OR THE MOUSE-TRAP; Being a Translation of Mr. HOLDSWORTH'S*
* Of this translation Mr. Holdsworth declar'd his entire approbation in a letter, by giving it this short character, that it was exceedingly well done. See preface to a dissertation upon eight verses in the second book of Virgil's Georgies. 1749. MUSCIPULA, 1737.
1 THE Mountain-Briton, first of men who fram'd
2 Bonds for the Mouse, first who the tiny thief
3 In prison clos'd vexatious — fatal wiles,
4 And death inextricate — sing, heav'nly Muse.
5 Thou PHOEBUS, (for to Mice thyself wast erst
6 A foe, in antique lore thence SMINTHEUS†
† A title of APOLLO, given him for freeing Smintha, a colony of the Cretans near the Hellespont, from Mice, which much infested them, OVID. MET. xii. 585. A〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, quae Cretensium linguâ murem domesticum sign. AINSWORTH. call'd,)
7 Inspire the Song; and 'mongst the Cambrian Hills[Page 259]
8 Thy Pindus choosing, smile upon the Muse,
9 Whom lowly themes and humble verse delight.
10 The Mouse, an hostile Animal, enur'd
11 To live by rapine, now long time had rov'd
12 Where'er his lust innate of spoil led on;
13 And unaveng'd his wicked craft pursu'd;
14 Long fearless, unaveng'd — All things on earth
15 Felt his fell tooth, while safe in nimble speed
16 Evasive, he in ev'ry dainty dish
17 His revels held secure. Nought was untouch'd,
18 But ev'ry feast wail'd the domestic foe,
19 A constant guest unbidden. Nor strong walls
20 His thefts obstruct, nor massy bars avail,
21 Nor doors robust, to save the luscious cates:
22 Through walls, and bars, and doors he eats his way
23 Contemptuous, and regales with unbought fare.
24 Thus wail'd the helpless world the general foe,
25 But Cambria most; for Cambria's od'rous stores
26 Most stimulate the curious taste of Mouse:
27 Not with a taste content, or lambent kiss,
28 (The fate of common cheese,) he undermines
29 And hollows with reiterated tooth
30 Eatable Palaces.
30 The Nation saw,
31 And rag'd — Revenge and grief distract their minds —
32 What shou'd they do? They foam, they gnash their teeth,
33 And o'er their pendant rocks in fury rove,
34 Restless with rage — for Nature prone to rage[Page 260]
35 The Cambrians form'd, and bade their fiery breasts
36 Burst into sudden flame — that men would deem
37 Their souls were with their fingers sulphur-ting'd.
38 It is decreed — Rage prompts them to revenge
39 Unsated but with blood — Yet by what means,
40 What art the cautious felon to ensnare,
41 They doubt: for, Cambria, thy Grimalkin race
42 Nor to the house defence, nor in distress
43 So imminent, cou'd aught of succour bring.
44 Oft had the Cat plac'd at the cavern's mouth
45 The various ambuscade; as oft with paw
46 Soft-silent creeping, near the hollow cell
47 Kept wary watch — In vain — The little Mouse
48 In little bulk secure, (advantage great
49 Over a Giant Foe!) if chance he spy
50 Her watching at his door intent on prey,
51 Inward he flies, his serpentine recess
52 Pursues, and caves impervious to Cat:
53 Nor dares again thrust out his head in air,
54 Nor form new sallies, till the siege be rais'd,
55 And danger with the watchful foe withdrawn.
56 The Cambrians thus, (if Cambrians with the Mouse
57 We may compare,) when Roman JULIUS sought
58 To join the Britons to the world subdu'd,
59 Eluded his vain toil. — To their retreat
60 At once a nation vanish'd; in their rocks,
61 Rampires impregnable, lay safe obscur'd
62 'Mid circling ruin; and of conquest though[Page 261]
63 Despairing, to be conquerable scorn'd.
64 Their long, unbroken lineage hence they boast,
65 Their country unsubdued, and ancient tongue.
66 Thus did the Mouse, by custom tutor'd, oft
67 Evade the hostile paw; nor Cambria's sons
68 Had hope from their confederate of the war:
69 When strait, on th' utmost frontiers of their Land,
70 Where now Menevia the shrunk honours mourns
71 Of her divided mitre, of whose walls
72 Half-buried but an empty name remains,
73 Behold a Council summons'd. From each side
74 See Nobles, Fathers, and the vulgar throng
75 Of stench sulphureous, mix.
75 An ancient Sage,
76 Whose length of beard oft from his native hills
77 The goat with envy ey'd; his hands, his face
78 With scurf of ancient growth encrusted o'er;
79 Broken with years, against a post reclin'd,
80 (By Cambrian backs still shaken) in the midst
81 Stood visible to all, and with deep tone
82 These words precipitating, gutt'ral spake.
83 "Of open war we treat not, but sly theft —
84 "No foreign foe, but a too inmate guest
85 "(That heavier evil) summons us to meet.
