Christopher Anstey

(1724-1805 / England)

An Election Ball


Once more, O! ye Muses, from Pindus descend,
And bid all the Graces your footsteps attend,
Who oft at elections are wont to prolong
The keen--pointed epigram, ballad, or song,
With your own odoriferous water to sprinkle
The posie I twine for my dear Mrs. Inkle.
Not launch'd with more glory, more splendour and pride,
The new--tackled bark skims adown the brisk tide,
Her streamers display'd, and the wind in her poop,
Than Madge sallied forth in her feather and hoop;
But how great her surprize, when the men in despair
First look'd at her topsail, and then at their chair,
Half grumbling, half sneering, did seem quite unwilling,
Till the Goddess of Wisdom in shape of a shilling,
While Madge was attempting her rigging to push in,
With fingers invisible whipt out the cushion;
And then, like a pistol too big for the holster,
Half in and half out; or an obstinate bolster,
(Which I think I have seen you attempting, my dear,
In vain to cram into a small pillowbeer,)
Thrice did she endeavour her head in to pop,
And thrice did her feather catch hold of the top;
At length, poor dear soul, very ill at her ease,
She sat with her head almost jamm'd to her knees;
I never did yet any vessel discern
So high in her bowsprit, and low in her stern;
To conceive how she look'd, you must call to your mind
The lady you've seen in a lobster confin'd,
Or a pagod in some little corner inshrin'd,
Where with knees both erected, and squat on his breech,
Unhappy divinity sticks in a nitch;

But ne'er did I see such a comical motion,
Nor ever, dear Wife, canst thou form any notion,
How crampt in this posture
They wriggl'd and tost her,
While every step that they trod,
Her foretop and nose
Beat time to their toes,
And her feather went--niddity--nod.

