea-shop in Bridgewater-square,
And Jack, as a writer, grew rich in Bengal.
Tom made his impressions
Through Newgate transgressions,
And got half the business at Clerkenwell Sessions.
They marched in the van, while I lagged in the rear,
Condemned to Ennui and Five Hundred a year.

Too little encouraged to feel self-assured,
Too dull for retorts, and too timid for taunts;
By daughters and nieces I'm barely endured,
And mortally hated by uncles and aunts.
If e'er I entangle
A girl in an angle,
Up steps some Duenna, love's serpent to strangle;
"Come hither! don't talk to that fellow, my dear,
His income is only Five Hundred a year."

Without tact or talents to get into ton,
No calling to stick to, no trade to pursue:
Thus London, hard stepmother, leaves me alone,
With little to live on, and nothing to do.
Could I row a life-boat,
Make a boot or a coat,
Or serve in a silversmith's shop, and devote
My days to employment, my evenings to cheer,
I'd gladly give up my Five Hundred a year.





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