Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
An Epistle to the Right Honourable the Earl of Burlington
By John Gay (1685–1732)
A Journey to Exeter

WHILE you, my Lord, bid stately piles ascend,
Or in your Chiswick bowers enjoy your friend;
Where Pope unloads the boughs within his reach,
The purple vine, blue plum, and blushing peach;
I journey far.—You knew fat bards might tire,        5
And, mounted, sent me forth your trusty Squire.
  ’Twas on the day that city dames repair
To take their weekly dose of Hyde-Park air;
When forth we trot: no carts the road infest,
For still on Sundays country horses rest.        10
Thy gardens, Kensington, we leave unseen;
Through Hammersmith jog on to Turnham Green:
That Turnham Green, which dainty pigeons fed,
But feeds no more: for Solomon is dead.
Three dusty miles reach Brentford’s tedious town,        15
For dirty streets and white-legg’d chickens known:
Thence o’er wide shrubby heaths, and furrow’d lanes,
We come, where Thames divides the meads of Staines.
We ferried o’er; for late the winter’s flood
Shook her frail bridge, and tore her piles of wood.        20
Prepared for war, now Bagshot Heath we cross,
Where broken gamesters oft repair their loss.
At Hartley Row the foaming bit we prest,
While the fat landlord welcomed ev’ry guest.
Supper was ended, healths the glasses crown’d,        25
Our host extoll’d his wine at ev’ry round,
Relates the Justices’ late meeting there,
How many bottles drank, and what their cheer;
What lords had been his guests in days of yore,
And praised their wisdom much, their drinking more.        30
  Let travellers the morning vigils keep:
The morning rose, but we lay fast asleep.
Twelve tedious miles we bore the sultry sun,
And Popham Lane was scarce in sight by one:
The straggling village harbour’d thieves of old,        35
’Twas here the stage-coach’d lass resign’d her gold;
That gold which had in London purchased gowns,
And sent her home a belle to country towns.
But robbers haunt no more the neighbouring wood;
Here unown’d infants find their daily food;        40
For should the maiden mother nurse her son,
’Twould spoil her match, when her good name is gone.
Our jolly hostess nineteen children bore,
Nor fail’d her breast to suckle nineteen more.
Be just, ye prudes, wipe off the long arrear:        45
Be virgins still in town, but mothers here.
  Sutton we pass, and leave her spacious down,
And with the setting sun reach Stockbridge town.
O’er our parch’d tongue the rich metheglin glides,
And the red dainty trout our knife divides.        50
Sad melancholy ev’ry visage wears;
What, no election come in seven long years!
Of all our race of Mayors, shall Snow alone
Be by Sir Richard’s dedication known?
Our streets no more with tides of ale shall float,        55
Nor cobblers feast three years upon one vote.
  Next morn, twelve miles led o’er th’ unbounded plain,
Where the cloak’d shepherd guides his fleecy train.
No leafy bowers a noonday shelter lend,
Nor from the chilly dews at night defend:        60
With wondrous art he counts the straggling flock,
And by the sun informs you what’s o’clock.
How are our shepherds fall’n from ancient days!
No Amaryllis chaunts alternate lays;
From her no list’ning echoes learn to sing,        65
Nor with his reed the jocund valleys ring.
  Here sheep the pasture hide, there harvests bend,
See Sarum’s steeple o’er yon hill ascend;
Our horses faintly trot beneath the heat,
And our keen stomachs know the hour to eat.        70
Who can forsake thy walls, and not admire
The proud cathedral, and the lofty spire?
What sempstress has not proved thy scissors good?
From hence first came th’ intriguing riding-hood.
Amid three boarding-schools well stock’d with misses,        75
Shall three knights-errant starve for want of kisses?
  O’er the green turf the miles slide swift away,
And Blanford ends the labours of the day.
The morning rose; the supper reck’ning paid,
And our due fees discharged to man and maid,        80
The ready ostler near the stirrup stands,
And as we mount, our half-pence load his hands.
  Now the steep hill fair Dorchester o’erlooks,
Border’d by meads, and wash’d by silver brooks.
Here sleep my two companions’ eyes supprest,        85
And propt in elbow chairs they snoring rest;
I weary sit, and with my pencil trace
Their painful postures, and their eyeless face;
Then dedicate each glass to some fair name,
And on the sash the diamond scrawls my flame.        90
Now o’er true Roman way our horses sound,
Grævius would kneel, and kiss the sacred ground.
On either side low fertile valleys lie,
The distant prospects tire the trav’ling eye.
Through Bridport’s stony lanes our route we take,        95
And the proud steep descend to Marcombe’s lake.
As hearses pass’d, our landlord robb’d the pall,
And with the mournful scutcheon hung his hall.
On unadulterate wine we here regale,
And strip the lobster of his scarlet mail.        100
  We climb’d the hills when starry night arose,
And Axminster affords a kind repose.
The maid, subdued by fees, her trunk unlocks,
And gives the cleanly aid of dowlas smocks.
Meantime our shirts her busy fingers rub,        105
While the soap lathers o’er the foaming tub.
If women’s gear such pleasing dreams incite,
Lend us your smocks, ye damsels, ev’ry night!
We rise; our beards demand the barber’s art;
A female enters and performs the part.        110
The weighty golden chain adorns her neck,
And three gold rings her skilful hand bedeck:
Smooth o’er our chin her easy fingers move,
Soft as when Venus stroked the beard of Jove.
  Now from the steep, midst scatter’d cots and groves,        115
Our eye through Honiton’s fair valley roves.
Behind us soon the busy town we leave,
Where finest lace industrious lasses weave.
Now swelling clouds roll’d on; the rainy load
Stream’d down our hats, and smoked along the road;        120
When (O blest sight!) a friendly sign we spied,
Our spurs are slacken’d from the horses’s side;
For sure a civil host the house commands,
Upon whose sign this courteous motto stands,
‘This is the ancient hand, and eke the pen;        125
Here is for horses hay, and meat for men.’
How rhyme would flourish, did each son of fame
Know his own genius, and direct his flame!
Then he, that could not epic flights rehearse,
Might sweetly mourn in elegiac verse.        130
But were his Muse for elegy unfit,
Perhaps a distich might not strain his wit;
If epigram offend, his harmless lines
Might in gold letters swing on ale-house signs.
Then Hobbinol might propagate his bays,        135
And Tuttlefields record his simple lays;
Where rhymes like these might lure the nurse’s eyes,
While gaping infants squawl for farthing pies.
Treat here, ye shepherds blithe, your damsels sweet,
For pies and cheesecakes, are for damsels meet.        140
Then Maurus in his proper sphere might shine,
And these proud numbers grace great William’s sign.
This is the man, this the Nassovian, whom
‘I named the brave deliverer to come.’
But now the driving gales suspend the rain,        145
We mount our steeds, and Devon’s city gain.
Hail, happy native land!—but I forbear,
What other counties must with envy hear.

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