LIKE MELONS, FRIENDS ARE TO
BE FOUND IN PLENTY
OF WHICH NOT EVEN ONE IS GOOD IN TWENTY.
In choosing Friends,
it’s requisite to use
The self-same care as when we Melons choose:
No one in haste a Melon ever buys,
Nor makes his choice till three or four he tries;
And oft indeed when purchasing this fruit,
Before the buyer can find one to suit,
He’s e’en obliged t’ examine half a score,
And p’rhaps not find one when his search is o’er.
Be cautious how you choose a friend;
For Friendships that are lightly made,
Have seldom any other end
Than grief to see one’s trust betray’d!
And here is another:—
SMOKE IS THE FOOD OF LOVERS.
When Cupid open’d
Shop, the Trade he chose
Was just the very one you might suppose.
Love keep a shop?—his trade, Oh! quickly name!
A Dealer in tobacco—Fie for shame!
No less than true, and set aside all joke,
From oldest time he ever dealt in Smoke;
Than Smoke, no other thing he sold, or made;
Smoke all the substance of his stock in trade;
His Capital all Smoke, Smoke all his store,
’Twas nothing else; but Lovers ask no more—
And thousands enter daily at his door!
Hence it was ever, and it e’er will be
The trade most suited to his faculty:—
Fed by the vapours of their heart’s desire,
No other food his Votaries require;
For, that they seek—The Favour of the Fair,
Is unsubstantial as the Smoke and air.
From these rhymes, with their home-spun philosophy, one might assume Cats to have been merely a witty peasant. But he was a man of the highest culture, a great jurist, twice ambassador to England, where Charles I. laid his sword on his shoulder and bade him rise Sir Jacob, a traveller and the friend of the best intellects. From an interesting article on Dutch poetry in an old Foreign Quarterly Review I take an account of the aphorist: “Vondel had for his contemporary a man, of whose popularity we can hardly give an idea, unless we say that to speak Dutch and to have learnt Cats by heart, are almost the same thing. Old Father Jacob Cats—(we beg to apologize for his unhappy name—and know not why, like the rest of his countrymen, he did not euphonize it into some well-sounding epithet, taken from Greece or Rome—Elouros, for example, or Felisius; Catsius was ventured upon by his contemporaries, but the honest grey-beard stuck to his paternities)—was a man of practical wisdom—great experience—much travel—considerable learning—and wonderful fluency. He had occupied high offices of state, and retired a patriarch amidst children and children’s children, to that agreeable retreat which we mentioned as not far from The Hague, where we have often dreamed his sober and serious—but withal cheerful and happy, spirit, might still preside. His moralities are sometimes prolix, and sometimes rather dull. He often sweeps the bloom away from the imaginative anticipations of youth—and in that does little service. He will have everything substantial, useful, permanent. He has no other notion of love than that it is meant to make good husbands and wives, and to produce painstaking and obedient children.