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Poem by William Shenstone


To a Friend


Have you ne'er seen, my gentle Squire!
The humours of your kitchen fire?
Says Ned to Sal, 'I lead a spade;
Why don't ye play?-the girl's afraid-
Play something-anything-but play-
'Tis but to pass the time away-
Phoo-how she stands-biting her nails-
As though she play'd for half her vails-
Sorting her cards, haggling, and picking-
We play for nothing, do us, chicken?
That card will do-'blood never doubt it,
It's not worth while to think about it.'
Sal thought, and thought, and miss'd her aim,
And Ned ne'er studying won the game.
Methinks, old friend! 'tis wondrous true
That verse is but a game at loo:
While many a bard, that shows so clearly
He writes for his amusement merely,
Is known to study, fret, and toil,
And play for nothing all the while,
Or praise at most; for wreaths of yore
Ne'er signified a farthing more!
Till having vainly toil'd to gain it,
He sees your flying pen obtain it.
Through fragrant scenes the trifler roves,
And hallow'd haunts that Phoebus loves:
Where with strange heats his bosom glows,
And mystic flames the god bestows.
You now none other flames require
Than a good blazing parlour fire;
Write verses-to defy the scorners
In -houses and chimney-corners.
Sal found her deep-laid schemes were vain-
The cards were cut-come, deal again-
No good comes on it when one lingers-
I'll play the cards come next my fingers-
Fortune could never let Ned loo her,
When she had left it wholly to her.
Well, now who wins?-why, still the same-
For Sal has lost another game.
I've done (she mutter'd); I was saying,
It did not argufy my playing.
Some folks will win, they cannot choose;
But think or not think-some must lose.
I may have won a game or so-
But then it was an age ago-
It ne'er will be my lot again-
I won it of a baby then-
Give me an ace of trumps, and see!
Our Ned will beat me with a three!
'Tis all by luck that things are carried-
He'll suffer for it, when he's married.'
Thus Sal, with tears in either eye,
While victor Ned sate tittering by.
Thus I, long envying your success,
And bent to write and study less,
Sate down, and scribbled in a trice,
Just what you see-and you despise.
You, who can frame a tuneful song,
And hum it as you ride along,
And, trotting on the king's highway,
Snatch from the hedge a sprig of bay,
Accept this verse, howe'er it flows,
From one that is your friend in prose.
What is this wreath, so green, so fair,
Which many wish, and few must wear;
Which some men's indolence can gain,
And some men's vigils ne'er obtain?
For what must Sal or poet sue,
Ere they engage with Ned or you?
For luck in verse, for luck at loo?
Ah, no! 'tis genius gives you fame,
And Ned, through skill, secures the game.



William Shenstone


William Shenstone's other poems:
  1. Elegy 3. On the Untimely Death of a Certain Learned Acquainance
  2. The Invidious
  3. The Attribute of Venus
  4. Charms of Precedence
  5. An Irregular Ode, After Sickness


Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Matthew Arnold To a Friend ("Who prop, thou ask'st in these bad days, my mind?")
  • Anna Barbauld To a Friend ("May never more of pensive melancholy")
  • William Bowles To a Friend ("Go, then, and join the murmuring city's throng!")
  • Joseph Drake To a Friend ("Yes, faint was my applause and cold my praise")
  • James Fields To a Friend ("Go, with a manly heart")
  • Richard Hovey To a Friend ("ALL too grotesque our thoughts are sometimes")
  • Amy Lowell To a Friend ("I ask but one thing of you, only one")
  • James Lowell To a Friend ("One strip of bark may feed the broken tree")
  • John Pierpont To a Friend ("Friend of my dark and solitary hour")

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