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Alexander Pope (1688–1744). Complete Poetical Works. 1903.

Poems: 1713–17

The Challenge

  • A Court Ballad

    To the Tune of ‘To All You Ladies Now at Land,’ etc.
  • This lively ballad, written in 1717, belongs to the period of Pope’s intimacy with court society. The three ladies here addressed were attached to the court of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

  • 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.

    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.

    Then why to Courts should I repair,

    Where ’s such ado with Townshend?

    To hear each mortal stamp and swear,

    And every speech with Zounds end;

    To hear ’em rail at honest Sunderland,

    And rashly blame the realm of Blunderland,

    With a fa, la, la.

    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.

    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.

    At Leicester-Fields, a house full high,

    With door all painted green,

    Where ribbons wave upon the tie

    (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.

    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.

    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.