Treasure Island

Joseph Hall

(1574 - 1656 / England)

The Impecunious Fop


See'st thou how gaily my young master goes,
Vaunting himself upon his rising toes;
And pranks his hand upon his dagger's side;
And picks his glutted teeth since late noon-tide?
'Tis Ruffio: Trow'st thou where he dined to-day?
In sooth I saw him sit with Duke Humphrey.
Many good welcomes, and much gratis cheer,
Keeps he for every straggling cavalier;
An open house, haunted with great resort;
Long service mixt with musical disport.
Many fair younker with a feathered crest,
Chooses much rather be his shot-free guest,
To fare so freely with so little cost,
Than stake his twelvepence to a meaner host.
Hadst thou not told me, I should surely say
He touched no meat of all this livelong day;
For sure methought, yet that was but a guess,
His eyes seemed sunk for very hollowness,
But could he have--as I did it mistake--
So little in his purse, so much upon his back?
So nothing in his maw? yet seemeth by his belt
That his gaunt gut no too much stuffing felt.
See'st thou how side it hangs beneath his hip?
Hunger and heavy iron makes girdles slip.
Yet for all that, how stiffly struts he by,
All trapped in the new-found bravery.
The nuns of new-won Calais his bonnet lent,
In lieu of their so kind a conquerment.
What needed he fetch that from farthest Spain,
His grandame could have lent with lesser pain?
Though he perhaps ne'er passed the English shore,
Yet fain would counted be a conqueror.
His hair, French-like, stares on his frighted head,
One lock Amazon-like dishevelled,
As if he meant to wear a native cord,
If chance his fates should him that bane afford.
All British bare upon the bristled skin,
Close notched is his beard, both lip and chin;
His linen collar labyrinthian set,
Whose thousand double turnings never met:
His sleeves half hid with elbow pinionings,
As if he meant to fly with linen wings.
But when I look, and cast mine eyes below,
What monster meets mine eyes in human show?
So slender waist with such an abbot's loin,
Did never sober nature sure conjoin.
Lik'st a strawn scarecrow in a new-sown field,
Reared on some stick, the tender corn to shield,
Or, if that semblance suit not every deal,
Like a broad shake-fork with a slender steel.
Despised nature suit them once aright,
Their body to their coat both now disdight.
Their body to their clothes might shapen be,
That will their clothes shape to their bodie.
Meanwhile I wonder at so proud a back,
Whiles the empty guts loud rumblen for long lack.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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