The Painter who pleased Nobody and Everybody

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Fable XVIII

Lest men suspect your tale untrue,
Keep probability in view.
The traveller leaping o'er those bounds,
The credit of his book confounds.
Who with his tongue hath armies routed,
Makes even his real courage doubted:
But flattery never seems absurd;
The flattered always take your word:
Impossibilities seem just;
They take the strongest praise on trust.

Hyperboles, though ne'er so great,
Will still come short of self-conceit.
   So very like a painter drew,
That every eye the picture knew;
He hit complexion, feature, air,
So just, the life itself was there.
No flattery with his colours laid,
To bloom restored the faded maid;
He gave each muscle all its strength,
The mouth, the chin, the nose's length.

His honest pencil touched with truth,
And marked the date of age and youth.
He lost his friends, his practice failed;
Truth should not always be revealed;
In dusty piles his pictures lay,
For no one sent the second pay.
Two busts, fraught with every grace
A Venus' and Apollo's face,
He placed in view; resolved to please,
Whoever sat, he drew from these,

From these corrected every feature,
And spirited each awkward creature.
   All things were set; the hour was come,
His pallet ready o'er his thumb,
My lord appeared; and seated right
In proper attitude and light,
The painter looked, he sketched the piece,
Then dipp'd his pencil, talked of Greece,
Of Titian's tints, of Guido's air;
'Those eyes, my lord, the spirit there

Might well a Raphael's hand require,
To give them all the native fire;
The features fraught with sense and wit,
You'll grant are very hard to hit;
But yet with patience you shall view
As much as paint and art can do.
Observe the work.' My lord replied:
'Till now I thought my mouth was wide;
Besides, my mouth is somewhat long;
Dear sir, for me, 'tis far too young.'

   'Oh! pardon me,' the artist cried,
'In this, the painters must decide.
The piece even common eyes must strike,
I warrant it extremely like.'
   My lord examined it anew;
No looking-glass seemed half so true.
   A lady came, with borrowed grace
He from his Venus formed her face.
Her lover praised the painter's art;
So like the picture in his heart!

To every age some charm he lent;
Even beauties were almost content.
Through all the town his art they praised;
His custom grew, his price was raised.
Had he the real likeness shown,
Would any man the picture own?
But when thus happily he wrought,
Each found the likeness in his thought.



The Fables, Volume 1 (1727)
Introduction The Shepard and the Philosopher
Fable I The Lion, the Tiger, and the Traveller
Fable II The Spaniel and the Cameleon
Fable III The Mother, the Nurse, and the Fairy
Fable IV The Eagle, and the Assembly of Animals
Fable V The wild Boar and the Ram
Fable VI The Miser and Plutus
Fable VII The Lion, the Fox, and the Geese
Fable VIII The Lady and the Wasp
Fable IX The Bull and the Mastiff
Fable X The Elephant and the Bookseller
Fable XI The Peacock, the Turkey, and the Goose
Fable XII Cupid, Hymen, and Plutus
Fable XIII The Tame Stag
Fable XIV The Monkey who had seen the World
Fable XV The Philosopher and the Pheasants
Fable XVI The Pin and the Needle
Fable XVII The Shepherd's Dog and the Wolf
Fable XVIII The Painter who pleased Nobody and Everybody
Fable XIX The Lion and the Cub
Fable XX The Old Hen and the Cock
Fable XXI The Rat-catcher and Cats
Fable XXII The Goat without a Beard
Fable XXIII The Old Woman and her Cats
Fable XXIV The Butterfly and the Snail
Fable XXV The Scold and the Parrot
Fable XXVI The Cur and the Mastiff
Fable XXVII The Sick Man and the Angel
Fable XXVIII The Persian, the Sun, and the Cloud
Fable XXIX The Fox at the point of Death
Fable XXX The Setting-dog and the Partridge
Fable XXXI The Universal Apparition
Fable XXXII The Two Owls and the Sparrow
Fable XXXIII The Courtier and Proteus
Fable XXXIV The Mastiffs
Fable XXXV The Barley-mow and the Dunghill
Fable XXXVI Pythagoras and the Countryman
Fable XXXVII The Farmer's Wife and the Raven
Fable XXXVIII The Turkey and the Ant
Fable XXXIX The Father and Jupiter
Fable XL The Two Monkeys
Fable XLI The Owl and the Farmer
Fable XLII The Jugglers
Fable XLIII The Council of Horses
Fable XLIV The Hound and the Huntsman
Fable XLV The Poet and the Rose
Fable XLVI The Cur, the Horse, and the Shepherd's Dog
Fable XLVII The Court of Death
Fable XLVIII The Gardener and the Hog
Fable XLIX The Man and the Flea
Fable L The Hare and many Friends


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