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Poem by John Gay

Part I. Fable 45. The Poet and the Rose

  I hate the man who builds his name
  On ruins of another's fame.
  Thus prudes, by characters o'erthrown,
  Imagine that they raise their own.
  Thus scribblers, covetous of praise,
  Think slander can transplant the bays.
  Beauties and bards have equal pride,
  With both all rivals are decried.
  Who praises Lesbia's eyes and feature,
  Must call her sister, awkward creature;

  For the kind flattery's sure to charm,
  When we some other nymph disarm.
     As in the cool of early day
  A poet sought the sweets of May,
  The garden's fragrant breath ascends,
  And every stalk with odour bends.
  A rose he plucked, he gazed, admired,
  Thus singing as the muse inspired:
  'Go, rose, my Chloe's bosom grace;
     How happy should I prove,

  Might I supply that envied place
     With never fading love!
  There, phoenix-like, beneath her eye,
  Involved in fragrance, burn and die!
  Know, hapless flower, that thou shalt find
     More fragrant roses there;
  I see thy withering head reclined
     With envy and despair!
  One common fate we both must prove;
  You die with envy, I with love.'

     'Spare your comparisons,' replied
  An angry rose, who grew beside.
  'Of all mankind, you should not flout us;
  What can a poet do without us!
  In every love-song roses bloom;
  We lend you colour and perfume.
  Does it to Chloe's charms conduce,
  To found her praise on our abuse?
  Must we, to flatter her, be made
  To wither, envy, pine and fade?'

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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