THE IMPERTINENT, OR A Visit to the COURT.
1 WELL, if it be my time to quit the Stage,
2 Adieu to all the Follies of the Age!
3 I die in Charity with Fool and Knave,
4 Secure of Happiness beyond the Grave.
5 I've had my Purgatory here betimes,
6 And paid for all my Satires, all my Rhymes:
7 The Poet's Hell, its Tortures, Fiends and Flames,
8 To this were Trifles, Toys, and empty Names.
9 With foolish Pride my Heart was never fir'd,
10 Nor the vain Itch t'admire, or be admir'd;
11 I hop'd for no Commission from his Grace;
12 I bought no Benefice, I begg'd no Place;
13 Had no new-Verses, or new Suit to show;
14 Yet went to COURT! — the Dev'l wou'd have it so.
15 But, as the Fool, that in reforming Days
16 Wou'd go to Mass in jest, (as Story says)
17 Could not but think, to pay his Fine was odd,
18 Since 'twas no form'd Design of serving God:
19 Such was my Fate; whom Heav'n adjudg'd as proud,
20 As prone to Ill, as negligent of Good,
21 As deep in Debt, without a thought to pay,
22 As vain, as idle, and as false, as they
23 Who live at Court, for going once that Way!
24 Scarce was I enter'd, when behold! there came
25 A Thing which Adam had been pos'd to name;
26 Noah had refus'd it lodging in his Ark,
27 Where all the Race of Reptiles might embark:
28 A verier Monster than on Africk's Shore
29 The Sun e're got, or slimy Nilus bore,
30 Or Sloane, or Woodward's wondrous. Shelves contain;
31 Nay, all that lying Travellers can feign.
32 This Thing has travell'd, speaks each Language too,
33 And knows what's fit for ev'ry State to do;
34 Of whose best Phrase and courtly Accent join'd,
35 He forms one Tongue exotic and refin'd.
36 Talkers, I've learn'd to bear; M—tt—x I knew,
37 Henley himself I've heard, nay B—dg—l too:
38 The Doctor's Wormwood Style, the Hash of Tongues,
39 A Pedant makes; the Storm of G—s—n's Lungs,
40 The whole Artill'ry of the Terms of War,
41 And (all those Plagues in one) the bawling Bar;
42 These I cou'd bear; but not a Rogue so civil,
43 Whose Tongue can complement you to the Devil.
44 A Tongue that can cheat Widows, cancel Scores,
45 Make Scots speak Treason, cozen subtlest Whores,
46 With Royal Favourites in Flatt'ry vie,
47 And Oldmixon and Burnet both out-lie.
48 He spies me out. I whisper, gracious God!
49 What Sin of mine cou'd merit such a Rod?
50 That all the Shot of Dulness now must be
51 From this thy Blunderbuss discharg'd on me!
52 Well met (he cries) and happy sure for each,
53 For I am pleas'd to learn, and you to teach;
54 What Speech esteem you most? — "The King's, said I,
55 But the best Words? —"O Sir, the Dictionary.[Page 8]
56 You miss my aim; I mean the most acute
57 And perfect Speaker? — "Onslow, past dispute.
58 But Sir, of Writers? —"Swift, for closer Style,
59 "And Ho — y for a Period of a Mile.
60 Why yes, 'tis granted, these indeed may pass;
61 Good common Linguists, and so Panurge was:
62 Nay troth, th' Apostles, (tho' perhaps too rough)
63 Had once a pretty Gift of Tongues enough.
64 Yet these were all poor Gentlemen! I dare
65 Affirm, 'twas Travel made them what they were.
66 Thus others Talents having nicely shown,
67 He came by soft Transition to his own:
68 Till I cry'd out, You prove yourself so able,
69 Pity! you was not Druggerman at Babel:
70 For had they found a Linguist half so good,
71 I make no question but the Tow'r had stood.
72 "Obliging Sir! I love you, I profess,
73 "But wish you lik'd Retreat a little less;
74 "Spirits like you, believe me, shou'd be seen,
75 "And (like Ulysses) visit Courts, and Men.
