Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux

(1 November 1636 – 13 March 1711 / Paris, France)

Argument - Poem by Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux

Forsaken Nancy in this Canto,
Brings 'gainst her John a Quo Warranto,
'Cause he had left her in the Lurch,
To rear a Pulpit in the Church :
And under colour of Religion
Courted another pretty Pigeon.
Now you must know that all the Blame
Was laid upon the Baggage Fame ;
Who rais'd between them the sad Squabble,
By forging of this Idle Fable !
Next you shall see in Sluggish Dress,
That Gallant Lady Idleness ;
Who has more Suitors waiting on her,
Than the most virtuous Maid of Honour ;
But here I almost had forgot
To won the Error of our Plot,
The Poet laid his Scene in France,
But I can't tell by what Mischance,
He now and then dares venture over,
And steps as far as Deal or Dover.

Mean while a Hagg, made up of Mouths and Ears,
Who prates both what, and more than what she hears,
The Moderns call her Fame : This crafy Jade
Of Slandring drives and unknown subtle trade ;
For she had got the Faculty to Brew
With dubious, Certain ; and with false, things true ;
And with such Art she her Ingredients mixed,
That where she pleas'd A Calumny she fixed ;
This Baggage once in her mad Moods and Tenses
Had Lombard read, the Master o'th' Sentences ;
Thence she had learn'd to spread a Lie Malicious,
And then to serve a Turn, us'd the Officious ;
When her light business call'd to the Court
Us'd the Jocose, and lewdly ly'd in sport ;
Her trade she practiced first in private Letters,
Bespatter'd there, and vilifi'd her Betters ;
In Coffee-houses then she grew a Prater,
Broke off al Trades, she sets up Observator.
A Justice once clapt her i'th' Stocks and stript her,
Then by a tough-back't Knave feverely Whipt her ;
Not warn'd, the Brazen-face would out be flying
Against the State with her Opprobrious Lying ;
Jockey for Leasing put her to the Horning,
In England she was Pillory'd for Stuborning ;
A thousand pounds for False News she was fined ;
And till she paid the fine to Gaol Confined :
Venturing at last on Scandalum Magnatum,
Two Thousand more ; yet still the Jade did rate 'um :
Thus did the Gypsey flutter up and down
Through City, Country, Village, and good Town ;
Once at a Barbers Shop she took a Lodging,
But fickle in her Humour soon was trudging
To th' Cross-keys, Gun, and Ship : still her Head Quarters
Where e're she roam'd by day, was the Crack-farters !
Forging, and telling Stories, with swift Wings
This tale at last to Jealous Nancy brings :
She tells ( her tale I'm sure, lost nought i'th' telling, )
How Johns misguided zeal, 'gainst Vows rebelling,
Under a quaint pretence to set upright
A Pew ( forsooth ! ) intends to watch that Night ;
But the perfidious wretch, intends ( sayes fame )
To Gratifie another kind of Flame !
For tyr'd with Lawful Love, and honest Kisses,
He elswhere payes the Tribut of Careflies
Due to his Spouse alone : Easie Belief
Receiv'd the News with Terrour mixt with Grief !
With finger in Eye, and Hair about her Shoulders,
Poor Nan runs out ; thought Mad by the beholders,
Nor caring much whether she wrong or right him,
In this rude language straight begins t'Indite hime.
Dissembling Traitor ! could not Faith once plighted,
Nor those Embraces wherein we delighted,
Nor thy Poor Wench ready to run a Madding,
Cool thy hot Cod-piece, but thou must be Gadding ?
Perfidious Wretch ! didst thou sit up to make
A Clock or Watch, some Comfort I might take ;
And hope of Lawful gain might slake my Anguish,
Whilst in they Absence, I, poor I did Languish :
But what wild Phrenzie ? what capricious Folly ?
What Whimsey ? what Religious Melancholly ?
What strange Conondrum's got into they Head,
To leave for Rotten Pulpit thy sweet Bed ?
Ah ! whether goest my John ? dost Fly thy Nancy ?
Can our delightful Nights forsake thy Fancy ?
What ! can'st with dry Eyes view my tear still Dropping ?
See how the Stupid Block stands mute, and moping !
If my soft Heart easie to thy Desires
Hath alwayes met with Equal Flames thy fires ;
And if to gratifie thy Itch, ( my Honey, )
I stood not on th' nice points of Matrimony ;
If in my Arms, thou, thou hast had sole part,
Speak not that wounding, killing word, Depart.
Thus spoke our Lover whining, plain and round,
And clos'd her speech with an half-dying swoon ;
Upon a Pallet backwards down she fell,
Fortune had plac'd the Couch exceeding well ;
Twenty to one she else had broke her Rump,
Up starts amazed John, bestirs his Stump,
'Twixt Zeal and Love, his heart stood long divided,
Till Zeal at last the Question decided ;
And thus his smothr'd passion got vent,
Smoothing with kind words o're his wild Intent.
