AN IMPOSSIBLE THING.
1 TO thee, Dear Dick, this Tale I send,
2 Both as a Critick and a Friend.
3 I tell it with some Variation
4 (Not altogether a Translation)
5 From La Fontaine; an Author, Dick,
6 Whose Muse would touch thee to the quick.
7 The Subject is of that same kind
8 To which thy Heart seems most inclin'd:[Page 2]
9 How Verse may alter it, God knows,
10 Thou lov'st it well, I'm sure, in Prose,
11 So, without Preface, or Pretence,
12 To hold thee longer in Suspence,
13 I shall proceed, as I am able,
14 To the Recital of my Fable.
15 A Goblin of the merry Kind,
16 More black of Hue, than curst of Mind,
17 To help a Lover in Distress,
18 Contriv'd a Charm with such Success;
19 That in short Space the cruel Dame
20 Relented, and return'd his Flame.
21 The Dargain made betwixt 'em both,
22 Was bound by Honour and by Oath:
23 The Lover laid down his Salvation,
24 And Satan stak'd his Reputation.[Page 3]
25 The Latter promis'd on his Part
26 (To serve his Friend and shew his Art,)
27 That Madam shou'd by twelve a Clock,
28 Tho' hitherto as hard as Rock,
29 Become as gentle as a Glove,
30 And kiss and coo like any Dove.
31 In short, the Woman should be his,
32 That is, upon Condition — Viz;
33 That He, the Lover, after tasting
34 What one wou'd wish were everlasting;
35 Should, in Return for such Enjoyment,
36 Supply the Fiend with fresh Employment:
37 That's all, quoth Pug; my poor Request
38 Is, only never to have Rest;
39 You thought, 'tis like, with Reason too,
40 That I should have been serv'd, not You:
41 But what? upon my Friend impose!
42 No — tho' a Devil, none of those.[Page 4]
43 Your Business then, pray understand me,
44 Is nothing more but to Command me.
45 Of one thing only let me warn ye,
46 Which somewhat nearly may concern ye:
47 As soon as e'er one Work is done,
48 Strait name a new one; and so on;
49 Let each to other quick succeed,
50 Or else — you know how 'tis agreed —
51 For if thro' any Hums or Haws
52 There haps an intervening Pause,
53 In which, for Want of fresh Commands,
54 Your Slave obsequious, Idle stands,
55 Nor Soul nor Body ever more
56 Shall serve the Nymph whom you adore;
57 But both be laid at Satan's Feet,
58 To be dispos'd as he thinks meet.
59 At once the Lover all approves:
60 For who can hesitate that loves?[Page 5]
61 And thus he argues in his Thought:
62 Why, after all, I venture nought;
63 What Mystery is in Commanding?
64 Does that require Much Understanding?
65 Indeed, wer't my Part to Obey,
66 He'd go the better of the Lay:
67 But he must do what I think fit —
68 Pshaw, pshaw, young Belzebub is bit.
69 Thus pleas'd in Mind, he calls a Chair;
70 Adjusts, and combs, and courts the Fair:
71 The Spell takes Place, and all goes right,
72 And happy he, employs the Night
73 In sweet Embraces, balmy Kisses;
74 And riots in the Bliss of Blisses.
75 O Joy, cry'd he, that hast no Equal!
76 But hold — no Raptures — mark the Sequel.[Page 6]
77 For now, when near the Morning's Dawn,
78 The Youth began as 'twere to yawn;
79 His Eyes a silky Slumber seiz'd,
80 Or would have done, if Pug had pleas'd:
81 But that officious Demon, near,
82 Now buzz'd for Business in his Ear;
83 In Haste, he names a thousand Things:
84 The Goblin plys his wicker Wings,
85 And in a Trice returns to ask
86 Another and another Task.
87 Now, Palaces are built and Tow'rs,
88 The Work of Ages in few Hours.
89 Then, Storms are in an Instant rais'd,
90 Which the next Moment are appeas'd.
91 Now Show'rs of Gold and Gems are rain'd,
92 As if each India had been drain'd:
93 And He, in one astonish'd View,
94 Sees both Golconda and Peru.[Page 7]
95 These Things, and stranger Things than these,
96 Were done with equal Speed and Ease.
97 And now to Rome poor Pug he'll send:
98 And Pug soon reach'd his Journey's End.
99 And soon return'd with such a Pack
100 Of Bulls and Pardons at his Back,
101 That now, the Squire (who had some Hope
102 In holy Water and the Pope,)
103 Was out of Heart, and at a Stand
104 What next to wish, and what command;
105 Invention flags, his Brain grows muddy,
106 And black Despair succeeds brown Study.
107 In this Distress the woful Youth
108 Acquaints the Nymph with all the Truth,
