MERCURY and the ELEPHANT. A Prefatory FABLE.
No MS; 1713 Misc, 1-4* (the single preface to this volume).
As Merc'ry travell'd thro' a Wood,
(Whose Errands are more Fleet than Good)
An Elephant before him lay,
That much encumber'd had the Way:
The Messenger, who's still in haste,
Wou'd fain have bow'd, and so have past;
When up arose th' unweildy Brute,
And wou'd repeat a late Dispute,
[Page 2] In which (he said) he'd gain'd the Prize
From a wild Boar of monstrous Size:
But Fame (quoth he) with all her Tongues,
Who Lawyers, Ladies, Soldiers wrongs,
Has, to my Disadvantage, told
An Action throughly Bright and Bold;
Has said, that I foul Play had us'd,
And with my Weight th' Opposer bruis'd;
Had laid my Trunk about his Brawn,
Before his Tushes cou'd be drawn;
Had stunn'd him with a hideous Roar,
And twenty-thousand Scandals more:
But I defy the Talk of Men,
Or Voice of Brutes in ev'ry Den;
Th' impartial Skies are all my Care,
And how it stands Recorded there.
Amongst you Gods, pray, What is thought?
Quoth Mercury -- Then have you Fought!
Solicitous thus shou'd I be
For what's said of my Verse and Me;
[Page 3] Or shou'd my Friends Excuses frame,
And beg the Criticks not to blame
(Since from a Female Hand it came)
Defects in Judgment, or in Wit;
They'd but reply - Then has she Writ!
Our Vanity we more betray,
In asking what the World will say,
Than if, in trivial Things like these,
We wait on the Event with ease;
Nor make long Prefaces, to show
What Men are not concern'd to know:
For still untouch'd how we succeed,
'Tis for themselves, not us, they Read;
Whilst that proceeding to requite,
We own (who in the Muse delight)
'Tis for our Selves, not them, we Write.
Betray'd by Solitude to try
Amusements, which the Prosp'rous fly;
[Page 4] And only to the Press repair,
To fix our scatter'd Papers there;
Tho' whilst our Labours are preserv'd,
The Printers may, indeed, be starv'd.
rpt of 1713: 1903 Reynolds, 3-4; Rpt of 1903 Reynolds: 1979 Rogers AF, 1-2.
La Fontaine, Fables, "L'Elephant et Le Singe de Jupiter," XXI, 21, 349-50.
See my comparative analysis of La Fontaine's text with Finch's: The Elephant as Disgruntled Literary Critic. La Fontaine's fable is recast as a preface to Finch's miscellaneous volume. Here she yet apologizes, this time absolving herself of the imagined charge that she thinks a woman or poetry is of any importance to the average person. Although this poem and the next were probably not written before the rest of the new poems which went into the manuscript which lies behind the 1713 Miscellany and has since disappeared, I have placed them first since both were conceived as prefaces and justifications of a book of poetry to follow.
Page Last Updated 8 January 2003