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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Jester’s Plea

By Frederick Locker-Lampson (1821–1895)

  • [These verses were published in a volume by several hands, issued for the benefit of the starving Lancashire weavers during the American Civil War.]

  • THE WORLD! Was jester ever in

    A viler than the present?

    Yet if it ugly be—as sin,

    It almost is—as pleasant!

    It is a merry world (pro tem.);

    And some are gay, and therefore

    It pleases them—but some condemn

    The fun they do not care for.

    It is an ugly world. Offend

    Good people—how they wrangle!

    The manners that they never mend!

    The characters they mangle!

    They eat, and drink, and scheme, and plod,

    And go to church on Sunday;

    And many are afraid of God—

    And more of Mrs. Grundy.

    The time for Pen and Sword was when

    “My ladye fayre” for pity

    Could tend her wounded knight, and then

    Grow tender at his ditty!

    Some ladies now make pretty songs,

    And some make pretty nurses:

    Some men are good for righting wrongs

    And some for writing verses.

    I wish We better understood

    The tax that poets levy!

    I know the Muse is very good

    I think she’s rather heavy.

    She now compounds for winning ways

    By morals of the sternest:

    Methinks the lays of nowadays

    Are painfully in earnest.

    When Wisdom halts, I humbly try

    To make the most of Folly;

    If Pallas be unwilling, I

    Prefer to flirt with Polly:

    To quit the goddess for the maid

    Seems low in lofty musers;

    But Pallas is a haughty jade—

    And beggars can’t be choosers.

    I do not wish to see the slaves

    Of party, stirring passion;

    Or psalms quite superseding staves,

    Or piety “the fashion.”

    I bless the hearts where pity glows,

    Who, here together banded,

    Are holding out a hand to those

    That wait so empty-handed!

    A righteous work!—My Masters, may

    A Jester by confession,

    Scarce noticed join, half sad, half gay,

    The close of your procession?

    The motley here seems out of place

    With graver robes to mingle;

    But if one tear bedews his face,

    Forgive the bells their jingle.