Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
 
A South Sea Ballad
By Edward Ward (1667–1731)
 
IN 1 London stands a famous pile,
  And near that pile an Alley,
Where merry crowds for riches toil,
  And wisdom stoops to folly.
Here, sad and joyful, high and low,        5
  Court Fortune for her graces;
And as she smiles or frowns, they show
  Their gestures and grimaces.
 
Here, Stars and Garters do appear
  Among our lords the rabble;        10
To buy and sell, to see and hear
  The Jews and Gentiles squabble.
Here, crafty Courtiers are too wise
  For those who trust to fortune;
They see the cheat with clearer eyes,        15
  Who peep behind the curtain.
 
Long heads may thrive, by sober rules;
  Because they think, and drink not;
But headlongs are our thriving fools,
  Who only drink, and think not.        20
The lucky rogues like spaniel dogs,
  Leap into South Sea water;
And there they fish for golden frogs,
  Nor caring what comes after.
 
’Tis said that alchemists of old        25
  Could turn a brazen kettle,
Or leaden cistern into gold;
  That noble tempting metal.
But (if it here may be allowed,
  To bring in great with small things)        30
Our cunning South Sea like a god,
  Turns nothing into all things.
 
What need have we of Indian wealth,
  Or commerce with our neighbours;
Our Constitution is in health,        35
  And riches crown our labours.
Our South Sea ships have golden shrouds,
  They bring us wealth, ’tis granted:
But lodge their treasure in the clouds,
  To hide it till it’s wanted.        40
 
O, Britain! bless thy present state!
  Thou only happy nation!
So oddly rich, so madly great,
  Since Bubbles came in fashion.
Successful rakes exert their pride,        45
  And count their airy millions;
Whilst homely drabs in coaches ride,
  Brought up to Town on pillions.
 
Few men who follow reason’s rules,
  Grow fat with South Sea diet;        50
Young rattles and unthinking fools
  Are those that flourish by it.
Old musty jades, and pushing blades,
  Who’ve least consideration,
Grow rich apace; while wiser heads        55
  Are struck with admiration.
 
A race of men, who, t’ other day,
  Lay crushed beneath disasters,
Are now, by Stock, brought into play,
  And made our lords and masters.        60
But should our South Sea Babel fall,
  What numbers would be frowning;
The losers then must ease their gall
  By hanging, or by drowning.
 
Five hundred millions, notes and bonds,        65
  Our Stocks are worth in value:
But neither lie in goods, or lands,
  Or money, let me tell ye.
Yet though our foreign trade is lost,
  Of mighty wealth we vapour;        70
When all the riches that we boast
  Consist of scraps of paper.
 
Note 1. From The Delights of the Bottle, 1720. [back]
 
 
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