The Dream, Part One!

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 Dream (Part 1)

Why man, that makes a just pretence
To understanding and to sense,
Should choose to live in care and strife,
And sell himself a slave for life,
When every creature else, but he,
Enjoys the sweets of liberty,
Is what I never could pretend
To understand, or comprehend.

The wiser brutes, when they’re inclined
To increase and multiply their kind,
Indulge in lust, but when it’s over,
Continue free as heretofore;
But only man, for love or pelf,
In wedlock fetters, ties himself.

It’s said the storks and turtle-doves
Are ever faithful in their loves;
Yet I believe that none, or few,
Can vouch this story to be true:
But, for avoiding all disputes,
I’ll own the folly to some brutes,
While there are thousands on our side,
Who follow Nature for their guide.

We’re told, that, when the world was new,
Of human kind there were but two;
Those to each other were confined,
They could not change had they inclined;
But, when the race of man increased,
That custom, with its reason, ceased;
To stock the world more wives they took,
And joyless constancy forsook:
Nor did the saints this practice shun,
Heaven’s chosen David, and his son,
Of wives and whores had so great store,
And so much love to women bore;
That, it is left us on record,
For women they forsook the Lord.

But now the world draws near its end,
Such doings would in kings offend:
One wife is all the law allows:
And if he wearies of his spouse,
And in his bosom feels a flame,
Raised by a fairer, brighter dame;
Nay, though, he’s ravished with her charms,
And she consents to bless his arms;
Yet, spite of all his power and wealth,
He must enjoy the fair by stealth;
Nay, bribe her high: kings may do this,
And give a province for  a kiss.

But why a man, whose highest pay
Doth no exceed a groat a-day,
Should knowingly disturb his life,
And take the burden of a wife,
To swallow up the half he has,
Doth very far my skill surpass:
Yet such the folly of mankind,
That what I say you’ll often find
Is certain truth.  Upon a time,
A lusty fellow, for the crime
Of breaking orchards, stealing fruit,
Was sent away for a recruit.
He scarce could live upon his pay,
Which was but fourpence every day;
Poor was his food, and weak his drink,
But small incitements, one would think,
To love or lust; yet, thoughtless sot,
He chose to live on half a groat;
For to a strump, one luckless day,
He gave his heart and hand away;
And, though he little had to spare,
He gave her twopence to her share. . . .

. . .  to be continued tomorrow.

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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