1763
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Elm and Vine. A Fable.

Gentleman's Magazine 33 (October 1763) 510.

Anonymous


An unsigned beast fable in which motifs from the series of political fables imitating Spenser's Februarie are transferred to the domestic sphere. The Elm pays court to the vine, declaring that if joined to her he should scorn the proud oak's majesty. The vine refuses him: "Must I, or nod, or bend, or twine, | Just as your worship shall incline? | Or shall my charms, which all admire, | Become a barren tree's attire? | No — seek more suitable alliance— | I to all danger bid defiance." The inevitable happens, though the story ends happily. The elm and vine were traditional emblems of marriage.

In the Mendez supplement to Dodsley (1767) this fable is subtitled "Inscribed to a Lady who expressed a great aversion to Marriage."



In Aesop's days, when trees cou'd speak,
And talk in Hebrew, Latin, Greek,
An Elm and Vine, by chance near neighbours:
Tho' separate, each pursued their labours,
The Vine, with native sweetness fraught,
For man prepar'd the cheering draught;
Her tendrils curl'd along the plain,
And ruddy clusters swell'd amain.
The tow'ring Elm could little boast,
But leaves — a barren shade at most;
Save when by Woodman's sturdy stroke
Cut down to make a chair, or spoke,
Yet tho' but small his claim to merit,
Not wholly void of sense or spirit.
His neighbour's worth he view'd with smiles,
And long'd to share her useful toils.

For, "O! said he, were we but one,
Sure bliss would center here alone.
For I by you encircled high,
Should scorn the Oak's proud majesty,
While your rich fruit time might mature
From storms and savage beasts secure;
Our mutual help would soothe our care,
And heav'n approve the happy pair."

"Forbear, sir Elm, the Vine reply'd,
Nor wonder if your suit's deny'd.
Shall I give up my independence,
On your caprice to dance attendance?
Must I, or nod, or bend, or twine,
Just as your worship shall incline?
Or shall my charms, which all admire,
Become a barren tree's attire?
No — seek more suitable alliance—
I to all danger bid defiance.
Here, unconfin'd, I range my fill;
And bounteous Nature waits my will."

At this the modest Elm struck mute,
Forbore to urge his friendly suit.
But, sorely griev'd to meet disdain,
A tender sigh express'd his pain.

When, lo! thick darkness veils the pole,
Dread lightnings flash, loud thunders roll;
Impetuous rains in floods descend,
And trembling nature fears an end.
The vine, faint, spiritless, forlorn,
Now seeks the succour late her scorn:
Creeps feebly to the Elms embrace;
And in his arms finds sweet solace;
United thus they storms defy,
And mutual grace and aid supply.

[p. 510]