Prejudice

IN yonder red-brick mansion, tight and square,
Just at the town's commencement, lives the mayor.
Some yards of shining gravel, fenced with box,
Lead to the painted portal--where one knocks :
There, in the left-hand parlour, all in state,
Sit he and she, on either side the grate.
But though their goods and chattels, sound and new,
Bespeak the owners very well to do,
His worship's wig and morning suit betray
Slight indications of an humbler day

That long, low shop, where still the name appears,
Some doors below, they kept for forty years :
And there, with various fortunes, smooth and rough,
They sold tobacco, coffee, tea, and snuff.
There labelled drawers display their spicy row--
Clove, mace, and nutmeg : from the ceiling low
Dangle long twelves and eights , and slender rush,
Mix'd with the varied forms of genus brush ;
Cask, firkin, bag, and barrel, crowd the floor,
And piles of country cheeses guard the door.
The frugal dames came in from far and near,
To buy their ounces and their quarterns here.
Hard was the toil, the profits slow to count,
And yet the mole-hill was at last a mount.
Those petty gains were hoarded day by day,
With little cost, for not a child had they ;
Till, long proceeding on the saving plan,
He found himself a warm, fore-handed man :
And being now arrived at life's decline,
Both he and she, they formed the bold design,
(Although it touched their prudence to the quick)
To turn their savings into stone and brick.
How many an ounce of tea and ounce of snuff,
There must have been consumed to make enough !

At length, with paint and paper, bright and gay,
The box was finished, and they went away.
But when their faces were no longer seen
Amongst the canisters of black and green ,
--Those well-known faces, all the country round--
'Twas said that had they levelled to the ground
The two old walnut trees before the door,
The customers would not have missed them more.
Now, like a pair of parrots in a cage,
They live, and civic honours crown their age :
Thrice, since the Whitsuntide they settled there,
Seven years ago, has he been chosen mayor ;
And now you'd scarcely know they were the same ;
Conscious he struts, of power, and wealth, and fame ;
Proud in official dignity, the dame :
And extra stateliness of dress and mien,
During the mayoralty, is plainly seen ;
With nicer care bestowed to puff and pin
The august lappet that contains her chin.

Such is her life ; and, like the wise and great,
The mind has journeyed hand in hand with fate :
Her thoughts, unused to take a longer flight
Than from the left-hand counter to the right,
With little change, are vacillating still,
Between his worship's glory, and the till.
The few ideas moving, slow and dull,
Across the sandy desert of her skull,
Still the same course must follow, to and fro,
As first they traversed three-score years ago ;
From whence, not all the world could turn them back,
Or lead them out upon another track.
What once was right or wrong, or high or low
In her opinion, always must be so :--
You might, perhaps, with reasons new and pat,
Have made Columbus think the world was flat ;
There might be times of energy worn out,
When his own theory would Sir Isaac doubt ;
But not the powers of argument combined,
Could make this dear good woman change her mind,
Or give her intellect the slightest clue
To that vast world of things she never knew.
Were but her brain dissected, it would show
Her stiff opinions fastened in a row,
Ranged duly, side by side, without a gap,
Much like the plaiting on her Sunday cap.

It is not worth our while, but if it were,
We all could undertake to laugh at her ;
Since vulgar prejudice, the lowest kind,
Of course, has full possession of her mind ;
Here, therefore, let us leave her, and inquire
Wherein it differs as it rises higher.

--As for the few who claim distinction here,
The little gentry of our narrow sphere,
Who occupy a safe enclosure, made
Completely inaccessible to trade,
Where, 'tis a trespass on forbidden ground,
If any foot plebeian pass the bound ;--
Wide as the distance that we choose to make
For pride, precedence, and for custom's sake,
Yet philosophic eyes (though passing fine)
Could scarcely ascertain the boundary line ;
So that, if any should be found at all,
The difference must be infinitely small.
The powdered matron, who for many a year
Has held her mimic routs and parties here,
(Exchanging just the counter, scales, and till
For cups of coffee, scandal, and quadrille)
Could
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Jane Taylor

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"Prejudice" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 31 Mar. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/21230/prejudice>.

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