Address Spoken by Miss Fontenelle (Poem by Robert Burns)

Old Poem


Address Spoken by Miss Fontenelle on Her Benefit-Night
By Robert Burns

Still anxious to secure your partial favour,
And not less anxious, sure, this night than ever,
A Prologue, Epilogue, or some such matter,
’Twould vamp my bill, said I, if nothing better;
So sought a Poet, roosted near the skies,
Told him I came to feast my curious eyes;
Said nothing like his works was ever printed;
And last, my Prologue-business slyly hinted!
“Ma’am, let me tell you,” quoth my man of rhymes,
“I know your bent — these are no laughing times:
Can you — but, Miss, I own I have my fears,
Dissolve in pause — and sentimental tears;
With laden sighs, and solemn-rounded sentence,
Rouse from his sluggish slumbers, fell Repentance;
Paint Vengeance as he takes his horrid stand,
Waving on high the desolating brand,
Calling the storms to bear him o’er a guilty land?”

I could no more — askance the creature eyeing,
D’ye think, said I, this face was made for crying?
I’ll laugh, that’s poz — nay more, the world shall know it;
And so your servant: gloomy Master Poet!
Firm as my creed, Sirs, ’tis my fix’d belief,
That Misery’s another word for Grief;
I also think — so may I be a bride!
That so much laughter, so much life enjoy’d.

Thou man of crazy care and ceaseless sigh,
Still under bleak Misfortune’s blasting eye;
Doom’d to that sorest task of man alive — 
To make three guineas do the work of five:
Laugh in Misfortune’s face — the beldam witch!
Say, you’ll be merry, tho’ you can’t be rich.

Thou other man of care, the wretch in love,
Who long with jiltish arts and airs hast strove;
Who, us the boughs all temptingly project,
Measur’st in desperate thought — a rope — thy neck — 
Or, where the beetling cliff o’erhangs the deep,
Peerest to meditate the healing leap:
Would’st thou be cur’d, thou silly, moping elf?
Laugh at their follies — laugh e’en at thyself:
Learn to despise those frowns now so terrific,
And love a kinder — that’s your grand specific.

To sum up all, be merry, I advise;
And as we’re merry, may we still be wise.

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