109 Begging her Counsel, for whose Sake
110 Both Soul and Body were at Stake.
111 And is this all? replys the Fair;
112 Let me alone to cure this Care.[Page 8]
113 When next your Demon shall appear,
114 Pray give him — look, what I hold here.
115 And bid him labour, soon or late,
116 To lay these Ringlets lank and strait.
117 Then, something scarcely to be seen,
118 Her Finger and her Thumb between
119 She held, and sweetly smiling, cry'd,
120 Your Goblin's Skill shall now be try'd.
121 She said; and gave — what shall I call
122 That Thing so shining, crisp and small,
123 Which round his Finger strove to twine?
124 A Tendril of the Cyprian Vine?
125 Or Sprig from Cytherea's Grove;
126 Shade of the Labyrinth of Love!
127 With Awe, he now takes from her Hand
128 That Fleece-like Flow'r of fairy Land:[Page 9]
129 Less precious, whilom, was the Fleece
130 Which drew the Argonauts from Greece;
131 Or that, which modern Ages see
132 The Spur and Prize of Chivalry,
133 Whose Curls of kindred Texture, grace
134 Heroes and Kings of Spanish Race.
135 The Spark prepar'd, and Pug at Hand,
136 He issues, thus, his strict Command.
137 This Line, thus Curve and thus Orbicular,
138 Render direct, and perpendicular;
139 But so direct, that in no sort
140 It ever may in Rings retort.
141 See me no more 'till this be done:
142 Hence, to thy Task — avaunt, be gone.
143 Away the Fiend like Lightning flys,
144 And all his Wit to Work applys:[Page 10]
145 Anvils and Presses he employs,
146 And dins whole Hell with hamm'ring Noise.
147 In vain: he to no Terms can bring
148 One Twire of that reluctant Thing;
149 Th' elastic Fibre mocks his Pains,
150 And it's first spiral Form retains.
151 New Stratagems the Sprite contrives,
152 And down the Depths of Sea he dives:
153 This Sprunt its Pertness sure will lose
154 When laid (said he) to soak in Ooze.
155 Poor foolish Fiend! he little knew
156 Whence Venus and her Garden grew.
157 Old Ocean, with paternal Waves
158 The Child of his own Bed receives;
159 Which oft as dipt new Force exerts,
160 And in more vig'rous Curls reverts.
161 So, when to Earth, Alcides flung
162 The huge Antëus, whence he sprung,[Page 11]
163 From ev'ry Fall fresh Strength he gain'd,
164 And with new Life the Fight maintain'd.
165 The bafled Goslin grows perplex'd,
166 Nor knows what Sleight to practise next:
167 The more he trys, the more he fails;
168 Nor Charm, nor Art, nor Force avails.
169 But all concur his Shame to show,
170 And more exasperate the Foe.
171 And now he pensive turns and sad,
172 And looks like melancholick mad.
173 He rolls his Eyes now off, now on
174 That wonderful Phenomenon.
175 Sometimes he twists and twirls it round,
176 Then, pausing, meditates profound:
177 No End he sees of his Surprize,
178 Nor what it should be can devise:[Page 12]
179 For never yet was Wooll or Feather,
180 That cou'd stand buff against all Weather;
181 And unrelax'd like this, resist
182 Both Wind and Rain, and Snow and Mist.
183 What Stuff, or whence, or how 'twas made,
184 What Spinster Witch could spin such Thread,
185 He nothing knew; but to his Cost
186 Knew all his Fame and Labour lost.
187 Subdu'd, abash'd, he gave it o'er;
188 'Tis said, he blush'd; 'tis sure, he swore
189 Not all the Wiles that Hell could hatch
190 Could conquer that SUPERB MUSTACH.
191 Defeated thus, thus discontent,
192 Back to the Man the Demon went:
193 I grant, quoth he, our Contract null,
194 And give you a Discharge in full.
195 But tell me now, in Name of Wonder,
196 (Since I so candidly knock under,)[Page 13]
197 What is this Thing? Where could it grow?
198 Pray take it — 'tis in Statu quo.
199 Much Good may't do you; for my Part,
200 I wash my Hands of't from my Heart.
201 In Truth, Sir Goblin or Sir Fairy,
202 Replys the Lad, you're too soon weary.
203 What, leave this trifling Task undone!
204 And think'st Thou this the only one?
205 Alas! were this subdu'd, thou'dst find
206 Millions of more such still behind,
207 Which might employ, ev'n to Eternity,
208 Both you and all your whole Fraternity.
About this text
Author: William Congreve
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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.