Friday, The Toilette

Poem By Lady Mary Wortley Montagu


Now twenty springs had cloth'd the Park with green,
Since Lydia knew the blossom of fifteen;
No lovers now her morning hours molest,
And catch her at her toilet half undrest.
The thund'ring knocker wakes the street no more,
Nor chairs, nor coaches, crowd the silent door;
Now at the window all her mornings pass,
Or at the dumb devotion of her glass:
Reclin'd upon her arm she pensive sate,
And curs'd th' inconstancy of man too late.
"O youth! O spring of life, for ever lost!
No more my name shall reign the fav'rite toast:
On glass no more the diamond grave my name,
And lines mis-spelt record my lover's flame:
Nor shall side-boxes watch my wand'ring eyes,
And, as they catch the glance, in rows arise
With humble bows; nor white-glov'd beaux encroach
In crowds behind, to guard me to my coach.
"What shall I do to spend the hateful day?
At chapel shall I wear the morn away?
Who there appears at these unmodish hours,
But ancient matrons with their frizzled tow'rs,
And gray religious maids? My presence there,
Amidst that sober train, would own despair?
Nor am I yet so old, nor is my glance
As yet fix'd wholly on devotion's trance.
Strait then I'll dress, and take my wonted range
Through India's shops, to Motteux's, or the Change,
Where the tall jar erects its stately pride,
With antic shapes in China's azure dy'd;
There careless lies a rich brocade unroll'd,
Here shines a cabinet with burnish'd gold.
But then alas! I must be forc'd to pay,
And bring no penn'orth, not a fan away!

"How am I curs'd, unhappy and forlorn!
My lover's triumph, and my sex's scorn!
False is the pompous grief of youthful heirs;
False are the loose coquet's inveigling airs;
False is the crafty courtier's plighted word;
False are the dice when gamesters stamp the board;
False is the sprightly widow's public tear;
Yet these to Damon's oaths are all sincere.
"For what young flirt, base man, am I abus'd?
To please your wife am I unkindly us'd?
'Tis true her face may boast the peach's bloom;
But does her nearer whisper breathe perfume?
I own her taper shape is form'd to please;
But don't you see her unconfin'd by stays?
She doubly to fifteen may claim pretence;
Alike we read it in her face and sense.
Insipid, servile thing! whom I disdain;
Her phlegm can best support the marriage chain.
Damon is practis'd in the modish life,
Can hate, and yet be civil to his wife:
He games, he drinks, he swears, he fights, he roves;
Yet Cloe can believe he fondly loves.
Mistress and wife by turns supply his need;
A miss for pleasure, and a wife for breed.
Powder'd with diamonds, free from spleen or care,
She can a sullen husband's humour bear;
Her credulous friendship and her stupid ease,
Have often been my jest in happier days;
How Chloe boasts and triumphs in my pains!
To her he's faithful; 'tis to me he feigns.
Am I that stupid thing to bear neglect,
And force a smile, not daring to suspect?
No, perjur'd man! a wife may be content;
But you shall find a mistress can resent."
Thus love-sick Lydia rav'd; her maid appears,
And in her faithful hand the band-box bears
The cestus, that reform'd inconstant Jove,
Not better fill'd with what allur'd to love);
"How well this ribbon's gloss becomes your face!"
She cries in rapture; "then so sweet a lace!
How charmingly you look! so bright! so fair!
"Tis to your eyes the head-dress owes its air!"
Straight Lydia smiled; the comb adjusts her locks;
And at the play-house Harry keeps her box.

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