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To a Friend

William Shenstone 1714 (Halesowen) – 1763 (Halesowen)

Have you ne'er seen, my gentle Squire!
The humours of your kitchen fire?
Says Ned to Sal, 'I lead a spade;
Why don't ye play?-the girl's afraid-
Play something-anything-but play-
'Tis but to pass the time away-
Phoo-how she stands-biting her nails-
As though she play'd for half her vails-
Sorting her cards, haggling, and picking-
We play for nothing, do us, chicken?
That card will do-'blood never doubt it,
It's not worth while to think about it.'
Sal thought, and thought, and miss'd her aim,
And Ned ne'er studying won the game.
Methinks, old friend! 'tis wondrous true
That verse is but a game at loo:
While many a bard, that shows so clearly
He writes for his amusement merely,
Is known to study, fret, and toil,
And play for nothing all the while,
Or praise at most; for wreaths of yore
Ne'er signified a farthing more!
Till having vainly toil'd to gain it,
He sees your flying pen obtain it.
Through fragrant scenes the trifler roves,
And hallow'd haunts that Phoebus loves:
Where with strange heats his bosom glows,
And mystic flames the god bestows.
You now none other flames require
Than a good blazing parlour fire;
Write verses-to defy the scorners
In -houses and chimney-corners.
Sal found her deep-laid schemes were vain-
The cards were cut-come, deal again-
No good comes on it when one lingers-
I'll play the cards come next my fingers-
Fortune could never let Ned loo her,
When she had left it wholly to her.
Well, now who wins?-why, still the same-
For Sal has lost another game.
I've done (she mutter'd); I was saying,
It did not argufy my playing.
Some folks will win, they cannot choose;
But think or not think-some must lose.
I may have won a game or so-
But then it was an age ago-
It ne'er will be my lot again-
I won it of a baby then-
Give me an ace of trumps, and see!
Our Ned will beat me with a three!
'Tis all by luck that things are carried-
He'll suffer for it, when he's married.'
Thus Sal, with tears in either eye,
While victor Ned sate tittering by.
Thus I, long envying your success,
And bent to write and study less,
Sate down, and scribbled in a trice,
Just what you see-and you despise.
You, who can frame a tuneful song,
And hum it as you ride along,
And, trotting on the king's highway,
Snatch from the hedge a sprig of bay,
Accept this verse, howe'er it flows,
From one that is your friend in prose.
What is this wreath, so green, so fair,
Which many wish, and few must wear;
Which some men's indolence can gain,
And some men's vigils ne'er obtain?
For what must Sal or poet sue,
Ere they engage with Ned or you?
For luck in verse, for luck at loo?
Ah, no! 'tis genius gives you fame,
And Ned, through skill, secures the game.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:36 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 2,607
Words 502
Stanzas 1
Stanza Lengths 73

William Shenstone

William Shenstone was an English poet and one of the earliest practitioners of landscape gardening through the development of his estate, The Leasowes. more…

All William Shenstone poems | William Shenstone Books

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    "To a Friend" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 22 Mar. 2023. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41619/to-a-friend>.

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