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Poem by John Gay


Part I. Fable 22. The Goat without a Beard


  'Tis certain, that the modish passions
  Descend among the crowd, like fashions.
  Excuse me then, if pride, conceit,
  (The manners of the fair and great)
  I give to monkeys, asses, dogs,
  Fleas, owls, goats, butterflies, and hogs.
  I say that these are proud. What then?
  I never said they equal men.
     A goat (as vain as goat can be)
  Affected singularity.

  Whene'er a thymy bank he found,
  He rolled upon the fragrant ground;
  And then with fond attention stood,
  Fixed o'er his image in the flood.
     'I hate my frowsy beard,' he cries;
  'My youth is lost in this disguise.
  Did not the females know my vigour,
  Well might they loathe this reverend figure.'
     Resolved to smoothe his shaggy face,
  He sought the barber of the place.

  A flippant monkey, spruce and smart,
  Hard by, professed the dapper art;
  His pole with pewter basins hung,
  Black rotten teeth in order strung,
  Ranged cups that in the window stood,
  Lined with red rags, to look like blood,
  Did well his threefold trade explain,
  Who shaved, drew teeth, and breathed a vein.
     The goat he welcomes with an air,
  And seats him in his wooden chair:

  Mouth, nose, and cheek the lather hides:
  Light, smooth, and swift the razor glides.
     'I hope your custom, sir,' says pug.
  'Sure never face was half so smug.'
     The goat, impatient for applause,
  Swift to the neighbouring hill withdraws:
  The shaggy people grinned and stared.
     'Heyday! what's here? without a beard!
  Say, brother, whence the dire disgrace?
  What envious hand hath robbed your face?'

     When thus the fop with smiles of scorn:
  'Are beards by civil nations worn?
  Even Muscovites have mowed their chins.
  Shall we, like formal Capuchins,
  Stubborn in pride, retain the mode,
  And bear about the hairy load?
  Whene'er we through the village stray,
  Are we not mocked along the way;
  Insulted with loud shouts of scorn,
  By boys our beards disgraced and torn?'

     'Were you no more with goats to dwell,
  Brother, I grant you reason well,'
  Replies a bearded chief. 'Beside,
  If boys can mortify thy pride,
  How wilt thou stand the ridicule
  Of our whole flock? Affected fool!
  Coxcombs, distinguished from the rest,
  To all but coxcombs are a jest.'



                      John Gay


John Gay's other poems:
  1. Part II. Fable 17. Ay and No
  2. Sweet William's Farewell To Black-Ey'd Susan
  3. The Quidnunckis
  4. To A Young Lady, With Some Lampreys
  5. Part II. Fable 12. Pan and Fortune


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