Answer to an Advertisement published in the Attic Chest 4th March 1817
Hello! Hello! Why Mistress Muse
Can you an Attic Bard refuse?
And have you left the Chest, to dance
Cotillons at the Court of France?
Oh! no — she’s but a transient rover,
To seek the fashions and the Louvre.
Lo! she e’en now her steps retraces
Adorned with foreign airs and graces.
New thoughts, new wit she smuggles over
Nor fears the Custom House at Dover —
For, trust a poet’s word upon it,
She hides them all beneath her bonnet;
And Douaniers, tho’ prone to trace
Like well-train’d hounds, the smell of lace,
Are blest with organs quite unfit
(For lack of use) to smell out wit.
Oh think how gay the Chest will be
With foreign quip and repartée,
With mental gems that far outshine
The puny stars of India’s mine,
And in a month when flow’rs are wanted
The flow’rs of Wit’s parterre transplanted.
But if you wish for fruits, I fear
They boast a richer flavour here
The brightest hues one often meets
Amid a wilderness of sweets;
Most lavish is th’ uncultur’d bloom,
The wild rose yields most rich perfume;
But only culture’s skilful hand
Can bid the valued fruit expand,
Can graft the crab or crab-like mind
With apple of a nobler kind.
And heightening thus its former savour
With polished sweetness, richer flavour,
While strengthening still the vital root,
To beauty bring the perfect fruit.
But whither do I stray — I see
The Muse has run away with me.
Lured by the hope of high reward,
I meant to tell the hapless Bard
Who mourns her loss, a certain spell
To find again the faithless Belle.
On Tuesday Night, by midnight taper
Bring forth a spotless sheet of paper —
Not foolscap — nor of wiry mould —
But smooth and edged with ruddy gold.
Then by its side discreetly mix
A potent fluid, black as Styx.
From Magic Drugs by chemists won
The Modern Poet’s Helicon.
And for your incantation use
The pointed feather of a goose,
Its tongue like that of serpent slit,
Or like the double sting of wit
Be on the paper’s face impressed
These wondrous letters — “FOR THE CHEST”.
Then call the Muse — and she’ll reply.
Yet aid I not a rival Bard
Without the hope of high reward.
Then be the verses duly paid
(For still I keep my father’s trade)
Of meaning rich, of lofty strain,
And such as I may sell again.