John Gay

Part II. Fable 17. Ay and No

IN Fable all things hold discourse;
Then words, no doubt, must talk of course. 
    Once on a time, near Cannon Row, 
Two hostile adverbs, Ay and No,
Were hastening to the field of fight, 
And front to front stood opposite. 
Before each general join'd the van, 
Ay, the more courteous knight, began: 
    "Stop, peevish, Particle! beware! 
I'm told you are not such a bear, 
But sometimes yield when offer'd fair. 
Suffer yon folks awhile to tattle 
'Tis we who must decide the battle. 
Whene'er we war on yonder stage, 
With various fate and equal rage, 
The nation trembles at each blow 
That No gives Ay, and Ay gives No; 
Yet, in expensive long contention, 
We gain nor office, grant, nor pension. 
Why, then, should kinsfolk quarrel thus? 
(For two of you make one of us.) 
To some wise statesman let us go, 
Where each his proper use may know: 
He may admit two such commanders, 
And make those wait who served in Flanders. 
Let's quarter on a great man's tongue, 
A treasury-lord, not Master Young. 
Obsequious at his high command. 
Ay shall march forth to tax the land; 
Impeachments, No can best resist, 
And Ay support the Civil List: 
Ay, quick as Caesar, wins the day, 
And No, like Fabius, by delay. 
Sometimes in mutual sly disguise, 
Let Ay's seem No's, and No's seem Ay's; 
Ay's be, in courts, denials meant, 
And No's, in bishops give consent." 
    Thus Ay proposed and, for reply, 
No, for the first time, answer'd "Ay!" 
They parted with a thousand kisses, 
And fight e'er since for pay, like Swisses.

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