The Gentleman’s Magazine was an extremely popular periodical publication in the eighteenth century, having a large readership and a commenting on a wide variety of topics.
I found this poem published by The Gentleman’s Magazine in the February edition, 1765, with the authorship attributed to an E. Pennington. This author, as far as I have been able to find, was not a famous poet and was probably a subscriber to the periodical who sent the poem to the editor for consideration.
The Boy and the Nettle. A Fable.
A Little boy, one summer’s day, Devoid of care, went out to play; He roves the mead, the pleasing dies Of various flow’rs engage his eyes. From this to that with joy he turns, For all in quick succession burns: The blossom’d nettle now he gains, Which sorely stings him for his pains. Homeward in tears he runs with speed, And sobs complaints against the weed: “My touch, says he, was soft and light, Who then could think that it would bite?” His boy the father fondly ey’d, He kiss’d him first, and then reply’d, “My Child, the lightness of your touch Was that which made it bite so much; Had but your grip been close and rude, Its mischief had been all subdued; A fact from which I’d now deduce A precept for your future use. You’ll find the world, that ample field, A plenteous crop of nettles yield; Men who may justly pass for such, Whom you must gripe, or never touch; Avoid, or treat them with disdain, My precept in your mind retain.”
London, Feb 22, 1765. E.Pennington.
This poem has been adapted from one of Aesop’s Fables about a boy and a nettle, where a boy was stung and went home to tell his mother.
In this poem, a boy, playing in a field, touched a nettle ever so gently and it stung him. Running home with tears in his eyes, he tells his father that he tried to be gentle. His father says that being gentle was what had caused the problem, and that if he had grabbed the nettle firmly, it would not have stung him. This is because the stinging “hairs” of the plant are squashed and can not penetrate the skin in the same manner.
From this the father deduces a moral for the future use of his son. The world is like a field, and you are bound to come across nettles in life. The trick is to either avoid them or grab them, thereby avoiding the painful sting.
In Aesop’s Fable, the moral of the story was proclaimed to be:
Whatever you do, do it with all your might.
Do you like stories or poems that have a moral? They are my cup of tea!
A Recipe to Soften the Hardest Female Heart – more poetry from The Gentleman’s Magazine
On Love, Shakespeare and Marianne Dashwood – a sonnet of Shakespeare’s
Sources and Relevant Links
Aesop’s Fables – online