Alexander Pope

The Challenge: A Court Ballad

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) is regarded as one of the greatest English poets, and the foremost poet of the early eighteenth century. He is best known for his satirical and discursive poetry, including The Rape of the Lock, The Dunciad, and An Essay on Criticism, as well as for his translation of Hom…






I.
To one fair lady out of Court,
And two fair ladies in,
Who think the Turk and Pope a sport,
And wit and love no sin!
Come, these soft lines, with nothing stiff in,
To Bellenden, Lepell, and Griffin.
With a fa, la, la.

II.

What passes in the dark third row,
And what behind the scene,
Couches and crippled chairs I know,
And garrets hung with green;
I know the swing of sinful hack,
Where many damsels cry alack.
With a fa, la, la.

III.
Then why to Courts should I repair,
Where's such ado with Townsend?
To hear each mortal stamp and swear,
And every speech with 'Zounds' end;
To hear them rail at honest Sunderland,
And rashly blame the realm of Blunderland.
With a fa, la, la.

IV.
Alas! like Schutz I cannot pun,
Like Grafton court the Germans;
Tell Pickenbourg how slim she's grown,
Like Meadows run to sermons;
To court ambitious men may roam,
But I and Marlbro' stay at home.
With a fa, la, la.

V.
In truth, by what I can discern,
Of courtiers, 'twixt you three,
Some wit you have, and more may learn
From Court, than Gay or Me:
Perhaps, in time, you'll leave high diet,
To sup with us on milk and quiet.
With a fa, la, la.

VI.
At Leicester Fields, a house full nigh,
With door all painted green,
(A Milliner, I mean);
There may you meet us three to three,
For Gay can well make two of Me.
With a fa, la, la.

VII.
But should you catch the prudish itch,
And each become a coward,
Bring sometimes with you lady Rich,
And sometimes mistress Howard;
For virgins, to keep chaste, must go
Abroad with such as are not so.
With a fa, la, la.

VIII.
And thus, fair maids, my ballad ends;
God send the king safe landing;
And make all honest ladies friends
To armies that are standing;
Preserve the limits of those nations,
And take off ladies' limitations.
With a fa, la, la.

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