The Poetry Corner

The Challenge: A Court Ballad

By Alexander Pope

I. To one fair lady out of Court, And two fair ladies in, Who think the Turk and Pope a sport, And wit and love no sin! Come, these soft lines, with nothing stiff in, To Bellenden, Lepell, and Griffin. With a fa, la, la. II. What passes in the dark third row, And what behind the scene, Couches and crippled chairs I know, And garrets hung with green; I know the swing of sinful hack, Where many damsels cry alack. With a fa, la, la. III. Then why to Courts should I repair, Where's such ado with Townsend? To hear each mortal stamp and swear, And every speech with "Zounds" end; To hear them rail at honest Sunderland, And rashly blame the realm of Blunderland. With a fa, la, la. IV. Alas! like Schutz I cannot pun, Like Grafton court the Germans; Tell Pickenbourg how slim she's grown, Like Meadows run to sermons; To court ambitious men may roam, But I and Marlbro' stay at home. With a fa, la, la. V. In truth, by what I can discern, Of courtiers, 'twixt you three, Some wit you have, and more may learn From Court, than Gay or Me: Perhaps, in time, you'll leave high diet, To sup with us on milk and quiet. With a fa, la, la. VI. At Leicester Fields, a house full nigh, With door all painted green, (A Milliner, I mean); There may you meet us three to three, For Gay can well make two of Me. With a fa, la, la. VII. But should you catch the prudish itch, And each become a coward, Bring sometimes with you lady Rich, And sometimes mistress Howard; For virgins, to keep chaste, must go Abroad with such as are not so. With a fa, la, la. VIII. And thus, fair maids, my ballad ends; God send the king safe landing; And make all honest ladies friends To armies that are standing; Preserve the limits of those nations, And take off ladies' limitations. With a fa, la, la.