A Familiar Epistle

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I should address you a Rondeau,  
Or else announce what I ’ve to say  
At least en Ballade fratriseé  
But No: for once I leave Gymnasticks,
And take to simple Hudibrasticks,  
Why should I choose another Way,  
When this was good enough for GAY?  

 You love, my FRIEND, with me I think,  
That Age of Lustre and of Link;
Of Chelsea China and long “s”es,  
Of Bag-wigs and of flowered Dresses;  
That Age of Folly and of Cards,  
Of Hackney Chairs and Hackney Bards;  
—No H-LTS, no K-G-N P-LS were then
Dispensing Competence to Men;  
The gentle Trade was left to Churls,  
Your frowsy TONSONS and your CURLLS;  
Mere Wolves in Ambush to attack  
The AUTHOR in a Sheep-skin Back;
Then SAVAGE and his Brother-Sinners  
In Porridge Island div’d for Dinners;  
Or doz’d on Covent Garden Bulks,  
And liken’d Letters to the Hulks;—  
You know that by-gone Time, I say,
That aimless easy-moral’d Day,  
When rosy Morn found MADAM still  
Wrangling at Ombre or Quadrille,  
When good SIR JOHN reel’d Home to Bed,  
From Pontack’s or the Shakespeare's’s Head;
When TRIP convey’d his Master’s Cloaths,  
And took his Titles and his Oaths;  
While BETTY, in a cast Brocade,  
Ogled MY LORD at Masquerade;  
When GARRICK play’d the guilty Richard,
Or mouth’d Macbeth with Mrs. PRITCHARD;  
When FOOTE grimaced his snarling Wit;  
When CHURCHILL bullied in the Pit;  
When the CUZZONI sang—  
 But there!
The further Catalogue I spare,  
Having no Purpose to eclipse  
That tedious Tale of HOMER’S Ships;—  
This is the MAN that drew it all  
From Pannier Alley to the Mall,
Then turn’d and drew it once again  
From Bird-Cage-Walk to Lewknor’s Lane;—  
Its Rakes and Fools, its Rogues and Sots;  
Its brawling Quacks, its starveling Scots;  
Its Ups and Downs, its Rags and Garters,
Its Splendor, Squalor, Shame, Disease;  
Its quicquid agunt Homines;—  
Nor yet omitted to pourtray  
Furens quid possit Foemina;—
In short, held up to ev’ry Class  
NATURE’S unflatt’ring looking-Glass;  
And, from his Canvas, spoke to All  
The Message of a JUVENAL.  

 Take Him. His Merits most aver:
His weak Point is—his Chronicler!

© Henry Austin Dobson