Truth Anticipated

by Philip Freneau

Philip Freneau

WHAT weighty events have of late come to pass,
No less than the capture of Monsieur de Grasse!
His majesty's Printer has told it for true,
As we had it from him, so we give it to you.

Many folks of discernment the story believ'd,
And the devil himself it at first had deceiv'd,
Had it not been that Satan imported the stuff,
And sign'd it George Rodney, for that was enough.

Said Satan to Jemmy, "Let's give them the whappers—
"Some news I have got that will bring in the coppers,
"And truth it shall be, though I pass it for lies,
"And making a page of your Newspapes size

"A wide field is open to favour my plan,
"And the rebels may prove that I lie—if they can;
"Since they jested and laugh'd at our lying before,
"Let it pass for a lie, to torment them the more.—

"My wings are yet wet with the West India dew,
"And Rodney I left, to come hither to you,
"I left him bedevil'd with brimstone and smoke,
"The French in distress, and their armament broke.

"For news so delightful, with heart and with voice
"The Tories of every degree shall rejoice;
"With charcoal and sulphur shall utter their joy
"'Till they all get as black as they paint the old Boy."

Thus, pleas'd with the motion, each cutting a caper,
Down they sat at the table, with pen, ink, and paper;
In less than five minutes the matter was stated,
And Jemmy turn'd scribe, while Satan dictated.

"Begin (said the devil) in the form of a Letter,
"(If you call it true copy, 'tis so much the better)
"Make Rodney assert that he met the French flees,
"Engaged 'em, and gave 'em a total defeat.

"But the better to vamp up a snow of reality,
"The tale must be told with circumstantiality,
"What vessels were conquer'd by Britain's bold sons,
"Their quotas of men, and their number of guns.

"There's the Ville de Paris—one hundred and ten—
"Write down, that Geof Rodney has kill'd half her men,
"That her hull and her rigging are shatter'd and shaken,
"Her flag humbled down, and her admiral taken.

"Le Cesar, 'tis true, is a seventy-four,
"But Le Ville de Paris was thirty-six more;
"With a grey goose's quill if that ship we did seize on,
"Le Cesar must fall, or I'll know what's the reason.

"The next that I fix on to take is Le Hector,
"(Her name may be Trojan, but shall not protect her)
"Don't faulter, dear comrade, and look like a goose,
"If we've taken these three, we can take Gloriouse.

"The last mentioned ship runs their loss up to hour,
"Le Diadem sunk, shall make it one more;
"And now, for the sake of round numbers, dear cousin,
"Write Ardent, and then we have just half-a-dozen!"

Jemmy smil'd at the notion, and whisper'd, "O fy!
"Indeed 'tis a shame to persuade one to lie"—
But Satan replied—"Consider, my son,
"I am prince of the winds, and have seen what is done:

"With a conquest, like this, how bright we shall shine!
"That Rodney has taken six ships of the Line
"Will be in your paper a brilliant affair,
"How the tories will laugh, and the rebels will swear!

"But farther, dear Jemmy, make Rodney to say,
"If the sun two hours longer had held out the day,
"The rest were so beaten, so baisted, so tore,
"He had taken them ALL, and he knew not but MORE."

So the partners broke up as good friends as they met,
And soon it was all in the Royal Gazette;
The Tories rejoic'd at the very good news,
And said, There's no fear we shall die in our shoes.

Now let us give credit to Jemmy, forsooth,
Since once in a way he has hit on the truth,
If again he returns to his practice of lies,
He hardly reflects where he'll go when he dies.

But still, when he dies, let it never be said
That he rests in his grave with no verse at his head;
But furnish, ye poets, some short epitaph,
And something like this, that the reader may laugh:

HERE lies a King's Printer, we needn't say who:
There is reason to think that he tells what is true;
But if he lies here, 'tis not over-strange,
His present position is but a small change,
So, reader, pass on—'tis a folly to sigh,
For all his life long he did little but lie.

Last updated January 11, 2023