Fortune-Hunter, The - Canto 1

by William Somervile

William Somervile



Some authors, more abstruse than wise,
Friendship confine to stricter ties,
Require exact conformity
In person, age, and quality
Their humours, principles, and wit
Must, like Exchequer tallies, hit: —
Others, less scrupulous, opine,
That hands and hearts in love may join,
Though different inclinations sway,
For Nature's more in fault than they.
Whoe'er would sift this point more fully,
May read St. Evremond and Tully;
With me the doctrine shall prevail,
That's a-propos to form my tale.
Two brethren (whether twins or no
Imports not very much to know)
Together bred; as fam'd their love
As Leda's brats begot by Jove;
As various too their tempers were;
That brisk and frolic, debonair;
This more considerate and severe.
While Bob with diligence would pore
And con by heart his battle-dore,
Frank play'd at romps with John the groom.
Or switch'd his hobby round the room.
The striplings now too bulky grown
To make dirt-pies and lounge at home,
With aching hearts to school are sent.
Their humours still of various bent:
The silent, serious, solid boy,
Came on apace, was daddy's joy,
Constru'd, and pars'd, and said his part,
And got Quae-genus all by heart,
While Franky, that unlucky rogue,
Fell in with every whim in vogue,
Valued not Lilly of a straw,
A rook at chuck, a dab at taw.
His bum was often brush'd, you'll say:
'Tis true, now twice, then thrice a day:
So leeches at the breech are fed,
To cure vertigos in the head.
But, by your leave, good doctor Friend,
Let me this maxim recommend,
" A genius can't be forc'd;" nor can
You make an ape an alderman.
The patchwork doublet well may suit,
But how would furs become the brute'
In short, the case is very plain,
When maggots once are in the brain,
Whole loads of birch are spent in vain.
Now to pursue this hopeful pair
To Oxford, and the Lord knows where,
Would take more ink than I can spare.
Nor shall I here minutely score
The volumes Bob turn'd o'er and o'er,
The laundresses turn'd up by Frank,
With many a strange diverting prank;
'Twould jade my Muse, though better fed.
And kept in body-clothes and bread.
When bristles on each chin began
To sprout, the promise of a man,
The good old gentleman expir'd,
And decently to heav'n retir'd:
The brethren, at their country-seat,
Enjoy'd a pleasant snug retreat;
Their cellars, and their barns well stor'd,
And plenty smoking on their board:
Ale and tobacco for the vicar,
For gentry, sometimes, better liquor.
Judicious Bob had read all o'er
Each weighty stay'd philosopher,
And therefore rightly understood
The real from the' apparent good;
Substantial bliss, intrinsic joys,
From bustle, vanity, and noise;
Could his own happiness create,
And bring his mind to his estate;
Liv'd in the same calm easy round,
His judgment clear, his body sound;
Good humour, probity, and sense,
Repaid with peace and indolence:
While rakish Frank, whose active soul
No bounds, no principles control,
Flies o'er the world where pleasure calls,
To races, masquerades, and balls;
At random roves, now here; now there,
Drinks with the gay, and toasts the fair.
As when the full-fed rusty steed
Breaks from his groom, he flies with speed,
His high-arch'd neck he proudly rears,
Upon his back his tail he bears,
His main upon his shoulders curls,
O'er every precipice he whirls,
He plunges in the cooling tides,
He lives his shining pamper'd sides,
He snuffs the females on the plain,
And to his joy he springs amain,
To this, to that, impetuous flies,
Nor can the stud his lust suffice,
Till nature flags, his vigour spent,
With drooping tail, and nerves unbent,
The humble beast returns content,
Waits tamely at the stable-door,
As tractable as e'er before:
This was exactly Franky's case;
When blood ran high he liv'd apace,
But pockets drain'd, and every vein,
Look'd silly, and came home again.
At length extravagance and vice,
Whoring and drinking, box and dice,
Sunk his exchequer: cares intrude,
And duns grow troublesome and rude.
What measure shall poor Franky take
To manage wisely the last stake,
With some few pieces in his purse,
And half a dozenbrats at nurse!
Pensive he walk'd, lay long a-bed,
Now bit his nails, then scratch'd his head,
At last resolv'd; resolv'd! on what?
There's not a penny to be got;
The question now remains alone,
Whether 'tis best to hang or drown?
Thank you for that, good friendly devil!
You're very courteous, very civil;
Other expedients may be tried,
The man is young, the world is wide,
And, as judicious authors say,
" Every dog shall have his day."
What if we ramble for a while?
Seek Fortune out, and court her smile,
Act every part in life to win her,
First try the saint, and then the sinner;
Press boldly on; slighted, pursue;
Repuls'd, again the charge renew;
Give her no rest, attend, entreat,
And stick at nothing to be great.