76 "So much alone, (to speak plain Truth between us)
77 "You'll die of Spleen — Excuse me, Nunquam minus —
78 But as for Courts, forgive me if I say,
79 No Lessons now are taught the Spartan way:[Page 9]
80 Tho' in his Pictures Lust be full display'd,
81 Few are the Converts Aretine has made;
82 And tho' the Court show Vice exceeding clear,
83 None shou'd, by my Advice, learn Virtue there.
84 At this, entranc'd, he lifts his Hands and Eyes,
85 Squeaks like a high-stretch'd Lutestring, and replies:
86 "Oh 'tis the sweetest of all earthly things
87 "To gaze on Princes, and to talk of Kings! "
88 Then happy Man who shows the Tombs! said I,
89 He dwells amidst the Royal Family;
90 He, ev'ry Day, from King to King can walk,
91 Of all our Harries, all our Edwards talk,
92 And get by speaking Truth of Monarchs dead,
93 What few can of the living, Ease and Bread.
94 "Lord! Sir, a meer Mechanick! strangely low,
95 "And coarse of Phrase — your English all are so.
96 "How elegant your Frenchman? — Mine, d'ye mean?
97 I have but one, I hope the Fellow's clean.
98 "Oh! Sir, politely well! nay, let me dye,
99 "Your only wearing is your Padua-soy. "
