The Question Answered!

Here is the next installment of poetry generally attributed to Thomas, the sixth Earl of Harrington (circa 1730).

The Question Answered

Tell me, friend John: do, if you can,
“What is the reason, if a man
“Attempts to take a lady fair,
“By you know what, lies you know where,
“That while he lives, he still shall find
“The female, be she cross of kind,
“Fret, frown, and push his hand away;
“Tell me the reason, tell me pray?”

Thoughtful and sage, John sat a while,
Then answered Thomas with a smile: —
“Thomas, a case you never put,
“But it begins or ends in smut;
“None but the wicked can applaud ye,
“Since all your thoughts still run on bawdy;
“But yet, for once, my friend, I’ll try,
“If I your doubts can satisfy.” —

“Women still make a great pretence,
“To modesty and innocence,
“And about virtue make a rout;
“This is the reason without doubt.”–
“Ah, friend!” said Thomas, with concern,
“I see you are but still to learn;
“Your understanding’s good for nought,
“And are you better fed than taught.
“Virtue and modesty’s a story,
“As little thought on as John Dory.
“Listen, you shall the reason know;
“Whenever you trust your hand below,
“All women, be they foul or fair,
“Know that a hand is useless there;
“But if, from May-day to December,
“You offer there the proper member,
“Push as you will to give the pain,
“They’ll neither wince, nor yet complain.”

Note: printed on the page following the title page was the following: “from a collection of poems that have been generally ascribed to Thomas, sixth Earl of Harrington. He was the son of Charles, the fifth Earl, and Margaret Lesslie, Countess of Rothes; and fought on the Royal side at the battle of Shirreffmuir, along with his brother John Lesslie, Earl of Rothes, and his own son, Lord Binning. These poems, according to Pinkerton, were printed about 1730, and have been reprinted in 1753, 1765, 1767, and 1777. He was also the author of a treatise on forest trees, which has gone through several editions. He died in 1735.” However, if these dates are correct (and I am by no means an expert historian in such matters), these poems could only have been written by either the first or second Earl of Harrington (William Stanhope and W.S. Jr.).


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