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Go tell the Court it glows
And shines like rotten wood;
If Church and Court reply,
Tell potentates they live
Acting by others' actions,
If potentates reply,
Tell men of high condition
That rule affairs of state,
And if they once reply,
Tell them that brave it most
They beg for more by spending,
And if they make reply,
Tell zeal it lacks devotion ;
Tell love it is but lust;
And wish them not reply,
Tell age it daily wasteth;
Tell honour how it alters ;
And as they shall reply,
Tell wit how much it wrangles
In fickle points of niceness; Tell wisdom she entangles Herself in over-wiseness ;
And if they do reply,
Straight give them both the lie. Tell physic of her boldness ;
Tell skill it is pretension ;
And as they yield reply,
Tell fortune of her blindness ;
Tell nature of decay;
And if they dare reply,
Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming ;
If arts and schools reply,
Tell faith it's fled the city;
Tell how the country erreth ;
And if they do reply
So when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing,
Yet stab at thee who will,
About the authorship of this beautiful address to conjugal love, there is also much uncertainty. Bishop Percy calls it a "Translation from the Antient British,” probably to veil the real writer. We find it included among Gilbert Cooper's poems, diamond amongst pebbles; he never could have written it. It has been claimed for Steevens, who did the world good service as one of the earliest restorers of Shakespeare's text; but who is almost as famous for his bitter and cynical temper, as for his acuteness as a verbal critic. Could this charming love-song, true in its tenderness as the gushing notes of a bird to his sitting mate, have been poured forth by a man whom the whole world agreed in hating? After all, we have no need to meddle with this vexed question. Let us be content to accept thankfully one of the very few purely English ballads which contradict the reproach of our Scottish and Irish neighbours, when they tell us that our love-songs are of the head, not of the heart. This poem, at least, may vie with those of Gerald Griffin in the high and rare merit of conveying the noblest sentiments in the simplest language.
Away ! let nought to love displeasing,
My Winifreda, move your care ;
Nor squeamish pride, nor gloomy fear.
What though no grant of royal donors
With pompous titles grace our blood ?
And to be noble we'll be good.
Our name, while virtue thus we tender,
Shall sweetly sound where'er ’tis spoke;
How they respect such little folk.
What though from fortune's lavish bounty
No mighty treasures we possess ?
And be content without excess.
Still shall each kind returning season
Sufficient for our wishes give;
For we will live a life of reason,
And that's the only life to live.
Through youth to age in love excelling,
We'll hand in hand together tread;
And babes, sweet-smiling babes, our bed.
How should I love the pretty creatures,
While round my knees they fondly clung;
To hear them lisp their mother's tongue,
And when with envy, time transported,
Shall think to rob us of our joys,
And I'll go wooing in my boys.
Surely this is the sort of poetry that ought to be popular—to be sung in our concert-rooms, and set to such airs as should be played on barrel-organs through our streets, suggesting the words and the sentiments as soon as the first notes of the melody make themselves heard under the window.