The Question, to Dr. A–!

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 third parts over the next couple of days.  Enjoy!

The Question, to Dr. A–

Tell me, good doctor, what’s the cause,
(You who have studied Nature’s laws)
Why women, of one shape and feature,
So far should differ in their nature.
By nature here I do not mean
A tempter eaten with the spleen,
Nor one whose happy soul’s at ease,
And has no thought  but how to please;
But what i mean is only this,
Why one delights in amorous bliss,
While t’other, who has equal charms,
A stranger is to Love’s alarms.
And talks of love with great despite,
In which her sister takes delight.

To vouch the truth of what I say,
Two men I knew, both young and gay,
Who, wearied of a single life,
Took each of them a lovely wife,
The daughters of a certain knight,
Alike is features, shape, and height:
I saw them married, put to bed,
Each husband got a maidenhead;
Next day the bridegrooms were content,
And I down to the country went:
Within a week I came to town,
And found my friends were both cast down
I could not bear to see them so,
And to the one did frankly go;
And asked the reason of his grief,
He said, “I’m ruined past relief.
“You see, my wife’s a lovely sight,
“And formed to give a man delight;
“Her eyes and face to love entice,
“But, ah! my friend, she’s cold as ice;
“No joy she gives, no joy can feel,
“Nor meets my love with equal zeal;
“And, spite of all her outward charms,
“Like marble lies within my arms:
“No calenture can warm her blood,
“Nor thaw the dull and stagnant flood.
“Thus I am made to slave for life,
“Tied to a fair, but joyless wife.”

I left this friend in discontent,
And to the other straightway went;
I saw he was but ill at ease,
And kindly asked him his disease: —
“My friend,” said he, then made a pause,
“You see me sad, and ask the cause;
“From such a friend I’ll nothing hide,
“Cursed be the day I got a bride;
“For though she is made up of charms,
“And came a virgin to my arms,
“Yet I am wearied of my life,
“And wish I never had got a wife;
“She is so full of wanton play,
“I get no rest by night or day;
“Her youthful blood is still on fire,
“She is all love and hot desire:
“Her pulse beats high, her bosom heaves,
“The more I do the more she craves:
“But when, by her resistless charms,
“She draws me to her eager arms;
“She’s with the joy transported quite,
“And dies away in vast delight.
“Last night I like a parson toiled:
“But was, in spite of vigor, foiled:
“I laid me down, and would have slept,
“When to my breast she fondly crept:
“And, giving me a burning kiss,
“Begged that I would renew the blissI
“I asked her how she could support
“The violence of amorous sport?
“My life,” said she, and squeezed my finger,
“The more I’m thinged I’m still the thinger.”

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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