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The Case Of Conscience
by [?]

BE this as ’twill, the conscientious Anne
Would nothing venture to regale her man;
Howe’er, she stated what had raised her fear,
And ev’ry thing that made her persevere.

WHEN Easter came, new difficulties rose
Then, in confession, ALL she should disclose.
Anne, passing peccadillos in review,
This case aside, as an intruder threw;
But parson Thomas made her all relate;
And ev’ry circumstance most clearly state;
That he, by knowing fully each defect,
Might punishment accordingly direct,
In which no father-confessor should err,
Who absolution justly would confer.
The parson much his penitent abused;
Said he, with sensual views to be amused,
Is such a sin, ’tis scarcely worse to steal;
The sight is just the same as if you feel.

HOWE’ER, the punishment that he imposed
Was nothing great:–too slight to be disclosed;
Enough to say, that in the country round,
The father-confessors, who there abound,
As in our own, (perhaps in ev’ry part,)
Have devotees, who, when they ought to smart,
A tribute pay, according to their lot,
And thus indulgences are often got.

THIS tribute to discharge the current year,
Much troubled Anne, and filled her breast with fear,
When William, fishing, chanced a pike to hook,
And gave it to his dear at once to cook,
Who, quite delighted, hastened to the priest,
And begged his rev’rence on the fish to feast.
The parson with the present much was pleased;
A tap upon the shoulder care appeased;
And with a smile he to the bringer said
This fish, with trifles on the table spread,
Will all complete; ’twas holyday we find,
When other clergy with our rector dined.
Will you still more oblige, the parson cried,
And let the fish at home by you be fried?
Then bring it here:–my servant’s very new,
And can’t attempt to cook as well as you.
Anne hastened back; meanwhile the priests arrived,
Much noise, and rout of course, once these were hived;
Wines from the vault were brought without delay;
Each of the quality would something say.

THE dinner served; the dean at table placed;
Their conversation various points embraced;
To state the whole would clearly endless be;
In this no doubt the reader will agree.
They changed and changed, and healths went round and round;
No time for scandal while such cheer was found;
The first and second course away were cleared,
Dessert served up, yet still no pike appeared.
The dinner o’er without th’ expected dish,
Or even a shadow of the promised fish.
When William learned the present Anne had made,
His wish, to have it cancelled, with her weighed.
The rector was surprised, you may suppose,
And, soon as from the table all arose,
He went to Anne, and called her fool and knave,
And, in his wrath, could scarcely secrets wave,
But nearly her reproached the bathing scene;
What, treat, said he, your priest like base and mean?

ANNE archly answered, with expression neat:–
The sight is just the same as if you eat!