[HNW] two questions

Christina L Biles bilescl at okstate.edu
Wed Feb 20 09:26:47 PST 2002

Nancy wrote:>
> 1.  Does anyone have a date for the poem,"The Thimble", by Allan Ramsay?

Stephanie replied:
I can turn up Ramsay's dates:  1686-1758.  I can't come up with a specific
reference to "The Thimble", and he seems to have been publishing poetry
throughout the early years of the 18th C., but most of his works were
first published in the 1720s.

I reply:

According to three sources,  "The Thimble" is not one of Ramsay's
officially published poems.  It's an "attributed to" meaning that the only
date range for it is his lifetime.  It was added to his corpus in 1851?
(sigh.  I should have brought the book downstairs) and many modern
literary types doubt that it was actually written by Ramsay.

-Magdalena the mad librarian

The text (for the curious) from Literature Online

The Thimble

                                     "In tenui labour: at tenuis non


1    What god shall I invoke to raise my song?
2    What goddess I of the celestial throng?
3    Shall bright Apollo lend to me his aid?
4    Shall chaste Lucina bring my muse to bed?
5    Oh! rather, greatest beauty of the sky!
6    I write for Lydia; hear your vot'ry's cry,
7    You gave your charms to her---What can you then deny?

8    All o'er this globe, where Phoebus darts his rays,
9    What strange variety accosts our eyes!
10    We see how nations variously incline,
11    How different studies favour different men;
12    Some love to chase the fox throughout the day,
13    Others to dance the winter night away,
14    Unlike to these, some love the trumpet's sound,
15    And cries of men, when gasping on the ground;
16    To some, of fancy warm it gives delight,
17    Instructed by the muses, verse to write
18    Of bards, some generals in fight rehearse,
19    Others with groves and fountains crowd their verse.
20    Greater than their's has fallen to my share---
21    A theme sublimer far demands my care,
22    I sing the thimble---armour of the fair.

23    Hail! heaven-invented-engine! gift divine!
24    You keep the tend'rest fingers free from pain.
25    Sing, lofty Muse, from whence the Thimble sprung---
26    The Thimble---safeguard of the fair and young.

27    In ancient times, ere mortals learnt the trade,
28    Bright Venus for herself her mantles made.
29    As busied once, in Cyprian grove she sat,
30    Her turtles fondly sleeping at her feet,

[Page 280]

31    With hands alone to sew the goddess tried,
32    Her wand'ring thoughts were otherwise employed;
33    When,---lo! her needle---strange effect of spite---
34    Wounded that skin it could not see so bright;
35    She starts,---she raves,---she trembles with the smart;
36    The point that pricked her skin, went to her heart.
37    Sharp pain would not allow her long to stop;
38    "My doves," she cry'd, "haste to Olympus' top"
39    The tim'rous beauty gets into her car,
40    Her pinioned bearers swiftly cut the air.
41    As quick as thought, they reach'd the sacred ground,
42    Where mighty Jove with Juno sat enthron'd.
43    "What ails my child?" to her then cried the god;
44    "Why thus in tears? What makes you look so odd?
45    Would you a favour beg?"---A while she stood,
46    Her ivory finger stain'd with purple blood;
47    Then thus:---"Oh! father of the gods," she prayed,
48    "Grant I may be invulnerable made!"
49    With look sedate, returned the awful sire---
50    "Daughter, you do not know what you desire;
51    Would you to Pluto's gloomy regions run?
52    Would you be dipt in Styx, like Thetis 'son?
53    Could you unfrighted view Hell's dismal shore?
54    What shall I say then?---Go, and stitch no more."

55    Ashamed---unsatisfied---away she hies
56    To try her fate again, beneath the skies.
57    "Shall I," she said, "While goddesses well drest,
58    Outshine each other at a birthday feast---
59    Shall I in simple nakedness be brought,
60    Or clothed in rags? Intolerable thought!
61    No, rather may the blood my cheeks forsake,
62    And a new passage thro' my fingers take!"

63    In fertile Sicily, well known to fame,
64    A mountain stands, and Ætna is its name.---
65    Tremendous earthquakes rend the flinty rock,
66    And vomit forth continual fire and smoke:
67    Here, Vulcan forges thunderbolts for Jove,
68    Here, frame sharp arrows for the God of Love;
69    His Cyclops with their hammers strike around,
70    The hollow caverns echo back the sound.

71    Here, Venus brought her pigeons and her coach,
72    The one-eyed workman ceased at her approach;
73    When Vulcan thus:---"My charmer! why so pale?
74    You seem prepared to tell some dismal tale.
75    Does fierce Tydides still his rage pursue?
76    Or has your son his arrows tried on you?"

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77    "Ah! no!"---"What makes you bleed then? answer quick."
78    "Oh no, my lord, my husband! Know a prick
79    Of needle's point has made me wond'rous sick."
80    "Fear not, my spouse!" said Vulcan, "ne'er again,
81    Never shall any needle give you pain."
82    With that the charming goddess he embraced,
83    Then in a shell of brass her finger cased.
84    "This little engine shall in future days"
85    Continued he, "receive the poet's praise,
86    And give a fruitful subject for their lays;
87    This shall the lovely Lydia's finger grace---
88    Lydia---the fairest of the human race!"
89    He spoke---then, with a smile, the Queen of Love
90    Returned him thanks, and back to Cyprus drove.

91    When Venus, Lydia, with beauty blest,
92    She granted her the thimble with the rest;
93    Yet cannot brass or steel remain for aye---
94    All earthly things are subject to decay.
95    Of Babel's tow'r, so lofty and so proud,
96    No stone remains to tell us where it stood:
97    The great, the wise, the valiant and the just,
98    Caesar and Cato, are returned to dust;
99    Devouring Time to all destruction brings,
100    Alike the fate of Thimbles---and of Kings.
101    Then grieve not, Lydia! cease your anxious care,
102    Nor murmur lest your favorite Thimble wear.
103    All other thimbles shall wear out e'er long,
104    All other thimbles, be they e'er so strong,
105    Whilst your's shall live for ever in my song.

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