The Apocrypha!

Here is the next installment of poetry generally attributed to Thomas, the sixth Earl of Harrington (circa 1730).  This particular poem will be continued with the second and final part tomorrow.  Enjoy!

The Apocypha

It is very odd to see how zeal
Over sense and reason doth prevail,
And makes its votaries commit
A thousand actions are unfit.
And, following that hair-brained guide,
Virtue and morals lay aside.

To prove the truth of what I’ve said,
I’ll give an instance of a maid,
Who lived in Glasgow at the time
When conventicling was a crime
Severely punished by the law,
Which made most people stand in awe;
But Janet trudged from hill to hill,
and thought she never could get her fill.
In frosts and snows, in winds and rains,
Would six hours hear their raving strains;
And such her zeal that she did call
The legal clergy priests of Baal;
Bishops were an abomination,
Whose pride, she said, would sink the nation.

An aunt, who heard of Janet’s fame,
To see her niece to Glasgow came;
Janet bewailed the evil times,
Broke covenants and crying crimes,
Then freely railed at church and state,
At whoring Charles and Popish Kate;
Not let the Duke of York alone,
But called him imp of Babylon.

The whining aunt was pleased to find
Her niece so zealously inclined;
And, that she might continue true,
Gave her a Bible bound in blue,
And neatly gilt; on this they part,
The present pleased her to the heart;
She looked upon it with delight;
But soon she saw a dreadful sight,
For as she turned it over with care,
Behold, the Apocrypha was there.
On this, her joy was turned to rage,
And she tore out each guilty page.

But zeal oft carries folks too far,
And they may do, ere they’re aware,
What they may afterwards repent,
As I shall show you in the event.

Next Sunday morning, long ere day,
Janet from Glasgow took her way,
To hear a preacher of renown
For railing at the church and crown.
The way was long, she had no guide,
But her looped Bible by her side;
The place of meeting, well she knew,
Was at a hill above Renfrew.

At last she reached the longed-for place,
And heard the man brimful of grace;
With so much energy he spoke,
As would have rent a heart of oak.
He had the scriptures at command,
And said that God would judge the land
By them, his dear and chosen people,
Who would demolish every steeple;
Pull out their bishops, tear their gowns,
And bind their troopers and dragoons;
But peace and wealth to them would grant,
Who stood firm by the covenant.

Six hours in such discourse he passed,
But let his hearers go at last;
Who left the hill with great content,
And to their homes rejoicing went;
While zealous Janet, for her part,
Declared the sermon reached her heart.

But, as through Crookstone wood she came,
An accident befell the dame,
A handsome fellow, young and strong,
Who had in vain loved Janet long,
Lay fast asleep beneath an oak,
But Janet soon his slumbers broke.
She called his name; he raised his eyes,
And looked on Janet with surprise;
Then, starting up, cried out, “My dear,
“I did not dream to see you here;
“Will you sit down and rest awhile;”
Then gazed upon her with a smile.

The pious Janet was content,
But slyly to the thicket went,
He kissed her hand, and nothing said,
Then with her lovely bosom played:
Upon her lips he seized in haste,
And threw his arms around her waist:
He feared he might offend the dame,
But she, whose blood was all on flame,
With open lips received the kiss,
And did at once his fears dismiss;
Their mouths were close together glued,
His purpose he with warmth pursued;
Upon the grass he gently laid
The lovely and consenting maid:
He could not stay to view her charms,
But rushed at once into her arms;
Then laid her charming legs aside,
While Janet had no power to chide;
But did in everything comply,
And scorned to give a single cry.

This rapture took  their speech away,
And out of breath they silent lay;
But, after a long burning kiss,
He mounted to renew the bliss;
And, smiling, let his dearest know
Her lovely buttocks lay too low.

The fair one, listening to his speech,
Her Bible clapped below her breech;
And, as she heaved, she, sighing, said,
“Alas! I am a silly maid:
“A curse upon the luckless day,
“I tore the Apocrypha away,
“And threw it in the cruel fire,
“It would have raise my buttocks higher,
“And might have helped my at the pinch;
“But now my zeal has lost an inch.”

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 Mia 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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