100 Not Sir, my only — I have better still,
101 And this, you see, is but my Dishabille —
102 Wild to get loose, his Patience I provoke,
103 Mistake, confound, object, at all he spoke.
104 But as coarse Iron, sharpen'd, mangles more,
105 And Itch most hurts, when anger'd to a Sore;[Page 10]
106 So when you plague a Fool, 'tis still the Curse,
107 You only make the Matter worse and worse.
108 He past it o'er; put on an easy Smile
109 At all my Peevishness, and chang'd his Style.
110 He asks, What News? I tell him of new Plays.
111 New Eunuchs, Harlequins, and Operas.
112 He hears; and as a Still, with Simples in it,
113 Between each Drop it gives, stays half a Minute;
114 Loth to enrich me with too quick Replies
115 By little, and by little, drops his Lies.
116 Meer Houshold Trash! of Birth-Nights, Balls and Shows,
117 More than ten Holingsheds, or Halls, or Stows.
118 When the Qeen frown'd, or smil'd, he knows; and what
119 A subtle Minister may make of that?
120 Who sins with whom? who got his Pension Rug,
121 Or quicken'd a Reversion by a Drug?
122 Whose Place is quarter'd out, three Parts in four,
123 And whether to a Bishop, or a Whore?
124 Who, having lost his Credit, pawn'd his Rent,
125 Is therefore fit to have a Government?
126 Who in the Secret, deals in Stocks secure,
127 And cheats th'unknowing Widow, and the Poor?
128 Who makes a Trust, or Charity, a Job,
129 And gets an Ac of Parliament to rob?
130 Why Turnpikes rose, and why no Cit, nor Clown
131 Can gratis see the Country, or the Town?[Page 11]
132 Shortly no Lad shall chuck, or Lady vole,
133 But some excising Courtier will have Toll.
134 He tells what Strumpet Places sells for Life,
135 What 'Squire his Lands, what Citizen his Wife?
136 And last (which proves him wiser still than all)
137 What Lady's Face is not a whited Wall?
138 As one of Woodward's Patients, sick and sore,
139 I puke, I nauseate, — yet he thrusts in more;
140 Shows Poland's Int'rests, takes the Primate's part,
141 And talks Gazettes and Post-Boys o'er by heart.
142 Like a big Wife at sight of loathsome Meat,
143 Ready to cast, I yawn, I sigh, I sweat:
144 Then as a licens'd Spy, whom nothing can
145 Silence, or hurt, he libels the Great Man;
146 Swears every Place entail'd for Years to come,
147 In sure Succession to the Day of Doom:
148 He names the Price for ev'ry Office paid,
149 And says our Wars thrive ill, because delay'd;
150 Nay hints, 'tis by Connivance of the Court,
151 That Spain robs on, and Dunkirk's still a Port.
152 Not more Amazement seiz'd on Circe's Guests,
153 To see themselves fall endlong into Beasts,
154 Than mine, to find a Subject staid and wise,
155 Already half turn'd Traytor by surprize.
156 I felt th'Infection slide from him to me,
157 As in the Pox, some give it, to get free;[Page 12]
158 And quick to swallow me, methought I saw
159 One of our Giant Statutes ope its Jaw!
160 In that nice Moment, as another Lye
161 Stood just a-tilt, the Minister came by.
162 Away he flies. He bows, and bows again;
163 And close as Umbra joins the dirty Train.
164 Not Naos's self more impudently near,
165 When half his Nose is in his Patron's Ear.
166 I blest my Stars! but still afraid to see
167 All the Court fill'd with stranger things than he,
168 Run out as fast, as one that pays his Bail
169 And dreads more Actions, hurries from a Jail.
170 Bear me, some God! oh quickly bear me hence
171 To wholesome Solitude, the Nurse of Sense:
172 Here Contemplation prunes her ruffled Wings,
173 And the free Soul looks down to pity Kings.
174 Here still Reflection led on sober Thought,
175 Which Fancy colour'd, and a Vision wrought.
176 A Vision Hermits can to Hell transport,
177 And bring ev'n me to see the Damn'd at Court.
178 Not Danté dreaming all th'Infernal State,
179 Saw such a Scene of Envy, Sin, and Hate.
180 Base Fear becomes the Guilty, not the Free;
181 Suits Tyrants, Plunderers, but suits not me.[Page 13]
182 Shall I, the Terror of this sinful Town,
183 Care, if a livery'd Lord or smile or frown?
184 Who cannot flatter, and detest who can,
185 Tremble before a noble Serving-Man?
186 O my fair Mistress, Truth! Shall I quit thee,
187 For huffing, braggart, puft Nobility?
188 Thou, who since Yesterday, hast roll'd o'er all
189 The busy, idle Blockheads of the Ball,
190 Hast thou, O Sun! beheld an emptier sort,
191 Than such as swell this Bladder of a Court?
192 Now pox on those who shew a*
* A famous Show of the COURT of FRANCE in Waxwork.Court in Wax!
193 It ought to bring all Courtiers on their backs.
194 Such painted Puppets, such a varnish'd Race
195 Of hollow Gewgaws, only Dress and Face,
196 Such waxen Noses, stately, staring things,
197 No wonder some Folks bow, and think them Kings.
198 And now the British Youth, engaged no more
199 At Fig's or White's, with Felons, or a Whore,
200 Pay their last Duty to the Court, and come
201 All fresh and fragrant, to the Drawing-Room:
202 Colours as gay, and Odours as divine,
203 As the fair Fields they sold to look so fine.
204 "That's Velvet for a King!"the Flatt'rer swears;
205 'Tis true, for ten days hence 'twill be King Lear's.[Page 14]
206 Our Court may justly to our Stage give Rules,
207 That helps it both to Fool's-Coats and to Fools.
208 And why not Players strut in Courtiers Cloaths?
209 For these are Actors too, as well as those:
210 Wants reach all States; they beg but better drest,
211 And all is splendid Poverty at best.
212 Painted for sight, and essenc'd for the smell,
213 Like Frigates fraught with Spice and Cochine'l,
214 Sail in the Ladies: How each Pyrate eyes
215 So weak a Vessel, and so rich a Prize!
216 Top-gallant he, and she in all her Trim,
217 He boarding her, she striking sail to him.
218 "Chere Comtesse! you have Charms all Hearts to hit!"
