"The Vase and the Pitcher." by Jane Taylor (1783-1824)
ONE day when a grand entertainment was ended,
A rich China Vase, lately come from abroad,
In which every tint of the rainbow was blended,
Spoke thus to a Pitcher that stood on the board:–
"I hope, rustic neighbor, you do n't feel distressed
At standing before me, so shabbily dressed:
It will mitigate, may be, your feelings to know,
That though so superb, I can stoop to the low.
"'T is true, that before I arrived from abroad,
Beyond the wide Ganges, I lived with a lord:
'T is true, in the west, that no king can procure,
For his service of state, so splendid a ewer.
"'T is true that gay ladies, in feathers and pearls,
Survey and admire me–and barons and earls:
'T is true that I am, as you must understand,
Prodigiously rich, and excessively grand.
"But you, paltry bottle! I pity your fate:
Whence came ye, coarse neighbor, I prithee relate;
And tell us, how is it you ever endure
So graceless a shape, and so vile a contour?"
The Pitcher, who stood with his hand on his hip,
Shrug'd up his round shoulders, and curl'd his brown lip;
And grave to appearance, but laughing inside,
He thus, from his orifice, coolly replied:–
"I come, noble Vase, from the cottage below,
Where I serve a poor husbandman, if you must know;
And my trade (might I venture to name such a thing)
Is bringing pure water each morn from the spring.
"There's a notable lass, who at dawn of the day
When dew-drops yet glisten on meadow and spray,
When the lark soars aloft, and the breezes are cool,
Sets off on light tip-toe, with me to the pool.
"The pool is surrounded with willow and ash;
At noon, in the sun, its dark waters will flash;
And through the deep shade, you at intervals hear
The lowing of kine, in the meadow land near.
"The sheep with their lambkins there browse at their ease,
Beneath the cool arch of embowering trees;
While low creeping herbs give their sweets to the air;
Wild thyme, and the violet, and primroses fair.
"'T is here that myself every morning she bears;
Then back to the cot in the valley repairs:
The fagot is blazing, the breakfast is placed,
And appetite sweetens coarse fare to the taste.
"In these humble services passes my life,
Remote from the city–its noise and its strife:
Though homely, I 'm fit for the work of the day;
And I am not ashamed of my true British clay.
"And now, noble Vase, may I ask if 't is true,
That you stand every day here with nothing to do?
A poor idle gentleman, up in your niche,
Quite useless;–and nothing but handsome and rich!
"They neither intrust you with victuals nor drink:
You must have but a poor sorry life on't, I think;
And though such an elegant creature you're thought,
Pray are you not tired with doing of nought?"
But the Vase would not answer such questions as these;
And the Pitcher felt glad he was not a Chinese.