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Poem by John Gay

Part II. Fable 9. The Jackall, Leopard, and other Beasts

To a modern Politician

  I grant corruption sways mankind;
  That interest too perverts the mind;
  That bribes have blinded common sense,
  Foiled reason, truth, and eloquence:
  I grant you too, our present crimes
  Can equal those of former times.
  Against plain facts shall I engage,
  To vindicate our righteous age?
  I know, that in a modern fist,
  Bribes in full energy subsist.

  Since then these arguments prevail,
  And itching palms are still so frail,
  Hence politicians, you suggest,
  Should drive the nail that goes the best;
  That it shows parts and penetration,
  To ply men with the right temptation.
     To this I humbly must dissent;
  Premising no reflection's meant.
     Does justice or the client's sense
  Teach lawyers either side's defence?

  The fee gives eloquence its spirit;
  That only is the client's merit.
     Does art, wit, wisdom, or address,
  Obtain the prostitute's caress?
  The guinea (as in other trades)
  From every hand alike persuades.
  Man, Scripture says, is prone to evil,
  But does that vindicate the devil?
  Besides, the more mankind are prone,
  The less the devil's parts are shown.

  Corruption's not of modern date;
  It hath been tried in every state.
  Great knaves of old their power have fenced,
  By places, pensions, bribes, dispensed;
  By these they gloried in success,
  And impudently dared oppress;
  By these despoticly they swayed,
  And slaves extolled the hand that paid;
  Nor parts, nor genius were employed,
  By these alone were realms destroyed.

     Now see these wretches in disgrace,
  Stripp'd of their treasures, power, and place;
  View them abandoned and forlorn,
  Exposed to just reproach and scorn.
  What now is all your pride, your boast?
  Where are your slaves, your flattering host?
  What tongues now feed you with applause?
  Where are the champions of your cause?
  Now even that very fawning train
  Which shared the gleanings of your gain,

  Press foremost who shall first accuse
  Your selfish jobs, your paltry views,
  Your narrow schemes, your breach of trust,
  And want of talents to be just.
     What fools were these amidst their power!
  How thoughtless of their adverse hour!
  What friends were made? A hireling herd,
  For temporary votes preferr'd.
  Was it, these sycophants to get,
  Your bounty swelled a nation's debt?

  You're bit. For these, like Swiss attend;
  No longer pay, no longer friend.
  The lion is, beyond dispute,
  Allowed the most majestic brute;
  His valour and his generous mind
  Prove him superior of his kind.
  Yet to jackals (as 'tis averred)
  Some lions have their power transferred;
  As if the parts of pimps and spies
  To govern forests could suffice.

     Once, studious of his private good,
  A proud jackal oppressed the wood;
  To cram his own insatiate jaws, 73
  Invaded property and laws;
  The forest groans with discontent,
  Fresh wrongs the general hate foment,
  The spreading murmurs reached his ear;
  His secret hours were vexed with fear.
  Night after night he weighs the case,
  And feels the terrors of disgrace.

     'By friends,' says he, 'I'll guard my seat,
  By those malicious tongues defeat:
  I'll strengthen power by new allies,
  And all my clamorous foes despise.'
     To make the generous beasts his friends,
  He cringes, fawns, and condescends;
  But those repulsed his abject court,
  And scorned oppression to support.
  Friends must be had. He can't subsist.
  Bribes shall new proselytes inlist.

  But these nought weighed in honest paws;
  For bribes confess a wicked cause:
  Yet think not every paw withstands
  What had prevailed in human hands.
     A tempting turnip's silver skin
  Drew a base hog through thick and thin:
  Bought with a stag's delicious haunch,
  The mercenary wolf was stanch:
  The convert fox grew warm and hearty,
  A pullet gained him to the party;

  The golden pippin in his fist,
  A chattering monkey joined the list.
     But soon exposed to public hate,
  The favourite's fall redressed the state.
  The leopard, vindicating right,
  Had brought his secret frauds to light,
  As rats, before the mansion falls,
  Desert late hospitable walls,
  In shoals the servile creatures run,
  To bow before the rising sun.

     The hog with warmth expressed his zeal,
  And was for hanging those that steal;
  But hoped, though low, the public hoard
  Might half a turnip still afford.
  Since saving measures were profess'd,
  A lamb's head was the wolf's request.
  The fox submitted if to touch
  A gosling would be deemed too much.
  The monkey thought his grin and chatter,
  Might ask a nut or some such matter.

     'Ye hirelings, hence,' the leopard cries;
  'Your venal conscience I despise.
  He who the public good intends,
  By bribes needs never purchase friends.
  Who acts this just, this open part,
  Is propp'd by every honest heart.
  Corruption now too late hath showed,
  That bribes are always ill-bestowed,
  By you your bubbled master's taught,
  Time-serving tools, not friends, are bought.'

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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