An Inventory of the Furniture in Dr. Priestley's Study

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An Inventory of the Furniture in Dr. Priestley's Study
by Anna Laetitia Barbauld

A map of every country known,
With not a foot of land his own.
A list of folks that kicked a dust
On this poor globe, from Ptol. the First;
He hopes,—indeed it is but fair,—
Some day to get a corner there.
A group of all the British kings,
Fair emblem! on a packthread swings.
The Fathers, ranged in goodly row,
A decent, venerable show,
Writ a great while ago, they tell us,
And many an inch o'ertop their fellows.
A Juvenal to hunt for mottos;
And Ovid's tales of nymphs and grottos.
The meek-robed lawyers, all in white;
Pure as the lamb,—at least, to sight.
A shelf of bottles, jar and phial,
By which the rogues he can defy all,—
All filled with lightning keen and genuine,
And many a little imp he'll pen you in
Which, like Le Sage's sprite, let out,
Among the neighbours makes a rout;
Brings down the lightning on their houses,
And kills their geese, and frights their spouses.
A rare thermometer, by which
He settles, to the nicest pitch,
The just degrees of heat, to raise
Sermons, or politics, or plays.
Papers and books, a strange mixed olio,
From shilling touch to pompous folio;
Answer, remark, reply, rejoinder,
Fresh from the mint, all stamped and coined here;
Like new-made glass, set by to cool,
Before it bears the workman's tool.
A blotted proof-sheet, wet from Bowling.
—"How can a man his anger hold in?"—
Forgotten times, and college themes,
Worm-eaten plans, and embryo schemes;—
A mass of heterogeneous matter,
A chaos dark, nor land nor water;—
New books, like new-born infants, stand,
Waiting the printer's clothing hand;—
Others, a motley ragged brood,
Their limbs unfashioned all, and rude,
Like Cadmus' half-formed men appear;
One rears a helm, one lifts a spear,
And feet were lopped and fingers torn
Before their fellow limbs were born;
A leg began to kick and sprawl
Before the head was seen at all,
Which quiet as a mushroom lay
Till crumbling hillocks gave it way;
And all, like controversial writing,
Were born with teeth, and sprung up fighting.
     "But what is this," I hear you cry,
"Which saucily provokes my eye?"—
A think unknown, without a name,
Born of the air and doomed to flame.


This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.