A Tale of the Miser, and the Poet. Written in the Year 1709.
No MS; 1713 Misc, 145-50*.
[Page 145] A WIT, transported with Inditing,
Unpay'd, unprais'd, yet ever Writing;
Who, for all Fights and Fav'rite Friends,
Had Poems at his Fingers Ends;
For new Events was still providing;
Yet now desirous to be riding,
He pack'd-up ev'ry Ode and Ditty
And in Vacation left the City;
So rapt with Figures, and Allusions,
With secret Passions, sweet Confusions;
[Page 146] With Sentences from Plays well-known,
And thousand Couplets of his own;
That ev'n the chalky Road look'd gay,
And seem'd to him the Milky Way.
But Fortune, who the Ball is tossing,
And Poets ever will be crossing,
Misled the Steed, which ill he guided,
Where several gloomy Paths divided.
The steepest in Descent he follow'd,
Enclos'd by Rocks, which Time had hollow'd;
Till, he believ'd, alive and booted,
He'd reach'd the Shades by Homer quoted.
But all, that he cou'd there discover,
Was, in a Pit with Thorns grown over,
Old Mammon digging, straining, sweating,
As Bags of Gold he thence was getting;
Who, when reprov'd for such Dejections
By him, who liv'd on high Reflections,
Reply'd; Brave Sir, your Time is ended,
And Poetry no more befriended.
[Page 147] I hid this Coin, when Charles was swaying;
When all was Riot, Masking, Playing;
When witty Beggars were in fashion,
And Learning had o'er-run the Nation,
But, since Mankind is so much wiser,
That none is valued like the Miser,
I draw it hence, and now these Sums
In proper Soil grow up to Plumbs;
Which gather'd once, from that rich Minute
We rule the World, and all that's in it.
But, quoth the Poet,can you raise,
As well as Plumb-trees, Groves of Bays?
Where you, which I wou'd chuse much rather,
May Fruits of Reputation gather?
Will Men of Quality, and Spirit,
Regard you for intrinsick Merit?
And seek you out, before your Betters,
For Conversation, Wit, and Letters?
[Page 148] Fool, quoth the Churl, who knew no Breeding;
Have these been Times for such Proceeding?
Instead of Honour'd, and Rewarded,
Are you not Slighted, or Discarded?
What have you met with, but Disgraces?
Your PRIOR cou'd not keep in Places;
And your VAN-BRUG had found no Quarter,
But for his dabbling in the Morter.
ROWE no Advantages cou'd hit on,
Till Verse he left, to write North-Briton.
PHILIPS, who's by the Shilling known,
Ne'er saw a Shilling of his own.
Meets PHILOMELA, in the Town
Her due Proportion of Renown?
What Pref'rence has ARDELIA seen,
T'expel, tho' she cou'd write the Spleen?
Of Coach, or Tables, can you brag,
Or better Cloaths than Poet RAG?
Do wealthy Kindred, when they meet you,
With Kindness, or Distinction, greet you?
[Page 149] Or have your lately flatter'd Heroes
Enrich'd you like the Roman Maroes?
No–quoth the Man of broken Slumbers:
Yet we have Patrons for our Numbers;
There are Mecænas's among 'em.
Quoth Mammon,pray Sir, do not wrong 'em;
But in your Censures use a Conscience,
Nor charge Great Men with thriftless Nonsense:
Since they, as your own Poets sing,
Now grant no Worth in any thing
But so much Money as 'twill bring.
Then, never more from your Endeavours
Expect Preferment, or less Favours.
But if you'll 'scape Contempt, or worse,
Be sure, put Money in your Purse;
Money! which only can relieve you
When Fame and Friendship will deceive you.
[Page 150] Sir, (quoth the Poet humbly bowing,
And all that he had said allowing)
Behold me and my airy Fancies
Subdu'd, like Giants in Romances.
I here submit to your Discourses;
Which since Experience too enforces,
I, in that solitary Pit,
Your Gold withdrawn, will hide my Wit:
Till Time, which hastily advances,
And gives to all new Turns and Chances,
Again may bring it into use;
Roscommons may again produce;
New Augustean Days revive,
When Wit shall please, and Poets thrive.
Till when, let those converse in private,
Who taste what others don't arrive at;
Yielding that Mammonists surpass us;
And let the Bank out-swell Parnassus.
Rpt of 1713: 1903 Reynolds, 191-4; rpts of 1903 Reynolds: 1928 Murray, 102-5; 1930 Fausset, 87-9; 1979 Rogers AF, 120-3.
La Fontaine, "L'Avare qui a perdu son tresor" IV,20, 126-7 and opening and closing lines of "Le Savetier et le Financier," VIII, 2, 107-8; a general Aesopic tradition at its starkest in L'Estrange, "A Miser Burying his Gold," Pt 1, No. 146. Finch also remembers Guyon's meeting with Mammon, Faerie Queene II, vii, 1-51.
Rpts of 1713/1903: 1990 Fullard, 285-7; 1990 Lonsdale, 12-4.
Free and highly original recreation; superb in wit, speed, sympathy and bitter laughter; also a survey of poetry which places Finch firmly in early 18th century context. It is interesting what a chameleon she is. Depending on the genre she choses, her voice comes out differently. See also The Tradesman and the Scholar: "A Citizen of mighty Pelf."
Page Last Updated 8 January 2003