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Poem by John Gay


Part I. Fable 25. The Scold and the Parrot


  The husband thus reproved his wife:
  'Who deals in slander, lives in strife.
  Art thou the herald of disgrace,
  Denouncing war to all thy race?
  Can nothing quell thy thunder's rage,
  Which spares no friend, nor sex, nor age?
  That vixen tongue of yours, my dear,
  Alarms our neighbours far and near.
  Good gods! 'tis like a rolling river,
  That murmuring flows, and flows for ever!

  Ne'er tired, perpetual discord sowing!
  Like fame, it gathers strength by going.'
     'Heyday!' the flippant tongue replies,
  How solemn is the fool, how wise!
  Is nature's choicest gift debarred?
  Nay, frown not; for I will be heard.
  Women of late are finely ridden,
  A parrot's privilege forbidden!
  You praise his talk, his squalling song;
  But wives are always in the wrong.'

     Now reputations flew in pieces,
  Of mothers, daughters, aunts, and nieces.
  She ran the parrot's language o'er,
  Bawd, hussy, drunkard, slattern, whore;
  On all the sex she vents her fury,
  Tries and condemns without a jury.
     At once the torrent of her words
  Alarmed cat, monkey, dogs, and birds:
  All join their forces to confound her;
  Puss spits, the monkey chatters round her;

  The yelping cur her heels assaults;
  The magpie blabs out all her faults;
  Poll, in the uproar, from his cage,
  With this rebuke out-screamed her rage:
     'A parrot is for talking prized,
  But prattling women are despised.
  She who attacks another's honour,
  Draws every living thing upon her.
  Think, madam, when you stretch your lungs,
  That all your neighbours too have tongues.

  One slander must ten thousand get,
  The world with interest pays the debt.'



John Gay


John Gay's other poems:
  1. Trivia, or The Art of Walking the Streets of London. Book 1
  2. Trivia, or The Art of Walking the Streets of London. Book 3
  3. Trivia, or The Art of Walking the Streets of London. Book 2
  4. To A Young Lady, With Some Lampreys
  5. An Elegy on a Lap-dog


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