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Short poem

John Philips (1676-1709)

The Splendid Shilling
An Imitation of Milton

         -- -- Sing, Heavenly Muse,
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhime,
A Shilling, Breeches, and Chimera's Dire.

              1HAPPY the Man, who void of Cares and Strife,
              2In Silken, or in Leathern Purse retains
              3A Splendid Shilling: He nor hears with Pain
              4New Oysters cry'd, nor sighs for chearful Ale;
              5But with his Friends, when nightly Mists arise,
              6To Juniper's, Magpye, or Town-Hall repairs:
              7Where, mindful of the Nymph, whose wanton Eye
              8Transfix'd his Soul, and kindled Amorous Flames,
              9Chloe, or Phillis; he each Circling Glass
            10Wisheth her Health, and Joy, and equal Love.
            11Mean while he smoaks, and laughs at merry Tale,
            12Or Pun ambiguous, or Conundrum quaint.
            13But I, whom griping Penury surrounds,
            14And Hunger, sure Attendant upon Want,
            15With scanty Offals, and small acid Tiff
            16(Wretched Repast!) my meagre Corps sustain:
            17Then Solitary walk, or doze at home
            18In Garret vile, and with a warming puff
            19Regale chill'd Fingers; or from Tube as black
            20As Winter-Chimney, or well-polish'd Jet,
            21Exhale Mundungus, ill-perfuming Scent:
            22Not blacker Tube, nor of a shorter Size
            23Smoaks Cambro-Britain (vers'd in Pedigree,
            24Sprung from Cadwalader and Arthur, Kings
            25Full famous in Romantic tale) when he
            26O'er many a craggy Hill, and barren Cliff,
            27Upon a Cargo of fam'd Cestrian Cheese,
            28High over-shadowing rides, with a design
            29To vend his Wares, or at th' Arvonian Mart,
            30Or Maridunum, or the ancient Town
            31Eclip'd Brechinia, or where Vaga's Stream
            32Encircles Ariconium, fruitful Soil,
            33Whence flow Nectareous Wines, that well may vye
            34With Massic, Setin, or renown'd Falern.

            35Thus while my joyless Minutes tedious flow
            36With Looks demure, and silent Pace, a Dunn,
            37Horrible Monster! hated by Gods and Men,
            38To my aerial Citadel ascends;
            39With Vocal Heel thrice thund'ring at my Gates,
            40With hideous Accent thrice he calls; I know
            41The Voice ill-boding, and the solemn Sound.
            42What shou'd I do? or whither turn? amaz'd,
            43Confounded, to the dark Recess I fly
            44Of Woodhole; strait my bristling Hairs erect
            45Thrô sudden Fear; a chilly Sweat bedews
            46My shud'ring Limbs, and (wonderful to tell!)
            47My Tongue forgets her Faculty of Speech;
            48So horrible he seems! his faded Brow
            49Entrench'd with many a Frown, and Conic Beard,
            50And spreading Band, admir'd by Modern Saints,
            51Disastrous Acts forebode; in his Right Hand
            52Long Scrolls of Paper solemnly he waves,
            53With Characters, and Figures dire inscrib'd
            54Grievous to mortal Eyes; (ye Gods avert
            55Such Plagues from righteous Men!) behind him stalks
            56Another Monster, not unlike himself,
            57Sullen of Aspect, by the Vulgar call'd
            58A Catchpole, whose polluted Hands the Gods
            59With Force incredible, and Magick Charms
            60Erst have indu'd, if he his ample Palm
            61Should haply on ill-fated Shoulder lay
            62Of Debtor, strait his Body, to the Touch
            63Obsequious, (as whilom Knights were wont)
            64To some enchanted Castle is convey'd,
            65Where Gates impregnable, and coercive Chains
            66In Durance strict detain him, 'till in form
            67Of Mony, Pallas sets the Captive free.

            68Beware, ye Debtors, when ye walk beware,
            69Be circumspect; oft with insidious Ken
            70This Caitif eyes your Steps aloof, and oft
            71Lies perdue in a Nook or gloomy Cave,
            72Prompt to enchant some inadvertent wretch
            73With his unhallow'd Touch. So (Poets sing)
            74Grimalkin to Domestick Vermin sworn
            75An everlasting Foe, with watchful Eye,
            76Lyes nightly brooding o'er a chinky gap,
            77Protending her fell Claws, to thoughtless Mice
            78Sure Ruin. So her disembowell'd Web
            79Arachne in a Hall, or Kitchin spreads,
            80Obvious to vagrant Flies: She secret stands
            81Within her woven Cell; the Humming Prey,
            82Regardless of their Fate, rush on the toils
            83Inextricable, nor will aught avail
            84Their Arts, nor Arms, nor Shapes of lovely Hue;
            85The Wasp insidious, and the buzzing Drone,
            86And Butterfly proud of expanded wings
            87Distinct with Gold, entangled in her Snares,
            88Useless Resistance make: With eager strides,
            89She tow'ring flies to her expected Spoils;
            90Then with envenom'd Jaws the vital Blood
            91Drinks of reluctant Foes, and to her Cave
            92Their bulky Carcasses triumphant drags.

