The Poetry Corner

Roxana, Or The Drawing-Room. An Eclogue.

By Alexander Pope

Roxana, from the Court returning late, Sigh'd her soft sorrow at St James's gate: Such heavy thoughts lay brooding in her breast, Not her own chairmen with more weight oppress'd: They curse the cruel weight they're doom'd to bear; She in more gentle sounds express'd her care. 'Was it for this, that I these roses wear? For this, new-set the jewels for my hair? Ah, Princess! with what zeal have I pursued! Almost forgot the duty of a prude. This king I never could attend too soon; I miss'd my prayers, to get me dress'd by noon. For thee, ah! what for thee did I resign? My passions, pleasures, all that e'er was mine: I've sacrificed both modesty and ease; Left operas, and went to filthy plays: Double-entendres shock'd my tender ear; Yet even this, for thee, I chose to bear: In glowing youth, when nature bids be gay, And every joy of life before me lay; By honour prompted, and by pride restrain'd, The pleasures of the young my soul disdain'd: Sermons I sought, and with a mien severe Censured my neighbours, and said daily prayer. Alas, how changed! with this same sermon-mien, The filthy What-d'ye-call-it[71]--I have seen. Ah, royal Princess! for whose sake I lost The reputation, which so dear had cost; I, who avoided every public place, When bloom and beauty bid me show my face, Now near thee, constant, I each night abide, With never-failing duty, by thy side; Myself and daughters standing in a row, To all the foreigners a goodly show. Oft had your drawing-room been sadly thin, And merchants' wives close by your side had been, Had I not amply fill'd the empty place, And saved your Highness from the dire disgrace: Yet Cockatilla's artifice prevails, When all my duty and my merit fails: That Cockatilla, whose deluding airs Corrupts our virgins, and our youth ensnares; So sunk her character, and lost her fame, Scarce visited before your Highness came: Yet for the bedchamber 'tis she you choose, Whilst zeal, and lame, and virtue you refuse. Ah, worthy choice; not one of all your train Which censures blast not, or dishonours stain. I know the Court, with all its treacherous wiles, The false caresses, and undoing smiles. Ah, Princess! learn'd in all the courtly arts, To cheat our hopes, and yet to gain our hearts.'