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Poem by John Gay

To a Lady on Her Passion for Old China

What ecstasies her bosom fire! 
How her eyes languish with desire! 
How blest, how happy should I be, 
Were that fond glance bestowd on me! 
New doubts and fears within me war: 
What rivals near? a China Jar.

Chinas the passion of her soul; 
A cup, a plate, a dish, a bowl 
Can kindle wishes in her breast, 
Inflame with joy, or break her rest.

Some gems collect; some medals prize, 
And view the rust with lovers eyes;
Some court the stars at midnight hours; 
Some doat on Natures charms in flowers! 
But evry beauty I can trace 
In Lauras mind, in Lauras face; 
My stars are in this brighter sphere, 
My lilly and my rose is here.

Philosophers more grave than wise 
Hunt science down in Butterflies; 
Or fondly poring on a Spider, 
Stretch human contemplation wider; 
Fossiles give joy to Galens soul, 
He digs for knowledge, like a Mole; 
In shells so learnd, that all agree 
No fish that swims knows more than he! 
In such pursuits if wisdom lies, 
Who, Laura, shall thy taste despise?

When I some antique Jar behold, 
Or white, or blue, or speckd with gold, 
Vessels so pure, and so refind 
Appear the types of woman-kind: 
Are they not valud for their beauty, 
Too fair, too fine for household duty? 
With flowers and gold and azure dyd, 
Of evry house the grace and pride? 
How white, how polishd is their skin, 
And valud most when only seen! 
She who before was highest prizd, 
Is for a crack or flaw despisd; 
I grant theyre frail, yet theyre so rare, 
The treasure cannot cost too dear! 
But Man is made of courser stuff, 
And serves convenience well enough; 
Hes a strong earthen vessel, made 
For drudging, labour, toil and trade; 
And when wives lose their other self, 
With ease they bear the loss of Delf.

Husbands more covetous than sage 
Condemn this China  buying rage; 
They count that womans prudence little, 
Who sets her heart on things so brittle. 
But are those wise  mens inclinations 
Fixt on more strong, more sure foundations? 
If all thats frail we must despise, 
No human view or scheme is wise. 
Are not Ambitions hopes as weak? 
They swell like bubbles, shine and break. 
A Courtiers promise is so slight, 
Tis made at noon, and broke at night. 
What pleasures sure? The Miss you keep 
Breaks both your fortune and your sleep. 
The man who loves a country life, 
Breaks all the comforts of his wife; 
And if he quit his farm and plough, 
His wife in town may break her vow. 
Love, Laura, love, while youth is warm, 
For each new winter breaks a charm; 
And womans not like China sold, 
But cheaper grows in growing old; 
Then quickly chuse the prudent part, 
Or else you break a faithful heart.


John Gay

John Gay's other poems:
  1. Sweet William's Farewell to Black-Ey'd Susan
  2. To a Young Lady, with Some Lampreys
  3. An Elegy on a Lap-dog
  4. If the Heart of a Man
  5. The Quidnunckis

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