            93So pass my Days. But when Nocturnal Shades
            94This World invelop, and th' inclement Air
            95Persuades Men to repel benumming Frosts,
            96With pleasant Wines, and crackling blaze of Wood;
            97Me Lonely sitting, nor the glimmering Light
            98Of Make-weight Candle, nor the joyous Talk
            99Of loving Friend delights; distress'd, forlorn,
          100Amidst the horrors of the tedious Night,
          101Darkling I sigh, and feed with dismal Thoughts
          102My anxious Mind; or sometimes mournful Verse
          103Indite, and sing of Groves and Myrtle Shades,
          104Or desperate Lady near a purling Stream,
          105Or Lover pendent on a Willow-Tree:
          106Mean while I Labour with eternal Drought,
          107And restless Wish, and Rave; my parched Throat
          108Finds no Relief, nor heavy Eyes Repose:
          109But if a Slumber haply does Invade
          110My weary Limbs, my Fancy's still awake,
          111Thoughtful of Drink, and Eager in a Dream,
          112Tipples Imaginary Pots of Ale;
          113In Vain; awake, I find the settled Thirst
          114Still gnawing, and the pleasant Phantom curse.

          115Thus do I live from Pleasure quite debarr'd,
          116Nor taste the Fruits that the Sun's genial Rays
          117Mature, John-Apple, nor the downy Peach,
          118Nor Walnut in rough-furrow'd Coat secure,
          119Nor Medlar, Fruit delicious in decay;
          120Afflictions Great! yet Greater still remain:
          121My Galligaskins that have long withstood
          122The Winter's Fury, and Encroaching Frosts,
          123By Time subdu'd, (what will not Time subdue!)
          124An horrid Chasm disclose, with Orifice
          125Wide, Discontinuous; at which the Winds
          126Eurus and Auster, and the dreadful Force
          127Of Boreas, that congeals the Cronian Waves,
          128Tumultuous enter with dire chilling Blasts,
          129Portending Agues. Thus a well-fraught Ship
          130Long sail'd secure, or thrô th' Ægean Deep,
          131Or the Ionian, 'till Cruising near
          132The Lilybean Shoar, with hideous Crush
          133On Scylla, or Charybdis (dang'rous Rocks)
          134She strikes rebounding, whence the shatter'd Oak,
          135So fierce a Shock unable to withstand,
          136Admits the Sea; in at the gaping Side
          137The crouding Waves Gush with impetuous Rage,
          138Resistless, Overwhelming; Horrors seize
          139The Mariners, Death in their Eyes appears,
          140They stare, they lave, they pump, they swear, they pray:
          141(Vain Efforts!) still the battering Waves rush in
          142Implacable, 'till delug'd by the Foam,
          143The Ship sinks found'ring in the vast Abyss.



1] Philips wisely explained the meaning of this poem (see this editor's italics below) in his dedication of it to William Brome, who had sent him a pound of tobacco (Lloyd Thomas, 108-111, from Bodleian Ms. Rawlinson Letters, XXXI, ff. 142-43):

