A TOAD just crawling up to town


The TOAD undrest. By the same Hand.

Primary Text:

No MS; 1717 Pope's Own (rpt 1935/75 Ault), 128-31*.

A TOAD just crawling up to town,
In nothing but her tawny gown.
Took, as by chance it open lay,
Kensington garden in her way.
'Twas on a sunday this befel,
When ev'ry Beau and ev'ry Belle,
Had left, or hudled up their prayers,
There to produce their several airs.
The creature with the golden eyes,
Beheld the crowd with strange surprize:
The inwardly began to swell,
Finding that she was not a Belle.
And deeply sigh'd for beter cloaths.
From which strong breath, a full blown rose
Its damask leaves about her shed;
And likewise on her lucky head
A sprig of Jessamy fell down,
That stuck on one side of her crown.
Thus qualifi'd in dress and smell,
She now concludes her self a Belle;
And had she one mans praises met,
At the next step had grown Coquett.
Yet cry'd, since chance can thus adorn,
Why may not I go take a turn?
Then out upon the walk she treads,
And to the utmost swells and spreads:
Whilst all who saw her march along,
Wonder'd from whence the fantom sprung.
Some scream'd and fled, then nearer drew,
And ventur'd at a second view.
The rosy gown, they all confess,
Was beautiful to an excess.
That colour they'd at Tully's seen,
Which wou'd be charming lin'd with green.
And to all Lutestrings in the throng,
This glowing manteau offer'd wrong.
But who was underneath the case,
So small in size, so stiff in pace,
Cou'd not by any have been guest,
Had Zephyrus not spoil'd the jest.
But he displeas'd as we suppose,
At missing of his favourite rose,
More violently used his power,
Than when he courts that sweetest flower:
And rushing thro' each waving twig,
Blew off the leaves and fragrant sprig.
Leaving the toad who these had worn,
As bare as ever she was born.
But when along the walk 'twas told,
And Ladies titter'd young and old:
The toad with venom'd rage inspir'd,
To find her self no more admir'd,
Cry'd out; I know not half your sleights,
Your leads, your whalebones, pins, and pleights.
Yet tho' my gown in hast was made,
Without dear Buda's useful aid;
I should not be, in my disgrace,
(Wou'd Boreas you gay folks uncase)
The veryest Toad in all the place.


How many upstarts in the world are known,
On whom blind chance has gaudy trappings thrown!
But shou'd the wind of adverse fortune blow,
Without the leaves how would the reptiles show?


In this Aesopic Anne Finch was influenced by Aesopics written in a "town" spirit of vers de societe, e.g., L'Estrange, Aesop at the Bell-Tavern (London, 1711). She combines two types, fables of birds in false feathers and fables of toads who explode in their effort to look "big"; e.g., 1693 Esope en belle humeur, "Du Geai Deplume, 196. This is an anonymous French book which contains numbers of La Fontaine's fables; however, since it does not contain all those Anne translated/adapted/imitated and does contain many of La Fontaine's poems which she did not translate/adapt/imitate, it was probably not her source book for La Fontaine. See also 1699 L'Estrange, "A Peacock and A Swan," No. 168; 1703 Aesop's Fables (anonymous English book filled with traditional, original and "modernized" Aesopics), "Of the Chough," 45, "The Jay and the Peacock," 46 "Of the Ox and the Toad," 48-9.


The Aesopic is set in Kensington Gardens and Finch (as ever) excoriates false beauty and false coquets. The gorgeous surface makes a jarring contrast with the surface combines with burlesque or Hudibrastic verse. I suppose it is appropriately ugly. Finch could never stomach the false coquet and the society which breeds and sustains her. There is a vein of snobbery and caste arrogance here too. For further commentary, see under Pope's Own Miscellany. For Finch's prefatory panegyric for Pope's acknowledged 1717 Mr Pope's Works, see " THE Muse, of ev'ry heav'nly gift allow'd".
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