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Extempore Verses upon a Trial of Skill between the two great Masters of Defence, Messieurs FIGG and SUTTON.

I.
1 LONG was the great Figg, by the prize-fighting swains,
2 Sole monarch acknowledg'd of Mary-bone plains:
3 To the towns, far and near, did his valour extend,
4 And swam down the river from Thame to Gravesend;
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5 Where liv'd Mr. Sutton, pipemaker by trade,
6 Who hearing that Figg was thought such a stout blade,
7 Resolv'd to put in for a share of his fame,
8 And so sent to challenge the champion of Thame.
II.
9 With alternate advantage two trials had past,
10 When they fought out the rubbers on Wednesday last.
11 To see such a contest the house was so full
12 There hardly was room left to thrust in your skull.
13 With a prelude of cudgells we first were saluted,
14 And two or three shoulders most handsomely fluted;
15 Till weary at last with inferior disasters,
16 All the company cry'd, come, the masters, the masters.
III.
17 Whereupon the bold Sutton first mounted the stage,
18 Made his honours as usual, and yearn'd to engage;
19 Then Figg, with a visage so fierce, yet sedate,
20 Came, and enter'd the lists, with his fresh-shaven pate;
21 Their arms were encircled with armigers too,
22 With a red ribbon Sutton's, and Figg's with a blue.
23 Thus adorn'd the two heroes, 'twixt shoulder, and elbow,
24 Shook hands, and went to 't, and the word it was Bilboe.
IV.
25 Sure such a concern in the eyes of spectators,
26 Was never yet seen in our amphi-theatres.
27 Our commons and peers from their several places,
28 To half an inch distance all pointed their faces;
29 [While] the rays of old Phoebus, that shot thro' the sky-light,
30 Seem'd to make on the stage a new kind of twilight;
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31 And the Gods without doubt, if one cou'd but have seen 'em,
32 Were peeping there thro' to do justice between 'em.
V.
33 Figg struck the first stroke, and with such a vast fury,
34 That he broke his huge weapon in twain, I assure you;
35 And if his brave rival this blow had not warded,
36 His head from his shoulders had quite been discarded.
37 Figg arm'd him again, and they took t' other tilt,
38 And then Sutton's blade ran away from its hilt;
39 The weapons were frighted, but as for the men,
40 In truth they ne'er minded, but at it again.
VI.
41 Such a force in their blows, you'd have thought it a wonder
42 Every stroke they receiv'd did not cleave 'em asunder.
43 Yet so great was their courage, so equal their skill,
44 That they both seem'd as safe as a thief in a mill;
45 While in doubtful attention dame Victory stood,
46 And which side to take cou'd not tell for her blood,
47 But remain'd like the ass, 'twixt the bundles of hay,
48 Without ever stirring an inch either way.
VII.
49 Till Jove to the Gods signified his intention
50 In a speech that he made 'em too tedious to mention;
51 But the upshot on 't was, that at that very bout,
52 From a wound in Figg's side the hot blood spouted out;
53 Her ladyship then seem'd to think the case plain,
54 But Figg stepping forth with a sullen disdain,
55 Shew'd the gash, and appeal'd to the company round,
56 If his own broken sword had not given him the wound.
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VIII.
57 That bruises, and wounds a man's spirit shou'd touch,
58 With danger so little, with honour so much!
59 Well, they both took a dram, and return'd to the battle,
60 And with a fresh fury they made the swords rattle;
61 While Sutton's right arm was observed to bleed,
62 By a touch from his rival; so Jove had decreed;
63 Just enough for to shew that his blood was not icor,
64 But made up, like Figg's, of the common red-liquor.
IX.
65 Again they both rush'd with as equal a fire on,
66 'Till the company cry'd, hold, enough of cold iron,
67 To the quarter-staff now, lads. So first having dram'd it,
68 They took to their woods, and i' faith never sham'd it.
69 The first bout they had was so fair, and so handsome,
70 That to make a fair bargain, was worth a king's ransom;
71 And Sutton such bangs on his neighbour imparted,
72 Wou'd have made any fibres but Figg's to have smarted.
X.
73 Then after that bout they went on to another
74 But the matter must end on some fashion, or other;
75 So Jove told the Gods he hath made a decree,
76 That Figg shou'd hit Sutton a stroke on the knee.
77 Tho' Sutton disabled as soon as he hit him
78 Wou'd still have fought on, but Jove wou'd not permit him;
79 'Twas his fate, not his fault, that constrain'd him to yield,
80 And thus the great Figg became lord of the field.

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    Title (in Source Edition): Extempore Verses upon a Trial of Skill between the two great Masters of Defence, Messieurs FIGG and SUTTON.
    Author: John Byrom
    Themes: sport; city
    Genres: occasional poem
    References: DMI 27927

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    A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes. By Several Hands. Vol. VI. London: printed by J. Hughs, for R. and J. Dodsley, 1763 [1st ed. 1758], pp. 286-289. 6v.: music; 8⁰. (ESTC T131163; OTA K104099.006) (Page images digitized by the Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive from a copy in the archive's library.)

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