Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Jester’s Plea
By Frederick Locker-Lampson (1821–1895)
          [These verses were published in a volume by several hands, issued for the benefit of the starving Lancashire weavers during the American Civil War.]

THE WORLD! Was jester ever in
  A viler than the present?
Yet if it ugly be—as sin,
  It almost is—as pleasant!
It is a merry world (pro tem.);        5
  And some are gay, and therefore
It pleases them—but some condemn
  The fun they do not care for.
It is an ugly world. Offend
  Good people—how they wrangle!        10
The manners that they never mend!
  The characters they mangle!
They eat, and drink, and scheme, and plod,
  And go to church on Sunday;
And many are afraid of God—        15
  And more of Mrs. Grundy.
The time for Pen and Sword was when
  “My ladye fayre” for pity
Could tend her wounded knight, and then
  Grow tender at his ditty!        20
Some ladies now make pretty songs,
  And some make pretty nurses:
Some men are good for righting wrongs
  And some for writing verses.
I wish We better understood        25
  The tax that poets levy!
I know the Muse is very good
  I think she’s rather heavy.
She now compounds for winning ways
  By morals of the sternest:        30
Methinks the lays of nowadays
  Are painfully in earnest.
When Wisdom halts, I humbly try
  To make the most of Folly;
If Pallas be unwilling, I        35
  Prefer to flirt with Polly:
To quit the goddess for the maid
  Seems low in lofty musers;
But Pallas is a haughty jade—
  And beggars can’t be choosers.        40
I do not wish to see the slaves
  Of party, stirring passion;
Or psalms quite superseding staves,
  Or piety “the fashion.”
I bless the hearts where pity glows,        45
  Who, here together banded,
Are holding out a hand to those
  That wait so empty-handed!
A righteous work!—My Masters, may
  A Jester by confession,        50
Scarce noticed join, half sad, half gay,
  The close of your procession?
The motley here seems out of place
  With graver robes to mingle;
But if one tear bedews his face,        55
  Forgive the bells their jingle.

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