86 "Still shall the bold insulter lord it thus,
87 "The tyrant Mouse? Rouse, aweful Fathers, rouse;
88 "Ye, to whose breasts your country's good is dear,
89 "By counsel end these horrors; and if aught[Page 262]
90 "Of hope remain, now lend propitious aid:
91 "So shall your glory grow, your names be known
92 "Immortal as CAIDWALADER'S in fame. "
93 He spake, and strait the fragments, mouldy scraps,
94 Reliques of rapine, monuments of theft,
95 High in their sight uprearing, rous'd their rage.
96 Now thirst of dire revenge, now lust of fame
97 Burns emulous, and fires each Patriot breast;
98 Each meditates to Mouse unheard of fate,
99 And ev'ry brain is hamm'ring on a TRAP.
100 But one 'bove all by th' honour-added name
101 Of TAFFY fam'd, far more for wit renown'd:
102 Cambria ne'er bred his peer, whether at forge,
103 Or council; Senator and Blacksmith He.
104 Thus 'gan the Sage — "Should Cheese, our Nation's boast,
105 "In Cambria be extinct, I fear our hinds
106 "Wou'd mourn their whole meals sunk, and Nobles grieve
107 "The honours lost, that crown'd the second course.
108 "Since then nor Cambria's courage, nor her Cats
109 "Against the monsters can prevail, we'll try
110 "If this mechanic hand, if craft, deceit,
111 "Can aught advantage: in a foe none asks
112 "If force prevail, or fraud."
112 Strait at this boast,
113 All fix on TAFFY their expecting eyes,
114 All in glad murmurs speak their promis'd joy,
115 Wait whence the bliss; question, and burn to know.
116 Scratching his head, (as British heads demand,)
117 He ghastly smil'd, and strait with freer air[Page 263]
118 Proceeded thus — "When wearied, at the close
119 "Of yester sun I gave my limbs to rest,
120 "And slumber deep my eyes had quench'd; a Mouse
121 "Bold and pursuing, as I guess, the trail,
122 "Which unconnected Cheese recent exhal'd
123 "From out my viscous jaws, stole down my mouth
124 "Then discontinuous; and reaching now
125 "My very entrails, strait their crude contents
126 "'Gan gnaw, and through my throat ill-fortified
127 "My yester's meal, alas! triumphant drags.
128 "When sudden rous'd from sleep, in his retreat
129 "I 'twixt my teeth the felon snap'd, and bound
130 "Vainly rebellious in the biting chain.
131 "Instructed thus that Mouse might be enthrall'd,
132 "New visionary prison-houses rise
133 "In my revolving mind, and such restraints,
134 "As the late captive of my jaws suggests.
135 "By what mysterious laws the hand of JOVE
136 "Moves sublunary things! By what hid rules
137 "The chain of causes acts! the Mouse himself
138 "To us involuntary succour brings,
139 "And for the wounds he gave himself prescribes.
140 "Blush not by such a master to improve;
141 "From foes to learn, honour nor right forbids. "
