by William Cowper
Sauntering along the street one day,
On trifles musing by the way,
Up steps a free familiar wight;
(I scarcely knew the man by sight.)
"Carlos (he cried), your hand, my dear!
Gad, I rejoice to meet you here!
Pray heaven I see you well!" "So, so;
Even well enough as times now go.
The same good wishes, sir, to you."
"Sir, you have business, I suppose?"
"My business, sir, is quickly done,
'Tis but to make my merit known.
Sir, I have read ---- " "O learned sir,
You and your learning I revere."
Then, sweating with anxiety,
And sadly longing to get free,
Gods, how I scampered, scuffled for't,
Ran, halted, ran again, stopped short,
Beckoned my boy, and pulled him near,
And whispered nothing in his ear.
Teased with his loose unjointed chat,
"What street is this? What house is that?"
O Harlow, how I envied thee
Thy unabashed effrontery,
Who darest a foe with freedom blame,
And call a coxcomb by his name!
When I returned him answer none,
Obligingly the fool ran on,
"I see you're dismally distressed,
Would give the world to be released,
But, by your leave, sir, I shall still
Stick to your skirts, do what you will.
Pray which way does your journey tend?"
"Oh, 'tis a tedious way, my friend,
Across the Thames, the Lord knows where;
I would not trouble you so far."
"Well, I'm at leisure to attend you."
"Are you? (thought I) the deil befriend you!"
No ass with double panniers racked,
Oppressed, o'erladen, broken-backed,
E'er looked a thousandth part so dull
As I, nor half so like a fool.
"Sir, I know little of myself
(Proceeds the pert conceited elf),
If Gray or Mason you will deem
Than me more worthy your esteem.
Poems I write by folios,
As fast as other men write prose.
Then I can sing so loud, so clear,
That Beard cannot with me compare.
In dancing too I all surpass,
Not Cooke can move with such a grace."
Here I made shift, with much ado,
To interpose a word or two.--
"Have you no parents, sir, no friends,
Whose welfare on your own depends?"
"Parents, relations, say you? No.
They're all disposed of long ago."--
"Happy to be no more perplexed!
My fate too threatens, I go next.
Dispatch me, sir, 'tis now too late,
Alas! to struggle with my fate!
Well, I'm convinced my time is come.
When young, a gipsy told my doom;
The beldame shook her palsied head,
As she perused my palm, and said,
"Of poison, pestilence, or war,
Gout, stone, defluxion, or catarrh,
You have no reason to beware.
Beware the coxcomb's idle prate;
Chiefly, my son, beware of that;
Be sure, when you behold him, fly
Out of all earshot, or you dide!"
To Rufus' Hall we now draw near,
Where he was summoned to appear,
Refute the charge the plaintiff brought,
Or suffer judgment by default.
"For heaven's sake, if you love me, wait
One moment! I'll be with you straight."
Glad of a plausible pretence--
"Sir, I must beg you to dispense
With my attendance in the court.
My legs will surely suffer for't."--
"Nay, prithee, Carlos, stop awhile!"
"Faith, sir, in law I have no skill.
Besides, I have no time to spare,
I must be going, you know where."
"Well, I protest, I'm doubtful now,
Whether to leave my suit or you!"
"Me, without scruple! (I reply)
Me, by all means, sir!" -- "No, not I."
Allons, Monsieur!" 'Twere vain (you know)
To strive with a victorious foe.
So I reluctantly obey,
And follow, where he leads the way.
"You and Newcastle are so close;
Still hand and glove, sir, I suppose."
"Newcastle (let me tell you, sir,)
Has not his equal every where."
"Well. There indeed your fortune's made!
Faith, sir, you understand your trade.
Would you but give me your good word!
Just introduce me to my lord.
I should serve charmingly by way
Of second fiddle, as they say:
What think you, sir? 'twere a good jest,
'Slife, we should quickly scout the rest."--
"Sir, you mistake the matter far,
We have no second fiddles there."
"Richer than I some folks may be:
More learned, but it hurts not me.
Friends though he has of different kind,
Each has his proper place assigned."
"Strange matters these alleged by you!"--
"Strange they may be, but they are true."--
"Well, then, I vow, 'tis mighty clever,
Now I long ten times more than ever
To be advanced extremely near
One of his shining character.
Have but the will -- there wants no more,
'Tis plain enough you have the power.
His easy temper (that's the worst)
He knows, and is so shy at first.
But such a cavalier as you--
Lord, sir, you'll quickly bring him to!
Well; if I fail in my design,
Sir, it shall be no fault of mine.
If by the saucy servile tribe
Denied, what think you of a bribe?
Shut out to-day, not die with sorrow,
But try my luck again to-morrow.
Never attempt to visit him
But at the most convenient time,
Attend him on each levee day,
And there my humble duty pay.
Labour, like this, our want supplies;
And they must stoop, who mean to rise."
While thus he wittingly harangued,
For which you'll guess I wished him hanged,
Campley, a friend of mine, came by,
Who knew his humour more than I.
We stop, salute, and -- "why so fast,
Friend Carlos? Whither all this haste?"
Fired at the thoughts of a reprieve,
I pinch him, pull him, twitch his sleeve,
Nod, beckon, bite my lips, wink, pout,
Do everything but speak plain out:
While he, sad dog, from the beginning
Determined to mistake my meaning,
Instead of pitying my curse,
By jeering made it ten times worse.
"Campley, to what secret (pray!) was that
You wanted to communicate?"
"I recollect. But 'tis no matter.
Carlos, we'll talk of that hereafter.
E'en let the secret rest. 'Twill tell
Another time, sir, just as well."
Was ever such a dismal day?
Unlucky cur, he steals away,
And leaves me, half bereft of life,
At mercy of the butcher's knife;
When sudden, shouting from afar,
See his antagonist appear!
The bailiff seized him quick as thought.
"Ho, Mr. Scoundrel! Are you caught?
Sir, you are witness to the arrest."
"Aye, marry, sir, I'll do my best."
The mob huzaas. Away they trudge,
Culprit and all, before the judge.
Meanwhile I luckily enough
Thanks to Apollo) got clear off.
Last updated January 14, 2019