A Much Noise & Little Wool!

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

A Much Noise & Little Wool
A True Story

A mountain once, in days of old,
(As is by merry Aesop told),
In labor was; — the midwives all,
Both male and female, short and tall,
About her came to bring relief,
And ease the mountain of her grief:
Strong were  her throes, and loud her moans,
And echo answered back her groans;
All wondered at the dire portent,
And trembling waited the event.
At last a dreadful cry was heard,
And straight a little mouse appeared;
Shame seized on all the gazing crew,
Who cursed the mountain, and withdrew.

These little tales, called allegories,
Have been of special use in stories;
And men, who dared not name the matter,
In fables hide the keenest satyr:
But all such caution I despise,
I tell my tale without disguise.

The opening of all missive letters,
(With all due deference to my betters),
A custom is, that I declare,
I neither honest think nor fair.
May I not be in love or debt,
In a good humor, or a pet,
Or kiss a harlot in the dark?
But in two days a postal clerk,
Shall to some other man discover,
That I’m a bankrupt, or a lover;
I either way meet with disgrace,
Yet this is very oft the case.

Not  long ago an opened letter,
Was full of treasonable matter:
One who had lately left this isle,
And stayed at Utrecht for a while,
Wrote to his friend.  “Dear Jack,” said he,
“At last, I’ve got safe cross the sea,
“Where I your orders shall obey,
“In every thing, and every way;
“Ten dozen armor, good and new,
“As my warrior ever knew,
“The best that Holland can afford,
“I’ve bought and safely put on board
“A ship belonging to Kirkcaldie,
“The skipper’s name is Robert Waldie;
“They’ll serve you for the next campaign;
“In spring I shall be home again:
“Farewell — God Bless our sovereign.”

This letter as I said was seized,
And much the postal clerk displeased,
Who to some great men quickly went,
That packets northward might be sent.

The custom-house strict orders got,
That for prevention of a plot,
They’d seize on Waldie and his ship,
And on their lives not let her slip;
Nay, plainly told them, they had reason
To think the ship was fraught with treason.

To Edinburgh these orders came,
The custom board, all men of fame!
Wise, solid, prudent, skilled in law,
From pretty Brent, to Tête comme ça,
Thought it was fit they should consult
The magistrates, as men adult.

They did, and then it was decreed,
To man their sloops and boats with speed,
With honest men, that were most handy,
In seizing, I mean running brandy.

On this the boats were sent away,
And met with Waldie, near the May;
And though the wind was in her teeth,
Brought ship and cargo up to Leith.
The captain knew not what they meant,
And for some time believed they dreamt,
But when they for his arms inquired,
His owners’ names, and by whom hired;
“Of arms,” he said, “he nothing knew,
“And if they’d search, they’d find it true.”

They wondered he the truth deny,
Since they could catch him in a lie,
But rather wished he’d speak the truth;
Then asked him, “If, from such a youth,
“He got no arms?”  — “For that,” said he,
“You shall that armor quickly see;
“I have them lying in my trunk;
“I own the gentleman was drunk,
“When he delivered me that packet,
“For which your honors make this racket.”

In anger to his chest he went,
And a sealed bundle did present;
For arms it seemed to be too light,
But opening it, they saw a sight,
That made them look like lifeless dogs;
To wit, the bladders of some hogs,
A-top with scarlet ribbon tied,
By which some warriors defied,
The dangers, and the dreadful harms,
Are risked in mercenary arms.

May they who, without any ground,
The joys of friendship thus confound,
When hoping to find out a plot,
Get heaps of cundums to their lot;
May fortune still those people chouse,
And every mountain bring a mouse.

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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