John Gay

(30 June 1685 – 4 December 1732 / Barnstaple, England)

The Quidnunckis - Poem by John Gay

How vain are mortal man's endeavours?
(Said, at dame Elleot's, master Travers)
Good Orleans dead! in truth 'tis hard:
Oh! may all statesmen die prepar'd!
I do foresee (and for foreseeing
He equals any man in being)
The army ne'er can be disbanded.
--I with the king was safely landed.
Ah friends! great changes threat the land!
All France and England at a stand!
There's Meroweis--mark! strange work!
And there's the Czar, and there's the Turk--
The Pope--An India-merchant by
Cut short the speech with this reply:
All at a stand? you see great changes?
Ah, sir! you never saw the Ganges:
There dwells the nation of Quidnunckis
(So Monomotapa calls monkeys
On either bank from bough to bough,
They meet and chat (as we may now):
Whispers go round, they grin, they shrug,
They bow, they snarl, they scratch, they hug;
And, just as chance or whim provoke them,
They either bite their friends, or stroke them.
There have I seen some active prig,
To show his parts, bestride a twig:
Lord! how the chatt'ring tribe admire!
Not that he's wiser, but he's higher:
All long to try the vent'rous thing,
(For power is but to have one's swing).
From side to side he springs, he spurns,
And bangs his foes and friends by turns.
Thus as in giddy freaks he bounces,
Crack goes the twig, and in he flounces!
Down the swift stream the wretch is borne;
Never, ah never, to return!
Zounds! what a fall had our dear brother!
Morbleu! cries one; and damme, t'other.
The nation gives a general screech;
None cocks his tail, none claws his breech;
Each trembles for the public weal,
And for a while forgets to steal.
Awhile all eyes intent and steady
Pursue him whirling down the eddy:
But, out of mind when out of view,
Some other mounts the twig anew;
And business on each monkey shore
Runs the same track it ran before.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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