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Or flavoring, to mislead our youth,
Mere fable with a dash of truth;
In all these heterogeneous tales
The injudicious project fails;
Of truth you do not get your measure,
And of pure fiction lose the pleasure.
But Mother Bunch rejects such arts;
A sounder taste her work imparts.
Then if for prosperous turns you look,
There's no such other history book.
Old authors show, nor do I wrong 'em,
How tyrants shared the world among 'em;
And all we learn of ancient times
Are human woes and human crimes.
They tell us nought but dismal tales,
How virtue sinks, and vice prevails;
And all their labors but declare
The miseries of the good and fair ;
How one brave captive in a quarrel
Was tumbled down-hill in a barrel !
In fiery flames how some did fry,
Only because they dared not lie!
How female victims meet their doom,
At Aulis one, * and more at Rome!
How ease the hero's laurels stained,
How Capua lost what Cannæ gained !
How he, whom long success attends,
Is killed at home among his friends!
How Athens him who served so well
Rewarded with an oyster shell ! +
How Nero stabbed a mother's breast!
Ah, barbarous Clio, $ spare the rest;
Conceal these horrors, if thou’rt able;
If these be truth, 0 give me fable !
Till real deeds are fit to mention,
Regale my feelings with invention.
But Mother Bunch's morals tell
How blest all were who acted well!
How the good little girl's regarded,
And boy who learns his book rewarded!
How loss of favor follows rudeness,
While sugar-plums repay all goodness!
How she who learns to read or write,
Will get a coach or chariot by 't;
* Iphigenia. + Aristides.
The historic muse.
And not a fagot-maker's daughter
But has it at her christening taught her,
By some invited fairy guest
That she shall wed a prince at least;
And through the whole this truth's pursued,
That to be happy 's to be good.
If these to life be contradictions,
Mark the morality of fictions ;
Axioms more popular they teach,
That to be good is to be rich!
For all the misses marry kings,
And diamonds are but common things;
While dames in history hardly get 'em,
Our heroines ope their mouths and spit 'em.
O, this is profitable learning,
Past cold historians' dull discerning;
Who, while their annals they impart,
Expose, but seldom mend the heart.
I grant they teach to know mankind,
To learn we're wretched, weak, and blind;
But till the heart from vice is clear,
Who wants to know what passes there?
Till Hercules to cleanse was able,
No doubt they shut th' Augean stable.
Here, too, in high emphatic tone
The power of female worth is shown;
E'en enterprising Joan of Arc
Falls short of true heroic mark;
Thalestris was a mere home-keeper,
And swift Camilla but a creeper.
Here deeds of valor are as common
As song or dance to real woman;
And meekest damsels find it facile
To storm a giant's moated castle;
Where draw-bridges do open fly
If virgin foot approaches nigh;
And brazen gates with twenty locks,
At which an army vainly knocks,
Fly ope, nor on their hinges linger,
At touch of virgin's little finger.
Then slow attacks, and tiresome sieges, Which history makes the work of ages, Are here, by means of fairy power, Achieved with ease in half an hour.
Tactics! they prove there's nothing in it,
Who conquer kingdoms in a minute :
They never hear of ten years' jars
(For Troy 's the average length of wars).
And diplomatic form and rule
Might learn from Mother Bunch's school,
How rapidly are state intrigues
Conveyed with boots of seven long leagues.
Here, further too, our great commanders,
Who conquered France, and rescued Flanders,
From Mother Bunch's Tales might hear
Some secrets worth a general's ear;
How armies need not stop to bait,
And heroes never drink or eat;
Wrapt in sublimer occupation,
They scorn such vulgar renovation,
Your British generals cannot keep
Themselves or followers half so cheap;
For men and horses, out of books,
Call, one for corn, and one for cooks;
And dull historic nags must stay
For provender of oats and hay;
While these bold heroes wing their flight
Through twenty kingdoms in a night;
Of silvery dew they snatch a cup,
Or on a slice of moonshine sup;
And while they fly to meet their queen,
With half the convex world between,
Their milk-white palfreys, scorning grass,
Just crop a rose-leaf as they pass.
Then Mother Bunch's morals strike,
By praising friend and foe alike.
What virtue to the world is lost,
Because on thy ill-fated coast,
O Carthage! sung alone by foes,
The sun of history never rose !
Fertile in heroes, didst thou own
The muse that makes those heroes known,
Then had the bright reverse appeared,
And Carthaginian truth been cleared :
On Punic faith, so long reviled,
The wily African had smiled;
And, possibly, not much had erred,
If we of Roman fraud had heard.
Then leave your Robertsons and Bryants
For John the murderer of giants;
Since all mythology profane
Is quite as doubtful, quite as vain.
Though Bryant,* learned friend of youth,
His fable consecrates to truth;
And Robertson † with just applause
His finished portraits fairly draws ;
Yet history, great Raleigh knew,
And, knowing, grieved, may not be true;
For how the facts are we to know
Which passed a thousand years ago,
When he no just account could get
Of quarrel in th' adjacent street ?
Though from his chair the noise he heard,
The tale of each relater erred. I
But if the fact 's recorded right,
The motive seldom comes in sight;
Hence, while the fairest deeds we blame,
We often crown the worst with fame.
Then read, if genuine truth you'd glean,
Those who were actors in the scene;
Hear, with delight, the modest Greek ♡
Of his renowned ten thousand speak;
His Commentaries || read again
Who led the troops and held the pen :
The way to conquest best he showed
Who trod ere he prescribed the road.
Read him, for lofty periods famed,
Who Charles's age adorned and shamed;
Read Clarendon, unawed, unbribed,
Who ruled th’ events his pen described ;
* Jacob Bryant, Esq., whose profoundly erudite'work, the “ Analysis of Antient Mythology," then just published, was designed to prove that all the fables of the pagan theology were derived from, and were perversions of, the sacred history.
Dr. William Robertson of Edinburgh, author of “ The History of Charles V." and other great works.
This alludes to a story told of Raleigh, that, when a prisoner in the Tower, hearing a noise outside the walls, he sent to inquire the cause. The reports of different messengers varied in all the circumstances to such a degree, that Sir Walter, who was then employed in completing his “History of the World,” fell into a reverie, and concluded, that if he could not depend on the accounts of what passed nearly under his own eyes, how could he be certain of the relations of ancient times? Upon this, says the tale, he threw his unpublished work into the fire, and deprived posterity of his labors. Xenophon.
Cæsar. T“ The History of the Great Rebellion,” by the Earl of Clarendon.-ED.
Who law, and courts, and senates knew,
And saw the sources whence he drew.
Yet, lovely Sally, be not frightened,
Nor dread to have thy mind enlightened;
Admire with me the fair alliance
Which mirth, at Maudlin,* makes with science;
How humor may with learning dwell,
Go ask Papa-for he can tell.
* Dr. Horne was at this time President of Magdalen College, Oxford, where this little poem was written. [The name of this distinguished seminary is commonly pronounced Maudlin, not only by the common people, but by the students theinselves.-Ed.]