Brocaded Gown and Linen Rag

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Brocaded Gown and Linen Rag. Fable VIII  (1754) 
by Christopher Smart




From a fine lady to her maid,
A Gown descended of brocade.
French!—Yes, from Paris—that's enough,
That wou'd give dignity to fluff.
5 By accident or by design,
Or from some cause, I can't divine;
A Linen Rag, (sad source of wrangling!)
On a contiguous peg was dangling,
Vilely besmear'd—for late his master,
10It serv'd in quality of plaister.
The Gown, contemptuous beholder,
Gave a French shrug from either shoulder,
And rustling with emotions furious,
Bespoke the Rag in terms injurious.
15“Unfit for tinder, lint or fodder,
Thou thing of filth, (and what is odder)
“Discarded from thy owner's back,
“Dar'st thou proceed, and gold attack?
“Instant away—or in this place,
20Begar me give you coup de grace.”

      To this reply'd the honest Rag,
Who lik'd a jest, and was a wag;

      “Tho' thy glib tongue without a halt run,
Thou shabby second-hand subaltern,
25At once so antient and so easy,
At once so gorgeous and so greasy,;
I value not thy gasconading,[1]
Nor all thy alamode parading;
But to abstain from words imperious,
30And to be sober, grave, and serious.
Tho' says friend Horace, 'tis no treason,
At once to giggle, and to reason,
When me you lesson, friend, you dream,
For know I am not what I seem;
35Soon by the mills refining motion,
The sweetest daughter of the ocean,
Fair Medway, shall with snowy hue,
My virgin purity renew,
And give me reinform'd existence,
40A good retention and subsistence.
Then shall the sons of genius join,
To make my second life divine.
O Murray[2], let me then dispense,
Some portion of thy eloquence;
45For Greek and Roman rhetoric shine,
United and improved in thine.
The spirit stirring[3] sage alarms,
And Ciceronian sweetness charms.
Th'Athenian Akenside[4] may deign
50To stamp me deathless with his pen.
While flows approv'd by all the Nine
Th'immortal soul of every line.
Collins[5], perhaps, his aid may lend,
Melpomene's selected friend.
55Perhaps our great Augustan Gray[6]
May grace me with a Doric lay;
With sweet, with manly words of woe,
That nervously pathetic flow,
What, Mason[7], may I owe to you?
60 Learning's first pride, and nature's too;
On thee she cast her sweetest smile,
And gave thee Art's correcting file;
That file, which with assiduous pain,
The viper Envy bites in vain.—
65uch glories my mean lot betide,
Hear, tawdry fool, and check thy pride.—
Thou, after scouring, dying, turning,
(If haply thou escape a burning)
From gown to petticoat descending,
70 And in a beggar's mantle ending,
Shalt in a dunghill or a stye,
'Midst filth and vermin rot and die.



First published in The Gentleman's Magazine (Feb. 1754, pp. 89-90). Reprinted 1791.

  1. 27. gasconading: extravagant boasting/
  2. 43. William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield (1705-93) was renowned for his oratory based on intensive study of classical models. Murray's wife Elizabeth Finch was the sister of Smart's patron, Duchess of Cleveland.
  3. 47. [Note: Demosthenes.]
  4. 49. Athenian Akenside: Mark Akenside (1721-70) dedicated his poem The Pleasures of Imagination to the "Genius of ancient Greece".
  5. 53-4. William Collins (1721-59) author of Dirge in Cymbeline end elegaic odes. Lines 53-4 were omitted in The Gentleman's Magazine.
  6. 55-8. Augustan Gray: Thomas Gray (1716-71) was entitled Augustan for classical qualities of his odes. Here in 57-8 Smart speaks about Gray's famous Elegy (1751).
  7. W59-62. William Mason (1725-97) a Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge was author of a poem Musæs: a monody to the memory of Mr. Pope, 1747.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.