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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Wasp

By Francis Hopkinson (1737–1791)

[From “Translation of a Letter, written by a Foreigner on his Travels.” The Miscellaneous Essays and Occasional Writings of Francis Hopkinson, Esq. 1792.]

WRAPT in Aurelian filth and slime,

An infant wasp neglected lay;

Till, having dozed the destined time,

He woke and struggled into day.

Proud of his venom-bag and sting,

And big with self-approved worth:

“Mankind,” he said, and stretched his wing,

“Should tremble when I sally forth.

“In copious streams my spleen shall flow,

And satire all her purses drain;

A critic born, the world shall know

I carry not a sting in vain.”

This said, from native cell of clay,

Elate he rose in airy flight;

Thence to the city changed his way,

And on a steeple chanced to light.

“Ye gods!” he cried, “What horrid pile

Presumes to rear its head so high?

This clumsy cornice—see how vile:

Can this delight a critic’s eye?”

With poisonous sting he strove to wound

The substance firm, but strove in vain;

Surprised he sees it stands its ground,

Nor starts through fear, nor writhes with pain.

Away the enraged insect flew;

But soon with aggravated power,

Against the walls his body threw,

And hoped to shake the lofty tower.

Firm fixed it stands, as stand it must,

Nor heeds the wasp’s unpitied fall:

The humbled critic rolls in dust,

So stunned, so bruised, he scarce can crawl.