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Poem by John Gay

Part II. Fable 6. The Squire and his Cur

To a Country Gentleman

  The man of pure and simple heart
  Through life disdains a double part.
  He never needs the screen of lies
  His inward bosom to disguise.
  In vain malicious tongues assail;
  Let envy snarl, let slander rail,
  From virtue's shield (secure from wound)
  Their blunted, venomed shafts rebound.
  So shines his light before mankind,
  His actions prove his honest mind.

  If in his country's cause he rise,
  Debating senates to advise,
  Unbribed, unawed, he dares impart
  The honest dictates of his heart.
  No ministerial frown he fears,
  But in his virtue perseveres.
     But would you play the politician,
  Whose heart's averse to intuition,
  Your lips at all times, nay, your reason
  Must be controlled by place and season.

  What statesman could his power support
  Were lying tongues forbid the court?
  Did princely ears to truth attend,
  What minister could gain his end?
  How could he raise his tools to place,
  And how his honest foes disgrace?
     That politician tops his part,
  Who readily can lie with art:
  The man's proficient in his trade;
  His power is strong, his fortune's made.

  By that the interest of the throne
  Is made subservient to his own:
  By that have kings of old, deluded,
  All their own friends for his excluded.
  By that, his selfish schemes pursuing,
  He thrives upon the public ruin.
     Antiochus,[8] with hardy pace,
  Provoked the dangers of the chase;
  And, lost from all his menial train,
  Traversed the wood and pathless plain.

  A cottage lodged the royal guest!
  The Parthian clown brought forth his best.
  The king, unknown, his feast enjoyed,
  And various chat the hours employed.
  From wine what sudden friendship springs!
  Frankly they talked of courts and kings.
     'We country-folks,' the clown replies,
  'Could ope our gracious monarch's eyes.
  The king, (as all our neighbours say,)
  Might he (God bless him) have his way,

  Is sound at heart, and means our good,
  And he would do it, if he could.
  If truth in courts were not forbid,
  Nor kings nor subjects would be rid.
  Were he in power, we need not doubt him:
  But that transferred to those about him,
  On them he throws the regal cares:
  And what mind they? Their own affairs.
  If such rapacious hands he trust,
  The best of men may seem unjust.

  From kings to cobblers 'tis the same:
  Bad servants wound their master's fame.
  In this our neighbours all agree:
  Would the king knew as much as we.'
  Here he stopp'd short. Repose they sought,
  The peasant slept, the monarch thought.
     The courtiers learned, at early dawn,
  Where their lost sovereign was withdrawn.
  The guards' approach our host alarms,
  With gaudy coats the cottage swarms.

  The crown and purple robes they bring,
  And prostrate fall before the king.
  The clown was called, the royal guest
  By due reward his thanks express'd.
  The king then, turning to the crowd,
  Who fawningly before him bow'd,
  Thus spoke: 'Since, bent on private gain,
  Your counsels first misled my reign,
  Taught and informed by you alone,
  No truth the royal ear hath known,

  Till here conversing. Hence, ye crew,
  For now I know myself and you.'
     Whene'er the royal ear's engross'd,
  State-lies but little genius cost.
  The favourite then securely robs,
  And gleans a nation by his jobs.
  Franker and bolder grown in ill,
  He daily poisons dares instil;
  And, as his present views suggest,
  Inflames or soothes the royal breast.

  Thus wicked ministers oppress,
  When oft the monarch means redress.
     Would kings their private subjects hear,
  A minister must talk with fear.
  If honesty opposed his views,
  He dared not innocence excuse.
  'Twould keep him in such narrow bound,
  He could not right and wrong confound.
  Happy were kings, could they disclose
  Their real friends and real foes!

  Were both themselves and subjects known,
  A monarch's will might be his own.
  Had he the use of ears and eyes,
  Knaves would no more be counted wise.
  But then a minister might lose
  (Hard case!) his own ambitious views.
  When such as these have vexed a state,
  Pursued by universal hate,
  Their false support at once hath failed,
  And persevering truth prevailed.

  Exposed their train of fraud is seen;
  Truth will at last remove the screen.
     A country squire, by whim directed,
  The true stanch dogs of chase neglected.
  Beneath his board no hound was fed,
  His hand ne'er stroked the spaniel's head.
  A snappish cur, alone caress'd,
  By lies had banished all the rest.
  Yap had his ear; and defamation
  Gave him full scope of conversation.

  His sycophants must be preferr'd,
  Room must be made for all his herd:
  Wherefore, to bring his schemes about,
  Old faithful servants all must out.
     The cur on every creature flew,
  (As other great men's puppies do,)
  Unless due court to him were shown,
  And both their face and business known,
  No honest tongue an audience found:
  He worried all the tenants round;

  For why, he lived in constant fear,
  Lest truth, by chance, should interfere.
  If any stranger dare intrude,
  The noisy cur his heels pursued.
  Now fierce with rage, now struck with dread,
  At once he snarled, bit, and fled.
  Aloof he bays, with bristling hair,
  And thus in secret growls his fear:
  'Who knows but truth, in this disguise,
  May frustrate my best-guarded lies?

  Should she (thus masked) admittance find,
  That very hour my ruin's signed.'
     Now, in his howl's continued sound,
  Their words were lost, their voice was drown'd.
  Ever in awe of honest tongues,
  Thus every day he strained his lungs.
     It happened, in ill-omened hour,
  That Yap, unmindful of his power,
  Forsook his post, to love inclined;
  A favourite bitch was in the wind.

  By her seduced, in amorous play,
  They frisked the joyous hours away.
  Thus, by untimely love pursuing,
  Like Antony, he sought his ruin.
     For now the squire, unvexed with noise,
  An honest neighbour's chat enjoys.
  'Be free,' says he, 'your mind impart;
  I love a friendly open heart.
  Methinks my tenants shun my gate;
  Why such a stranger grown of late?

  Pray tell me what offence they find:
  'Tis plain they're not so well inclined.'
     'Turn off your cur,' the farmer cries,
  'Who feeds your ear with daily lies.
  His snarling insolence offends; 165
  'Tis he that keeps you from your friends.
  Were but that saucy puppy check'd,
  You'd find again the same respect.
  Hear only him, he'll swear it too,
  That all our hatred is to you.

  But learn from us your true estate;
  'Tis that cursed cur alone we hate.'
     The squire heard truth. Now Yap rushed in;
  The wide hall echoes with his din:
  Yet truth prevailed; and with disgrace,
  The dog was cudgelled out of place.

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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