Madam and the Magpie

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Madam and the Magpie. Fable IX  (1767) 
by Christopher Smart
From Fables.



Ye thunders roll, ye oceans roar,
And wake the rough resounding shore;
Ye guns in smoke and flames engage,
And shake the ramparts with your rage;
5 Boreas distend your chops and blow;
Ring, ring, ye bonny bells of Bow;
Ye drums and rattles, rend the ears,
Like twenty thousand Southwark fairs;
Bellow ye bulls, and bawl ye bats,
10 Encore, encore, ye amorous cats;
In vain poor things ye squeak and squall,
Soft Sylvia shall out-tongue you all:
But here she comes—there's no relief,
She comes, and blessed are the deaf.
15 "A Magpie! why, you're mad, my dear,
To bring a chattering Magpie here.
A prating play thing, fit for boys—
You know I can't endure a noise.—
You brought this precious present sure,
20 My headach and my cough to cure.
Pray hand him in and let him stain
Each curtain, and each counterpane;
Yes, he shall roost upon my toilet,
“Or on my pillow—he can't spoil it:
25 He'll only make me catch my death.—
O heavens! for a little breath!—
Thank God, I never knew resentment,
But am all patience and contentment,
Or else, you paltry knave, I shou'd
30 (As any other woman wou'd)
Wring off his neck, and down your gullet
Cram it, by way of chick or pullet.—
Well, I must lock up all my rings,
My jewels, and my curious things:
35 My Chinese toys must go to pot;
My deards[1], my pinchbecks—and what not?
For all your Magpies are, like lawyers,
At once thieves, brawlers, and destroyers.—
You for a wife have search'd the globe,
40 You've got a very female Job,
Pattern of love, and peace and unity,
Or how cou'd you expect impunity?
O Lord! this nasty thing will bite,
And scratch and clapper, claw and fight.
45 O monstrous wretch, thus to devise,
To tear out your poor Sylvia's eyes.
You're a fine Popish plot pursuing,
By presents to affect my ruin;
And thus for good are ill retorting
50 To Me, who brought you such a fortune;
To Me, you low-liv'd clown, to Me,
Who came of such a family;
Me, who for age to age possess'd
A lion rampant on my crest;
55 Me, who have fill'd your empty coffers,
Me, who'd so many better offers;
And is my merit thus regarded,
Cuckold, my virtue thus rewarded.
O 'tis past sufferance—Mary—Mary,
60 I faint—the citron, or the clary[2]."

      The poor man, who had bought the creature,
Out of pure conjugal good-nature,
Stood at this violent attack,
Like statutes made by Roubilliac[3],
65 Tho' form'd beyond all skill antique,
They can't their marble silence break;
They only breathe, and think, and start,
Astonish'd at their maker's art.
"Quoth Mag, fair Grizzle, I must grant,
70 Your spouse a magpye cannot want:
For troth (to give the dev'l his due)
He keeps a rookery in you.
Don't fear I'll tarry long, sweet lady,
Where there is din enough already,
75 We never shou'd agree together,
Although we're so much of a feather;
You're fond of peace, no man can doubt it,
Who make such wond'rous noise about it;
And your tongue of immortal mould
80 Proclaims in thunder you're no scold.
Yes, yes, you're sovereign of the tongue,
And, like the king, can do no wrong;
Justly your spouse restrains his voice,
Nor vainly answers words with noise;
85 This storm, which no soul can endure,
Requires a very different cure;
For such sour verjuice[4] dispositions,
Your crabsticks are the best physicians."



First published in The Twelfth-Day Gift (1767). Reprinted 1791.

  1. 36. deards: (Text 1767) perhaps a nonce-word for precious things; dear (Text 1791) printed instead.
  2. 60. citron brandy with lemon-rind; clary: wine with honey and spices.
  3. 64. Louis-François Roubiliac (1695-1762) a sculptor famous for his statues of Handel, Newton, etc.
  4. 87. verjuice: the acid juice of crab-apples, etc. hence 'sour' (The note by Karina Williamson).
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.