1806
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Butterfly's Ball, and the Grasshopper's Feast.

Gentleman's Magazine 76 (November 1806) 1052.

William Roscoe


"Said to have been written by William Roscoe, Esq. M.P. for Liverpool, for the Use of his Children; and set to Music by the Order of their Majesties, for the Princess Mary" p. 1052. The Butterfly's Ball became a popular chapbook. William Roscoe's quatrains may owe something to Spenser's Muiopotmos and Drayton's fairy poetry; they were certainly popular with nineteenth-century readers. A sequel, The Butterfly's Funeral, was published in the Gentleman's Magazine 79 (July 1809) 653; followed by The Butterfly's Birth-Day 87 (September 1817) 254.

Christopher Lake Moody: "We cannot mention the first of these little pieces [Butterfly's Ball] otherwise than as a pleasing child's book, executed on a pretty idea; the author having had no other object in writing it than the amusement of his children: but it has had the good fortune to occasion a Sequel, which possesses such singular merit, that even grown persons of taste must inevitably be amused by it. The Peacock at Home, has indeed been much read, and deservedly applauded for the knowledge of the feathered race which it displays, and familiarly communicates" Monthly Review NS 57 (December 1807) 446-467.

Thomas Campbell to an unspecified friend: "I thank you kindly for the Butterfly's Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast! I was the last of the children who got a reading of it. They would not give it to me, though I cried for it vey much!" 23 January1808; Beattie, Life and Letters of Thomas Campbell (1849) 2:136.

Mary Leadbeater to Melisina Chenevix Trench: "I apprehend Roscoe's Butterfly's Ball must have been written to remove the dread and disgust of insects so prone to fasten upon the youthful mind, and if it could prevent this evil early in life it must be allowed to be a meritorious performance" 5 Jun3 1811; in Leadbeater Papers (1862) 2:213.



Come take up your hats, and away let us haste
To the Butterfly's Ball, and the Grasshopper's Feast:
The trumpeter Gad-fly has summon'd the crew,
And the revels are now only waiting for you.

On the smooth-shaven grass by the side of a wood,
Beneath a broad oak which for ages had stood,
See the children of earth, and the tenants of air,
To an evening's amusement together repair.

And there came the Beetle, so blind and so black,
Who carried the Emmet, his friend, on his back;
And there came the Gnat, and the Dragon-fly too,
And all their relations green, orange, and blue.

And there came the Moth, with her plumage of down,
And the Hornet, with jacket of yellow and brown,
Who with him the Wasp, his companion, did bring,
But they promis'd, that ev'ning, to lay by their sting.

Then the sly little Dormouse peep'd out of his hole,
And led to the feast, his blind cousin, the Mole;
And the Snail, with her horns peeping out of her shell,
Came, fatigu'd with the distance, the length of an ell.

A mushroom the table, and on it was spread
A water-dock leaf, which their table-cloth made.
The viands were various, to each of their taste,
And the Bee brought the honey to sweeten the feast.

With steps most majestic the Snail did advance,
And he promis'd the gazers a minuet to dance;
But they all laugh'd so loud that he drew in his head,
And went in his own little chamber to bed.

Then, as ev'ning gave way to the shadows of night,
Their watchman, the Glow-worm, came out with his light:
So home let us hasten, while yet we can see;
For no watchman is waiting for you or for me.

[p. 1052]