Dear Spouse, ( said he with voice unkidnly kind )
Shall e're thy favours slide out of my mind ?
The Rhine shall first his streams mix with the Loire,
Ere I forget the fence of my Devoir ;
Nay first shall France keep Faith and Oath with Spain,
E're I thy love-sick Agonies disdain :
But never Dream, that when I gave my Troth,
I would become a Slave unto my Oath ;
Our Nation knows no such nice Obligation,
The Ancient Faith's now quite worn out of fashion ;
Had the Fates trusted me with mine own Lot,
I ne're had rashly knit the Wedlock Knot ;
But from those subtle Rites had still been free
To taft the fruit of the forbidden Tree ;
But since that matters in this posture stand,
Grudge not my Glory, if I lend a hand
To this bless'd work, the Height of my desire,
To raise the Pulpit in the sacred Quire.
Compose these passions strugling in thy Breast,
Dry up thos Tears ! Come Sweet ! Lye down and rest !
He said ; but what, the Wench regarded not,
E're half was done, the first she had forgot ;
With hollow Cheeks, and staring Eyes she view'd him,
Trembling she lay, and in her heart beshrew'd him ;
Long silent, stifled thoughts with pain at last
Broke prison, Raging then she Rail'd as fast.
No, no, Base Verlet ! Thy Sire ne're was Baker,
Nor cam'st thou of the blood of a Clock-maker !
Thy Mother never rode in Hackney Coach,
A Bastard-brat rather of some Turn-brooch,
Or Caucasus did form thee, of a Pebble,
Or some fell Tigress nurs'd thee with her nibble ;
Sure with her Milk thou drew'st in Feritie,
Other I'le ne're believe until I Die :
For to what end should I the Rascal flatter ?
Let me sob, roar, or swoon, 'tis all a matter
To marble-hearted John ; and all I gain
Is to draw on fresh injuries again !
A Pew ! what Mortal throat can ever gulp it,
Thus to compare me with a Rotten Pulpit !
Has all my scolding squeez'd from's Eyes one Tear ?
Has he express't the least Remorse for's Dear ?
When he came hither first, this paltrey Jack
Had scarce a Shooe to's foot, a Rag to's back ;
Nay I can safely swear't, because I know't.
The Villain was not worth a single Groat ;
I like a Fool took him to Bed and Board,
And now the Rascal swaggers like a Lord :
But why thus Raving do I beat a Rock,
Only to purchase foam ? Base Spirits mock
Abject complaints ; Humble Petitionings,
Are sill contemn'd, but in the breasts of Kings.
Then study brave Revenge, despised Love,
Nor shall Repentance e're my Pity move ;
And when thay Ears shall hear my Passing-bell,
Then, then expect Another kind of Knell ;
My Angry Ghost shall haunt thy Conscious Soul,
I'le Ring thee such a Peal, shall make thee Howl ;
Hobgoblins shall thy house turn topsey-turvey,
Conscience shall then upbraid thee, what a Scurvey
Knave thou hast been to thy Deserted Wife,
And make thee Pulpits Curse, whil'st thou hast Life !
Nay, I'le pursue thee to the Stygian Lake,
And ugly Ballads, Boyes of thee shall make.
This said, she dropt backwards upon her breech,
For raging sorrow quite had stopt her speech ;
The noise awaken'd Asse her trusty Maid,
Who Hobling soon came in unto her Aid.
Now Darkness had exil'd th'expiring Day,
Supper to Service had given leave to play ;
The fudling Chanters now in Clubs were got,
Wetting their Whistles with the good Ale-pot.
Brontin, whom Zeal for th'service had made quicker,
Bethought himself, A Punch of Nappy Liquor
In a Cold Winters Night was no false Latine,
To qualifie Devotion for the Matine ;
This Cargo, Gilotin's deep providence
Laid in ; he was ( say truth ) A man of sence,
The smell o'th' Bottle made him eas'ly Jugg;
Thus trudg'd he nimble : Whom should he stumble next on,
But that tough stick of Wood, Boirude the Sexton ?
Now both together warm'd with Zeal were hasting
To mmet the Clock-maker, for Time was wasting :
Come ! come away ! (cry'd they ) with quick devotion,
The Sun's now gone to tipple in the Ocean !
The Murky Night which veils the Evenings bravery,
Will make a handsome Cloak to hide our Knavery ;
What ails thee Man ? where hast of late been mew'd up ?
Thou look'st as if first eaten, and then spew'd up :
Where is that morning Zeal, that with thee rose ?
Chear up, and pluck thy Heart out of thy Hose !
Come, fear no Colours ! The end the Act will hallow !
Then whether Honour calls thee, bravely follow.
The Clock-maker knew not well how to take it,
Nor whether Jest or Earnest he should make it,
Half Pale, half Red he look't with motley passion,
For Shame and Rage had dy'd him in that fashion ;
Yet, on my word the Knave had wit in's Anger,
And wisely took along his rusty Hanger ;
For he resolv'd at a Dead pinch to knock it,
And scorn'd to stand, and sneak with hands in Pocket :
Nails be a handful took, and on his shoulder
