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Hector Macneill (Гектор Макнилл)

To a Young Lady, with a Bottle of Irish Usquebaugh

"Sine Cerere et Baccho friget Venus."

In spite of all that poets tell us
(For poets are but lying fellows)
Of Cupid's flames, and Cupid's darts,
And all his soft bewitching arts,
That teach the stubborn heart to move,
And tune the rudest speech to love,
I cannot say I recollect
One single instance, proof, or fact,
Where freedom, wit, or common sense,
E'er flow'd from true love eloquence.
For me (should love-sick qualms attack us),
I've much more faith in honest Bacchus,
And can't help thinking master Cupid
Oft makes us mad; but oftner stupid:
At least, if one may judge from action,
And looks that border on distraction,
The man who really feels love's passion,
Acts, speaks, and reason -- out of fashion.
'This may be true,' I hear you cry,
'Yet bards, you say, can sometimes lie:
And since you choose the present time
To vent 'gainst love your spleen, in rhyme,
Produce your proofs, or cease to rail.'--
With all my heart! -- I'll tell a tale.

    When sprightly Daphne went a maying,
And all the loves and graces playing
Around her beauteous face were seen
To deck the bloom of fair nineteen,
Young Strephon met her on the green.
Struck with her charms -- to speak afraid,
By love enthrall'd, by love dismay'd--
The senseless Strephon (keep from laughter!)
Had not the power to follow after;
But gaz'd, and gap'd, with transports swelling,
Nor ask'd her name, nor mark'd her dwelling.
Six months, six torturing months, and more,
Did Strephon loud his loss deplore;
And often rang'd the fields in vain
To find the lovely maid again;
And often curs'd his fluttering folly,
And often groan'd with melancholy;
When Love and Fun one night agree,
The youthful pair should meet at -- tea.

    Soon as our rapt'rous swain had ventur'd
The parlour door to ope, and enter'd,
And saw his Daphne's dazzling charms,
He lost the power of legs and arms.
His foot that whilom us'd to glide
Along the floor with graceful slide,
Now rudely strikes his tumbling cane,
Which, trying to obtain again,
His luckless skull salutes a chair,
And fearful stands his injur'd hair!--
Behold now Strephon in his place,
With 'blushing honours' on his face:
The tea's to hand ;-- he cannot fail
To tread on harmless Tabby's tail:
To ease her pain, puss squalls and kicks,
And in his leg her talons sticks;
And tears the hose, and eke the skin,
Till streams run down poor Strephon's shin:
Stung with the smart, I do assure ye
He roar'd and caper'd like a fury;
And in his gambols (dire mishap!)
Dropt cup and tea in Daphne's lap.

    Ye loath the sot with liquor muddy,
Eyes all inflam'd, and face all ruddy;
Yet never once conclude with me
That Strephon was as drunk as he;
The man who speaks things out of season,
Or acts as if bereft of reason,
I must consider just as bad
As he who's drunk, or he who's mad.
'Pray sir, a truce with moralizing,
And answer this without disguising:
Did Strephon e'er his flame discover?'
No -- never while a downright lover.
In vain each night he frames with art
Some speech to melt his Daphne's heart;
Whene'er he tries to ope his lips,
Away! each soft idea skips,
And leaves him nought but hems and hahs,
And stamm'rings to fill up each pause;
And blushes, groans, and palpitation--
(A pretty kind of conversation!)
'What then! did Strephon never win her?'
Never, till one blest day at dinner.
'At dinner say you! -- how -- when -- where?
How keenly curious women are!
I would be brief -- I hate great talkers --
You're so particular! -- well! -- at Walker's
One morning, Strephon asked to dine,
To meet at four, to part at nine:
The party choice -- for reasons shown him
He went and drank his magnum bonum.

    Behold him now, a jovial boy!
No fluttering fears! -- no trembling joy;
And all his groans and blushes over,
Mark how he breathes the ardent lover.

    Struck with amaze, sweet Daphne hears
New accents reach her ravish'd ears:
'And fairest of thy sex!' he cries
(While passion sparkles in his eyes,)
'O source of ev'ry chaste delight!
My thought by day; my dream by night;
My ev'ry hope; my ev'ry care;
My joy; my comfort; my -- despair:
Ah! wherefore should I still conceal
'What all can feign, but few can feel!'
Since first these heav'nly charms were seen
By luckless Strephon on the green;
Since first with smiles and spirits gay
You hail'd the merry morn of May,
What fluttering hopes have fir'd my brain!
What fears of torture, doubts of pain!
What pangs, what sorrows, ne'er to find
By speech, or look, my Daphne kind,
But cold and senseless to my anguish,
Still left a wretch to droop and languish!'
'My God!' the wond'ring fair replies
(While tears of rapture fill her eyes,)
'How! how could Daphne ever know
Her Strephon's love; her Strephon's woe!
Till this soft tale, so sweetly sung!
I never heard your tuneful tongue;
Till this fond hour, I never found
These eyes but downcast on the ground ;--
You still were silent, absent, cool :--
I took you, Strephon, for -- a fool.'

    Now Mira, that my tale is ended,
I hope I've prov'd what I intended,
To wit, that without gen'rous wine
A youth may sigh, and groan, and whine,
But never talk in strains divine.
For what is love, or what is beauty,
If lovers cannot do their duty?
Or what are flames, or inclination,
Without the fire of inspiration!--
All, all must end in strange confusion,
Without the gift of elocution.
For me, who never had much brass,
I find vast courage in a glass;
And now that blushing's out of fashion,
Or drink I must, or breathe no passion.
And sure, if strains like mine have charm'd one
When half-seas o'er there's no great harm done,
And though last night, when first we met,
You frown'd, and fretted in a pet,
Withdrew your hand, with face averted,
And thrice for me your chair deserted,
Yet, warm'd by wine, I well remember,
Unchill'd by looks, cold as December,
I prattled wit from jovial quaffing,
Till, quite o'ercome, at length, with laughing,
You pardon smil'd; and gen'rous hearted,
Gave me your hand before we parted;
Nay, once delighted, almost swore
I ne'er talked half so well before.

    Charm'd with the good effects of wine,
I next day hurried to Gavine,
And straightway bought (ne marveille pas!)
A bottle of his Usquebaugh.
Which now I send you, with this rule,
That when I trifle like a fool,
Or silent grow, or lose my temper,
For God's sake! fill me up a bumper!
Till head, and heart, and tongue improve,
And make me say whate'er you love!

    O could its virtue's but inspire
This breast with true poetic fire,
To sing, in numbers strong and clear,
Thy friendship, ardent, and sincere,
Thy humour, sprightly, social, free,
Thy temper's blest serenity!
O! could its virtues but impart
The language of thy feeling heart,
To paint in accents sweetly mild
The duties of a tender child;
And every art and virtue rare
That sooths an aged father's care;
In faith! dear Mira, to be plain,
(Though much I dread your cold disdain)
In spite of all you'd think or say,
I'd drink till tipsy every day.

"...at Walker's" - A noted tavern in Edinburgh.

"...magnum bonum." - A bottle of claret containing two English quarts.

"'What all can feign, but few can feel!'" - Cartwright.

"...to Gavine" - A famous distiller of liqeurs near Edinburgh.

Hector Macneill's other poems:
  1. Tammy's Courtship
  2. Come under My Plaidie ; Or, Modern Marriage Delineated
  3. The Scottish Muse
  4. Mally Aiken, An Old Song Revived
  5. I Loo'd Ne'er a Laddie But Ane

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