Meanwhile pretty brisk, and uncommonly strong,
I tott'ring on two sticks went hobbling along;
Tho' I very much fear that she thought me a fogram,
All stuck out in satins, and I in my grogram;
Yet I'd have her to know, in my Sunday surtout,
Silk hose--new peruke--frill--and ruffles to boot,
I claim'd such respect, did such favours receive,
I ne'er shall forget them as long as I live;
For thou know'st, my dear wife, I esteem it delicious
To appear in high life, and am vastly ambitious
To be squeez'd, as I was, by my Lord Perrywinkle,
With--``your servant, good sir,--``how d'y'do, Mr. Inkle,
``What joy, my dear friend, all the world are you giving,
``To see you once more in the land of the living!
``So chearful and brisk, too, I'd venture a million
``If you laid down your cane, you could dance a cotillion--
``Your Lady looks charming, I burn to accost her,
My dear Lord, says I,--``Mrs. Inkle's at Glocester--
``Lack--a--day,'' he replies, ``then 'twas Lady Killwrinkle,
``Who, I think, is exceedingly like Mrs. Inkle;--
``Mrs. Inkle not here! this is no ball without her--
``She has carried away all the Graces about her--
``Your Lady at Glocester!--and pray do you hear,
``Mr. Inkle, how matters are jogging on there?
``I've a friend, my dear sir, at th' ensuing Election,
``Who pants to receive your advice and protection--
``I wish you'd''--says I, ``my dear Lord, say no more,
``Your wish is enough, your commands I adore,
``And I'm sure Mrs. Inkle will think it an honour
``If your Lordship will lay your kind orders upon her,
``'Tis true I've no vote--but I'll use my endeavour,
``I've interest much at your service, however,
``For I'm promis'd, my Lord--but (I beg and desire,
``I beseech as an alms, you won't let it transpire)
``Give me leave just to whisper a word in your ear,--
``Let us step to the card--room--there's nobody there,--
--``I am promis'd, my Lord, by old Humphry Potwobbler--
``The votes of three taylors--two smiths--and a cobler,--
``At this quite transported, one hand did he put on
``My shoulder, with t'other caught hold of my button,
``Mr. Inkle, says he, (and he shook it a little)
``I profess you have hit this affair to a tittle,
``And since with such kindness, such friendship you meant it,
``Depend upon't, Sir, you shall never repent it.''--
I thought this account, my dear Dinah, would please ye,
(And the Irish Establishment now is so easy)
The least I expect if things properly fadge,
Is a pension for me--and a husband for Madge;--
Thus with nods, winks, and simpers each other delighting,
And poking our heads out, like game--cocks a fighting,
We stuck out our rumps with respect most profound,
And parted like cart--whips bent down to the ground.
Lady D'Oily Palavre, at very first sight
Was indeed above all kind of measure polite,
Mr. Inkle, says she, ``you do well to come out,
``A ball is an excellent cure for the gout,
``Miss Madge is so happy, and you are so hearty,
``Come, come, you shall both drink your tea in our party;
``Here are some queerish figures, it must be confest,
``But your daughter, Miss Inkle, I vow, and protest,
``Is what I call--prettily--modestly--drest;
``Young ladies are often so awkward and raw
``At their first coming out, but I never yet saw
``Before so polite an assembly as this is,
``An easier, better--bred creature than Miss is,
``Quite a woman of fashion--now don't you think so,
``Pray speak the plain truth, my dear Gorge De Crapau?
Madam Gorge De Crapau cries,--Wee, Ma'am, oh! qu'wee
Van sharmangest paerson, I aever vas see--
But Madge I'm afraid at the end of the chapter
Will find little cause for such transport and rapture,
And tho' my good lady's politeness is such,
I fear I have sweated my carcase too much;
And who at the ball on that night did appear,
Who danc'd in the van, and who limp'd in the rear,
What dukes, and what drapers, what barbers, and peers,
What marquises, earls, and what knights of the shears,
What cook, and what countess, what nymphs of the brooms,
What mop--scepter'd queens, came that night to the Rooms,
What dashers of ink, pettifoggers, musicians,
With a new and correct list of all the physicians,
I ne'er can in suitable numbers explain,
Nor learned Batheaston's more musical train,
Tho' whilst the fair virgin at CLIO'S command,
Is dipping for rhymes with her lilly--white hand,
E'en PHŒBUS himself in support of the cause,
Should pop out his head from the Tusculan vase.
Alas! my dear wife, I can never describe
Bath's beautiful nymphs, that adorable tribe,
Who like Mexican queens in the picture which you may
Have seen of the court of the great Montezuma,
Sat in solemn array, and diversified plume,
That shed o'er their charms its delectable gloom;
But at what time they heard the horns echoing bellow,
The hautboy's shrill twang, the brisk fiddle, the mellow
Bassoon, and the sweet--grumbling violoncello,
At what time they heard the men puff and belabour
With mouth, stick, and fist, the gay pipe and the tabor,
At once they did scuddle, did flutter, and run,
And take wing like wild--geese alarm'd with a gun,
In a moment came bustling and rustling between one,
Some coupl'd like rabbits, a fat and a lean one,
Some pranc'd up before, some did backward rebound,
While some more in earnest, with looks more profound,
And sweat--bedew'd foretops, did lard the lean ground;
But others more neat, on the pastern arose,
Like the figure of Pan, whom you've seen, I suppose,
Just saluting the turf with the tips of his toes:
And as nothing, I think, can more please and engage
Than a contrast of stature, complexion, and age,
Miss Curd with a partner as black as Omiah,
Kitty Tit shook her heels with old Doctor Goliah,
And little John Crop, like a poney just nickt,
With long Dolly Loaderhead scamper'd and kickt,--
Ah! sweet Dolly Loaderhead--who can believe
Who for truth such reports of bright beauty receive?
Yet I hear--tho' perfum'd you such odours display,
And breathe in December the fragrance of May,
If your head were well open'd by louse--piercing Dunn
We should all be convinc'd, by more senses than one,
Tho' so powder'd and plumag'd it came to the feast,
It had ne'er tasted small--comb this twelvemonth at least.
As for Madge, tho' young Squirt had been promis'd the honour
Billy Dasher stept forth, and at once seiz'd upon her;
His air was so pleasing, so soft were his speeches,
Not to mention his new sattin flesh--colour'd breeches,
With a shoe like a sauce--boat, and steeple--clock'd hose,
And a silken soubise, that bob'd up to his nose,
With a watch in each pocket, one lent by his mother,
To prove that one leg should keep time with the other,
With a club like a coach--horse's tail in a strap,
And his coat like his beaver curtail'd of its flap,
With a sleeve you'd have sworn had been sew'd to his arm,--
No wonder, dear Wife, Billy Dasher should charm;
While with flames that keen jealousy's rage did improve,
Poor Squirt felt the heart--rending passion of love,--

--But soft--my dear Wife, I'm oblig'd to give o'er,--
What means that astonishing rap at the door?
It must be some person of Figure, no doubt,
And very high breeding, that makes such a rout,
Whoever it be, the true thanks he deserves
Of all who have tender, and delicate nerves--
Sure mine eyes must deceive me, or else I could swear
'Twas your own nephew Sim, getting out of the chair--
Quite a new--fashioned, flea--colour'd coat!--'tis--I'm sure
'Tis Sir Simkin himself, just arriv'd from his tour,
Pretty tender, I find, from a climate so warm,
As he takes at a breeze such a sudden alarm;
One hand, I perceive, tho' the wind's in the south,
Keeps thrusting his handkerchief up to his mouth,
While t'other, on which his camayeus appear,
Holds a thing call'd a chapeau de bras at his ear,--
Well--he comes in good time to improve and refine us--
Tam valdè ridiculus, et peregrinus,--
The meaning of that is in English, my dear,
I'm rejoic'd above measure, and wish you were here,
As his dress, and his manners you needs must applaud,
So much he's improv'd by his travels abroad:--
But I hasten to pay the respect that is due
To a friend so esteem'd, and connected with you:
With the truest reluctance I lay down my pen,
And am yours till I've time to resume it agen,

Submitted: Thursday, October 07, 2010

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