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

John Philips (1676–1709)

The Dun

From “The Splendid Shilling” (Parody on Milton)

THUS, while my joyless minutes tedious flow,

With looks demure, and silent pace, a dun—

Horrible monster! hated by gods and men—

To my aerial citadel ascends.

With vocal heel thrice thund’ring at my gate,

With hideous accent thrice he calls. I know

The voice ill-boding, and the solemn sound.

What should I do? or whither turn? Amaz’d,

Confounded, to the dark recess I fly

Of wood-hole; straight my bristling hairs erect

Thro’ sudden fear; a chilly sweat bedews

My shudd’ring limbs, and, wonderful to tell,

My tongue forgets her faculty of speech,

So horrible he seems! His faded brow

Entrench’d with many a frown, and conic beard,

And spreading band, admir’d by modern saints,

Disastrous acts forebode. In his right hand

Long scrolls of paper solemnly he waves,

With characters and figures dire inscrib’d,

Grievous to mortal eyes. Ye gods, avert

Such plagues from righteous men! Behind him stalks

Another monster not unlike himself,

Sullen of aspect, by the vulgar call’d

A catchpole, whose polluted hands the gods

With force incredible and magic charms

First have endu’d. If he his ample palm

Should haply on ill-fated shoulder lay

Of debtor, straight his body, to the touch

Obsequious as whilom knights were wont,

To some enchanted castle is convey’d,

Where gates impregnable, and coercive chains

In durance strict detain him, till, in form

Of money, Pallas sets the captive free.

Beware ye debtors—when ye walk, beware!

Be circumspect! Oft with insidious ken

This caitiff eyes your steps aloof, and oft

Lies perdue in a nook or gloomy cave,

Prompt to enchant some inadvertent wretch

With his unhallow’d touch. So, poets sing,

Grimalkin to domestic vermin sworn

An everlasting foe, with watchful eye

Lies nightly brooding o’er a chinky gap,

Protending her fell claws, to thoughtless mice

Sure ruin. So her disembowel’d web

Arachne in a hall, or kitchen, spreads,

Obvious to vagrant flies; she secret stands

Within her woven cell; the humming prey,

Regardless of their fate, rush on the toils

Inextricable, nor will aught avail

Their arts, or arms, or shapes of lovely hue;

The wasp insidious, and the buzzing drone,

And butterfly proud of expanded wings

Distinct with gold, entangled in her snares,

Useless resistance make: with eager strides,

She tow’ring flies to her expected spoils;

Then, with envenom’d jaws the vital blood

Drinks of reluctant foes, and to her cave

Their bulky carcasses triumphant drags.