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Etching Moralised
by [?]


“To point a moral.”–JOHNSON.

Fairest Lady and Noble, for once on a time,
Condescend to accept, in the humblest of rhyme,
And a style more of Gay than of Milton,
A few opportune verses design’d to impart
Some didactical hints in a Needlework Art,
Not described by the Countess of Wilton.

An Art not unknown to the delicate hand
Of the fairest and first in this insular land,
But in Patronage Royal delighting;
And which now your own feminine fantasy wins,
Tho’ it scarce seems a lady-like work, that begins
In a scratching and ends in a biting!

Yet oh! that the dames of the Scandalous School
Would but use the same acid, and sharp-pointed tool,
That are plied in the said operations–
Oh! would that our Candours on copper would sketch!
For the first of all things in begining to etch
Are–good grounds for our representations.

Those protective and delicate coatings of wax,
Which are meant to resist the corrosive attacks
That would ruin the copper completely;
Thin cerements which whoso remembers the Bee
So applauded by Watts, the divine LL.D.,
Will be careful to spread very neatly.

For why? like some intricate deed of the law,
Should the ground in the process be left with a flaw,
Aqua-fortis is far from a joker;
And attacking the part that no coating protects,
Will turn out as distressing to all your effects
As a landlord who puts in a broker.

Then carefully spread the conservative stuff,
Until all the bright metal is cover’d enough,
To repel a destructive so active;
For in Etching, as well as in Morals, pray note
That a little raw spot, or a hole in a coat,
Your ascetics find vastly attractive.

Thus the ground being laid, very even and flat,
And then smoked with a taper, till black as a hat,
Still from future disasters to screen it,
Just allow me, by way of precaution, to state,
You must hinder the footman from changing your plate,
Nor yet suffer the butler to clean it.

Nay, the housemaid, perchance, in her passion to scrub,
May suppose the dull metal in want of a rub,
Like the Shield which Swift’s readers remember–
Not to mention the chance of some other mishaps,
Such as having your copper made up into caps
To be worn on the First of September.

But aloof from all damage by Betty or John,
You secure the veil’d surface, and trace thereupon
The design you conceive the most proper:
Yet gently, and not with a needle too keen,
Lest it pierce to the wax through the paper between,
And of course play Old Scratch with the copper.

So in worldly affairs, the sharp-practising man
Is not always the one who succeeds in his plan,
Witness Shylock’s judicial exposure;
Who, as keen as his knife, yet with agony found,
That while urging his point he was losing his ground,
And incurring a fatal disclosure.

But, perhaps, without tracing at all, you may choose
To indulge in some little extempore views,
Like the older artistical people;
For example, a Corydon playing his pipe,
In a Low Country marsh, with a Cow, after Cuyp,
And a Goat skipping over a steeple.

A wild Deer at a rivulet taking a sup,
With a couple of Pillars put in to fill up,
Like the columns of certain diurnals;
Or a very brisk sea, in a very stiff gale,
And a very Dutch boat, with a very big sail–
Or a bevy of Retzsch Infernals.

Architectural study–or rich Arabesque–
Allegorical dream–or a view picturesque,
Near to Naples, or Venice, or Florence;
Or “as harmless as lambs and as gentle as doves,”
A sweet family cluster of plump little Loves,
Like the Children by Reynolds or Lawrence.