Madam and the Magpie

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



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