The Poetry Corner

The Basset-Table : An Eclogue

By Alexander Pope

Cardelia.Smilinda. Cardelia. The Basset-Table spread, the Tallier come; Why stays Smilinda in the Dressing-Room? Rise, pensive Nymph, the Tallier waits for you: Smilinda. Ah, Madam, since my Sharper is untrue, I joyless make my once ador'd Alpeu. I saw him stand behind Ombrelia's Chair, And whisper with that soft, deluding air, And those feign'd sighs which cheat the list'ning Fair. Cardelia. Is this the cause of your Romantic strains? A mightier grief my heavy heart sustains. As You by Love, so I by Fortune cross'd; One, one bad Deal, Three Septleva's have lost. Smilinda. Is that the grief, which you compare with mine? With ease, the smiles of Fortune I resign: Would all my gold in one bad Deal were gone, Were lovely Sharper mine, and mine alone. Cardelia. A Lover is lost, is but a common care; And prudent Nymphs against that change prepare: The Knave of Clubs thrice lost: Oh! who could guess This fatal stroke, this unforeseen Distress? Smilinda. See Betty Lovet! very a propos, She all the cares of Love and Play does know: Dear Betty shall th' important point decide; Betty, who oft the pain of each has try'd; Impartial, she shall say who suffers most, By Cards' Ill Usage, or by Lover's lost. Lovet. Tell, tell your griefs; attentive will I stay, Tho' Time is precious, and I want some Tea. Cardelia. Behold this Equipage, by Mathers wrought, With Fifty Guineas (a great Pen'worth) bought. See, on the Tooth-pick, Mars and Cupid strive; And both the struggling figures seem alive. Upon the bottom shines the Queen's bright Face; A Myrtle Foliage round the Thimble-Case. Jove, Jove himself, does on the Scissors shine; The Metal, and the Workmanship, divine! Smilinda. This Snuff-Box, once the pledge of Sharper's love, When rival beauties for the Present strove; At Corticelli's he the Raffle won; Then first his Passion was in public shown: Hazardia blush'd, and turn'd her Head aside, A Rival's envy (all in vain) to hide. This Snuff-Box, on the Hinge see Brilliants shine: This Snuff-Box will I stake; the Prize is mine. Cardelia. Alas! far lesser losses than I bear, Have made a Soldier sigh, a Lover swear. And Oh! what makes the disappointment hard, 'Twas my own Lord that drew the fatal Card. In complaisance, I took the Queen he gave; Tho' my own secret wish was for the Knave. The Knave won Sonica, which I had chose; And, the next Pull, my Septleva I lose. Smilinda. But ah! what aggravates the killing smart, The cruel thought, that stabs me to the heart; This curs'd Ombrelia, this undoing Fair, By whose vile arts this heavy grief I bear; She, at whose name I shed these spiteful tears, She owes to me the very charms she wears. An awkward Thing, when first she came to Town; Her Shape unfashion'd, and her Face unknown: She was my friend; I taught her first to spread Upon her sallow cheeks enliv'ning red: I introduc'd her to the Park and Plays; And, by my int'rest, Cozens made her Stays. Ungrateful wretch, with mimic airs grown pert, She dares to steal my Fav'rite Lover's heart. Cardelia. Wretch that I was, how often have I swore, When Winnall tally'd, I would punt no more? I know the Bite, yet to my Ruin run; And see the Folly, which I cannot shun. Smilinda. How many Maids have Sharper's vows deceiv'd? How many curs'd the moment they believ'd? Yet his known Falsehoods could no Warning prove: Ah! what is warning to a Maid in Love? Cardelia. But of what marble must that breast be form'd, To gaze on Basset, and remain unwarm'd? When Kings, Queens, Knaves, are set in decent rank; Expos'd in glorious heaps the tempting Bank, Guineas, Half-Guineas, all the shining train; The Winner's pleasure, and the Loser's pain: In bright Confusion open Rouleaux lie, They strike the Soul, and glitter in the Eye. Fir'd by the sight, all Reason I disdain; My Passions rise, and will not bear the rein. Look upon Basset, you who Reason boast; And see if Reason must not there be lost. Smilinda. What more than marble must that heart compose, Can hearken coldly to my Sharper's Vows? Then, when he trembles! when his Blushes rise! When awful Love seems melting in his Eyes! With eager beats his Mechlin Cravat moves: 'He Loves,' I whisper to myself, 'He Loves!' Such unfeign'd Passion in his Looks appears, I lose all Mem'ry of my former Fears; My panting heart confesses all his charms, I yield at once, and sink into his arms: Think of that moment, you who Prudence boast; For such a moment, Prudence well were lost. Cardelia. At the Groom-Porter's, batter'd Bullies play, Some Dukes at Mary-Bone bowl Time away. But who the Bowl, or ratt'ling Dice compares To Basset's heav'nly Joys, and pleasing Cares? Smilinda. Soft Simplicetta doats upon a Beau; Prudina likes a Man, and laughs at Show. Their several graces in my Sharper meet; Strong as the Footman, as the Master sweet. Lovet. Cease your contention, which has been too long; I grow impatient, and the Tea's too strong. Attend, and yield to what I now decide; The Equipage shall grace Smilinda's Side: The Snuff-Box to Cardelia I decree, Now leave complaining, and begin your Tea.