A MODEST WIT
An anonymous poem
nabob of the East--
- Haughty, being great--purse-proud, being rich--
- A governor, or general, at the least,
- I have forgotten which--
- Had in his family a humble youth,
- Who went from England in his patron's suite,
- An unassuming boy, and in truth
- A lad of decent parts, and good repute.
- This youth had sense and spirit;
- But yet, with all his sense,
- Excessive diffidence
- Obscured his merit.
- One day, at table, flushed with pride and wine,
- His honor, proudly free, severely merry,
- Conceived it would be vastly fine
- To crack a joke upon his secretary.
- "Young man," he said, "by what art, craft,
- Did your good father gain a livelihood?"--
- "He was a saddler, sir," Modestus said,
- "And in his time was reckoned good."
- "A saddler, eh! and taught you Greek,
- Instead of teaching you to sew!
- Pray, why did not your father make
- A saddler, sir, of you?"
- Each parasite, then, as in duty bound,
- The joke applauded, and the laugh went round.
- At length Modestus, bowing low,
- Said (craving pardon, if too free he made),
- "Sir, by your leave, I fain would know
- Your father's trade!"
- "My father's trade! Bless me, that's too bad!
- My father's trade? Why, blockhead, are you mad?
- My father, sir, did never stoop so low--
- He was a gentleman, I'd have you know."
- "Excuse the liberty I take,"
- Modestus said, with archness on his brow,
- "Pray, why did not your father make
- A gentleman of you?"
"A Modest Wit" is reprinted
from One Hundred Choice Selections. Ed. Phineas Garrett.
Philadelphia: Penn Publishing Co., 1897.