Rome, February 14th, 1793.

TWO facts are alledg'd, and they're strong ones, you'll own,
Why sunshine and virtue here settled their throne ;
As none for their crimes by the rope e'er expire,
And the chimneys are seldom polluted with fire :
Yet people are stab'd in each street, as I'm told,
And in this genial climate, I'm shiv'ring with cold.
If a lady looks chill, the soft Cicisbe' begs,
To convey some hot embers, between her fair legs ;
From the fuming expansion she feels a fine glow,
As it gradually spreads from her hip to her toe ;
And as vapours ascend from their primitive place,
They cherish the hands, shed a blush on the face ;
For a blush is'nt otherwise quite a-la-mode,
And it's only by charcoal that colour's bestow'd.
Pray what is this rouge, but the sign of a fault,
When the blood rashly mounts, to reveal the sly thought:
But Italia's free dames by their converse so gay,
Have banish'd most justly this traytor away :
The double entendre, with them's a prim prude,
Like their statues, their ideas are perfectly nude ;
Hence Ladies we see, who delightfully roam,
In this sweet Cyprian clime, are so knowing at home :
They describe every part of a statue with glee,
And adjust the proportion of nose, and of knee :
With eyes so inform'd they examine the beaux,
As if they would measure them quite thro' their cloaths ;
*Peace to good Taylor's soul, ah how little he weens,
That Miss can distinguish—ere come to her teens!
Hence her nuptial perceptions we justly admire,
And her fancy phosphoric, that's almost on fire ;
So inflam'd by warm novels, and amorous plays,
Like the marsh's rich stream, ev'ry spark make it blaze.

But I shouldn't forget a ridiculous story,
Of a Lady, and Signore Improvisatore ;
When the pretty Inglese replenish'd a cup,
Of tea for the bard—ere he tasted a sup ;
With a soft melting voice, he began to rehearse,
The charms of the Fair, in his delicate verse ;
And his splendid invention, and genius you'll see,
As the Lady is prais'd thro' the medium of tea :
No ideas disturb the smooth flow of his song,
Like a stream without pebbles it ambles along.
It's a medley melodious, compos'd in a strain,
Just to tickle the ear, and not reach to the brain :
But I vainly attempt such soft notes to transfuse,
Since like Æther, they fly, and escape from my Muse.


WHEN the bitter tea I sip,
Tea that's bitter to the lip ;
Yet receiving it from you,
Makes it sweet, and gives it gout.
Coming from your fair white hand,
Makes it soft, and makes it bland.
That white hand which Kings might kiss,
Prelude dear to future bliss.
Since the happy lover trips,
From the fingers to the lips ;
Lips that shame the roses bloom,
Both in colour and perfume.
Lips from which such accents fall,
As must win the hearts of all.
Accents breathing wit and fire,
Kindling chaste, yet warm desire ;
Accents match'd with such a face,
Such an air, and such a grace ;
As must ravish every heart,
Run like life through every part ;
Did not Juno's lofty air,
(Seldom found in any fair)
Did not Pallas' martial mien,
Pallas, War's and Wisdom's Queen ;
Did not Dian's virgin fear,
Check the free, and wanton leer ;
Which like Venus you excite,
Venus Goddess of delight ;
Venus who so sweetly reigns,
On the flowery Cyprian plains ;
Goddess of exstatic joy,
Mother of the winged boy ;
Mars's mistress, Vulcan's wife,
Emblem of connubial life.
Shewing thus the roseate way,
How the Fair may sweetly stray :
And devote their blooming charms,
To a Cicisbeo's arms.
Yet you shun this dear example,
Giving us no common sample ;
How a beauty must combine,
All the attributes divine ;
And singly in her person bear,
What Juno, Pallas, Dian, share ;
Or like others you would stray,
Yield yourself a tempting prey ;
Like those who boast a pretty face,
Venus' air, and Venus grace :
Nor have that superior sense
Of Chastity, and excellence ;
Which three Goddesses divine,
Bid around your person shine.

O give me another Good Friday to stare,
At St. Peter's bright lamps, as they gleam thro' the air ;
In the shape of a cross, they illumine the night,
And fill every penitent soul with delight ;
As they humbly advance their poor bodies to slash,
With a cord round the waist, like an officer's sash ;
Then to the high Altar devoutly they caper,
Kiss a Crucifix kneeling, and brandish a taper ;
And then to astonish the soul with surprise,
Three miraculous wonders are held to their eyes ;
But to paint them in rhime might be reckon'd profane,
So let GRAY to St. EDMUND and HORSLEY explain.
'Mid the people, these relics stir up a commotion,
While the pavement they kiss, thump their breast with devotion :
But in a side chapel expos'd to our view,
Twelve lachrymal sinners their pastime pursue ;
Their shoulders and waist they most piously strip,
Then, to expiate their crimes, the rebellious flesh whip ;
How dearly they pay for their frailties and sins,
While the red and white streaks so mosaic their skins ;
If the blood hadn't come, I could safely have sworn,
That red Jackets they wore, all be-tatter'd and torn ;
A Fryar or Priest would have play'd such a trick ;
But these were Enthusiasts, who cut to the quick.
Yet this tragical scene in a sanctify'd cause
Was received with loud bravoes, and burst of applause !
So striking a sight did my passions refine,
That with rapture I knelt at St. Agnes's shrine ;
Where each pretty Ba-lamb most gaily appears,
With ribbands stuck round in its tail, and its ears ;
On gold-fringed cushions they're stretch'd out to eat,
And piously bo, and to church-music bleat ;
Yet to me, they seem crying — alack, and alas !
What's all this white damask to daisies and grass !
Then they're brought to the Pope, and with transport they're kiss'd,
And receive Consecration from Sanctity's fist :
To chaste Nuns he consigns them, instead of their dams,
And orders the Fryars to keep them from rams.—
—In my next, some miraculous facts I'll relate,
With pious reflections on Church and on State.

To Letter 6


N O T E S.

* "Virgins must contend for a singular modesty ; whose first part must be an ignorance in the distinction of sexes." — Jer. Taylor's Holy Living, page 73.

"The head of the spear that wounded Christ; St. Veronica's handkerchief, with the miraculous impression of his face upon it; and a piece of the true Cross." Mason's Edition of Gray, Vol. II, p. 114.

Note: When a word is an anchor, there is a textual note or corrected erratum; when the mouse is over the word, the original text or the note will appear in the status window of your browser (almost always the lower left), if your browser is java-enabled. If you click, you come here.

This page is maintained at the University of Chicago by James Eason, who welcomes comments, criticism, and suggestions.