John Oldham (9 August 1653 – 9 December 1683 / England)
A Satire, in Imitation of the Third of Juvenal
1Though much concern'd to leave my dear old friend,
2I must however his design commend
3Of fixing in the country: for were I
4As free to choose my residence, as he;
5The Peak, the Fens, the Hundreds, or Land's End,
6I would prefer to Fleet Street, or the Strand.
7What place so desert, and so wild is there
8Whose inconveniences one would not bear,
9Rather than the alarms of midnight fire,
10The falls of houses, knavery of cits,
11The plots of factions, and the noise of wits,
12And thousand other plagues, which up and down
13Each day and hour infest the cursed town?
14 As fate would hav't, on the appointed day
15Of parting hence, I met him on the way,
16Hard by Mile End, the place so fam'd of late,
17In prose, and verse for the great faction's treat;
18Here we stood still, and after compliments
19Of course, and wishing his good journey hence
20I ask'd what sudden causes made him fly
21The once lov'd town, and his dear company:
22When, on the hated prospect looking back,
23Thus with just rage the good old Timon spake.
24 .'Since virtue here in no repute is had,
25Since worth is scorn'd, learning and sense unpaid,
26And knavery the only thriving trade;
27Finding my slender fortune ev'ry day
28Dwindle, and waste insensibly away,
29I, like a losing gamester, thus retreat,
30To manage wiselier my last stake of fate:
31While I have strength, and want no staff to prop
32My tott'ring limbs, ere age has made me stoop
33Beneath its weight, ere all my thread be spun,
34And life has yet in store some sands to run,
35'Tis my resolve to quit the nauseous town.
36 Let thriving Morecraft choose his dwelling there,
37Rich with the spoils of some young spendthrift heir:
38Let the plot-mongers stay behind, whose art
39Can truth to sham, and sham to truth convert:
40Whoever has an house to build, or set
41His wife, his conscience, or his oath to let:
42Whoever has, or hopes for offices,
43A Navy, Guard, or Custom-house's place:
44Let sharping courtiers stay, who there are great
45By putting the false dice on King, and state.
46Where they, who once were grooms, and foot-boys known,
47Are now to fair estates, and honours grown;
48Nor need we envy them, or wonder much
49At their fantastic greatness, since they're such,
50Whom Fortune oft, in her capricious freaks,
51Is pleas'd to raise from kennels, and the jakes,
52To wealth, and dignity above the rest,
53When she is frolic, and dispos'd to jest.
54 'I live in London? What should I do there?
55I cannot lie, nor flatter, nor forswear:
56I can't commend a book, or piece of wit,
57(Though a lord were the author) dully writ:
58I'm no Sir Sydrophel to read the stars,
59And cast nativities for longing heirs,
60When fathers shall dropp off: no Gadbury
61To tell the minute when the King shall die,
62And you know what-come in: nor can I steer,
63And tack about my conscience, whensoe'er,
64To a new point, I see religion veer.
65Let others pimp to courtiers' lechery,
66I'll draw no City-cuckold's curse on me:
67Nor would I do it, though to be made great,
68And rais'd to the chief ministry of state.
69Therefore, I think it fit to rid the town
70Of one, that is an useless member grown.
71 'Besides, who has pretence to favour now,
72But he, who hidden villainy does know,
73Whose breast does with some burning secret glow?
74By none thou shalt preferred, or valued be,
75That trusts thee with an honest secrecy:
76He only may to great men's friendship reach,
77Who great men, when he pleases, can impeach.
78Let others thus aspire to dignity;
79For me, I'd not their envied grandeur buy
80For all th' Exchange is worth, that Paul's will cost,
81Or was of late in the Scotch voyage lost.
82What would it boot, if I, to gain my end,
83Forego my quiet, and my ease of mind,
84Still fear'd, at last betray'd, by my dear friend?
85 'Another cause, which I must boldly own,
86And not the least, for which I quit the town,
87Is to behold it made the common shore,
88Where France does all her filth, and ordure pour:
89What spark of true old English rage can bear
90Those, who were slaves at home, to lord it here?
91We've all our fashion, language, compliments,
92Our music, dances, curing, cooking thence:
93And we shall have their pois'ning too ere long,
94If still in the improvement we go on.
