Percy Bysshe Shelley

(1792-1822 / Horsham / England)

Here I sit with my paper…


Here I sit with my paper, my pen my ink,
First of this thing, and that thing,
and t'other thing think ;
I Then my thoughts come so pell and
I mell all into my mind,
That the sense or the subject I never can find :
This word is wrong placed, no
regard to the sense,
The present and future, instead of
past tense,
Then my grammar I want; O dear!
what a bore,
I think I shall never attempt to
write more,
With patience I then my thoughts
must arraign,
Have them all in due order like
mutes in a train,
Like them too must wait in due
patience and thought,
Or else my fine works will all come
to nought.
My wit too 's so copious, it flows
like a river,
But disperses its waters on black
and white never ;
Like smoke it appears independent
and free,
But ah luckless smoke! it all passes
like thee
Then at length all my patience entirely
lost,
My paper and pens in the fire are
tossed ;
But come, try again you must
never despair,
Our Murray's or Entick's are not
all so rare,
Implore their assistance they'll
come to your aid,
Perform all your business without
being paid,
They'll tell you the present tense,
future and past,
Which should come first, and which
should come last,
This Murray will do then to Entick
repair,
To find out the meaning of any
word rare.
This they friendly will tell, and
ne'er make you blush,
With a jeering look, taunt, or an
O fie! tush!
Then straight all your thoughts in
black and white put,
Not minding the if's, the be's, and
the but,
Then read it all over, see how it
will run,
How answers the wit, the retort,
and the pun,
Your writings may then with old
Socrates vie,
May on the same shelf with Demosthenes
lie,
May as Junius be sharp, or as Plato
be sage,
The pattern or satire to all of the
age;
But stop a mad author I mean not
to turn,
Nor with thirst of applause does my
heated brain burn,
Sufficient that sense, wit, and grammar
combined,
My letters may make some slight
food for the mind ;
That my thoughts to my friends I
may freely impart,
In all the warm language that flows
from the heart.
Hark! futurity calls! it loudly
complains,
It bids me step forward and just
hold the reins,
My excuse shall be humble, and
faithful, and true,
Such as I fear can be made but by
few
Of writers this age has abundance
and plenty,
Three score and a thousand, two
millions and twenty,
Three score of them wits who all
sharply vie,
To try what odd creature they best
can belie,
A thousand are prudes who for
Charity write,
And fill up their sheets with spleen,
envy, and spite,
One million are bards, who to
Heaven aspire,
And stuff their works full of bombast,
rant, and fire,
T'other million are wags who in
Grub-street attend,
And just like a cobbler the old writings
mend,
The twenty are those who for pulpits
indite,
And pore over sermons all Saturday
night.
And now my good friends who
come after I mean,
As I ne'er wore a cassock, or dined
with a dean,
Or like cobblers at mending I never
did try,
Nor with poets in lyrics attempted
to vie;
As for prudes these good souls I
both hate and detest,
So here I believe the matter must
rest.
I've heard your complaint my
answer I've made,
And since to your calls all the
tribute I've paid,
Adieu my good friend ; pray never
despair,
But grammar and sense and everything dare,
Attempt but to write dashing, easy,
and free,
Then take out your grammar and
pay him his fee,
Be not a coward, shrink not to a
tense,
But read it all over and make it
out sense.
What a tiresome girl! pray soon
make an end,
Else my limited patience you'll
quickly expend.
Well adieu, I no longer your patience
will try
So swift to the post now the letter
shall fly.

Submitted: Thursday, April 01, 2010

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