The Devil Outwitted

by William Somervile

William Somervile

A Vicar liv'd on this side Trent,
Religious, learn'd, benevolent,
Pure was his life in deed, word, thought,
A comment on the truths he taught;
His parish large, his income small,
Yet seldom wanted wherewithal,
For against every merry tide
Madam would carefully provide.
A painful pastor, but his sheep,
Alas! within no bounds would keep;
A scabby flock, that every day
Ran riot, and would go astray.
He thump'd his cushion, fretted, vext,
Thumb'd o'er again each useful text;
Rebuk'd, exhorted, all in vain,
His parish was the more profane:
The scrubs would have their wicked will,
And cunning Satan triumph'd still.
At last, when each expedient fail'd,
And serious measures nought avail'd,
It came into his head to try
The force of wit and raillery.
The good man was by nature gay,
Could jibe and joke as well as pray;
Not like some hide-bound folk, who chase
Each merry smile from their dull face,
And think pride zeal, ill-nature grace.
At christenings and each jovial feast
He singled out the sinful beast;
Let all his pointed arrows fly,
Told this and that, look'd very sly,
And left my masters to apply.
His tales were humorous, often true,
And now and then set off to view
With lucky fictions and sheer wit,
That pierc'd where truth could never hit.
The laugh was always on his side,
While passive fools by turns deride;
And, giggling thus at one another,
Each jeering lout reform'd his brother,
Till the whole parish was with ease
Sham'd into virtue by degrees:
Then be advis'd, and try a Tale,
When Chrysostom and Austin fail.

Last updated October 28, 2017