Fir'd with these thoughts, the youth grew vain,
Look'd on the country with disdain,
Where Virtue's fools her laws obey,
And dream a lazy life away;
Thinks poverty the greatest sin,
And walks on thorns till he begin;
But first before his brother laid
The hopeful scheme, and begg'd his aid.
Kind Bob was much abash'd to see
His brother in extremity,
Reduc'd to rags for want of thought,
A beggar, and not worth a groat.
He griev'd full sore, gave good advice,
Quoted his authors grave and wise.
All who with wholesome morals treat us,
Old Seneca and Epictetus.
What's my unhappy brother doing?
Whither rambling? whom pursuing?
An idle, tricking, giddy jade,
A phantom, and a fleeting shade;
Grasp'd in this coxcomb's arms a while,
The false jilt fawns; then a fond smile
On that she leers; he, like the rest,
Is soon a bubble and a jest:
But live with me, just to thyself,
And scorn the bitch and all her pelf;
Fortune's ador'd by fools alone,
The wise man always makes his own.
But 'tis, alas! in vain to' apply
Fine sayings and philosophy,
Where a poor youth's o'erheated brain
Is sold to interest and gain,
And pride and fierce ambition reign.
Bob found it so, nor did he strive
To work the nail that would not drive;
Content to do the best he could,
And as became his brotherhood,
Gave him what money he could spare,
And kindly paid his whole arrear,
Bought him his equipage and clothes;
So thus supplied away he goes,
For London-town he mounts, as gay
As tailors on their wedding-day.
Not many miles upon the road
A widow's stately mansion stood;
" What if dame Fortune should be there?
(Said Frank) 'tis ten to one, I swear;
I'll try to find her in the crowd;
She loves the wealthy and the proud."
Away he spurs, and at the door
Stood gallant gentry many a score,
Penelope had never more.
Here tortur'd catgut squeals amain,
Guitars in softer notes complain,
And lutes reveal the lover's pain.
Frank, with a careless easy mien,
Sung her a song, and was let in.
The rest with envy burst to see
The stranger's odd felicity.
Low bow'd the footman at the stairs,
The gentleman at top appears,
" And is your lady, Sir, at home? " —
" Pray walk into the drawing-room. "
But here my Muse is too well bred
To prattle what was done or said;
She lik'd the youth, his dress, his face,
His calves, his back, and every grace.
Supper was serv'd, and down they sit,
Much meat, good wine, some little wit:
The grace-cup drunk, or dance, or play;
Frank chose the last, was very gay,
Had the good luck the board to strip,
And punted to her Ladyship.
The clock strikes one, the gentry bow'd,
Each to his own apartment show'd;
But Franky was in piteous mood,
Slept not a wink: he raves, he dies,
Smit with her jointure and her eyes:
Restless as in a lion's den,
He sprawl'd and kick'd about till ten;
But as he dream'd of future joys,
His car was startled with a noise;
Six trumpets and a kettle-drum;
Up in a hurry flies the groom,
" Lord, Sir! get dress'd, the Col'nel's come;
Your horse is ready at the door;
You may reach Uxbridge, Sir, by four. "
Poor Franky must in haste remove,
With disappointment vex'd, and love;
To dirt abandon'd, and despair,
For lace and feather won the fair.
Now for the Town he jogs apace,
With leeky boots and sunburnt face,
And leaving Acton in his rear,
Began to breathe sulphureous air.
Arriv'd at length, the table spread,
Three bottles drank, he reels to bed.
Next morn his busy thoughts begun
To rise and travel with the sun;
Whims, heap'd on whims, his head turn'd round,
But how dame Fortune might be found
Was the momentous grand affair,
His secret wish, his only care.
" Damme," thought Franky to himself,
" I'll find this giddy wandering elf,
I'll hunt her out in every quarter,
Till she bestow the staff or garter:
I'll visit good Lord Sunderland,
Who keeps the jilt at his command;
Or else some courteous duchess may
Take pity on a runaway."
Dress'd to a pink, to court he flies;
At this levee and that he plies;
Bows in his rank, an humble slave,
And meanly fawns on every knave;
With maids of honour learns to chat,
Fights for this lord, and pimps for that,
Fortune he sought from place to place,
She led him still a wild-goose chase,
Always prepar'd with some excuse,
The hopeful younker to amuse:
Was busy, indispos'd, was gone
To Hampton-court or Kensington;
And, after all her wiles and dodgings,
She slipp'd clear off, and bilk'd her lodgings.
Jaded, and almost in despair,
A gamester whisper'd in his car,
" Who would seek Fortune, Sir, at court?
At H — — l's is her chief resort;
'Tis there her midnight hours she spends,
Is very gracious to her friends,
Shows honest men the means of thriving,
The best good-natur'd goddess living. "
Away he trudges with his rook,
Throws many a main, is bit, is broke:
With dirty knuckles, aching head,
Disconsolate, he sneaks to bed.

Last updated October 28, 2017