Mounseer Nongtongpaw

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Now list awhile, good people all,
To what the Muse shall tell,
Of JOHN BULL's journey into Gaul,
And what him there befel.





To enable the unlearned reader to enter into the spirit of the following story, he should be informed that "Je vous n'entends pas," is French for "I don't understand you."


JOHN BULL, from England's happy Isle,
Too bold to dread mischance,
Resolv'd to leave his friends awhile,
And take a peep at France.

He nothing knew of French indeed,
And deem'd it jabb'ring stuff,
For English he could write and read,
And thought it quite enough.

Shrewd JOHN to see, and not to prate,
To foreign parts would roam,
That he their wonders might relate
When snug again at home.

Arriv'd at Paris with his dog,
Which he for safety muzzled,
The French flock'd round him, all agog,
And much poor JOHN was puzzled.

He went into a tavern straight,
Where viands smok'd around,
And having gaz'd at ev'ry plate,
He sat in thought profound.

He ask'd who gave so fine a feast,
As fine as e'er he saw;
The landlord, shrugging at his guest,
Said "Je vous n'entends pas."

"Well, he's a wealthy man,
"And seems dispos'd, from all I see,
"To do what good he can.

"A table set in such a style
"Holds forth a welcome sign," —
And added with an eager smile,
"With NONGTONGPAW I'll dine."

Then to the Palais Royal on
He trudg'd with honest Tray:
"Whose house is this," said curious JOHN,
"So spacious and so gay?"

A Frenchman, as he gap'd around
With wonder and with awe,
Salutes him with the former sound —
"Eh! Je vous n'entends pas."

"Hah, hah!" says JOHN, "Is this his place?"
Why surely he's the King —
"How high is he in Fortune's grace
"Who owns so vast a thing!"

He rambled next to Marli's height,
Versailles' grand scene to view,
And ask'd a country begging wight
If he the master knew.

The fellow, staring, scratch'd his head,
And idly stretch'd his jaw:
At length to JOHN in answer said —
"Eh! Je vous n'etends pas."

"What, this too his!" exclaims JOHN BULL,
"His riches have no end, —
"I wish my pockets were as full —
"Would i had such a friend!"

Strolling along another day,
To feast his eager eyes,
A lady pass'd him, young and gay —
He stood in fix'd surprise.

Struck by her charms, he ask'd her name
Of the first man he saw;
From whom, with shrugs, no answer came
But — "Je vous n'entends pas."

"The girl too NONGTONGPAW's?" says he,
Then cast a tender glance,
"I'm right — this NONGTONGPAW must be
"The greatest man in France."

Soon after trudg'd a footman nigh,
Whose hands were full of game;
JOHN saw them with a hungry eye,
And ask'd for whom they came.

But "Je vous n'entends pas" again
Was all that he could draw,
Which raised new wonder in his brain
At this great NONGTONGPAW!

A shepherd with his flock appears,
The sheep were large and fact,
Not understanding JOHN, he hears,
But humbly doffs his hat.

For JOHN with earnest looks began
To ask whose flock he saw:
At length he heard the poor old man
Cry — "Je vous n'entends pas."

"Why, what the deuce!" our hero cries,
"Are these too NONGTONGPAW's?
"Why surely all that meets his eyes
"He gets within his claws."

An infant train then comes in view,
And fills his heart with joy,
He gazes with affection true,
And pats a smiling boy.

He asks the nurse, but asks in vain,
Whose pretty brood appears;
For "Je vous n'entends pas" again
Assails his wond'ring ears.

A splendid carriage next he sees,
That four fine horses draw —
"Boy, say, whose coach, whose steeds are these?" —
"Eh! Je vous n'entends pas."

"Well!" honest BULL astonish'd roars,
"I'm surely in a trance —
"On NONGTONTPAW what fortune pours —
"He must be King of France!"

Next day to view a vast balloon
The folks came far and near,
To see it start JOHN hurried soon,
For ev'ry sight was dear.

He ask'd a woman on the ground
Who paid for the balloon,
But "je vous n'entends pas" he found
Was still the only tune.

Says hem, "I now don't wonder, Dame,
"To find 'tis his balloon,
"For sure this NONGTONGPAW can claim
"All that's beneath the moon."

Then he beheld a train of cooks,
Whose heads rich dishes bear;
With a keen appetite he looks,
And longs to have a share.

But "Je vous n'entends pas" he heard
When he the host would know.
"Aye! NONGTONGPAW," says he,"'s the word
"For all things good below."

At last he saw a hearse pass by,
And to the Sexton said,
His bosom heaving with a sigh,
"Pray who, my friend, is dead?"

The man the self-same answer made,
As all had done before.
JOHN heav'd another sigh, and said,
"Is then thy grandeur o'er!"

"I envy'd thee thy worldly state.
"Alas! I little knew
"The malice of approaching fate, —
"Poor NONGTONGPAW, adieu!"



<poem> Then, pond'ring o'er th' untimely fall

Of one so rich and great,

Reflections deep his mind appal

On man's uncertain state.

For, though in manners he was rough,

JOHN had a feeling heart,

So thought he now had seen enough,

And homeward should depart.

Besides, he panted to relate

All that heard and saw,

The pride, the pomp, the wealth, the fate


Borne swiftly by a fav'ring gale,

He reach'd his native ground,

And, to surprise them with the tale,

He calls his friends around.

They hear it all with silent awe,

Of admiration full,

And think that next to NONGTONGPAW

Is the great trav'ler BULL.

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