Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Modern Argumentation
By St John Honeywood (1765–1798)
  ’T WAS 1 at Commencement tide, so goes the tale,
At Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, King’s, or Yale,
A candidate for learning’s prime degree
Proposed this question to the faculty:
“This horse will always from a tan-yard fly,        5
While that, unmoved, a tan-yard passes by;
Which is the wiser horse, say, learned sirs,
The one that starts, or he that never stirs?”
The question thus proposed and understood,
Pro more solito, debate ensued.
*      *      *      *      *      *
The starting advocates this truth premise:
“That of all excellence below the skies,
Man is the standard; hence, whene’er we find
In beasts or birds strong semblance to mankind,
We count it worth, and are well pleased to see        15
In instinct aught that apes humanity.
Exempli gratia, who, since time began,
E’er hurt the bird that builds her nest with man?
If Mrs Airy, though involved in debt,
Paid ten bright dollars for a paroquet,        20
And for a monkey six, the cause we know;
This talk’d, that flutter’d, like her favorite beau—
Yet the same lady loathed the serpent’s form,
And call’d for hartshorn if she saw a worm:
Now to apply this reasoning to our case,        25
We deem him worthiest of the human race
Who, at the mention of atrocious deeds,
Starts back with horror, and with pity bleeds.
But the vile miscreant, whose supreme delight
Is placed in havoc and in scenes of fight,        30
Who rudely revels in the house of wo,
We hate, and blush that man can sink so low.
Why starts the steed whene’er a tan-yard’s spied,
But that he sees a brother’s reeking hide?
Here then, they say, a strong resemblance lies,        35
Ergo, the horse that starts is quasi wise.”
*      *      *      *      *      *
“Ay, but to man and horse this rule extends,
The means must be subservient to the ends.
What ’s the chief end of horse?—his lord to please,
To bear his weight with safety, speed, and ease;        40
’T is not to start, to heave, to weep, to whine,
In notes distracted, Methodist, like thine.
Can he be said with safety to convey
His lord, who starts and stumbles by the way?
Doth he with speed transport his master’s weight,        45
Who stops to start at every tanner’s gate?
And, lastly, where ’s the ease?—at every breath
The rider fears the horse will prove his death;
’T is plain, the starter deviates from all rule
Of right, and when he deviates, is a fool.”        50
  Thus, sophists, have your arguments been plied,
What now remains but that we should decide?
On due consideration, then, we say,
“He is the wiser horse who fearless speeds his way.”
Note 1. Written extempore, with a pencil, while the author was riding with a friend, whose horse started on passing a tan-yard. [back]
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