The Doctor’s Answer!

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 Doctor’s Answer


Good Sir, as for your natural question,
(A thing too true to make a jest on)
At present I decline the task,
‘Tis you should answer, I should ask:
Some things there are, if I might quote ’em,
Which man can never search to bottom,
Too ticklish to be nearly touched,
Yet may in simile be couched.

Two fiddles lay, in size and frame
Alike, their wood and strings the same;
Them both by turns a minstrel tried,
And with the stick their bellies plied;
A clown stood by astonished much,
How, by the same apparent touch,
One sounded with melodious voice,
Whilst t’other made a jarring noise.
To him the minstrel — “Dunderhead,
“Wish as just cause thou might have wondered.
“At winter’s frost, or heat in June,
“This fiddle here is out of tune.
“Fiddles alone are not to blame,
“The sticks must often take the shame;
“Too feeble, short, or limber chosen,
“And often fail for want of rosin.”

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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