To Wm. Brome of Ewithington in
the County of Hereford Gent

Sr It would be too tędious an undertaking at this time
to examine the rise and progress of dedications. The use
of them is certainly antient as appears both from Greek
and Latin authors, and we have reason to believe that it
was continued without any interruption till the beginning of
this century, at which time Mottos, anagrams, and Frontispieces
being introduced, dedications were mightily disencouraged,
and at last abdicated. But to discover precisely
when they were restord, and by whom they were first
ushered in is a work that far transcends my knowledge,
a work that can justly be expected from no pen but that
of the operose dr B. Let us therefore at present accquiesce
in the dubiousness of their antiquity, and think the
authority of the past and present time's a sufficient plea
for your patronizing and my dedicating this poem, especially
since in this age they are not only fashionable, but almost
necessary. And indeed they are so much now in vogue
that a book without one is as seldom seen as a Bawdy
House without a practice of Piety or a poet with money.
Upon this account, Sr those, that have no friends dedicate
to all good Christians, some to their Booksellers, some for
want of a sublunary patron to the manes of a departed
one. There are that have dedicated to their whores,
God help those Henpeckt writers that have been forced
to dedicate to their own wives. But whilst I talk so much
of other mens patrons I have forgot my own, and seem
rather to make an Essay on dedications, than to write one.
However Sr I presume youll pardon me for that fault,
and perhaps like me the better for saying nothing to the
purpose. You, Sr, are a person more tender of other mens
reputations then your own, and would hear every body
commended but your self. Should I but mention your
skill in Turning, and the compassion you shewed to my
Fingers ends, when you gave me a Tobacco Stopper, you
would blush and be confounded with your just praises,
how much more would you, should I tell what a progress
you have made in that abstruse and useful language the
Saxon. Since therefore the recital of your excellencies
would prove so troublesom I shall offend your modesty
no longer, give me leave to speak a word or two
concerning the poem and I have done. This Poem, Sr
if we consider the moral, the newness of the subject the
variety of images, the exactness of the similtude that
compose it, must be allowed a piece that was never equalld
by the moderns or antients. The subject of the poem is
my self, a subject never yet handled by any poet, but how
fit to be handle by all we may learn from those few
divine commendatory verses written by the admirable
Monsieur le Rag, yet since I am the subject and the Poet
too I shall say no more of it least I should seem vain
glorious, as for the moral I have took a particular care,
that it should lye incognito, not like the antients who let
you know at first sight they design something by their
verses, but here you may look a good while, and perhaps
after all find that the poet has no aim or design, which
must needs be a diverting surprize to the reader. What
shall I say of the similes that are so full of Geography, that
you must get a Welsh Map to understand them that to
raise our Ideas of the thing they are applyd to? that are
so extraordinary quaint and well chosen, that theres
nothing like them? so that I think without vanity I
may say -- avia Pieridum perago loca &c. Yet however
excellent this Poem is, in the reading of it youll find a
vast difference, between some parts and others which
proceeds not from your humble servants negligence but
diet, this poem was begun when he had little victuals and
no moneys, and finished when he had the misfortune at
a Vertuous Iadies house to meet with both.
But I hope
in times, Sr when Hunger and Poverty shall once more
be my companions, to make amends for the defaults of
this Poem by an Essay on minc'd pyes, which shall be
devoted to you with all submission by Sr.

Your most obliged and
humble servt

6] Juniper's: an unidentified publican named after a word for "gin."
Magpye: a public house at 5 Grove Street (formerly Magpie Lane), in Oxford (Lloyd Thomas, 89).

15] Tiff: weak alcoholic drink.

21] Mundungus: bad-smelling tobacco (from Spanish `mondongo').

23] Cambro-Britain: Welshman.

24] Cadwalader: son of Cadwallon, 7th-century (and final) king of the Britons.
Arthur: son of Uther Pendragon, and king of Britain, whose court was at Camelot.

27] Cestrian: of Chester.

29] th' Arvonian Mart: the market at Carnarvon.

30] Maridunum: Carmarthen.

31] Brechinia: Brecon.
Vaga's Stream: the Wye River.

32] Ariconium: a Latin site "near the village of Weston-under-Penyard, three miles from Ross, in the Wye Valley" (Lloyd Thomas, 97, n. 7).

34] Massic, Setin, or renown'd Falern: all wines named for the places where they are grown -- Massicus, mountain in Roman Campania (now Mote Massico); Setia, Roman city in Latium (now Sezza); and the Falernian region In Roman Campania.

36] Dunn: agent who collects debts.

67] Pallas: the Greek Athene, goddess of war and inventer of the cultivation of the olive.

79] Arachne: a young woman of Lydia whom Minerva transformed into a spider for challenging the goddess to a contest of spinning.

117] John-Apple: an apple that can keep for two years and is just right for consumption when withered.

121] Galligaskins: baggy trousers.

126] Eurus and Auster: the east wind and the south wind.

127] Boreas, that congeals the Cronian Waves: the west wind. Lloyd Thomas refers to John Milton's Paradise Lost, X: 289-91 (89).

132] Lilybean Shoar: the Sicilian coast near Messina.

133] Scylla, or Charybdis (dang'rous Rocks): supposed guarding the strait between Italy and Sicily, and a peril to classical mariners.

140] lave: bale out (water).

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: John Philips, The Poems of John Philips, ed. M. G. Lloyd Thomas (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1927): 1-8. PR 3619 P3 1927 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1701
Publication date note: A Collection of Poems (London: for Daniel Brown and Benjamin Tooke, 1701): 393-400.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1999.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/10

Rhyme: irregularly rhyming

Other poems by John Philips