Citizen and the Red Lion of Brenton

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The Citizen and the Red Lion of Brenton. Fable XI
by Christopher Smart
From Fables.

The CITIZEN and the RED LION of

BRENTFORD.


 

FABLE XI.

I LOVE my friend — but love my ease,
And claim a right myself to please;
To company however prone,
At times all men wou'd be alone.
5 Free from each interruption rude,
Or what is meant by solitude.
My villa lies within the bills[1],
So — like a theatre it fills:
To me my kind acquaintance stray,
10And Sunday proves no Sabbath day;
Yet many a friend and near relation,
Make up a glorious congregation;
They croud by dozens and by dozens,
And bring me all their country cousins.
15 Tho' cringing landlords on the road,
Who find for man and horse abode;
Tho' gilded grapes to sign-post chain'd,
Invite them to be entertain'd,
And straddling cross his kilderkin,
20Tho' jolly Bacchus calls them in;
Nay—tho' my landlady wou'd trust 'em,
Pilgarlick's[2] sure of all the custom;
And his whole house is like a fair,
Unless he only treats with air.
25 What? shall each pert half witted wit,
That calls me Jack, or calls me Kit,
Prey on my time, or on my table?
No—but let's hasten to the Fable.
      The eve advanc'd, the sun declin'd,
30 BALL to the booby-hutch[3] was join'd,
A wealthy cockney drove away,
To celebrate Saint Saturday;
Wife, daughter, pug, all crouded in,
To meet at country house their kin.
35 Thro' Brentford, to fair Twickenham's bow'rs,
The ungreased grumbling axle scow'rs,
To pass in rural sweets a day,
But there's a Lion in the way:
This Lion a most furious elf,
40Hung up to represent himself,
Redden'd with rage, and shook his mane,
And roar'd, and roar'd, and roar'd again.
Wond'rous, tho' painted on a board,
He roar'd, and roar'd, and roar'd, and roar'd.
45 “Fool! (says the majesty of beasts)
“At whose expence a legion feasts,
“Foe to yourself, you those pursue,
“Who're eating up your cakes and you;
“Walk in, walk in, (so prudence votes)
50“And give poor BALL a feed of oats,
“Look to yourself, and as for ma'm,
“Coax her to take a little dram;
“Let Miss and Pug with cakes be fed,
“Then honest man go back to bed;
55 “You're better, and you're cheaper there,
“Where are no hangers on to fear,
“Go buy friend Newbery's new Pantheon,
“And con the tale of poor Acteon,
“Horn'd by Diana, and o'erpower'd,
60“And by the dogs he fed devour'd.
“What he receiv'd from charity,
“Lewdness perhaps may give to thee;
“And tho' your spouse my lecture scorns,
“Beware his fate, beware his horns.”
      65 “Sir,” says the Cit, (who made a stand,
And strok'd his forehead with his hand)
“By your grim gravity and grace,
“You greatly wou'd become the mace.
“This kind advice I gladly take,—
70“Draw'r, bring the dram, and bring a cake,
“With good brown beer that's brisk and humming.”
“A coming, Sir! a coming, coming!
The Cit then took a hearty draught,
And shook his jolly sides and laugh'd.
75 Then to the king of beasts he bow'd,
And thus his gratitude avow'd.—
“Sir, for your sapient oration,
“I owe the greatest obligation.
“You stand expos'd to sun and show'r,
80“I know Jack Ellis of the Tow'r[4];
“By him you soon may gain renown,
“He'll show your Highness to the town;
“Or, if you chuse your station here,
“To call forth Britons to their beer,
85 “As painter of distinguish'd note,
“He'll send his man to clean your coat.”
The Lion thank'd him for his proffer,
And if a vacancy shou'd offer,
Declar'd he had too just a notion,
90To be averse to such promotion.
The Citizen drove off with joy,
“For London — Ball — for London — hoy.”
Content to bed, he went his way,
And is no Bankrupt to this day.




Notes

Composed about 1753-54. First published: no information. Text: 1791.

  1. 7. the bills: i. e. the bills of mortality for London, hence the district of London (Karina Williamson).
  2. 22. Pilgarlick: poor creature, usually used of onself, 'poor me' (Karina Williamson).
  3. 30. BALL: a horse's name; booby-hutch: (booby hutch) — a one-horse chaise, noddy, buggy, or leathern bottle. (Definition taken from The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, originally by Francis Grose.)
  4. Jack Ellis of the Tow'r: John Ellis (1701-57) was master-keeper of the lions in the Tower of London and principal painter to Frederick, Prince of Wales.

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