Treasure Island

Christopher Anstey

(1724-1805 / England)

An Election Ball


A thousand times hug'd with outlandish grimace,
Saluted as oft' on both sides of my face,
Distress'd with fine speeches, some Italiano,
And some en Frangois, with a smack of Germano,
Perform'd by Sir Simkin, who'd fain have it known,
He has studied all tongues, and forgotten his own,
In his sweet vis à vis almost poison'd to day
While he gap'd, and complain'd he was tout ennuyè,
(A disease, which, if chance a young man it befal,
Will make him, I find--good for nothing at all)
Now admiring a picture he call'd a Madònna,
Then kissing a lap--dog he brought from Bologna--
(Tho' I ne'er till this moment knew what it did mean,)
I think I have felt a small touch of the Spleen,
And with you, my dear Wife, I'll my spirits regale,
And catch one sweet breeze from the Aonian vale--
Ah! fain I Sir Simkin's exploits would relate
From the time that he came to his rank and estate,
Tell the sights he hath seen, to what courts he is known,
What treasures brought home--in exchange for his own--
But the Muse bids me now the transactions recall
Of that famous night which I spent at the Ball,
On which, I profess, both your husband and daughter,
Met a deal of respect, entertainment, and laughter,
For wherever we went, you've no reason to doubt us,
We carried a pow'r of good humour about us:
But alas! my dear Dinah, I fain would conceal
What truth and sincerity bid me reveal,
What with hair all dishevell'd, and tear--blubber'd cheek,
Melpomene trembling commands me to speak,
Commands me to tell thee, the dismalest story,
That ever befel a poor nymph in her glory,

The dance was just o'er, and I burnt to employ
My time on more solid, more rational joy,
Life's truest delights were prepar'd to begin,--
For the supper, my dearest, was just carried in,
And the worthy good Dr. Abdomen and I
Had just found a crow in a perigord pie,
And (what I accounted exceedingly pleasant)
Cut up an old fowl stuck with tail of a pheasant,
When Squirt, who had long been attempting in vain
The pangs of resentment and love to restrain,
At length lost all patience; his heart fell a throbbing,
When he saw Billy Dasher with Madge hob--a--nobbing,
And thought he might better give vent to his pain,
Than add to his heat by the soupe à la reine,
So to please his revenge, he pretended to stoop,
And on poor Billy Dasher dispos'd of his soup,
And soupe à la reine so exceedingly rich is,
It fasten'd like glue to his flesh--colour'd breeches;
At once he did roar, kick, and scamper, and swear,
In vain like old Hercules striving to tear
The gift so tenacious, which Squirt with a grin
Protested and vow'd was ne'er meant for his skin;
Billy tug'd at his sattins till all in a fright,
The Misses scream'd out at so shocking a sight,
And the daemon of Discord with menaces loud,
And revenge at his heels had assembl'd a crowd:
Alas! how my soul was prophetic of evil!
(Oh! I wish that old Barnaby Buzz at the devil)
He, forsooth, of all others, must needs interpose,
As in quarrels for ever he's thrusting his nose;
And like some great quacks, who instead of assuaging
The gout in one toe, set the other a raging,
Or what is more dreadful, oft banish the pain
By a nostrum that drives the disease to the brain,
Two words he repeated an hundred times o'er,
Which inflam'd both the heroes' resentment the more,
Satisfaction and honour--which terms I would fain
Beg the favour of some wiser head to explain--
But Barnaby Buzz such an ignorant dolt is
He clapt on a caustic, instead of a poultice,
And talk'd with such infinite vociferation,
And us'd such immoderate gesticulation,
As sure as you live, that conceited old prig
The candle knock'd down on poor Margery's wig;
At once the fierce deity seiz'd on her plume,
Made all her combustible noddle to fume,
And whilst my old carroty caxon was singeing,
Some call'd out for Gulliver--some for the engine--
But, what I esteem much politer and kinder,
A well--behav'd gentleman stepping behind her,
To prevent all misfortunes proceeding from fire,
As his wife and his sister were sitting just by her,
(Like an honest, good man, who employs all his labours,
To save his own house--by destroying his neighbour's)
In spite of old Vulcan caught hold of the cawl,
And away flew wig, feathers, and posy and all;
Then as if all the devils in hell meant to plague us,
(Ah! pies take that filthy, vile punch and the negus)
Spite of all that I said in my former epistle--
Madge had taken a drop, just to moisten her whistle,
Prescrib'd her, she tells me, by young Mr. Squirt,
Who vow'd--and protested--'twould do her no hurt,
(Tho' punch, you well know, if it chance to oppress us,
In the very best company's apt to distress us)
Alas! she who lately Bath's beauties among,
Shone foremost and fairest of all the gay throng,
Now wigless, unfeather'd, with eyes of despair,
That star'd like a jack--daw's when caught in a snare,
With locks standing up in the front like a teasel,
Behind, sticking out like the tail of a weasel,
With sack, hoop, and stay, pinch'd, and sweated to death,
Stood and gasp'd like a turtle that's panting for breath:
So for fear I should hear some d--n'd rhymer remarking
The fate of my wig and the tail of the Darking,
Tho' at dinner I'd made but a slender repast,
(As before a great feast one may venture to fast,)
I e'en hobbled off, and without any supper,
Was forc'd to go home to unlace and unhoop her.

But if ever again at these balls I appear,
(Tho' a ball without thee, will be no ball, my dear,)
Do, pray, let us banish these new--fangled ways,
And give Madge a little more room in her stays;
For as to the modes of your folk in high life,
I fear we are all in the wrong, my dear wife;
As to eating--I swear in the very first instance,
I'll fall aboard something that makes a resistance,
I think it a sin and a scandal to waste
My time and my teeth upon outlandish paste,
Fill'd with truffles, morelles, and such d--n'd nasty stuff,
That agrees with our modern fine youth well enough,
And no doubt our good member pays full enough for it,
But the world shall all know I detest and abhor it;
And tho' Mrs. Madge it exceeds your belief,
I'll take a good slice of old English roast beef;
Let me, my dear, quaff my beer, smouze and carouze,
And you'll find me your ever affectionate spouse

Submitted: Thursday, October 07, 2010

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