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WRITTEN AT WINDSOR, 1713.
THE shepherds and the nymphs were seen
Pleading before the Cyprian queen.
The counsel for the fair began,
Accusing the false creature man.
The brief with weighty crimes was charg'd,
On which the pleader much enlarg'd;
That Cupid now has lost his art, )
Or blunts the point of every dart;
His altar now no longer smokes,
His mother's aid no youth invokes :
This tempts freethinkers to refine,
And bring in doubt their powers divine;
Now love is dwindled to intrigue,
And marriage grown a money-league.
Which crimes aforesaid (with her leave)
Were (as he humbly did conceive)
Against our sovereign lady's peace,
Against the statute in that case,
Against her dignity and crown :
Then pray'd an answer, and sat down.
The nymphs with scorn beheld their foes :
When the defendant's counsel rose,
And, what no lawyer ever lack’d,
With impudence own'd all the fact; * Founded on an offer of marriage made by Miss Vanhomrigh tn Dr. Swift, who was occasionally her preceptor. The lady's unhappy story is well known.
But, what the gentlest heart would vex,
Laid all the fault on t' other sex.
That modern love is no such thing
As what those ancient poets sing;
A fire celestial, chaste, refin'd,
Conceiv'd and kindled in the mind;
Which, having found an equal flame,
Unites, and both become the same,
In different breasts together burn,
Together both to ashes turn.
But women now feel no such fire,
And only know the gross desire.
Their passions move in lower spheres,
Where'er caprice or folly steers.
A dog, a parrot, or an ape,
Or some worse brute in human shape,
Ingross the fancies of the fair,
The few soft moments they can spare,
From visits to receive and pay ;
From scandal, politics, and play;
From fans, and flounces, and brocades,
From equipage and park-parades,
From all the thousand female toys,
From every trifle that employs
The out or inside of their heads,
Between their toilets and their beds.
In a dull stream, which moving slow,
You hardly see the current flow;
If a small breeze obstruct the course,
It whirls about, for want of force,
And in its narrow circle gathers
Nothing but chaff, and straws, and feathers
The current of a female mind
Stops thus, and turns with every wind;
Thus whirling round together draws
Fools, fops, and rakes, for chaff and straws
Hence we conclude, no women's hearts
Are won by virtue, wit, and parts :
Nor are the men of sense to blame,
For breasts incapable of flame;
The fault must on the nymphs be plac'd,
Grown so corrupted in their taste.
The pleader, having spoke his best,
Had witness ready to attest,
Who fairly could on oath depose,
When questions on the fact arcse,
That every article was true;
Nor jurther these deponents knew : -
Therefore he humbly would insist,
The bill might be with costs dismiss'd.
The cause appear'd of so much weight,
That Venus, from Iser judgment-seat,
Desir'd them not to talk so loud,
Else she must interpose a cloud :
For, if the heavenly folk should know
These pleadings in the courts below,
That mortals here disdain to love,
She ne'er could show her face above;
For gods, their betters, are luo wise
To value that which men despise.
“ And then,” said she, “
iny son and I
Must stroll in air, 'twix: land and sky;
Or else, shut out from heaven and earth,
Fly to the sea, my place of birth;
There live, with daggled mermaids pent, And keep on fish perpetual Lent.”
But, since the case appear'd so nice, She thought it best to take advice. The Muses, by their king's permission, Though foes to love, attend the session, And on the right hand took their places In order; on the left, the Graces : To whom she might her doubts propose On all emergencies that rose. The Muses oft' were seen to frown; The Graces half-asham'd look down ; And 'twas observ'd there were but few Of either sex among the crew, Whom she or her assessors knew. The goddess soon began to see, Things were not ripe for a decree ; And said she must consult her books, The lovers' Fletas, Bractons, Cokes. First to a dapper clerk she beckon'd, To turn to Ovid, book the second ; She then referr'd them to a place In Virgil (vidle Dido's case :) As for Tibullus's reports, They never pass’d for law in courts : For Cowley's briefs, and pleas of Waller, Still their authority was smaller.
There was on both sides much to say : She 'd hear the cause another day. And so she did ; and then a third She heard it — there, she kept her word: But, with rejoinders or replies,
Long bills, and answers stuff'd with lies,
Demur, imparlance, and essoign,
The parties ne'er could issue join :
For sixteen years the cause was spun,
And then stood where it first begun.
Now, gentle Clio, sing or say,
What Venus meant by this delay.
The goddess, much perplex'd in mind
To see her empire thus declin'd,
When first this grand debate arose,
Above her wisdom to compose,
Conceiv'd a project in her head
To work her ends; which, if it sped,
Would show the merits of the cause
Far better than consulting laws.
In a glad hour Lucina's aid
Produc'd on Earth a wondrous maid,
On whom the queen of love was bent
To try a new experiment.
She threw her law-books on the shelf,
And thus debated with herself.
“ Since men allege, they ne'er can find
Those beauties in a female mind,
Which raise a flame that will endure
For ever uncorrupt and pure;
If 'tis with reason they complain,
This infant shall restore my reign.
I'll search where every virtue dwells,
From courts inclusive down to cells :
What preachers talk, or sages write ;
These I will gather and unite,
And represent them to mankind
Collected in that infant's mind.”