Old Simon. A Tale

Folks cannot be for ever sniv’ling—no! 
With fountain noses that for ever flow—
 The world would quickly be undone;
Widows, and lovelorn girls, poor souls, would die; 
And for his rich old father, sob and sigh,	
 And hang himself, perchance, a hopeful son; 

And for their cats that happ’d to slip their breath,
Old maids, so sweet, might mourn themselves to death:
Sorrow may therefore have her decent day,
And smiling Pleasure come again in play.	

No! folks can’t brood for ever upon Grief:
Pleasure must steal into her place at last;
Thus then the heart from horror finds relief;
Snatch’d from the cloud by which it is o’ercast.
Thus was an anger’d Lord my constant theme,	
My constant thought by day, my constant dream:
 Tears at his image oft burst out, with sighs: 
At length Charles Fox appear’d—behold the change!
No longer after Sorrow did I range,
 But on the smile of Pleasure cast mine eyes.	
Pleasure’s a lass, that will at length prevail: 
Witness the little pleasant following tale.

Narcissa, full of grace, and youth, and charms,
Had slept some years in good old Simon’s arms;
 Her kind and lawful spouse, that is to say,	
Who, following of numbers the example,
Wishing of sweet young flesh to have a sample,
 Married this charming girl upon a day.

For from grey-headed men, and thin, and old,
Young flesh is finely form’d to keep the cold.	
Thus of the pretty Shunamite we read,
Who warm’d the good King David and his bed,
Brought back his flagging spirits all so cool,
And kept the King of Israel warm as wool—
Indeed she warmer could the Monarch keep,	
Than any thing belonging to a sheep.

  Most virtuous was Narcissa! lo,
  All purity from top to toe;
 As Hebe sweet, and as Diana chaste.
None but old Simon was allow’d a kiss,	
Though hungry as a hound to snap the bliss;
 Nor squeeze her hand, nor take her round the waist:
Had any dar’d to give her a green gown,
The Fair had petrified him with a frown;
For Chastity, Lord bless us! is so nice—	
Pure as the snow, and colder than the ice.

Thus then, as I have said before,
Sweetly she slept, and probably might snore,
 In good old Simon’s unmolesting arms:
Some years, with this Antique of Christian clay,	
Did pass in this same tasteless, tranquil way—
 Ah, Gods! how lucky for such tender charms!

Yes, very fortunate it seem’d to be;
 For, had Narcissa wedded some young chaps,
Their impudences, all forsooth so free,	
 Had robb’d her eyes by night of half their naps.

And yet, on second thoughts (sometimes the best),
Ladies might choose to lose a little rest,
Keep their eyes open for a Lover’s sake,
And thus a sacrifice to Cupid make.	

It pleas’d at length the Lord who dwells on high,
To bid the good old simple Simon die;
 Sleep with his fathers, as the Scripture has it:
Narcissa wept, that they were doom’d to part,
Blubber’d, and almost broke her little heart—	
 So great her grief, that nothing could surpass it.
Not Niobe mourn’d more for fourteen brats—
Nor Mistress Tofts, to leave her twenty cats.

Not to his grave was poor Old Simon hurried;
No! ’twas a fortnight full ere he was buried.	
 ’Tis said old Simon verily did stink.
A pretty Sermon on th’ occasion giv’n
Prov’d his good works, and that he was in heav’n:
 Scraps too of Latin did the Parson link

Unto the funeral sermon, all so sweet,	
The congregation and the dead to greet:
For every Wife that is genteelly bred
Orders a sprig of Latin for the dead.
And of a sprig of Latin what’s the cost?—
A poor half-guinea at the most.	

Latin sounds well—it is a kind of balm,
That honoureth a corpse just like a psalm;
And ’tis believed by folks of pious qualm,
Heav’n won’t receive a soul without a psalm.—

But now for poor Narcissa, wailing dove!	
Nothing—no, nothing equall’d her dear love:
 Such tears and groans burst forth, from eyes and mouth;
Where’er she went, she was so full of woes,
Just like a dismal day that rains and blows
 From every quarter—east, west, north and south;	
And like some fountains were Narcissa’s eyes,
Lifting a constant water to the skies.

Resolv’d to keep his image near her breast,
She got him beautifully carv’d in wood;
Made it her bed-fellow, to sooth her rest,	
And thought him much like him of flesh and blood,
Because it lay so wonderfully quiet,
And like old Simon, never bred a riot.
’Twas for some weeks, sweet soul, it was her plan
Nightly to hug her dear old wooden man:	

 Yet, verily, it doth my fancy strike,
That buxom widows, full of rich desires,
Full of fine prancing blood, and Love’s bright fires,
 Might such a wooden supplement dislike:
But who can answer for the sex, indeed?	
Of things most wonderful we sometimes read!

It came to pass, a Youth admir’d the Dame—
Burning to satisfy a lawless flame;
 With much more passion fill’d, the rogue, than grace.
What did he? Brib’d, one night, Narcissa’s maid,	
And got his limbs, so devilish saucy, laid,
 Th’imposters, in poor wooden Simon’s place:
Susan, though born amongst a vulgar tribe,
Knew nature, and the nature of a bribe.—

The Dame came up, delicious, and undrest,	
 When Susan’s candle suddenly went out—
Misfortunes, sometimes, will attend the best—
 No matter—Sweet Narcissa made no rout.—
She could not miss the way, although ’twas dark,
Unto her bed, and dear old bit of bark.	

In slipp’d the Fair, so fresh, beneath the sheets,
 Thinking to hug her dear old oaken Love—
But lo, her Bed-fellow with kisses greets!
 She trembles, like an aspen, pretty dove—
In short, her terror kept her so much under,	
She could not get away—and where’s the wonder?
Since ’tis an old and philosophic notion,
That terror robbeth all the limbs of motion.
The upshot of the matter soon was this—
Her horrors sunk, and died, at ev’ry kiss;	
And, ’stead of wishing for the man of wood,
She seem’d to relish that of flesh and blood.

Next day, but not indeed extremely soon—
Some five or six o’clock—the afternoon,
Susan came tapping at the chamber door:—	
(Now this was very prudent, to be sure;
 It had been foolish to have tapp’d till then)
“Well, Madam, what d’ye choose for dinner, pray?”
“Fish, flesh, and fowl,” the Lady quick did say—
 “The best of ev’ry thing—I don’t care when.”	

“But, Madam, I want wood to make a fire—
“’Tis rather late—our hands we have no time on.”
“Oh,” cried Narcissa, full of her new Squire,
“Then, Susan, you may go and burn old Simon.”

Odes of Importance, &c. London: H. D. Symonds, 1792.