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THE POET, THE OYSTER, AND SENSITIVE PLANT.

1 AN Oyster cast upon the shore
2 Was heard, though never heard before;
3 Complaining in a speech well worded,
4 And worthy thus to be recorded:
5 Ah hapless wretch! condemned to dwell
6 For ever in my native shell,
7 Ordain'd to move when others please,
8 Not for my own content or ease,
9 But toss'd and buffeted about,
10 Now in the water, and now out.
11 'Twere better to be born a stone
12 Of ruder shape and feeling none,
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13 Than with a tenderness like mine,
14 And sensibilities so fine;
15 I envy that unfeeling shrub,
16 Fast-rooted against ev'ry rub.
17 The plant he meant grew not far off,
18 And felt the sneer with scorn enough,
19 Was hurt, disgusted, mortified,
20 And with asperity replied.
21 When cry the botanists, and stare,
22 Did plants call'd sensitive grow there?
23 No matter when a poet's muse is
24 To make them grow just where she chuses.
25 You shapeless nothing in a dish,
26 You that are but almost a fish,
27 I scorn your coarse insinuation,
28 And have most plentiful occasion
29 To wish myself the rock I view,
30 Or such another dolt as you.
31 For many a grave and learned clerk,
32 And many a gay unletter'd spark,
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33 With curious touch examines me,
34 If I can feel as well as he;
35 And when I bend, retire and shrink,
36 Says, well 'tis more than one would think
37 Thus life is spent, oh fie upon't!
38 In being touch'd, and crying, don't.
39 A poet in his evening walk,
40 O'erheard and check'd this idle talk.
41 And your fine sense, he said, and yours,
42 Whatever evil it endures,
43 Deserves not, if so soon offended,
44 Much to be pitied or commended.
45 Disputes though short, are far too long,
46 Where both alike are in the wrong;
47 Your feelings in their full amount,
48 Are all upon your own account.
49 You in your grotto-work inclos'd
50 Complain of being thus expos'd,
51 Yet nothing feel in that rough coat,
52 Save when the knife is at your throat,
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53 Wherever driv'n by wind or tide,
54 Exempt from every ill beside.
55 And as for you, my Lady Squeamish,
56 Who reckon ev'ry touch a blemish,
57 If all the plants that can be found
58 Embellishing the scene around,
59 Should droop and wither where they grow,
60 You would not feel at all, not you.
61 The noblest minds their virtue prove
62 By pity, sympathy, and love,
63 These, these are feelings truly fine,
64 And prove their owner half divine.
65 His censure reach'd them as he dealt it,
66 And each by shrinking shew'd he felt it.

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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): THE POET, THE OYSTER, AND SENSITIVE PLANT.
Themes: injury; food
Genres: fable

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Source edition

Poems: by William Cowper, of the Inner Temple, Esq. London: printed for J. Johnson, 1782, pp. 362-365. [4],367,[1]p. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T14895; OTA K027775.000)

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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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