95 'What would'st thou say, great Harry, should'st thou view
96Thy gaudy, flutt'ring race of English now,
97Their tawdry cloths, pulvilios, essences,
98Their Chedreux perukes, and those vanities,
99Which thou, and they of old, did so despise?
100What would'st thou say to see th' infected town
101With the foul spawn of foreigners o'errun?
102Hither from Paris, and all parts they come,
103The spew, and vomit of their jails at home;
104To Court they flock, and to St. James his Square,
105And wriggle into great men's service there:
106Footboys at first, till they from wiping shoes,
107Grow, by degrees, the masters of the house:
108Ready of wit, harden'd of impudence,
109Able with ease to put down either Haines,
110Both the King's player, and king's evidence:
111Flippant of talk, and voluble of tongue,
112With words at will, no lawyer better hung:
113Softer than flattering Court-parasite,
114Or City trader, when he means to cheat,
115No calling, or profession comes amiss:
116A needy Monsieur can be what he please,
117Groom, page, valet, quack, operator, fencer,
118Perfumer, pimp, jack-pudding, juggler, dancer:
119Give but the word, the cur will fetch and bring,
120Come over to the Emperor, or King:
121Or, if you please, fly o'er the pyramid,
122Which Aston and the rest in vain have tried.
123 'Can I have patience, and endure to see
124The paltry foreign wretch take place of me,
125Whom the same wind, and vessel brought ashore,
126That brought prohibited goods, and dildoes o'er?
127Then, pray, what mighty privilege is there
128For me, that at my birth drew English air?
129And where's the benefit to have my veins
130Run British blood, if there's no difference
131'Twixt me, and him, the statute freedom gave,
132And made a subject of a true-born slave?
133 'But nothing shocks, and is more loath'd by me,
134Than the vile rascal's fulsome flattery:
135By help of this false magnifying glass,
136A louse, or flea, shall for a camel pass:
137Produce an hideous wight, more ugly far
138Than those ill shapes, which in old hangings are,
139He'll make him straight a beau garçon appear:
140Commend his voice, and singing, though he bray
141Worse than Sir Martin Mar-all in the play:
142And if he rhyme, shall praise for standard wit,
143More scurvy sense than Prynne, and Vickars writ.
144 'And here's the mischief, though we say the same,
145He is believ'd, and we are thought to sham:
146Do you but smile, immediately the beast
147Laughs out aloud, though he ne'er heard the jest;
148Pretend you're sad, he's presently in tears,
149Yet grieves no more than marble, when it wears
150Sorrow in metaphor: but speak of heat;
151'O God! How sultry 'tis!' he'll cry, and sweat
152In depth of winter: strait, if you complain
153Of cold; the weather-glass is sunk again:
154Then he'll call for his frieze-campaign, and swear,
155'Tis beyond eighty, he's in Greenland here,
156Thus he shifts scenes, and oft'ner in a day
157Can change his face, than actors at a play,
158There's nought so mean can 'scape the flatt'ring sot,
159Not his Lord's snuff-box, nor his powder-spot:
160If he but spit, or pick his teeth; he'll cry,
161'How every thing becomes you! let me die,
162Your Lordship does it most judiciously:'
163And swear, 'tis fashionable, if he sneeze,
164Extremely taking, and it needs must please.
165 'Besides, there's nothing sacred, nothing free
166From the hot satyr's rampant lechery;
167Nor wife, not virgin-daughter can escape,
168Scarce thou thy self, or son avoid a rape:
169All must go padlock'd: if nought else there be,
170Suspect thy very stable's chastity.
171By this the vermin into secrets creep,
172Thus, families in awe they strive to keep,
173What living for an Englishman, is there,
174Where such as these get head, and domineer,
175Whose use, and custom 'tis, never to share
176A friend, but love to reign, without dispute,
177Without a rival, full and absolute?
178Soon as the insect gets his honour's ear,
179And fly-blows some of 's pois'nous malice there,
180Strait I'm turn'd off, kick'd out of doors, discarded,
181And all my former service disregarded.
182 'But leaving these Messieurs, for fear that I
183Be thought of the silk-weavers' mutiny,
184From the loath'd subject let us hasten on,
185To mention other grievances in town:
186And further, what respect at all is had
187Of poor men here? and how's their service paid,
188Though they be ne'er so diligent to wait,
189To sneak, and dance attendance on the great?
