In elder days, in Saturn’s prime,
Ere baldness seized the head of Time,
While truant Jove, in infant pride,
Play’d barefoot on Olympus’ side,
Each thing on earth had power to chatter,
And spoke the mother tongue of nature.
Each stock or stone could prate and gabble,
Worse than ten labourers of Babel.
Along the street, perhaps you’d see
A Post disputing with a Tree,
And mid their arguments of weight,
A Goose sit umpire of debate.
Each Dog you met, though speechless now,
Would make his compliments and bow,
And every Swine with congees come,
To know how did all friends at home.
Each Block sublime could make a speech,
In style and eloquence as rich,
And could pronounce it and could pen it,
As well as Chatham in the senate.
Nor prose alone. In these young times,
Each field was fruitful too in rhymes;
Each feather’d minstrel felt the passion,
And every wind breathed inspiration.
Each Bullfrog croak’d in loud bombastic,
Each Monkey chatter’d Hudibrastic;
Each Cur, endued with yelping nature,
Could outbark Churchill’s self in satire;
Each Crow in prophecy delighted,
Each Owl, you saw, was second-sighted,
Each Goose a skilful politician,
Each Ass a gifted met’physician,
Could preach in wrath ‘gainst laughing rogues,
Write Halfway-covenant Dialogues,
And wisely judge of all disputes
In commonwealths of men or brutes.
‘Twas then, in spring a youthful Sparrow
Felt the keen force of Cupid’s arrow:
For Birds, as Æsop’s tales avow,
Made love then, just as men do now,
And talk’d of deaths and flames and darts,
And breaking necks and losing hearts;
And chose from all th’ aerial kind,
Not then to tribes, like Jews, confined
The story tells, a lovely Thrush
Had smit him from a neigh’bring bush,
Where oft the young coquette would play,
And carol sweet her siren lay:
She thrill’d each feather’d heart with love,
And reign’d the Toast of all the grove.
He felt the pain, but did not dare
Disclose his passion to the fair;
For much he fear’d her conscious pride
Of race, to noble blood allied.
Her grandsire’s nest conspicuous stood,
Mid loftiest branches of the wood,
In airy height, that scorn’d to know
Each flitting wing that waved below.
So doubting, on a point so nice
He deem’d it best to take advice.
Hard by there dwelt an aged Owl,
Of all his friends the gravest fowl;
Who from the cares of business free,
Lived, hermit, in a hollow tree;
To solid learning bent his mind,
In trope and syllogism he shined,
‘Gainst reigning follies spent his railing;
Too much a Stoic ’twas his failing.
Hither for aid our Sparrow came,
And told his errand and his name,
With panting breath explain’d his case,
Much trembling at the sage’s face;
And begg’d his Owlship would declare
If love were worth a wise one’s care.
The grave Owl heard the weighty cause,
And humm’d and hah’d at every pause;
Then fix’d his looks in sapient plan,
Stretch’d forth one foot, and thus began.
“My son, my son, of love beware,
And shun the cheat of beauty’s snare;
That snare more dreadful to be in,
Than huntsman’s net, or horse-hair gin.
“By others’ harms learn to be wise,”
As ancient proverbs well advise.
Each villany, that nature breeds,
From females and from love proceeds.
‘Tis love disturbs with fell debate
Of man and beast the peaceful state:
Men fill the world with war’s alarms,
When female trumpets sound to arms;
The commonwealth of dogs delight
For beauties, as for bones, to fight.
Love hath his tens of thousands slain,
And heap’d with copious death the plain:
Samson, with ass’s jaw to aid,
Ne’er peopled thus th’infernal shade.
“Nor this the worst; for he that’s dead,
With love no more will vex his head.
‘Tis in the rolls of fate above,
That death’s a certain cure for love;
A noose can end the cruel smart;
The lover’s leap is from a cart.
But oft a living death they bear,
Scorn’d by the proud, capricious fair.
The fair to sense pay no regard,
And beauty is the fop’s reward;
They slight the generous hearts’ esteem,
And sigh for those, who fly from them.
Just when your wishes would prevail,
Some rival bird with gayer tail,
Who sings his strain with sprightlier note,
And chatters praise with livelier throat,
Shall charm your flutt’ring fair one down,
And leave your choice, to hang or drown.
Ev’n I, my son, have felt the smart;
A Pheasant won my youthful heart.
For her I tuned the doleful lay,
For her I watch’d the night away;
In vain I told my piteous case,
And smooth’d my dignity of face;
In vain I cull’d the studied phrase,
And sought hard words in beauty’s praise.
Her, not my charms nor sense could move,
For folly is the food of love.
Each female scorns our serious make,
“Each woman is at heart a rake.”
Thus Owls in every age have said,
Since our first parent-owl was made;
Thus Pope and Swift, to prove their sense,
Shall sing, some twenty ages hence;
Then shall a man of little fame,
One ** **** sing the same.