Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A literary diversion

(Found in a discarded literary text outside my office by a former teaching assistant -- I am putting it here so that I don't lose the flimsy page that it is on, since it's so amusing and, besides, has some choice words about poetry. Thanks to Grant.)

A Letter to Miss Georgiana Shipley, in memory of her pet squirrel

Dear Miss,

I lament with you most sincerely the unfortunate end of poor MUNGO. Few squirrels were better accomplished; for he had had a good education, had traveled far, and seen much of the world. As he had the honour of being, for his virtues, your favourite, he should not go, like common skuggs [squirrels], without an elegy or an epitaph. Let us give him one in the monumental style and measure, which, being neither prose nor verse, is perhaps the properest for grief; since to use common language would look as if we were not affected, and to makes rhymes would seem trifling in sorrow.


Alas! poor MUNGO!
Happy thou wert, hadst thou known
Thy own felicity.
Remote from the fierce bald eagle,
Tyrant of thy native woods,
Thou hadst nought to fear from his piercing talons,
Nor from the murdering gun
Of the thoughtless sportsman.
Safe in thy wirey castle,
GRIMALKIN [a cat] never could annoy thee.
Daily wert thou fed with the choicest viands,
By the fair hand of an indulgent mistress;
But, discontented,
Thou wouldst have more freedom.
Too soon, alas! didst thou obtain it;
And wandering,
Thou art fallen by the fangs of wanton, cruel RANGER!

Learn hence,
Ye who blindly seek more liberty,
Whether subjects, sons, squirrels or daughters,
That apparent restraint may be real protection;
Yielding peace and plenty
With security.

You see, my dear Miss, how much more decent and proper this broken style is, than if we were to say, by way of epitaph,

Lies snug,
As a bug
In a rug.

and yet, perhaps, there are people in the world of so little feeling as to think that this would be an epitaph for poor Mungo.

If you wish it, I shall procure another to succeed him; but perhaps you will now choose some other amusement.

Remember me affectionately to all the good family, and believe me ever,

Your affectionate friend,

B. FRANKLIN [dated 1772]

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