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Henry Kirke White (Генри Керк Уайт)

My Own Character

Dear Fanny, I mean, now I'm laid on the shelf,
To give you a sketch—ay, a sketch of myself.
'Tis a pitiful subject, I frankly confess,
And one it would puzzle a painter to dress;
But, however, here goes, and as sure as a gun,
I'll tell all my faults like a penitent nun;
For I know, for my Fanny, before I address her,
She wont be a cynical father confessor.

Come, come, 'twill not do! put that curling brow down;
You can't, for the soul of you, learn how to frown.
Well, first I premise, it's my honest conviction,
That my breast is a chaos of all contradiction;
Religious—deistic—now loyal and warm;
Then a dagger-drawn democrat hot for reform:
This moment a fop, that, sententious as Titus;
Democritus now, and anon Heraclitus;
Now laughing and pleased, like a child with a rattle;
Then vex'd to the soul with impertinent tattle;
Now moody and sad, now unthinking and gay,
To all points of the compass I veer in a day.

I'm proud and disdainful to Fortune's gay child,
But to Poverty's offspring submissive and mild;
As rude as a boor, and as rough in dispute;
Then as for politeness—oh! dear—I'm a brute!
I show no respect where I never can feel it;
And as for contempt, take no pains to conceal it.
And so in the suite, by these laudable ends,
I've a great many foes, and a very few friends.

And yet, my dear Fanny, there are who can feel
That this proud heart of mine is not fashion'd of steel.
It can love (can it not?)—it can hate, I am sure;
And it's friendly enough, though in friends it be poor.
For itself though it bleed not, for others it bleeds;
If it have not ripe virtues, I'm sure it's the seeds;
And though far from faultless, or even so-so,
I think it may pass as our worldly things go.

Well, I've told you my frailties without any gloss;
Then as to my virtues, I'm quite at a loss!
I think I'm devout, and yet I can't say,
But in process of time I may get the wrong way.
I'm a general lover, if that's commendation,
And yet can't withstand you know whose fascination.
But I find that amidst all my tricks and devices,
In fishing for virtues, I'm pulling up vices;
So as for the good, why, if I possess it,
I am not yet learned enough to express it.

You yourself must examine the lovelier side,
And after your every art you have tried,
Whatever my faults, I may venture to say,
Hypocrisy never will come in your way.
I am upright, I hope; I'm downright, I'm clear!
And I think my worst foe must allow I'm sincere;
And if ever sincerity glow'd in my breast,
'Tis now when I swear——.

Henry Kirke White's other poems:
  1. Lines Supposed to Be Spoken by a Lover at the Grave of His Mistress
  2. On Being Confined to School One Pleasant Morning in Spring
  3. The Prostitute
  4. The Trent
  5. Canzonet

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