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John Gay was a good pal of Alexander Pope - this intelligent , witty poem does a lot to explain why. It's reminiscent of Andew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress: such arguments are sometimes called "carpe diem". Gay is most famous for The Beggar's Opera with it's anti-hero Captain Macheath, the highwayman, which inspired Berthold Brecht to write his own up-to-date version, "Die Dreigroschenoper" or Threepenny Opera. If you haven't heard of that you will surely know its anti-hero, Mack-the-Knife, who is Captain Macheath brought back to evil life. Goods "Made in China" were prized in the 18th century - in fact the best porcelain was called "china" because it was made in China - just in case this isn't obvious. The pictures are from this site, which has the history of the dynasties and other examples of fine porcelain. http://chineseantiques-porcelain.blogspot.com An earthen vessel - now called earthenware - is made of common clay. There's a whiter form, mined in Cornwall and other places, called "china clay" - a sort of ersatz china. Such pottery has to be much thicker than traditional chinese porcelain because it's not as strong. There was an episode of radio program called Take It From Here, in which Jimmie Edwards, a toff trying to hide his humble cockney provenance, didn't know why so much fuss was made about a Blue Ming Vase. (okay, you might have to think about it) . Also Ethyl kept a Bone Idol because it reminded her of her boyfriend, Ron, because, as she explained, he too was bone-idle. This was the humour of dear old Frank Muir, star of Call My Bluff and My Word, who also edited the Oxford Book of Humorous Prose. WHAT ecstasies her bosom fire! How her eyes languish with desire! How blest, how happy should I be, Were that fond glance bestow'd on me! New doubts and fears within me war: What rival's near? a China jar. China's the passion of her soul; A cup, a plate, a dish, a bowl, Can kindle wishes in her breast, Inflame with joy, or break her rest. Some gems collect; some medals prize, And view the rust with lover's eyes; Some court the stars at midnight hours; Some dote on Nature's charms in flowers! But ev'ry beauty I can trace In Laura's mind, in Laura's face; My stars are in this brighter sphere, My lily and my rose is here. Philosophers more grave than wise Hunt science down in Butterflies; Or fondly poring on a Spider Stretch human contemplation wider; Fossiles give joy to Galen's soul, He digs for knowledge, like a mole; In shells so learn'd that all agree No fish that swims knows more than he! In such pursuits if wisdom lies, Who, Laura, shall thy taste despise? When I some antique Jar behold, Or white, or blue, or speck'd with gold, Vessels so pure and so refin'd, Appear the types of woman-kind: Are they not valu'd for their beauty, Too fair, too fine for houshold duty? With flowers and gold and azure dy'd, Of ev'ry house the grace and pride? How white, how polish'd is their skin, And valu'd most when only seen! She who before was highest priz'd, Is for a crack or flaw despis'd; I grant they're frail, yet they're so rare, The treasure cannot cost too dear! But Man is made of coarser stuff, And serves convenience well enough; He's a strong earthen vessel made, For drudging, labour, toil, and trade; And when wives lose their other self, With ease they bear the loss in Delf. Husbands more covetous than sage Condemn this China-buying rage; They count that woman's prudence little, Who sets her heart on things so brittle. But are those wise-men's inclinations Fixt on more strong, more sure foundations? If all that's frail we must despise, No human view or scheme is wise. Are not Ambition's hopes as weak? They swell like bubbles, shine and break. A Courtier's promise is so slight, 'Tis made at noon, and broke at night. What pleasure's sure? The Miss you keep Breaks both your fortune and your sleep. The man who loves a country life, Breaks all the comforts of his wife; And if he quit his farm and plough, His wife in town may break her vow. Love, Laura, love, while youth is warm, For each new winter breaks a charm; And woman's not like China sold, But cheaper grows in growing old; Then quickly chuse the prudent part, Or else you break a faithful heart.