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The Bas Bleu: Or, Conversation. Addressed To Mrs. Vesey

Hannah More 1745 (Fishponds) – 1833 (Clifton, Bristol)

VESEY, of Verse the judge and friend,
Awhile my idle strain attend:
Not with the days of early Greece,
I mean to ope my slender piece;
The rare Symposium to proclaim
Which crown'd th' Athenians' social name;
Or how Aspasia's parties shone,
The first Bas-bleu at Athens known;
Where SOCRATES unbending sat,
With ALCIBIADES in chat;
And PERICLES vouchsafed to mix
Taste, wit, and mirth, with politics.
Nor need I stop my tale to show,
At least to readers such as you,
How all that Rome esteem'd polite,
Supp'd with LUCULLUS every night;
LUCULLUS, who, from Pontus come,
Brought conquests, and brought cherries home.
Name but the suppers in th' Appollo,
What classic images will follow!
How wit flew round, while each might take
Conchylia from the Lucrine lake;
And Attic Salt, and Garum Sauce,
And Lettuce from the Isle of Cos;
The first and last from Greece transplanted,
Us'd here--because the rhyme I wanted:
How pheasant's heads, with cost collected,
And Phenicopters' stood neglected,
To laugh at SCIPIO's lucky hit,
POMPEY's bon-mot, or CAESAR's wit!
Intemperance, list'ning to the tale,
Forgot the Mullet growing stale;
And Admiration, balanc'd, hung
'Twixt PEACOCKS' brains, and TULLY's tongue.
I shall not stop to dwell on these,
But be as epic as I please,
And plunge at once in medias res.
To prove that privilege I plead,
I'll quote some Greek I cannot read;
Stunn'd by Authority you yield,
And I, not reason, keep the field.
Long was Society o'er-run
By Whist, that desolating Hun;
Long did Quadrille despotic sit,
That Vandal of colloquial wit;
And Conversation's setting light
Lay half-obscur'd in Gothic night.
At length the mental shades decline,
Colloquial wit begins to shine;
Genius prevails, and Conversation
Emerges into Reformation.
The vanquish'd triple crown to you,
BOSCAWEN sage, bright MONTAGU,
Divided, fell;--your cares in haste
Rescued the ravag'd realms of Taste;
And LYTTLETON's accomplish'd name,
And witty PULTENEY shar'd the fame;
The Men not bound by pedant rules
Nor Ladies Precieuses ridicules;*
For polish'd WALPOLE show'd the way,
How wits may be both learn'd and gay;
And CARTER taught the female train,
The deeply wise are never vain;
And she who SHAKSPEARE's wrongs redrest,
Prov'd that the brightest are the best.
This just deduction still they drew,
And well they practis'd what they knew;
Nor taste, nor wit, deserves applause,
Unless still true to critic laws;
Good sense, of faculties the best,
Inspire and regulate the rest.
Oh! how unlike the wit that fell,
RAMBOUILLET! at thy quaint Hotel;
Where point, and turn, and equivoque,
Distorted every word they spoke!
All so intolerably bright,
Plain Common Sense was put to flight;
Each speaker, so ingenious ever,
'Twas tiresome to be quite so clever;
There twisted Wit forgot to please,
And Mood and Figure banish'd ease:
No votive altar smok'd to thee,
Chaste Queen, divine Simplicity!
But forc'd Conceit, which ever fails,
And, stff Antithesis prevails;
Uneasy rivalry destroys
Society's unlabour'd joys:
NATURE, of stilts and fetters tir'd,
Impatient from the Wits retir'd;
Long time the Exile houseless stray'd,
Till SEVIGNE receiv'd the maid.
Though here she comes to bless our isle,
Not universal is her smile.
Muse! snatch the Lyre which CAMBRIDGE strung,
When he the empty ballroom sung;
'Tis tun'd above thy pitch, I doubt,
And thou no music wouldst draw out:
Yet, in a lower note, presume
To sing the full dull Drawing-room.
Where the dire Circle keeps its station,
Each common phrase is an oration;
And cracking fans, and whisp'ring Misses,
Compose their Conversation blisses.
The matron marks the goodly show,
While the tall daughter eyes the Beau--
The frigid Beau! Ah! luckless fair,
'Tis not for you that studied air;
Ah! not for you that sidelong glance,
And all that charming nonchalance;
Ah! not for you the three long hours
He worshipp'd the Cosmetic powers;
That finish'd head which breathes perfume,
And kills the nerves of half the room;
And all the murders meant to lie
in that large, languishing, grey eye;
Desist:--less wild th' attempt would be,
To warm the snows of Rhodope:
Too cold to feel, too proud to feign,
For him you're wise and fair in vain;
In vain to charm him you intend,
Self is his object, aim, and end.
Chill shade of that affected Peer,
Who dreaded Mirth, come safely here!
For here no vulgar joy effaces
Thy rage for polish, ton, and grace
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:53 min read

Hannah More

Hannah More was an English religious writer and philanthropist. more…

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