Thursday, April 25, 2013


The Blue-Devil-Hunting Crew

Peter Pindar, i.e. John Wolcot (1738-1819), Ode X, from The Rights of Kings; or, Loyal Odes to Disloyal Academicians:
"Man may be happy, if he will:"
I've said it often, and I think so still:
Doctrine to make the million stare!
Know then, each mortal is an actual Jove;
Can brew what weather he shall most approve,
Or wind, or calm, or foul, or fair.

But here's the mischief—man's an ass, I say;
Too fond of thunder, lightning, storm, and rain;
He hides the charming, cheerful ray
That spreads a smile o'er hill and plain!
Dark, he must court the scull, and spade, and shroud—
The mistress of his soul must be a cloud!

Who told him that he must be cursed on earth?
The God of Nature?—No such thing;
Heaven whispered him, the moment of his birth,
"Don't cry, my lad, but dance and sing;
Don't be too wise, and be an ape:—
In colours let thy soul be dressed, not crape.

"Roses shall smooth life's journey, and adorn;
Yet mind me—if, through want of grace,
Thou mean'st to fling the blessing in my face,
Thou hast full leave to tread upon a thorn."

Yet some there are, of men, I think the worst,
Poor imps! unhappy, if they can't be cursed—
For ever brooding over Misery's eggs,
As though life's pleasure were a deadly sin;
Mousing for ever for a gin
To catch their happinesses by the legs.

Even at a dinner some will be unblessed,
However good the viands, and well dressed:
They always come to table with a scowl,
Squint with a face of verjuice o'er each dish,
Fault the poor flesh, and quarrel with the fish,
Curse cook and wife, and, loathing, eat and growl.

A cart-load, lo, their stomachs steal,
Yet swear they cannot make a meal.
I like not the blue-devil-hunting crew!
I hate to drop the discontented jaw!
O let me Nature's simple smile pursue,
And pick even pleasure from a straw.
In the second stanza, "scull" is skull, and in the fifth stanza, "gin" means trap.

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