Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
From “My Cousin’s Tale of a Cock and Bull”
By John Hall-Stevenson (1718–1785)
(Tale II. From Crazy Tales)

IN Italy there is a town,
Anciently of great renown,
Called by the Volscians, Privernum;
A fortress against the Romans,
Maintained, because it did concern them,        5
Spite of Rome, and all her omens;
    But to their cost,
At the long run their town was lost.
Whether ’twas forced, or did surrender,
  You never need, my dear Sir, know,        10
Provided you will but remember,
  Privernum signifies Piperno.
Close by the Franciscan Friars,
  There liv’d a Saint as all declare,
All the world cannot be liars,        15
  Which Saint wrought miracles by prayer.
Her life, so holy was, and pure,
  Her prayers, at all times, they believe,
Could heirs or heiresses secure,
  And make the barren womb conceive.        20
  Which was a safe expedient,
  And also wonderful convenient:
For there was not a barren womb,
  That might not try.
Going between Naples and Rome        25
  As she passes by.
My story will not be the worse,
  If you will but reflect with patience,
Upon the constant intercourse
  Between these famous neighbor nations.        30
It is so great, that I dare say,
  The Saint could have but little ease;
She must have been, both night and day,
  Continually on her knees.
For I can prove it very clear,        35
  That many of these wombs are barren,
Which wombs, were they transplanted here,
  Would breed like rabbits in a warren.
Near Terracina, once called Anxur,
  There is a place called Bosco Folto,        40
A castle standing on a bank, Sir,
  The seat of the Marchese Stolto.
In history you all have read,
  Most of you have, I’m pretty sure,
How on that road there is no bed,        45
  Nor any inn, you can endure.
For Stolto I had got a letter,
  From my good friend, Prince Mala-Fede,
And from the Princess a much better,
  Wrote to his Excellency’s Lady.        50
The Marquis is advanced in years,
  And dries you so, there’s no escaping;
The merriest, when he appears,
  Yawn, and set the rest a gaping.
Seccare is a word of fun;        55
  It means to dry, as you may find,
Not like the fire, or like the sun,
  But like a cold unpleasant wind.
But she is perfectly well-bred;
  Neither too forward, nor too shy:        60
I never did, in any head,
  In all my life, see such an eye;
Nor such a head on any shoulders;
  Nor such a neck, with such a swell,
  That could present itself so well,        65
To all the critical beholders.
Four years the Marquis was hum-drumming,
  In that same place, with his bed-fellow,
Waiting for the happy coming
  Of a young Marquis, a Stoltello.        70
As soon as ever he arrives,
  The family is to be sent to
The Cardinal at Benevento,
  For the remainder of their lives.
The Cardinal is Stolto’s nephew,        75
  His age is only twenty-seven;
And of that age, also how few!
  Who think, like him, of nought but Heaven.
His aunt will manage and take care
  Of all the Cardinal’s affairs,        80
Stoltello is to be his heir,
  When he has finished all his prayers.
Stolto may live as he thinks good,
  His life delightfully will run,
Between his castle in the wood,        85
  His wife, his nephew, and his son.
And yet, according to Fame’s trumpet,
  Who very seldom trumpets right,
His wife was reckoned a great strumpet,
  His nephew a great hypocrite.        90
I don’t believe a word of that,
The world will talk, and let it chat:
  You cannot think her in the wrong,
To grow quite weary of the place,
She thought Stoltello stayed so long,        95
  He was ashamed to show his face.
Stolto had heard the Holy Maid
  Always cried up both far and near,
And he believed she could persuade
  His son Stoltello to appear.        100
Considering what time was past,
  How they had tried, and better tried,
Stolto advised his wife at last,
  To go and be fecundified.
The Marquis told me the whole story,        105
  Which he had from the Marchesina,
And it is so much to her glory;
  ’Tis all the talk of Terracina.
The very night that she came back,
  He was in such a sifting cue;        110
He almost put her to the rack,
  ’Till she discovered all she knew.
First his acknowledgment being paid,
  A pepper-cornish kind of due;
As they were laid, composed and staid,        115
  She told him just as I tell you:
Before the Marchioness sets out,
  It will be proper, on reflection,
To obviate a certain doubt,
  A doubt that looks like an objection.        120
Here, because they know no better,
  The snarlers think they’ve found a bone;
They think the Marquis would not let her
  Go such an errand all alone.
A Lady, you must understand,        125
  That visits, to fulfill her vows,
A holy house, or holy land,
  Commonly goes without her spouse.
And so, by keeping herself still,
  Quiet and sober in her bed,        130
She never thinks of any ill,
  Nothing unclean enters her head.
  You’re satisfied your doubt was weak,
  And now the Marchioness may speak.
As you foretold, before I went,        135
  The Saint was so engaged, and watched,
That a whole week and more was spent,
  Before my business was dispatched.
“Indeed, you would have greatly pitied,
  If you had seen me but, my Dear;        140
Howe’er, at last, I was admitted,
  And what I met with you shall hear.
“The Saint and I sat on a bench;
  Before us, on a couch, there lay
A pretty little naked wench,        145
  That minded nothing but her play.
“Her play, was playing with a mouse,
  That popped its head in, went and came,
And nestled in its little house,
  It was so docible and tame.        150
“Guess where the mouse had found a bower?
  You are so dull, it is a shame;
You cannot guess in half an hour,
  I’ll lay your hand upon the same.
“These,” cried the Saint, “are all ideal,        155
  Visions all, and nothing real,
Yet they will animate your blood,
  And rouse and warm the pregnant powers,
Just like the ling’ring, sickly bud,
  Opened by fructifying showers.        160
“If you are violently heated,
  Remember in your greatest needs,
Your Ave Mary be repeated,
  ’Till you have gone through all your Beads:
Take heed, they’re going to begin,        165
  I see the visions coming in.
“First came a Cock, and then a Bull,
  And then a Heifer and a Hen;
’Till they had got their bellies full,
  On and off, and on again.        170
“And then I spied a foolish Filly,
  That was reduced to a strange pass,
Languishing, and looking silly,
  At the proposals of an Ass.
“I turned about and saw a sight,        175
  Which was a sight I could not bear,
A filthy Horse, with all his might,
  Gallanting with a filthy Mare.
“And lo! there came a dozen Priests!
  And all the Priests shaven and shorn!        180
And they were like a dozen beasts,
  Naked as ever they were born:
      And they passed on,
      One by one,
  Ev’ry one with an exalted horn.        185
“Then they drew up and stood awhile,
  In rank and file,
And after, marched off the parade,
      One by one,
      Falling upon        190
  This miserable, naked Maid.
“Nothing could equal my surprise,
  To see her go through great and small!
And after that, to see her rise,
  And turn the joke upon them all!        195
“And I kept praying still and counting,
  In a prodigious fret and heat,
And she successively kept mounting,
  And always kept a steady seat.
“’Till having finished her career,        200
  The Priests were terribly perplexed,
They could not tell which way to steer,
  Nor whereabouts to settle next.
“Brother was running after Brother,
  Turning their horns against each other;        205
The Holy Maid cried out aloud,
  Heaven deliver us from sin:
And I turned up my eyes, and bowed,
  And said Amen within.”
*        *        *        *        *
And so, at last, his cost and toil,        210
  The Marquis was obliged to own,
Were laid out on a grateful soil,
  At last he reaped as he had sown.

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