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Fable 2 – The Looking-Glasses
by [?]


Where Kings have been by mob-elections
Raised to the throne, ’tis strange to see
What different and what odd perfections
Men have required in Royalty.
Some, liking monarchs large and plumpy,
Have chosen their Sovereigns by the weight;–
Some wisht them tall, some thought your Dumpy,
Dutch-built, the true Legitimate.[1]
The Easterns in a Prince, ’tis said,
Prefer what’s called a jolterhead:[2]
The Egyptians weren’t at all partic’lar,
So that their Kings had not red hair–
This fault not even the greatest stickler
For the blood-royal well could bear.

A thousand more such illustrations
Might be adduced from various nations.
But, ‘mong the many tales they tell us,
Touching the acquired or natural right
Which some men have to rule their fellows,
There’s one which I shall here recite:–


There was a land–to name the place
Is neither now my wish nor duty–
Where reigned a certain Royal race,
By right of their superior beauty.

What was the cut legitimate
Of these great persons’ chins and noses,
By right of which they ruled the state,
No history I have seen discloses.

But so it was–a settled case–
Some Act of Parliament, past snugly,
Had voted them a beauteous race,
And all their faithful subjects ugly.

As rank indeed stood high or low,
Some change it made in visual organs;
Your Peers were decent–Knights, so so–
But all your common people, gorgons!

Of course, if any knave but hinted
That the King’s nose was turned awry,
Or that the Queen (God bless her!) squinted–
The judges doomed that knave to die.

But rarely things like this occurred,
The people to their King were duteous,
And took it, on his Royal word,
That they were frights and He was beauteous.

The cause whereof, among all classes,
Was simply this–these island elves
Had never yet seen looking-glasses,
And therefore did not know themselves.

Sometimes indeed their neighbors’ faces
Might strike them as more full of reason,
More fresh than those in certain places–
But, Lord, the very thought was treason!

Besides, howe’er we love our neighbor,
And take his face’s part, ’tis known
We ne’er so much in earnest labor,
As when the face attackt’s our own.

So on they went–the crowd believing–
(As crowds well governed always do)
Their rulers, too, themselves deceiving–
So old the joke, they thought ’twas true.

But jokes, we know, if they too far go,
Must have an end–and so, one day,
Upon that coast there was a cargo
Of looking-glasses cast away.

‘Twas said, some Radicals, somewhere,
Had laid their wicked heads together,
And forced that ship to founder there,–
While some believe it was the weather.

However this might be, the freight
Was landed without fees or duties;
And from that hour historians date
The downfall of the Race of Beauties.

The looking-glasses got about,
And grew so common thro’ the land,
That scarce a tinker could walk out,
Without a mirror in his hand.

Comparing faces, morning, noon,
And night, their constant occupation–
By dint of looking-glasses, soon,
They grew a most reflecting nation.

In vain the Court, aware of errors
In all the old, establisht mazards,
Prohibited the use of mirrors
And tried to break them at all hazards:–

In vain–their laws might just as well
Have been waste paper on the shelves;
That fatal freight had broke the spell;
People had lookt–and knew themselves.

If chance a Duke, of birth sublime,
Presumed upon his ancient face,
(Some calf-head, ugly from all time,)
They popt a mirror to his Grace;–

Just hinting, by that gentle sign,
How little Nature holds it true,
That what is called an ancient line,
Must be the line of Beauty too.

From Dukes’ they past to regal phizzes,
Compared them proudly with their own,
And cried. “How could such monstrous quizzes
“In Beauty’s name usurp the throne!”–

They then wrote essays, pamphlets, books,
Upon Cosmetical Oeconomy,
Which made the King try various looks,
But none improved his physiognomy.

And satires at the Court were levelled,
And small lampoons, so full of slynesses,
That soon, in short, they quite bedeviled
Their Majesties and Royal Highnesses.

At length–but here I drop the veil,
To spare some royal folks’ sensations;–
Besides, what followed is the tale
Of all such late-enlightened nations;

Of all to whom old Time discloses
A truth they should have sooner known–
That kings have neither rights nor noses
A whit diviner than their own.

[1] The Goths had a law to choose always a short, thick man for their King.–Munster, “Cosmog.” lib. iii. p. 164.

[2] “In a Prince a jolter-head is invaluable.”–Oriental Field Sports.