At first he was apprenticed to a London silk mercer, but Gay was
to turn to letters for a livelihood. His best know works are his Fables (it
turned into a series) and The Beggars Opera (1728). In his popular years he
lived with the Duke and Duchess of Queensbury. John Gay was buried in Westminster
Life is a jest; and all things show it,
I thought so once; but now I know it.
AIRS FROM BEGGAR'S OPERA - Air XI
A FOX may steal your hens, sir,
A whore your health and pence, sir,
Your daughter may rob your chest, sir,
Your wife may steal your rest, sir,
A thief your goods and plate.
But this is all but picking,
With rest, pence, chest, and chicken;
It ever was decreed, sir,
If Lawyer's hand is fee'd, sir,
He steals your whole estate.
AIRS FROM BEGGAR'S OPERA Air XXI.
If the heart of a man is deprest with cares,
The mist is dispell'd when a woman appears;
Like the notes of a fiddle, she sweetly, sweetly
Raises the spirits, and charms our ears.
Roses and lillies her cheeks disclose,
But her ripe lips are more sweet than those.
Dissolve us in pleasure, and soft repose.
AIRS FROM BEGGAR'S OPERA Air XXII
Youth's the season made for joys,
Love is then our duty;
She alone who that employs,
Well deserves her beauty.
Let's be gay,
While we may,
Beauty's a flower despis'd in decay.
Let us drink and sport to-day,
Ours is not tomorrow.
Love with youth flies swift away,
Age is nought but sorrow.
Dance and sing,
Time's on the wing,
Life never knows the return of spring.
“Twas when the seas was roaring
With hollow blasts of wind,
A damsel lay deploring,
All on a rock reclined.
Wide o’er the foaming billows,
She cast a wistful look:
Her head was crowned with willows
That trembled o’er the brook.
Twelve months are gone and over,
And nine long tedious days;
Why didst thou, venturous lover,
Why didst thou trust the seas?
Cease, cease, thou cruel ocean,
And let my lover rest:
Ah! What‘s thy troubled motion
To that within my breast?
The merchant robbed of pleasure,
Sees tempests in despair;
But what‘s the loss of treasure,
To losing of my dear?
Should you some coast be laid on,
Where gold and diamonds grow,
You’d find a richer maiden,
But none that loves you so.
How can they say that nature
Has nothing made in vain;
Why then beneath the water
Should hideous rocks remain?
No eyes the rocks discover
That lurk beneath the deep,
To wreck the wandering lover,
And leave the maid to weep.
All melancholy lying,
Thus wailed she for her dear;
Repaid each blast with sighing,
Each billow with a tear.
When o’er the white wave stooping
His floating corpse she spied,
Then like a lily drooping,
She bowed her head and died.