190No mark of favour is to be obtain'd
191By one, that sues, and brings an empty hand:
192And all his merit is but made a sport,
193Unless he glut some cormorant at Court.
194 ''Tis now a common thing, and usual here,
195To see the son of some rich usurer
196Take place of nobles, keep his first-rate whore,
197And for a vaulting-bout or two give more
198Than a Guard-captain's pay: meanwhile the breed
199Of peers, reduced to poverty, and need,
200Are fain to trudge to the Bankside, and there
201Take up with porter's leavings, suburb-ware,
202There spend that blood, which their great ancestor
203So nobly shed at Cressy heretofore,
204At brothel-fights in some foul common shore.
205 'Produce an evidence, though just he be,
206As righteous Job, or Abraham, or he,
207Whom Heaven, when whole nature shipwreck'd was,
208Thought worth the saving, of all human race;
209Or t'other, who the flaming deluge scap'd,
210When Sodom's lechers angels would have rap'd;
211'How rich he is,' must the first question be,
212Next, for his manners and integrity:
213They'll ask, 'what equipage he keeps, and what
214He's reckon'd worth, in money, and estate,
215For Shrieve how oft he has been known to fine,
216And with how many dishes he does dine?'
217You look what cash a person has in store,
218Just so much credit has he, and no more:
219Should I upon a thousand Bibles swear,
220And call each saint throughout the calendar
221To vouch my oath, it won't be taken here;
222The poor slight Heav'n, and thunderbolts (they think),
223And Heav'n itself does at such trifles wink.
224 'Besides, what store of gibing scoffs are thrown
225On one, that's poor, and meanly clad in town;
226If his apparel seem but overworn,
227His stockings out at heel, or breeches torn?
228One takes occasion his ripp'd shoe to flout,
229And swears 't has been at prison-grates hung out:
230Another shrewdly jeers his coarse cravat,
231Because himself wears point: a third, his hat,
232And most unmercifully shows his wit,
233If it be old, and does not cock aright:
234Nothing in poverty so ill is borne,
235As its exposing men to grinning scorn,
236To be by tawdry coxcombs piss'd upon
237And made the jesting-stock of each buffoon,
238'Turn out there, friend! (cries one at church) 'the pew
239Is not for such mean scoundrel curs, as you:
240'Tis for your betters kept:' belike some sot
241That knew no father, was on bulks begot:
242But now is rais'd to an estate, and pride,
243By having the kind proverb on his side:
244Let Gripe and Cheatwell take their places there,
245And Dash the scriv'ner's gaudy sparkish heir,
246That wears three ruin'd orphans on his back:
247Meanwhile you in the alley stand, and sneak:
248And you therewith must rest contented, since
249Almighty wealth does put such difference.
250What citizen a son-in-law will take,
251Bred ne'er so well, that can't a jointure make?
252What man of sense, that's poor, e'er summon'd is
253Among the Common Council to advise?
254At vestry-consults, when he does he appear
255For choosing of some parish officer,
256Or making leather-buckets for the choir?
257 ''Tis hard for any man to rise, that feels
258His virtue clogg'd with poverty at heels:
259But harder 'tis by much in London, where
260A sorry lodging, coarse, and slender fare,
261Fire, water, breathing, every thing is dear:
262Yet such as these an earthen dish disdain,
263With which their ancestors, in Edgar's reign,
264Were serv'd, and thought it no disgrace to dine,
265Though they were rich, had store of leather-coin.
266Low as their fortune is, yet they despise
267A man that walks the streets in homely frieze:
268To speak the truth, great part of England now
269In their own cloth, will scarce vouchsafe to go:
270Only the statute's penalty to save,
271Some few perhaps wear woollen in the grave.
272Here all go gaily dress'd, although it be
273Above their means, their rank, and quality:
274The most in borrow'd gallantry, are clad,
275For which the tradesman's books are still unpaid:
276This fault is common in the meaner sort,
277That they must needs affect to bear the port
278Of gentlemen, though they want income for't.
279 'Sir, to be short, in this expensive town
280There's nothing without money to be done:
281What will you give to be admitted there,
282And brought to speech of some Court-minister?
283What will you give to have the quarter-face,
284The squint and nodding and go-by of his Grace?
