1759 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Woty

Meliboeus, "Weeds of Parnassus. Wigs; addrest to the ingenious Author of several poetical Pieces, subscribed Jemmy Copywell" Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser (10 March 1759).



The Muse who tastes not the Pierian spring,
On trifles should attempt to sing:
The seats of heroes who excel in arms,
The praise of learning, or Belinda's charms;
Sing ye, on fam'd Parnassus mount who stray,
And with poetic flow'rs bedeck the lay;
My humble task, to my own sphere confin'd,
Shall be to paint the humours of mankind.
Britons were once by native beauties fir'd,
And to be artless, was to be admir'd;
Mere art prevails in our degen'rate days,
And nature most disguised received most praise:
Hence caxons, wigs, tetes, bags, and queues appear,
To imitate what all by nature wear.
The nymph whose hairs in wanton ringlets flow,
Burns to exchange them for a borrow'd row;
False locks obtain'd, what gains she by the change?
Only that those were native, these are strange.
With like desire the callow youth surveys
Drest wigs, nor rests he till equipt with these:
His wish acquired, then let him count his gains,
And find them cost and folly for his pains:
Yet he appears in fashion, and that thought
Sets trouble, folly, and expence at nought.
This Day see COPYWELL in caxon strut,
Each hair adapted to the decent cut;
The fashion alters — Then the caxon see
Changed to a well-drest bag and smart toupee:
Ask him his reason, and he'll only say,
"Sir, 'tis the reigning humour of the day."
What wonder then, when men of sense subscribe,
To gain esteem by fashion's paltry bribe;
Then worth and learning to caprice submit,
And stoop, for powder'd wigs, to barter wit.
The common herd should join the shining croud,
And blend their follies with the current mode.
Here let my Muse her grateful tribute pay
To COPYWELL, who first inspired the lay;
First bad the bard not dare to soar on high,
Or hope on borrowed wings to reach the sky;
By kind example taught the youth to steer
In the safe compass of his proper sphere;
Who, though encircled with Fame's fairest wreath,
Descends to lift th' admiring croud beneath.
Feb. 27, 1759.