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A poem by John Gay

Ape And Poultry

Title:     Ape And Poultry
Author: John Gay [More Titles by Gay]

Esteem is frequently misplaced,
Where she may even stand disgraced;
We must allow to wealth and birth
Precedence, which is due on earth:
But our esteem is only due
Unto the worth of man and virtue.

Around an ancient pedigree
There is a halo fair to see,
With "unwrung withers" we afford
Our salutation to milord,
As due unto his ancient house,
Albeit his lordship be a chouse.
And riches dazzle us--we know
How much they might or should bestow:
But power is nothing, _sans_ the will,
Often recalcitrant to ill:
And yet the mob will stand and gaze
On each, with similar amaze.
But worst of all the lot, we grant,
The parasite or sycophant:
Such as can vilely condescend
To dirty jobs; and bow and bend,
With meanest tropes of adulation,
To have and hold on to their station.
E'en such a ministry among
Are found amidst the waiting throng.
Where'er are misdeeds, there are bevies;
And wanting never at the levees,
Men who have trimmed the stocks, been rabbled,
In South Seas and in gold mines dabbled,
Where sycophants applauded schemes
Madder than the maddest madman's dreams.

When pagans sacrificed to Moloch,
They gave the first-born of their low stock;
But here, unless all history lies,
Nations are made the sacrifice.
For look through courts, and you will find
The principle that rules mankind,--
Worshipped beneath the sundry shapes
Of wolves, and lions, fox, and apes.

Where, then, can we esteem bestow,--
To-day in place, to-morrow low?
And the winged insects of his power
Gone--when they see the tempests lower:
Like to the bubble, full and fair,
With hues prismatic, puffed with air.
Another puff--and down it tends--
Earthward one dingy drop descends.

A maiden, much misused by Time--
All aspirations of her prime,
Like the soap bubble, puffed and burst,--
Monkeys, and dogs, and parrots nurst;
A whole menagerie employed
The passing hours which she enjoyed.
A monkey, big as a gorilla,
Who stalked beneath a big umbrella,
Was her prime minister: his finger
Was wont in each man's pie to linger.
She liked the monster, and assigned
The poultry-yard to him, to find
The daily rations of the corn.
Behold him now, with brow of scorn,
Amidst his vassals: come for picking--
Swans, turkeys, peacocks, ducks, and chicken.
The minister appeared, the crowd
Performed the reverence due; and bowed
And spoke their compliments and duties,
Whilst he revolved in mind his new ties,
And thought "What is a place of trust?--
'And first unto thyself be just,
And then it follows that you can
Not be unjust to any man.'
That moral motto is most true;
As Shakespeare teaches, will I do."

There was an applewoman's stall,
With plums and nuts, beneath a wall;
With her he then proposed to trade,--
In corn, full payments to be made.

"Madam, in mind this dogma bear:
'Buy in the cheap; sell in the dear;'
And, since my barley costs me nothing,
My market is as cheap as stuffing."

Away then went the stores of grain,--
The poultry died; and mistress, fain
To know the cause, named a commission--
Which ended in the Pug's dismission,
And left our hero in a hash,
With Newgate and refunded cash.

A gander met him in disgrace,
Who knew him well when high in place.
"Two days ago," said Pug, "you bowed
The lowest of the cringing crowd."

"I always bob my head before
I pass," said Goosey, "a barn-door.
I always cackle for my grain,
And so do all my gosling train:
But if I do not know a monkey,
Whene'er I see one,--I'm a donkey."

[The end]
John Gay's poem: Ape And Poultry