The Mice. A Tale - To Mr. Adrian Drift

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Two mice, dear boy, of genteel fashion,
And, what is more, good education,
Frolic and gay, in infant years
Equally shared their parents' cares.
The sire of these two babes (poor creature)
Paid his last debt to human nature;
A wealthy widow left behind,
Four babes, three male, one female kind,
The sire being under ground, and buried,
'Twas thought his spouse would soon have married;
Matches proposed, and numerous suitors,
Most tender husbands, careful tutors,
She modestly refused, and show'd
She'd be a mother to her brood.

Mother, dear mother, that endearing thought
Has thousand and ten thousand fancies brought.
Tell me, oh! tell me (thou art now above)
How to describe thy true maternal love,
Thy early pangs, thy growing anxious cares,
Thy flattering hopes, thy fervant pious prayers,
Thy doleful days, and melancholy nights,
Cloister'd from common joys, and just delights:
How didst thou constantly in private mourn,
And wash with daily tears thy spouse's urn!
How it employ'd your thought and lucid time,
That your young offspring might to honour climb;
How your first care, by numerous griefs oppress'd,
Under the burden sunk, and went to rest;
How your dear darling, by consumption's waste,
Breath'd her last piety into your breast;
How you, alas! tired with your pilgrimage,
Bow'd down your head, and died in good old age.
Though not inspired, oh! may I never be
Forgetful of my pedigree or thee:
Ungrateful howsoe'er, may'nt I forget
To pay this small yet tributary debt,
And when we meet at God's tribunal throne,
Own me, I pray thee, for a pious son.

But why all this? Is this your fable?
Believe me, Matt, it seems a bauble;
If you will let me know th' intent on't,
Go to your mice, and make an end on't.

Well then, dear brother --
As sure as Hudi's sword could swaddle,
Two mice were brought up in one cradle;
Well bred, I think, of equal port,
One for the gown, one for the court.
They parted; (did they so, an't please you?)
Yes, that they did, (dear Sir) to ease you;
One went to Holland, where they huff folk,
Th' other to vent his wares in Suffolk,
(That mice have travell'd in old times,
Horace and Prior tell in rhymes,
Those two great wonders of their ages,
Superior far to all the sages)
Many days past, and many a night,
Ere they could gain each other's sight;
At last, in weather cold nor sultry,
They met at the Three Cranes in Poultry.
After much fuss, and great grimace,
(Usual, you know, in such a case)
Much chat arose, what had been done,
What might, before next summer's sun;
Much said of France, of Suffolk's goodness,
The gentry's loyalty, mob's rudeness:
That ended, o'er a charming bottle
They enter'd on this tittle-tattle.
Quoth Suffolk, by pre-eminence
In years, though (God knows) not in sense,
All's gone, dear brother, only we
Remain to raise posterity;
Marry you, brother; I'll go down,
Sell nouns and verbs, and lie alone.
May you ne'er meet with feuds or babble,
Somewhat I'll save, and, for this end,
To prove a brother and a friend,
What I propose is just, I swear it,
Or may I perish by this claret.
The dice are thrown, choose this or that,
('Tis all alike to honest Matt)
I'll take then the contrary part,
And propagate with all my heart.
After some thought, some Portuguese,
Some wine, the younger thus replies;

Fair are your words, as fair your carriage,
Let me be free, drudge you in marriage;
Get me a boy call'd Adrian;
Trust me I'll do for't what I can,
Home went, well pleased, the Suffolk Tony,
Heart-free from care, as purse from money,
Resolving full to please his taudy,
He got a spouse, and jerk'd her body.
At last, when teeming-time was come,
Out came her burden from her womb;
It proved a lusty squalling boy;
(Doubtless the dad's and mammy's joy)
In short, to make things square and even,
Adrian he named was Dick Stephen.
Matt's debt thus paid, he now enlarges,
And sends you in a bill of charges
A cradle, brother, and a basket,
(Granted as soon as e'er I ask'd it)
A coat not of the smallest scantling,
Frocks, stockings, shoes, to grace the bantling;
These, too, were sent, (or I'm no drubber)
Nay, add to these the fine gum-rubber;
Yet these wont do, send th' other coat,
For faith the first's not worth a groat,
Dismally shrunk, as herrings shotten,
Supposed originally rotten.
Pray let the next be each way longer,
Of stuff more durable, and stronger;
Send it next week, if you are able;
By this time, Sir, you know the fable.
From this, and letters of the same make,
You'll find what 'tis to have a namesake.

Cold and hard times, Sir, here, (believe it)
I've lost my curate, too, and grieve it;
At Easter, for what I can see,
(A time of ease and vacancy)
If things but alter, and not undone,
I'll kiss your hand, and visit London.
Molly sends greeting, so do I, Sir.
Send a good coat, that's all; good bye, Sir.

© Matthew Prior