Fashion and Night

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Fashion and Night. Fable III  (1751) 
by Christopher Smart
From Fables.


FASHION and NIGHT


 
FABLE III.

Quam multa prava atque injusta fiunt moribus.
                                        Terent.[1]

Fashion, a motley nymph of yore,
The Cyprian Queen to Porteus bore:
Various herself in various climes,
She moulds the manners of the times;
5 And turns in every age or nation,
The chequer'd wheel of variegation;
True female that ne'er knew her will,
Still changing, tho' immortal still.
One day as the inconstant maid
10Was careless on her sofa laid,
Sick of the sun and tir'd with light,
She thus invok'd the gloomy night:
"Come — these malignant rays destroy,
Thou skreen of shame, and rise of joy.
15Come from thy western ambuscade,
Queen of the rout and masquerade:
Nymph, without thee no cards advance,
Without thee halts the loit'ring dance;
Till thou approach, all, all's restraint,
20Nor is it safe to game or paint;
The belles and beaux thy influence ask,
Put on the universal mask.
Let us invert, in thy disguise,
That odious nature, we despise."
25She ceas'd — the sable mantled dame
With slow approach, and awful, came;
And frowning with sarcastic sneer,
Reproach'd the female rioteer:
"That nature you abuse, my fair,
30Was I created to repair.
And contrast with a friendly shade,
The pictures heaven's rich pencil made;
And with my sleep alluring dose,
To give laborious art repose;
35To make both noise and action cease,
The queen of secresy and peace.
But thou a rebel, vile, and vain,
Usurp'st my lawful old domain;
My scepter thou affect'st to sway,
40And all the various hours are day;
With clamours of unreal joy,
My sister silence you destroy;
The blazing lamps unnatural light
My eye balls weary and affright;
45But if I am allow'd one shade,
Which no intrusive eyes invade,
There all the atrocious imps of hell,
Theft, murder, and pollution dwell:
Thinks then how much, thou toy of chance,
50Thy praise is likely worth t'inhance;
Blind thing that runst without a guide,
Thou whirlpool in a rushing tide,
No more my fame with praise pollute,
But damn me into some repute."


1751. Publ. 1752


Notes

First published in The Midwife; or The Old Woman's Magazine (iii. 46-8, Jan. 1752). Reprinted 1754, 1754, 1791.

  1. A modified quotation:
    “Quam multa injusta ac prava fiunt moribus!”
    (“How many preserve and unjust acts does fashion make one commit."),
    Publius Terentius Afer: “Heauton timoroumenos” (“Self Tormentor”, IV, 7, 11).
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.