Comic Poems (texts taken from my forthcoming edition of the Collected Poetry, (Liverpool University Press, 2023))


You bid me, Ned, describe the place
Where I, one of the rhyming race,
Pursue my studies con amore,
And wanton with the Muse in glory.

Well, figure to your senses straight,
Upon the House’s topmost height,
A closet, just six feet by four,
With white-wash’d walls, and plaster floor.

So noble large, ’tis scarcely able
To admit a single chair and table:
And (lest the Muse should die with cold)
A smoky grate my fire to hold;
So wondrous small, ’twould much it pose
To melt the ice-drop on one’s nose;
And yet so big, it covers o’er
Full half the spacious room and more.

A window vainly stuff’d about,
To keep November’s breezes out,
So crazy, that the panes proclaim,
That soon they mean to leave the frame.

My furniture, I sure may crack—
A broken chair without a back;
A table, wanting just two legs,
One end sustain’d by wooden pegs;
A desk—of that I am not fervent,
The work of, Sir, your humble Servant;
(Who, tho’ I say’t, am no such fumbler)
A glass decanter, and a tumbler,
From which, my night-parch’d throat I lave,
Luxurious, with the limpid wave.
A chest of drawers, in antique sections,
And saw’d by me, in all directions;
So small, Sir, that whoever views ’em
Swears nothing but a doll could use ’em.
To these, if you will add a store,
Of oddities upon the floor,
A pair of Globes, electric balls,
Scales, Quadrants, Prisms, and Cobler’s Awls,
And crowds of books, on rotten shelves,
Octavo’s, Folio’s, Quartos, Twelves;

…tho’ confin’d, ’twill well contain
Th’ ideal flights of Madam Brain.
No dungeon’s walls, no cell confin’d
Can cramp the energies of mind!
Thus, tho’ my heart may seem so small,
I’ve friends, and ’twill contain them all;
And should it e’er become so cold
That these, it will no longer hold,
No more may Heaven her blessings give;
I shall not then be fit to live.


Well, first I premise, its my honest conviction,
That my breast is a chaos of all contradiction;
Religious—Deistic—now loyal and warm;
Then a dagger-drawn Democrat hot for reform;
This moment a fop, that, sententious as Titus;
Democritus now, and anon Heraclitus;
Now laughing and pleased, like a child with a rattle;
Then vex’d to the soul with impertinent tattle;
Now moody and sad, now unthinking and gay,
To all points of the compass I veer in a day.

I’m proud and disdainful to Fortune’s gay child,
But to Poverty’s offspring submissive and mild;
As rude as a Boor, and as rough in dispute;
Then as for politeness—oh! dear—I’m a brute!
I shew no respect where I never can feel it;
And as for contempt, take no pains to conceal it.
And so in the suite, by these laudable ends,
I’ve a great many foes, and a very few friends.