Childhood’s Criticism by Winthrop MackWorth Praed


You’ve only got to curtsey, whisper, hold your head up, laugh and lisp,
And then you’re sure to take.
                                       Rejected Addresses.

A poet o’er his tea and toast
Composed a page of verse last winter,
Transcribed it on the best Bath post,
And sent the treasure to a printer.
He thought it an enchanting thing;
And, fancying no one else could doubt it,
Went out, as happy as a king,
To hear what people said about it.

Queen Fame was driving out that day;
And, though she scarcely seemed to know him,
He bustled up, and tried to say
Something about his little poem;
But ere from his unhappy lip
Three timid trembling words could falter,
The goddess cracked her noisy whip,
And went to call upon Sir Walter!

Old Criticism, whose glance observed
The minstrel’s blushes and confusion,
Came up and told him he deserved
The rack at least for his intrusion:
The poor youth stared and strove to speak;
His tyrant laughed to see him wincing,
And grumbled out a line of Greek,
Which Dullness said was quite convincing.

Then stepped a gaunt and wrinkled witch,
Hight Avarice, from her filthy hovel;
And “Rhyme,” quoth she, “won’t make you rich;
Go home, good youth, and write a novel!
Cut up the follies of the age;
Sauce them with puns and disquisitions;
Let Colburn cook your title-page,
And I’ll ensure you six editions.”

Ambition met him next; –he sighed
To see those once-loved wreaths of laurel,
And crept into a bower to hide,
For he and she had had a quarrel.
The goddess of the cumbrous crown
Called after him, in tones of pity,
“My son, you’ve dropped your wig and gown!
And, bless me, how you’ve torn your Chitty!”

‘Twas all unheeded or unheard,
For now he knocked at Beauty’s portal;
One word from her, one golden word,
He knew, would make his lays immortal.
Alas! he elbowed through a throng
Of danglers, dancers, catgut scrapers,
And found her twisting up his song
Into the sweetest candlepapers.

He turned away with sullen looks
From Beauty, and from Beauty’s scorning.
“To-night,” he said, “I’ll burn my books;
I’ll break my harpstrings in the morning.”–
When lo, a laughing Fay drew near;
And with soft voice, more soft than Circe’s,
She whispered in the poet’s ear
The sounds the poet loved –his verses!

He looked, and listened; and it seemed
In Childhood’s lips the lines grew sweeter:
Good lack! till now he had not dreamed
How bright the thought, how smooth the metre.
Ere the last stanza was begun,
He managed all his wrath to smother;
And when the little Nymph had done,
Said “Thank you, Love; –I’ll write another!”

(October 1, 1829.)

From: Praed, Winthrop Mackworth & Godley, A D (ed), Select Poems of Winthrop Mackworth Praed, 1909, Henry Frownde: London, pp. 60-62.

Date: 1829

By: Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802-1839)

2 Comments to “Childhood’s Criticism by Winthrop MackWorth Praed”

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