219 And "sweet Sir Fopling! you have so much wit!"
220 Such Wits and Beauties are not prais'd for nought,
221 For both the Beauty and the Wit are bought.
222 'Twou'd burst ev'n Heraclitus with the Spleen.
223 To see those Anticks, Fopling and Courtin:
224 The Presence seems, with things so richly odd,
225 The Mosque of Mahound, or some queer Pa-god.
226 See them survey their Limbs by Durer's Rules,
227 Of all Beau-kind the best proportion'd Fools!
228 Adjust their Cloaths, and to Confession draw
229 Each idle Atom, or erroneous Straw;[Page 15]
230 What Terrors wou'd distract each conscious Soul,
231 Convicted of that mortal Sin, a Hole!
232 Or should one Pound of Powder less bespread
233 The Monkey-Tail that wags behind his Head!
234 Thus finish'd and corrected to a hair,
235 They march, to prate their Hour before the Fair,
236 So first to preach a white-glov'd Chaplain goes,
237 With Band of Lily, and with Cheek of Rose,
238 Sweeter than Sharon, in immaculate trim,
239 Neatness itself impertinent in him.
240 Let but the Ladies smile, and they are blest;
241 Prodigious! how the Things Protest, Protest:
242 Peace, Fools! or Gonson will for Papists seize you,
243 If once he catch you at your Jesu! Jesu!
244 Nature made ev'ry Fop to plague his Brother,
245 Just as one Beauty mortifies another.
246 But here's the Captain, that will plague you both,
247 Whose Air cries Arm! whose very Look's an Oath:
248 What tho' his Soul be Bullet, Body Buff?
249 Damn him, he's honest, Sir, — and that's enuff.
250 He spits fore-right; his haughty Chest before,
251 Like batt'ring Rams, beats open ev'ry Door;
252 And with a Face as red, and as awry,
253 As Herod's Hang-dogs in old Tapestry,[Page 16]
254 Scarecrow to Boys, the breeding Woman's curse;
255 Has yet a strange Ambition to look worse:
256 Confounds the Civil, keeps the Rude in awe,
257 Jests like alicens'd Fool, commands like Law.
258 Frighted, I quit the Room, but leave it so,
259 As Men from Jayls to Execution go;
260 For hung with*
* The Room hung with Tapestry now very antient, representing the Seven Deadly Sins.Deadly Sins I see the Wall,
261 And lin'd with Giants, deadlier than 'em all:
262 Each Man an†
† A Giant famous in divers Romances.Ascapart, of strength to toss
263 For Quoits, both Temple-Bar and Charing-Cross.
264 Scar'd at the grizly Forms, I sweat, I fly,
265 And shake all o'er, like a discover'd Spy.
266 Courts are no match for Wits so weak as mine;
267 Charge them with Heav'n's Artill'ry, bold Divine!
268 From such alone the Great Rebukes endure,
269 Whose Satyr's sacred, and whose Rage secure.
270 'Tis mine to wash a few slight Stains; but theirs
271 To deluge Sin, and drown a Court in Tears.
272 Howe'er, what's now Apocrypha, my Wit,
273 In time to come, may pass for Holy Writ.
About this text
Title (in Source Edition): THE IMPERTINENT, OR A Visit to the COURT. A SATYR.
Author: Alexander Pope
Genres: heroic couplet; satire
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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.
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- THE FIRST ODE OF THE FOURTH BOOK OF HORACE: ()
- Inscription on a GROTTO of Shells at CRUX-EASTON, the Work of Nine young Ladies. ()
- ODE FOR MUSICK. ()
- ON A GROTTO near the THAMES, at TWICKENHAM, Composed of Marbles, Spars, and Minerals. ()
- THE RAPE of the LOCK. CANTO I. ()
- THE UNIVERSAL PRAYER. ()
- WINDSOR-FOREST. To the Right Honourable GEORGE Lord LANSDOWN. ()