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Anna Laetitia Barbauld

(20 June 1743 – 9 March 1825 / Leicestershire, England)

The Baby-House


Dear Agatha, I give you joy,
And much admire your pretty toy,
A mansion in itself complete
And fitted to give guests a treat;
With couch and table, chest and chair,
The bed or supper to prepare;
We almost wish to change ourselves
To fairy forms of tripping elves,
To press the velvet couch and eat
From tiny cups the sugared meat.
I much suspect that many a sprite
Inhabits it at dead of night;
That, as they dance, the listening ear
The pat of fairy feet might hear;
That, just as you have said your prayers,
They hurry-scurry down the stairs:
And you'll do well to try to find
Tester or ring they 've left behind.

But think not, Agatha, you own
That toy, a Baby-house, alone;
For many a sumptuous one is found
To press an ampler space of ground.
The broad-based Pyramid that stands
Casting its shade in distant lands,
Which asked some mighty nation's toil
With mountain-weight to press the soil,
And there has raised its head sublime
Through æras of uncounted time,—
Its use if asked, 'tis only said,
A Baby-house to lodge the dead.
Nor less beneath more genial skies
The domes of pomp and folly rise,
Whose sun through diamond windows streams,
While gems and gold reflect his beams;
Where tapestry clothes the storied wall,
And fountains spout and waters fall;
The peasant faints beneath his load,
Nor tastes the grain his hands have sowed,
While scarce a nation's wealth avails
To raise thy Baby-house, Versailles.
And Baby-houses oft appear
On British ground, of prince or peer;
Awhile their stately heads they raise,
The' admiring traveller stops to gaze;
He looks again—where are they now?
Gone to the hammer or the plough:
Then trees, the pride of ages, fall,
And naked stands the pictured wall;
And treasured coins from distant lands
Must feel the touch of sordid hands;
And gems, of classic stores the boast,
Fall to the cry of—Who bids most?
Then do not, Agatha, repine
That cheaper Baby-house is thine.

Submitted: Monday, September 06, 2010

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