142 These said, homeward he his. Th' applauding throng
143 Accompany his route, and to his toil
144 Propitious omens beg. Each to his house
145 Bends his swift course; each to his Lares flies,[Page 264]
146 Glad harbinger of this expected birth
147 From TAFFY'S brain: and whilst they tell the tale,
148 Whilst to the Gods for glad event they bend
149 Of the great enterprize, the Mousing Kind
150 (Prophetic instinct!) shew unwonted joy
151 Gamesome; and (if we credit Fame) beneath
152 The matron's hand dances the embryo cheese.
153 TAFFY mean while with head, and hand, and heart,
154 Plies his great work, with PALLAS' aid divine
155 The MOUSE-TRAP builds. A wonderful machine
156 Now stood confess'd; and form 'till then unknown
157 The Tragi-comic edifice indu'd.
158 Now smile, sweet Muse, and to our sight disclose
159 The infant fabric; each particular
160 Dilate, and join them in the finish'd pile.
161 Of oblong form twin planks of wood compose
162 The base and roof; a wiry palisade
163 Fences each side, on whose small columns rais'd
164 The fabric stands: th' insi'dious gate invites
165 With friendly-seeming welcome; but on high,
166 Depending from a slender thread, the vast
167 Portcullis threats, to thoughtless Mice sure death.
168 (Such is the thread of life, spun by the FATES
169 To Mouse and Man — All on a thread depend.)
170 Amidst the level roof shoots up a mast
171 Erect, in whose cleft head a slender beam
172 Transverse inserted plays, and on each side
173 Extends its poised arms; whose one extreme[Page 265]
174 Depress'd, one equally the pendent door
175 Exalts. Within, let through a slender bore,
176 A wire depends that fluctuates with a touch;
177 The lower part is cramp'd into a hook,
178 Tenacious of the bait; while th' upper gripes
179 Th' extremest handle of the treach'rous beam.
180 But soon as e'er it feels the foe to 've touch'd
181 The fatal food, the loosen'd portal strait
182 Lets fall, and speaks the first attack reveng'd.
183 Things thus dispos'd, instant the pendent hook
184 TAFFY with treason cloaths, and turns to death
185 The very food of Mouse: but, that his cheese
186 More fragrant may from far the Foe invite,
187 Toasts the fell bait, and strengthens the perfume.
188 And now appear'd the memorable night,
189 When on his bed TAFFY his limbs fatigu'd
190 Reposing, near his pillow's downy side
191 His Minion MOUSE-TRAP set, and all-secure
192 I' th' faithful centry, slumber sweet indulg'd.
193 The frolic Mice, (a tribe audacious they)
194 Safe in the covert of the silent night,
195 Now sport abroad: when one, a leader Mouse,
196 Of nose sagacious, born the Gods his foes,
197 The hostile ambush seeks, led by the scent
198 Of toasted cheese delicious. The Grate resists
199 His swift career, and entrance first denies —
200 But he, to suffer such severe repulse
201 Indignant, round the wiry fortress scours,
202 And crisps his nose, and with sagacious beard[Page 266]
203 A pass explores; and enter'd now the lines,
204 Impassable again, of all his wish
205 At length possess'd, the deadly bait secures,
206 Feasts on his ruin, and enjoys his fate.
207 TAFFY, whom strait the pendulous door, scarce drop'd,
208 With sudden clap had wak'd, you might behold
209 Now on his elbow prop'd, now from his bed
210 Skipping triumphant, fir'd with thirst to know
211 What new-come guest. The Mouse ridiculous
212 Rages within, batters with front and foot,
213 Proves with his head each wiry interval,
214 And wears with raging tooth his iron hold.
215 Driv'n to the toils so raves the Marsian boar
216 Horrid, and shakes his waving bonds, the sport
217 Of circling dogs; he flings about his foam,
218 And on his front erect the bristles stare.
219 The morrow came, and from her rocky highths,
220 Precipitant, whole Cambria pours; for strait
221 In ev'ry ear the novel tale was rife —
222 Nor wonder, for the Ass, his solemn wont
223 Relax'd, nor mindful of his late slow pace,
224 The mountain climbs more wanton than the kid:
225 Thence with sonorous din from rusty throat,
226 (The Cambrian Herald simulating,) thrice
227 Thee, TAFFY, bray'd; thrice told the public joy.
228 Nor less the Owl; (from that great Aera term'd
229 Cambria's Embassador:) for through her towns,
230 And utmost limits wand'ring wild that night,
231 She scratch'd the windows with her ominous beak,[Page 267]
232 Grating harsh dissonance, and sung in shrieks
233 The instant fate of Mouse. The lab'ring rocks
234 Bring forth, and Pembroke's, and Mervinia's sons
235 In swarms condens'd rush down; and whom the walls
236 Of Bonium hold, and Maridunum fam'd
237 For their prophetic bard, MERLIN; and whom
238 Fruitful Glamorgan feeds, and he that drinks
239 Of Vaga's stream, with the rough hardy clown
240 Montgomery manures. — Then TAFFY, 'midst
241 The crowded ring, his raging prey insults.
242 "Vain are thy efforts — fix'd thy doom of death,
243 "On this my altar the first victim thou,
244 "To dye with memorable blood the frame.
245 "No hope remains: thy flight these wiry posts
246 "Inexorable bar — Dread, wicked wight,
247 "The fate thy merits ask; for these thy bonds
248 "Thou quit'st not but with life."
248 The fatal words
249 Scarce had he spoke, when from the sunny thatch,
250 (Her wonted haunt, when with extended limbs
251 She basks luxurious, winking in soft ease,)
252 Down leap'd the playful Cat. — Her swift approach
253 The captive eyes, and pricks his ears, and stiff
254 Bristles his gibbous back, nor dares attempt
255 The portal now up-drawn; but his sole hope
256 Of freedom only in his prison fix'd,
257 With hooked talons grasps his bonds, and hangs
258 Tenacious by his feet — At length he drops
259 Out-shaken: instant to her prey the Cat[Page 268]
260 Flies rapid, and With rude, embrace enfolds,
261 And savage kisses on her struggling foe
262 (Vain efforts!) cruelly imprints. No pause
263 Her rage admits; her sinuous-twirling tail
264 Denotes the Victor's joy; her body moves
265 Agil in wanton frolicks, watching now
266 Prone on the earth intent the destin'd Mouse;
267 His neck now lightly pats with hurtless paw,
268 Dissembling love; but ruminates the while
269 To tear him limb from limb. The Mouser thus,
270 Witty in tyranny, with various art
271 Wanton barbarity enjoys: but now,
272 Tir'd with the sportive mockery, no more
273 Conceals her rage, but o'er her trembling prey
274 Like the starv'd lion hangs, and growling tears
275 His gory entrails, and convulsive limbs.
276 The circling croud, soon as his hated blood
277 Sprinkled they spy, fill with glad shouts the air;
278 And ECHO, tenant of the Cambrian hills,
279 Their clam'rous joy repeats; Plinlimmon's highth,
280 And Brechin with the loftier Snowdon join:
281 To th' neighb'ring stars the loud acclaim ascends,
282 And OFFA'S Ditch rebellows to the din.
283 TAFFY, for ever live — Ev'n to this day
284 Thy gift the Cambrian celebrates; and Thee
285 Commemorates each circling year. The land
286 Grateful, its native honours to maintain,
287 Each joyful head crowns redolent with Leek.