The Patrons of My Early Song

Once Delpho read — sage Delpho, learned and wise,
O'er the scrawled paper cast his judging eyes,
Whose lifted brows confessed a critic's pride,
While his broad thumb moved nimbly down the side.
His form was like some oracle profound:
The listening audience formed a circle round.
But Mira, fixing her presuming eyes
On the stern image, thus impatient cries:
" Sir, will they prosper? — Speak your judgement, pray."
Replies the statue — " Why, perhaps they may."
For further answers we in vain implore:
The charm was over, and it spoke no more.

Cressida comes, the next unbidden guest:
Small was her top-knot, and her judgement less;
A decent virgin, blessed with idle time,
Now jingles bobbins, and now ponders rhyme:
Not ponders — reads; not reads — but looks 'em o'er
To little purpose, like a thousand more.

" Your servant, Molly."
" I am yours the same."
" I pay this visit, Molly, to your fame:
'Twas that that brought me here, or let me die."
" My fame's obliged: and truly so am I."
" Then fetch me something, for I must not stay
Above four hours."
" But you'll drink some tea?"
We sip and read; we laugh and chat between.
" The air is pleasant, and the fields are green.
Well, Molly, sure, there never was thy fellow.
But don't my ruffles look exceeding yellow?
My apron's dirty — Mira, well, I vow
That thought of yours was very pretty now.
I've read the like, though I forget the place:
But, Mrs. Mira, how d'ye like my lace?"

Afflicted Mira, with a languid eye,
Now views the clock, and now the western sky:
" The sun grows lower: will you please to walk?"
" No; read some more."
" But I had rather talk."
" Perhaps you're tired."
" Truly, that may be."
" Or think me weak."
" Why, Cressy, thoughts are free."
At last we part, with congees at the door:
" I'd thank you, Mira; but my thanks are poor.
I wish, alas! but wishes are in vain.
I like your garden; and I'll come again.
Dear, how I wish! — I do, or let me die,
That we lived near."
Thinks Mira, " So don't I."

This nymph, perhaps, as some had done before,
Found the cold welcome, and returned no more.

Then Vido next to Mira's cot appears,
And with some praise salutes her listening ears;
Whose maxim was, with truth not to offend,
And, right or wrong, his business to commend.
" Look here," cries Mira, " pray peruse this song:
Even I, its parent, see there's something wrong."
" But you mistake: 'tis excellent indeed."
" Then I'll correct it."
" No, there is no need."
" Pray, Vido, look on these. Methinks they smell
Too much of Grub Street: that myself can tell."
" Not so, indeed; they're easy and polite."
" And can you bear 'em?"
" I could read till night."
But Mira, though too partial to the bays,
And, like her brethren, not averse to praise,
Had learned this lesson: praise, if planted wrong,
Is more destructive than a spiteful tongue.

Comes Codrus next, with talents to offend,
A simple tutor, and a saucy friend,
Who poured thick sonnets like a troubled spring,
And such as Butler's wide-mouthed mortals sing:
In shocking rhymes a nymph's perfections tells,
Like the harsh ting-tong of some village-bells.
Then a rude quarrel sings through either ear,
And Mira's levee once again is clear.

Now the dull Muses took their usual rest;
The babes slept soundly in their tiny chest.
Not so their parent: fortune still would send
Some proud director, or ill-meaning friend:
At least we thought their sour meanings ill,
Whose lectures strove to cross a stubborn will.

Parthenia cries, " Why, Mira, you are dull,
And ever musing, till you crack your skull;
Still poking o'er your what-d'ye-call — your Muse:
But prithee, Mira, when dost clean thy shoes?"

Then comes Sophronia, like a barbarous Turk:
" You thoughtless baggage, when d'ye mind your work?
Still o'er a table leans your bending neck:
Your head will grow preposterous, like a peck.
Go, ply your needle: you might earn your bread:
Or who must feed you when your father's dead?"
She sobbing answers, " Sure, I need not come
To you for lectures: I have store at home.
What can I do?"
— " Not scribble."
— " But I will."
" Then get thee packing — and be awkward still."

Thus wrapped in sorrow, wretched Mira lay,
Till Artemisia swept the gloom away:
The laughing Muse, by her example led,
Shakes her glad wings, and quits the drowsy bed.
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