A Massie Beetle, frighted the beholders;
An Axe, a Saw, a Hammer, and a Mallet
The sturdy knave had truss'd in Leathern Wallet ;
They march accoutred in Warlike Parade,
And John appears at th' Head of the Brigade ;
The silent Moon, viewing their stately Port,
Withdrew her Beams, she might not spoil the sport.
Discord saw all, and set up a loud Laughter,
Th' Eccho rebounds and shook Heavens hollow Raster ;
The Noise had almost waken'd Idleness
As she at Court with Ease held sweet Caress,
The frisking Pleasures danced by her side,
The Nuns her Votaries, her Deify'd ;
One, in a Corner Stufft the Prebends hides,
One, pleasantly the Chanons robes Derides ;
Luxury to her State devoutly bows,
And Sleep drop't Poppy0water on her Brows.
This Even the sleepy Dose they had redoubled,
In vain! for Discord's cries her sleep had troubled !
And envious Night conspiring with that Devil,
Buzz'd in her Drowsy Ears the Tragick Evil ;
Night tells her how the Prelate did design
To make Disturbance in the Sacred Shrine ;
How she had seen three Mortal Foes to Quiet,
March in Battalia ; and Three will make a Ryot :
How Discord threatned, to augment the fray,
A Pulpit to erect by Break or Day ;
Which would the people raise in Mutinies,
Thus, thus the Fates had written in the Skies !
At this Report, portending deadly Harm,
Idleness rais'd her self up on one Arm,
One Languid Eye she opes, and with weak Voice
Drop't these soft whispers ; fearing her own Noise.
Ah Night ! sad tale thou tell'st ! what envious Fiend,
With new Combustions doth my Quiet rend ?
Ah ! what's become of those thrice blessed Dayes,
When Idle Princes crown'd with wither'd Bayes
Slept on their Thrones, and tamely worshipt me,
Leaving their Scepters to a Deputy ?
All Night the Court did Feast, and slept all Day,
Creeping abroad perhaps when verdant May
With Gentle breathing Zephyrs sweet approaches
Call'd them to th' Park, drawn in six Horse-and-Coaches.
That happy Age is fled ; for now a Prince
Has got the Throne, and banisht me long since ;
Scorning my Pleasures : to my melting Charms
He stops his Ears with Thundring Drums Alarms :
And breaks my pleasing Dreams with Trumpets Sound,
Nor Summers Heat, nor Winters Frost confound
His Daring projects ; warlike preparations,
Resolv'd to Attack the World with fresh Invasions !
Nay all my Subjects ripe for Insurrection
Imbibe with eagerness the Dire Infection.
'Twice had I hop'd with flatt'ring Peace to cool
His martial Ardor; 'twice to shut the School
Of Janus : All in Vain ! expect I find
More Worlds to satiate his Ambitious Mind !
'Twould tire my feeble feet to trace the way
Where the hard Stages of his Valour lay ;
But yet I pleas'd my self with hopes to meet
For my disturbed Soul some safe Retreat :
I fancied that A Church might ease afford,
Where Church-men sleep in Bed, and wake at Board ;
But Oh! these Chanters, Chanons make a Pother,
A Dog can't rest, whil'st one worries another :
And which provokes me most to Indignation,
The whole world's set a gog on Reformation.
What Holy Mother Church, Imposing faith,
This Age receives not with Implicit Faith ;
Nay Blind Obedience now is styl'd A Vice,
Sawcy Dissenters will be counted wise ;
Men now Plead Conscience, make a heavy Din
With Heaven and Hell ; of Duty prate, and Sin :
These empty Names have set the Worlds on fire !
Now e're they swallow, the will first enquire ;
They'l see a Reason given for Church Commands,
And use their Eyes, e're they bestir their Hands.
Who can Remember, and not sadly grieve,
Those easie dayes when on eht Prelates sleeve
The supple Laity had pinn'd their Soul,
Nor Private durst the Publick Faith Controll ;
When Canons, Conscience ; Rubrick, Reason mated,
And Souls had learn't to bow, and ne're debate it ?
Then Masse's, Ave's Credo's Glory earned,
Blind Vot'ries then could rech it unconcerned !
But now the Begging Fryars are all for travel,
They exercise their Toes in Dust and Gravel ;
The preaching Friars such a coil do keep,
My aking head can get no wink of Sleep !
Yet my Cistercians did a little bless
My hopes, in Cloisters pamp'ring Idleness,
When a Mischievous Pulpits Curst intent
Threatens to force me thence to Banishment!
Ah Night ! the Dear Associate of my Sleep,
Wilt with these Villains Correspondence keep ?
Ah Night ! Sweet Night ! If e're thou didst Essay
With me the Joyes concealed from Day,
Then suffer not..... Much more she would have spoke,
Had not a Qualm crept o're her heart, and broke
The Languid purpose : Down she sank in Bed,
Sigh'd, stretch'd her Arms, clos'd Eyes, and Slumbered !


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012



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