285His porter, groom, and steward, must have fees,
286And you may see the tombs, the Tow'r for less:
287Hard fate of suitors! who must pay, and pray
288To livery-slaves, yet oft go scorn'd away.
289 'Whoe'er at Barnet, or St. Albans fears
290To have his lodging dropp about his ears,
291Unless a sudden hurricane befall,
292Or such a wind as blew old Noll to Hell?
293Here we build slight, what scarce outlasts the lease,
294Without the help of props, and buttresses:
295And houses nowadays as much require
296To be insur'd from falling, as from fire.
297There buildings are substantial, though less neat,
298And kept with care both wind-, and water-tight:
299There you in safe security are blest,
300And nought, but conscience to disturb your rest.
301 'I am for living where no fires affright,
302No bells rung backward break my sleep at night:
303I scarce lie down, and draw my curtains here,
304But strait I'm rous'd by the next house on fire:
305Pale, and half dead with fear, myself I raise,
306And find my room all over in a blaze;
307By this 't has seiz'd on the third stairs, and I
308Can now discern no other remedy,
309But leaping out at window to get free:
310For if the mischief from the cellar came,
311Be sure the garret is the last, takes flame.
312 'The moveables of Pordage were a bed
313For him, and 's wife: a piss-pot by its side,
314A looking-glass upon the cupboard's head,
315A comb-case, candlestick, and pewter-spoon,
316For want of plate, with desk to write upon:
317A box without a lid serv'd to contain
318Few authors, which made up his Vatican:
319And there his own immortal works were laid,
320On which the barb'rous mice for hunger prey'd:
321Pordage had nothing, all the world does know;
322And yet should he have lost this nothing too,
323No one the wretched bard would have supplied
324With lodging, house-room, or a crust of bread.
325 'But if the fire burn down some great man's house
326All strait are interested in the loss:
327The Court is strait in mourning sure enough,
328The Act, Commencement, and the Term put off:
329Then we mischances of the town lament,
330And fasts are kept, like judgments to prevent.
331Out comes a brief immediately, with speed
332To gather charity as far as Tweed.
333Nay, while 'tis burning, some will send him in
334Timber, and stone to build his house again:
335Others choice furniture: here some rare piece
336Of Rubens, or Vandyke presented is:
337There a rich suit of Mortlack tapestry,
338A bed of damask, or embroidery:
339One gives a fine scritoire, or cabinet,
340Another a huge massy dish of plate,
341Or bag of gold; thus he, at length, gets more
342By kind misfortune than he had before:
343And all suspect it for a laid design,
344As if he did himself the fire begin.
345 'Could you but be advis'd to leave the town,
346And from dear plays, and drinking friends be drawn,
347An handsome dwelling might be had in Kent,
348Surrey, or Essex, at a cheaper rent
349Than what you're forc'd to give for one half-year
350To lie, like lumber, in a garret here:
351A garden there, and well, that needs no rope,
352Engine, or pains to crane its waters up:
353Water is there, through nature's pipes convey'd,
354For which, no custom, nor excise is paid:
355Had I the smallest spot of ground, which scarce
356Would summer half-a-dozen grasshoppers,
357Not larger than my grave, though hence remote,
358Far as St. Michael's Mount, I would go to 't,
359Dwell there content, and thank the fates to boot.
360 'Here, want of rest a-nights more people kills
361Than all the College, and the weekly bills:
362Where none have privilege to sleep, but those,
363Whose purses can compound for their repose:
364In vain I go to bed, or close my eyes,
365Methinks the place the middle region is,
366Where I lie down in storms, in thunder rise:
367The restless bells such din in steeples keep,
368That scarce the dead can in their churchyards sleep:
369Huzza's of drunkards, bellmen's midnight rhymes,
370The noise of shops, with hawkers' early screams,
371Besides the brawls of coachmen, when they meet,
372And stop in turnings of a narrow street,
373Such a loud medley of confusion makes,
374As drowsy Archer on the bench would wake.
375 'If you walk out in bus'ness ne'er so great,
376Ten thousand stops you must expect to meet:
377Thick crowds in ev'ry place you must charge through
378And storm your passage, wheresoe'er you go:
379While tides of followers behind you throng,
380And pressing on your heels, shove you along:
381One, with a board, or rafter hits your head,
382Another, with his elbow bores your side;
383Some tread upon your corns, perhaps in sport,
384Meanwhile your legs are cas'd all o'er with dirt.
