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Anna Jane Vardill

Cupid at School

The Last Tradition of Tabby-Hall

Said Hymen to Cupid—“As fast as you’re able,
Clerk, read the petitions which lie on our table:—
We’ve very few sinecures left to bestow,
Our leases and charters expir’d long ago;
But lest our sly candidates say we are fee’d,
In due alphabetical order proceed—
Why, Cupid!—you scarce know an X from an E!
Fie—open your primmer, and learn A B C.”
Then Love took the spelling-book first in his hand—
“How few (said he laughing) can mine understand!
But I know my own alphabet writ in the eye,
And spell many things in a smile or a sigh,
My kind mother Venus declares it is well,
(As I oft cast accounts,) I should now learn to spell.
So since surly pedants my lessons regret,
Let’s see what it is which I make them forget.
Some foe to my charter, in madness or spite,
First taught silly woman to read and to write:
’Tis monstrous enough when they venture to think,
But Gods! how they vex us with paper and ink!
When Strephons and Cloes scarce knew how to read,
An Ah! or and Oh! was enough to succeed;
But now busy sages to grammar have tied ’em,
And lovers, alas! must have Dilworth beside ’em.
Ye growling grammarians!—ye frost-bitten elves,
Who make, like noun-substantives, much of yourselves,
Until I come kindly and teach you a Q,
No cypher stands single so oddly as U!
But when a fair dame my omnipotence mocks,
And flies from my throne to an old writing-box,
The box, like Pandora’s, unbidden shall ope,
While Love in the corner sits laughing with Hope.”

Grave Hymen replied—“For myself, I profess
I must leave off my business, or buy a new dress:
This old saffron silk for a thousand years worn—
See, Cupid, how short ’tis—how faded and torn!
Good old-fashion’d dames, when too threadbare it grew,
Could line and embroider and trim it anew;
But wits, bards, and beauties, tho’ often they read it,
Have never yet found the right method to mend it.

The Graces repair it sometimes—but I hear
They have not been seen here for more than a year:
Pray, Cupd, inquire for Dame Industry’s cell;
She’ll spin me a robe while she learns you to spell.”

Love flew to the vale where in secret repose
Liv’d Truth and Discretion, the worst of his foes,
And under their brisk mistress Industry’s rule,
With Ease, Pity, Patience, and Leisure, kept school.

Love came to their door, and their scholar became,
With his spangled wings hid, and his laughing eyes tame;
While the seven humble spinsters grown wrinkled and old,
The legends of peace and of innocence told.
Bland Leisure was pleas’d with a stranger so fair,
And Ease, wove her roses, among his bright hair;
He sat in their laps Pity’s ballads to sing,
Till Truth found his arrows, and clipp’d off his wing.

But Love in revenge, when his schoolmistress slept,
Broke open the chest where their balsams they kept;
And touching their eyes, while unguarded they lay,
With Spleen’s yellow venom, stole laughing away.
Poor Pity awoke in Credulity’s shape;
Discretion’s soft veil seem’d a stiff sable crape;
Ease parted from Leisure; tir’d Patience grew odd;
And Truth, chang’d to Malice, took Calumny’s rod.

The flow’rs round the porch were all wither’d and dead;
The lean watch-dog Avarice scowl’d in their stead;
Scorn sat with the ravens beneath the grey wall,
And Ridicule call’d it their own Tabby Hall.
Now cautious Experience is schoolmistress there,
But teaches unheeded the gay and the fair:
She toils ev’ry day Hymen’s coat to improve,
And still keeps a rod and a fool’scap for Love.


The European Magazine, Vol. 70, September 1816, pp. 261-262