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“Far from the giddy town's tumultuous strife,
Their wishes yet have wever learned to stray,
They keep the noiseless tenor of their way.
Inclosed by door of glass, in Doric style,
Another parody of this famous Elegy published about the same date, has a less pleasant subject—the dangers and vices of the metropolis. It speaks of the activity of thieves. “Oft to their subtlety the fob did yield,
Their cunning oft the pocket string hath broke,
How bowed the victim 'neath their sturdy stroke! “Let not ambition mock their humble toil,
Their vulgar crimes and villainy obscure;
The low and petty knaveries of the poor.
Some heart once pregnant with infernal fire,
And froze the bloody current of their soul.
The dark and sooty flues of chimneys bear;
Gay dedicated his first poem to Pope, then himself a young man, and this led to an intimacy between them. In 1712 he held the office of Secretary to Ann, Duchess of Monmouth ; and in 1714 he accompanied the Earl Gay.
of Clarendon to Hanover. In this year he wrote a good travesty of Ambrose Philips' pastoral poetry, of which the following is a specimen
Lobbin Clout. As Blouzelinda, in a gamesome mood,
Cuddy. As my Buxoma in a morning fair,
Lobbin. Leek to the Welsh, to Dutchmen butter's dear,
Cuddy. In good roast beef my landlord sticks his knife, And capon fat delights his dainty wife; Pudding our parson eats, the squire loves hare, But white-pot thick is my Buxoma's fare ; While she loves white-pot, capon ne'er shall be Nor bare, nor beef, nor pudding, food for me.
The following is not without point at the present day
TO A LADY ON HER PASSION FOR OLD CHINA.
Husbands more covetous than sage,
No human view or scheme is wise. Gay's humour is often injured by the introduction of low scenes, and disreputable accompaniments.
“ The Dumps," a lament of a forlorn damsel, is much in the same style as the Pastorals. It finishes with these lines“ Farewell ye woods, ye meads, ye streams that flow,
A sudden death shall rid me of my woe,
He published in 1727 “ The Beggar's Opera,” the idea had been suggested by Swift. This is said to have given birth to the English Operathe Italian having been already introduced here. This opera, or musical play, brought out by Mr. Rich, was so renumerative that it was a common saying that it made “Rich gay, and Gay rich.
In “ The Beggar's Opera ”the humour turns
on Polly falling in love with a highwayman. Peachum gives an amusing account of the gang. Among them is Harry Paddington“a poor, petty-larceny rascal, without the least genius ; that fellow, though he were to live these six months would never come to the gallows with any credit-and Tom Tipple, a guzzling, soaking sot, who is always too drunk to stand, or make others stand. A cart is absolutely necessary for him.” Peachum, and his wife lament over their daughter Polly's choice of Captain Macheath. There are numerous songs, such as that of Mrs. Peachum begining
“Our Polly is a sad slut! nor heeds what we have taught her,
I wonder any man alive will ever rear a daughter.'
Polly, contemplating the possibility of Macheath's being hanged exclaims
“Now, I'm a wretch indeed. Methinks, I see him already in the cart, sweeter and more lovely than the nosegay in his hand! I hear the crowd extolling his resolution and intrepidity! What volleys of sighs are sent down from the windows of Holborn, that so comely a youth should be brought to disgrace. I see him at the tree! the whole circle are in tears! even butchers weep! Jack Ketch himself hesitates to perform his duty, and would be glad to lose his fee by a reprieve. What then will become of Polly ?”
Were you sentenced to transportation, sure, my dear, you could not leave me behind you?
Mac. Is there any power, any force, that could tear thee from me. You might sooner tear a pension out of the hands of a courtier, a fee from a lawyer, a pretty woman from a looking-glass, or any woman from quad. ille."*
Gay may have taken his idea of writing fables from Dryden whose classical reading tempted him in two or three instances to indulge in such fancies. They were clever and in childhood appeared humorous to us, but we have long ceased to be amused by them, owing to their excessive improbability. Such ingenuity seems misplaced, we see more absurdity than talent in representing a sheep as talking to a wolf. To us fables now present, not what is strange and difficult of comprehension, but mentally fanciful folly. In some few instances in La Fontaine and Gay, the wisdom of the lessons atones for the strangeness of their garb, and the peculiarity of the dramatis persona may tend to rivet them in our minds. There is something also fresh and pleasant in the scenes of country life which they bring before us. But the taste for such conceits is irrevocably gone, and every attempt to revive it, even when recommended by such ingenuity and talent as that of Owen Meredith, only tends to prove the fact more incontestably.
* A game at cards.