The title page will show, if there thou look,
Who are the proper subjects of this book.
They’re boys and girls of all sorts and degrees,
From those of age to children on the knees.
Thus comprehensive am I in my notions,
They tempt me to it by their childish motions.
We now have boys with beards, and girls that be
Bigas old women, wanting gravity.
Then do not blame me, ’cause I thus describe them.
Flatter I may not, lest thereby I bribe them
To have a better judgment of themselves,
Than wise men have of babies on their shelves.
Their antic tricks, fantastic modes, and way,
Show they, like very boys and girls, do play
With all the frantic fopperies of this age,
And that in open view, as on a stage;
Our bearded men do act like beardless boys;
Our women please themselves with childish toys.
Our ministers, long time, by word and pen,
Dealt with them, counting them not boys, but men.
Thunderbolts they shot at them and their toys,
But hit them not, ’cause they were girls and boys.
The better charg’d, the wider still they shot,
Or else so high, these dwarfs they touched not.
Instead of men, they found them girls and boys,
Addict to nothing as to childish toys.
Wherefore, good reader, that I save them may,
I now with them the very dotterel play;
And since at gravity they make a tush,
My very beard I cast behind a bush;
And like a fool stand fing’ring of their toys,
And all to show them they are girls and boys.
Nor do I blush, although I think some may
Call me a baby, ’cause I with them play.
I do’t to show them how each fingle-fangle
On which they doting are, their souls entangle,
As with a web, a trap, a gin, or snare;
And will destroy them, have they not a care.
Paul seemed to play the fool, that he might gain
Those that were fools indeed, if not in grain;
And did it by their things, that they might know
Their emptiness, and might be brought unto
What would them save from sin and vanity,
A noble act, and full of honesty.
Yet he nor I would like them be in vice,
While by their playthings I would them entice,
To mount their thoughts from what are childish toys,
To heaven, for that’s prepared for girls and boys.
Nor do I so confine myself to these,
As to shun graver things; I seek to please
Those more compos’d with better things than toys;
Though thus I would be catching girls and boys.
Wherefore, if men have now a mind to look,
Perhaps their graver fancies may be took
With what is here, though but in homely rhymes:
But he who pleases all must rise betimes.
Some, I persuade me, will be finding fault,
Concluding, here I trip, and there I halt:
No doubt some could those grovelling notions raise
By fine-spun terms, that challenge might the bays.
But should all men be forc’d to lay aside
Their brains that cannot regulate the tide
By this or that man’s fancy, we should have
The wise unto the fool become a slave.
What though my text seems mean, my morals be
Grave, as if fetch’d from a sublimer tree.
And if some better handle can a fly,
Than some a text, why should we then deny
Their making proof, or good experiment,
Of smallest things, great mischiefs to prevent?
Wise Solomon did fools to piss-ants send,
To learn true wisdom, and their lies to mend.
Yea, God by swallows, cuckoos, and the ass, Shows they are fools who let that season pass,
Which he put in their hand, that to obtain
Which is both present and eternal gain.
I think the wiser sort my rhymes may slight,
But what care I, the foolish will delight
To read them, and the foolish God has chose,
And doth by foolish things their minds compose,
And settle upon that which is divine;
Great things, by little ones, are made to shine.
I could, were I so pleas’d, use higher strains:
And for applause on tenters stretch my brains.
But what needs that? the arrow, out of sight,
Does not the sleeper, nor the watchman fright;
To shoot too high doth but make children gaze,
‘Tis that which hits the man doth him amaze.
And for the inconsiderableness
Of things, by which I do my mind express,
May I by them bring some good thing to pass,
As Samson, with the jawbone of an ass;
Or as brave Shamgar, with his ox’s goad
(Both being things not manly, nor for war in mode),
I have my end, though I myself expose
To scorn; God will have glory in the close.