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Full Online Book HomePoemsOwl, Swan, Cock, Spider, Ass, And Farmer
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Owl, Swan, Cock, Spider, Ass, And Farmer Post by :lounorco Category :Poems Author :John Gay Date :May 2011 Read :3225

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Owl, Swan, Cock, Spider, Ass, And Farmer

(_To a Mother._)


Yes, I have seen your eyes maternal
Beam, as beam forth the stars eternal,
Intercommuning of your joys--
Sayings and doings of your boys.
Nature, in body and in mind,
Has been to them profusely kind;
It now remains to do your part,
To sow good morals in the heart.
None other, as a mother can,
Can form and educate the man.
Perhaps now you anticipate
In youth unknown each future state.
The Church, the Navy, and the Bar,
I censure not: such choices are
Precarious truly in the event;
Yet ere we give a last assent,
We should remember nor destroy
The latent genius in the boy.

Martial relates--a father once
Wrote thus about his boy, a dunce:
"You know I've stuck at no expense
To train the lad, and rouse his sense;
To me it seems he backward goes
Like to a crab--for aught he knows.
My friend, advise me what to do."
And Martial thus replied in few:
"Make him a grazier or a drover,
And let him dwell in rural clover."
'Tis doubtful if the father heard
This answer--he returned no word.

The urchin, wanting wit, is sent
To school to grow impertinent;
To college next; which left, he blunders
In law, or military thunders;
Or, if by medical degree,
The sexton shares the doctor's fee,
Or, if for orders passed, as full fit,
He only potters from the pulpit,
We see that Nature has been foiled
Of her intent--a tradesman spoiled.
And even so do Ministers
Reward with places human burrs;
For it is very meet and fit
They should reward their kinsman's wit.
Are such times past? Does merit now
In a due course and channel flow?
Distinguished in their posts, do we
Worth and desert rewarded see?
Survey the reverend bench, and spy
If patrons choose by piety?
Is honesty, disgraced and poor,
Distinct from what it was of yore?
And are all offices no longer
Granted unto the rich and stronger?
And are they never held by sparks,
With all the business done by clerks?
Do we, now, never contemplate
Appointments such, in Church and State?
And is there in no post a hobbler,
Who should have been, by right, a cobbler?
Patrons, consider such creations
Expose yourselves and your relations;
You should, as parents to the nation,
Ponder upon such nomination--
And know, whene'er you wield a trust,
Your judgment ever should be just.

An owl of magisterial air,
Of solemn aspect, filled the chair;
And, with the port of human race,
Wore wisdom written on his face.
He from the flippant world retired,
And in a barn himself admired;
And, like an ancient sage, concealed
The follies foppish life revealed.
He pondered o'er black-lettered pages
Of old philosophers and sages--
Of Xenophon, and of the feat
Of the ten thousand in retreat;
Pondered o'er Plutarch and o'er Plato,
On Scipio, Socrates, and Cato.
But what most roused the bird's conceit,
Was Athens--academic seat--
From which he thought himself descended.
He an academy attended,
And learnt by rote dogmatic rules;
And, with trite sentences for tools,
He opened an academy--
Himself the _Magister_ to be:
And it won fame. The stately swan
There sent her son and heir; her son
Dame Partlet sent; and Mister Spider,
Who in mechanics levelled wider;
And Sir John Asinus, with hopes
On music, metaphors, and tropes.
With years, their education done
And life before them to be run,
The mothers Dr. Owl consulted
On their career--and this resulted:
The swan was to the army sent;
The cock unto the navy went;
The spider went to Court; and Neddy
For Handel's music was made ready.
They played their parts, the public railed:
They, spite of education, failed.

"You blockhead!" said an honest farmer,
Who grew with indignation warmer,
"You are an owl: and are as blind,
As parents, to the youthful mind.
Had you with judgment judged, the swan
Had his career in nautics ran;
The cock had played the soldier's part.
The spider plied the weaver's art;
And for the donkey, dull and crass,
You should have let him be an ass."


(The end)
John Gay's poem: Owl, Swan, Cock, Spider, Ass, And Farmer

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