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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Oliver Goldsmith (1730–1774)

The Double Transformation

SECLUDED from domestic strife,

Jack Bookworm led a college life.

A fellowship at twenty-five

Made him the happiest man alive.

He drank his glass, and cracked his joke,

And freshmen wondered as he spoke.

Such pleasures, unalloyed with care,

Could any accident impair?

Could Cupid’s shaft at length transfix

Our swain, arrived at thirty-six?

Oh, had the archer ne’er come down

To ravage in a country town!

Or Flavia been content to stop

At triumphs in a Fleet-street shop!

Oh, had her eyes forgot to blaze,

Or Jack had wanted eyes to gaze.

Oh!—but let exclamation cease,

Her presence banished all his peace.

So with decorum all things carried;

Miss frowned, and blushed, and then was—married.

Need we expose to vulgar sight

The raptures of the bridal night?

Need we intrude on hallowed ground,

Or draw the curtains close around?

Let it suffice that each had charms:

He clasped a goddess in his arms;

And though she felt his usage rough,

Yet in a man ’twas well enough.

The honeymoon like lightning flew;

The second brought its transports too.

A third, a fourth, were not amiss;

The fifth was friendship mixed with bliss.

But when a twelvemonth passed away,

Jack found his goddess made of clay;

Found half the charms that decked her face

Arose from powder, shreds, or lace;

But still the worst remained behind,

That very face had robbed her mind.

Skilled in no other arts was she,

But dressing, patching, repartee;

And, just as humour rose or fell,

By turns a slattern or a belle;

’Tis true she dressed with modern grace

Half naked at a ball or race;

But when at home, at board or bed,

Five greasy nightcaps wrapped her head.

Could so much beauty condescend

To be a dull domestic friend?

Could any curtain lectures bring

To decency so fine a thing?

In short, by night, ’twas fits or fretting;

By day, ’twas gadding or coquetting.

Fond to be seen, she kept a bevy

Of powdered coxcombs at her levee;

The ’squire and captain took their stations,

And twenty other near relations;

Jack sucked his pipe, and often broke

A sigh in suffocating smoke;

While all their hours were passed between

Insulting repartee or spleen.

Thus as her faults each day were known,

He thinks her features coarser grown;

He fancies every vice she shows,

Or thins her lip or points her nose.

Whenever rage or envy rise,

How wide her mouth, how wild her eyes!

He knows not how, but so it is,

Her face is grown a knowing phiz;

And though her fops are wondrous civil,

He thinks her ugly as the devil.

Now, to perplex the ravelled noose,

As each a different way pursues,

While sullen or loquacious strife,

Promised to hold them on for life,

That dire disease, whose ruthless power

Withers the beauty’s transient flower:

Lo! the small-pox, whose horrid glare

Levelled its terrors at the fair;

And, rifling every youthful grace,

Left but the remnant of a face.

The glass, grown hateful to her sight,

Reflected now a perfect fright;

Each former art she vainly tries

To bring back lustre to her eyes.

In vain she tries her paste and creams,

To smooth her skin, or hide its seams.

Her country beaux and city cousins,

Lovers no more, flew off by dozens;

The ’squire himself was seen to yield,

And even the captain quit the field.

Poor madam, now condemned to hack

The rest of life with anxious Jack,

Perceiving others fairly flown,

Attempted pleasing him alone.

Jack soon was dazzled to behold

Her present face surpass the old;

With modesty her cheeks are dyed;

Humility displaces pride;

For tawdry finery is seen

A person ever neatly clean;

No more presuming on her sway,

She learns good-nature every day;

Serenely gay, and strict in duty,

Jack finds his wife a perfect beauty.