385Here you the march of a slow funeral wait,
386Advancing to the church with solemn state:
387There a sedan, and lackeys stop your way,
388That bears some punk of honour to the play:
389Now you some mighty piece of timber meet,
390Which tott'ring threatens ruin to the street:
391Next a huge Portland stone, for building Paul's,
392Itself almost a rock, on carriage rolls:
393Which, if it fall, would cause a massacre,
394And serve at once to murder and inter.
395If what I've said can't from the town affright,
396Consider other dangers of the night:
397When brickbats are from upper stories thrown,
398And emptied chamber pots come pouring down
399From garret windows: you have cause to bless
400The gentle stars, if you come off with piss:
401So many fates attend, a man had need
402Ne'er walk without a surgeon by his side:
403And he can hardly now discreet be thought,
404That does not make his will, ere he go out.
405 'If this you 'scape, twenty to one, you meet
406Some of the drunken scourers of the street,
407Flush'd with success of warlike deeds perform'd,
408Or constables subdu'd, and brothels storm'd:
409These, if a quarrel, or a fray be miss'd,
410Are ill at ease a-nights, and want their rest;
411For mischief is a lechery to some,
412And serves to make them sleep like laudanum.
413Yet heated, as they are, with youth, and wine,
414If they discern a train of flambeaus shine,
415If a great man with his gilt coach appear,
416And a strong guard of footboys in the rear,
417The rascals sneak, and shrink their heads for fear.
418Poor me, who use no light to walk about,
419Save what the parish, or the skies hang out,
420They value not: 'tis worth your while to hear
421The scuffle, if that be a scuffle, where
422Another gives the blows, I only bear:
423He bids me stand: of force I must give way,
424For 'twere a senseless thing to disobey,
425And struggle here, where I'd as good oppose
426Myself to Preston and his mastiffs loose.
427 .''Who's there?' he cries, and takes you by the throat,
428'Dog! Are you dumb? Speak quickly, else my foot
429Shall march about your buttocks: whence d' ye come,
430From what bulk-ridden strumpet reeking home?
431Saving your rev'rend pimpship, where d' ye ply?
432How may one have a job of lechery?'
433If you say anything, or hold your peace,
434And silently go off, 'tis all a case:
435Still he lays on: nay well, if you scape so:
436Perhaps he'll clap an action on you too
437Of battery, nor need he fear to meet
438A jury to his turn, shall do him right,
439And bring him in large damage for a shoe
440Worn out, besides the pains, in kicking you.
441But patience: his best way in such a case
442Is to be thankful for the drubs, and beg
443That they would mercifully spare one leg,
444Or arm unbroke, and let him go away
445With teeth enough to eat his meat next day.
446 'Nor is this all, which you have cause to fear,
447Oft we encounter midnight padders here:
448When the exchanges, and the shops are close,
449And the rich tradesman in his counting house
450To view the profits of the day, withdraws.
451Hither in flocks from Shooter's Hill they come,
452To seek their prize, and booty nearer home:
453'Your purse!' they cry; 'tis madness to resist,
454Or strive with a cock'd pistol at your breast:
455And these each day so strong and num'rous grow,
456The town can scarce afford them jail-room now.
457Happy the times of the old Heptarchy,
458Ere London knew so much of villainy:
459Then fatal carts through Holborn seldom went,
460And Tyburn with few pilgrims was content:
461A less, and single prison then would do,
462And serv'd the city, and the county too.
463 'These are the reasons, sir, that drive me hence,
464To which I might add more, would time dispense,
465To hold you longer, but the sun draws low,
466The coach is hard at hand, and I must go:
467Therefore, dear sir, farewell; and when the town,
468From better company can spare you down,
469To make the country with your presence blest,
470Then visit your old friend amongst the rest:
471There I'll find leisure to unlade my mind
472Of what remarks I now must leave behind:
473The fruits of dear experience, which, with these
474Improv'd will serve for hints, and notices;
475And when you write again, may be of use
476To furnish satire for your daring muse.'
Comments about this poem (A Satire, in Imitation of the Third of Juvenal by John Oldham )
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