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Posts Tagged ‘eighteenth century poetry’

The Stinging Nettle, which has been used as a medicine and can even be eaten.

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!

Related Posts

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

The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol 35 , 1765, p. 92.

Aesop’s Fables – online

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The title page for the May edition of The Gentleman's Magazine, 1759. "Containing More in Quantity and Greater Variety, than any Book of the Kind or Price."

The Gentleman’s Magazine was one of the longest running periodical papers in England, publishing monthly editions for 191 years, across three centuries! From its beginning, in 1731, the magazine was intended to address any issue of public concern, and this may have been the key to its success. It was widely read throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century by both male and female audiences (despite its name), and it was not until the twentieth century that reading numbers began to decline. The publication finally stopped in 1922.

The articles addressed all manner of things, from the current issues of politics to the importance of Latin! It discussed the latest advancements of an extensive variety of disciplines, such as medicine, agriculture, astronomy, botany, religion, literature, fashion, manners, crime, and war. It also printed letters, sent to the editor from the concerned public, on a variety of issues of social importance. It even published poems!

I was reading the January 1765 edition of The Gentleman’s Magazine the other day when I came across this gem of a poem! The editor published poems from famous and unknown poets, but this poem had no authorship noted.

Recipe to soften the hardest female heart.

Take a youth that’s genteel, no matter for face,
And season him well with an air and a grace;
One grain of sincerity you may bestow,
But enough of assurance you needs must allow,
With flatteries, and sighs, assiduities, fears,
Insignificant smiles, significant leers,
With passion, and raptures to give it a zest,
A sprinkling of folly according to taste;
Some pieces of songs, and some spoutings of plays,
And fashion, and frolicks, and whimisical ways;
All mix’d well together with art and deceit,
And with nicety dress’d to make it compleat.
This med’cine the patient should take ev’ry day,
And the flint in her heart will soon melt away.
Sometimes a few days the complaint may remove,
Sometimes a few weeks ineffectual prove.
But seldom an instance can any produce
Where this choice panacea has fail’d of its use
The heart that’s obdurate when this has been try’d,
Has surely discernment and sense within side.
With the seeds of contempt, which next will appear,
When these symptoms are seen (which are wonderous rare)
This med’cine is useless, ’twill ne’er reach that heart
Which, harden’d by Virtue, will baffle all art.

The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol 35, 1765, p.92.

The author is referring to the arts that gentlemen use to woo a lady. Most of the “arts” that are mentioned here involve the external trappings that society offers – like wealth, gentility, fashionable clothes, and airs and graces that flatter and deceive. The only “ingredient” of real substance is “a grain of sincerity”, and that could not be considered a generous amount!

The writer goes on to say that this “recipe”, if given to the lady in question everyday, has a remarkable way of softening a ladies heart towards a man. However, if the unthinkable should occur and the “recipe” does not work, then the problem will be that the woman has been hardened by Virtue, and so is not easily decieved by appearances or flattery.

The one thing that worries me about this poem, is the author’s belief that this type of woman – hardened by Virtue and able to see through the fluff to the substance of a man – is rare! I had hoped that, even in eighteenth century fashionable society, there might be a few women with sense and discernment!

Is poetry your cup of tea?

Related Posts

What if?: The Road Not Taken – a poem of Robert Frost’s

On Love, Shakespeare and Marianne Dashwood – a sonnet of Shakespeare’s

The Boy and the Nettle – another poem in The Gentleman’s Magazine

Sources and Relevant Links

The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol 35, 1765 – read online

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